There were 3 different competing video disc formats back in the early '80's. Two used some kind of capacitance pick-up, with the discs sealed into a protective jacket. The whole assembly (jacket and disc) was inserted into the machine, and the disc then played. These WERE NOT read by a laser, but were instead tracked by some type of arm which read capacitance changes. I believe that these systems were produced by RCA and Magnavox, and were not compatible with each other. The third system was by Pioneer, which was a true laser read format. It could also play CD's. The first 2 formats were inferior, died a quick death,. and almost took the Pioneer system along in the death spiral! The laser disc format went into high gear in the '90's, with thousands of titles being released. Improvements such as true 5.1 (also know as Dolby Digital and AC-3, as well as a few DTS discs), THX sound certification, and full screen (letterbox) were some of the innovations of the laser disc format. I believe that the video was analog, with most of the titles after '96 having a digital soundtrack. The good LD players have both a Toslink and RCA digital output, so that the audio (stereo only) can be decoded by an outboard DAC. The CED was an inferior system compared to LD, and movie released on CED will be very limited. Sadly, DVD spelled the end to LD (the last releases were in 2000 or 2001). The American public needed a better format than VHS (Beta was killed by Sony's own idiotic marketing strategy, even though it was a superior format over VHS, for several reasons). But the public at large wouldn't accept the bulky laser discs that had to be turned over mid-play (they were 2 sided, and the size of an LP [12"] and MUCH heavier), although a premium machine had two lasers to read both sides without physically flipping the disc. But there was still about a 5 second delay for the machine to begin playing the second side. Also, there were VERY few LD rental outlets! LD's played in two modes: CAV (constant angular velocity) where the speed of the rotating disc remained constant, and CLV (constant linear velocity) where the speed of rotation changed. CAV presented a better quality picture, and the scan functions, as well as the slow or fast motion play modes, were cleaner than CLV. The problem being that in the CAV mode, maximum play time was 20 minutes per side, vs. 60 minutes in CLV. Some movie were released in both CLV, as well as CAV for collectors and movie buffs! Some CAV versions needed 6 discs for a lengthy movie! I remember there were a couple of early machines that could hold 2 discs for automatically playing 4 sides. The first DVD's, as I recall, looked pretty crappy! The encoding format needed for digitizing the picture, gave results that looked like a colorized B&W movie...pastel colors that didn't have the vibrancy of LD's. Me, I'm still very happy with my Pioneer Elite CLD-79, and never got into DVD!
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