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Simon Heller
With the DVD market firmly established it was only a matter of time before there were further announcements concerning the DVD format. CDs have always been considered by audio fans to be lacking in depth, so now with the immergence of DVD-A, you can listen to your favourite artists in a multi-channel environment. Warner Vision International have been one of the instigators of the format and have recently announced 60 news titles for the format. Recently we were lucky enough to interview Simon Heller who is General Manager of Warner Vision International. Simon has 15 years experience in the video industry and has been with Warner for 4 years. We thought it would be the perfect time to interview Simon and ask him some questions about DVD-A. If after reading this interview you are still interested in finding out more, we have produced an article which can be found here.

Simon Heller

DVDActive: Simple question first, what exactly is DVD-Audio?

DVD-Audio is a new audio entertainment format, which we hope will repeat the success of DVD.  DVD gives you an experience you literally cannot get any other way, which is surround-sound audio. DVD-A allows those interested in music to hear it in a way that previously only musicians and a live audience could experience on stage, in rehearsal, or in the studio. DVD-A focuses on superior sound, and uses new technology to give dramatically improved resolution to audio tracks, with the choice of surround sound or stereo, and it is also compatible with every existing DVD machine.

DVDActive: What sort of advantages does it have over CD-Audio based pre-recordings?

DVD-A discs, just like their feature film counterpart, hold much more information than normal CD discs. DVD-A also allow the listener to hear the sound in superior Advanced Resolution, six channel surround sound and stereo sound. Being surrounded by the music means that it’s possible for recordings to reflect the actual acoustics of the venue, which can give a completely new dimension to the listening experience.

DVDActive: Can my DVD-Video player, CD player or PC play DVD-Audio discs?

You can play a DVD-A album in any machine sporting the DVD logo. This includes the PS-2, DVD-ROM’s and DVD enabled X-Box players. You can’t play a DVD disc in a CD player.

Simon Heller

DVDActive: Does an artist need to redo a performance for a DVD-Audio recording or is it taken from another media? If the latter, then is there some processing to be carried out?

Artists don’t need to re-record performances for DVD-A and anyway in the case of a classic album such as The Doors LA Woman re-recording would be impossible. Where possible, original artists and engineers have been brought in to re-master their classic albums for DVD-A. In the case of the Rumours album by Fleetwood Mac, celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, Mick Fleetwood and Ken Calliat (the original album engineer) returned to the studio to ensure the sound was perfect.

DVDActive: How many DVD-Audio discs are currently on sale in the UK, and where can I buy them?

Warner Vision released 60 classic albums on the 26th August this year and plan to continue releasing albums through out this year and next. Support for the DVD-A format is growing within the other record labels and I would expect that by this time next year the DVD-A album collection would be substantial. You can purchase DVD-A albums from the likes of HMV, Virgin, and all good Video and DVD stockists.

DVDActive: DVD-Video discs has "region codes", do they exist on DVD-Audio discs?

No, DVD-A discs don’t have region codes.

DVDActive: Why has DVD-Audio taken so much longer than DVD-Video to become mainstream?

The format is just starting out. Until August this year, there was literally a handful of albums available to buy, but we are working hard to ensure the catalogue keeps growing. This Christmas should mark a price reduction in the cost of a DVD-A player, enticing the consumer into the surround sound world of DVD-Audio. It is only a matter of time before we can buy a DVD-A home cinema package for under £500.

Simon Heller

DVDActive: Was there a reason why the copy protection system for DVD-Audio wasn't finalised from the beginning?

No comment.

DVDActive: Do you have any worries about Universal's decision to go-it-alone and adopt an alternative standard (from Sony and Philips) called SACD?

Warner Vision believes that consumers will draw their own conclusions as to which format offers the highest quality audio experience. Essentially the artists appearing on each format will dictate its popularity and success within the market place.

DVDActive: Are there any advantages of using DVD-Audio over the competing SACD format, I understand that they both support pictures but only DVD-Audio supports video - could you comment on this?

Again Warner are happy for the consumer to draw their own conclusions as to whether or not DVD-A provides a superior sound to SACD, but bear in mind that the latter does require the consumer to purchase new hardware. Consumers are familiar with the DVD set up and are happy to use their remote control to navigate around the disc. I’m sure that extras such as videos, lyrics, photos and song writing commentaries will receive a very positive reception, not just from the strong music fans, but the DVD lovers too!

DVDActive: Do Warner plan to release a lot more of their library on the DVD-Audio format and what sort of price range do you expect them to be in - will it go down in the future?

Warner Vision will continue to champion DVD-A with further releases during the rest of this year and into 2003. We expect the DVD-A format to increase in popularity, as more artists become aware of the advanced sound quality and extra features available. Their enthusiasm for DVD-A will help to raise consumer awareness and support.

DVDActive: From what I understand, you can read DVD-Audio on a regular DVD drive, unfortunately none of the current PC DVD players support it, do you know of any player that plan to support the format soon, such as the popular PowerDVD?

This isn’t entirely true, as DVD-A albums will play on a PC with a DVD drive. Unless you have 5.1 surround sound speakers and a very advanced sound card you won’t be able to enjoy the music in advanced resolution, however it will play in stereo sound.

Simon Heller

DVDActive: The average person on the street still does not know what DVD-Audio is. Is anything being done to change this?

Awareness of DVD-Audio is growing. We are expecting another DVD Christmas this year, with thousands of households investing in new DVD players and or stepping up the ladder and purchasing a Home Cinema Surround Sound System. Consumers are already familiar with the benefits 5.1 Surround Sound and enjoy films such as Gladiator and the Matrix for their audio quality just as much as the images on screen. If the consumer has ever wondered what their favourite albums would sound like played out of surround sound speakers, they can now find out. Music fans will be thrilled to discover that DVD-A albums also contain a variety of extras such as photo galleries and interviews with the artists, a feature the CD will never offer because it doesn’t have the space to hold the extra information.

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