Laserdisc: Features, Follies, & Evolution
Okay now that we know what laser disks are and why they never achieved mass market adoption let's, look at some of the technical details of the format as well as how it evolved over time so. First I haven't yet made the exact distinction, between CA V discs and CLV, discs these, stand for constant, angular velocity and constant. Linear velocity their. Names explain the difference a CA, V disc rotates, at a constant, 1,800, rpm each, rotation, contains, exactly one frame, of video this. Encoding, method was simpler and let the player do some neat things but, at limited recording, time to 30 minutes per side a CL. V disc slows the discs rotational, speed as it progresses C, as the laser moves towards the edge of a disc the, circumference, of the disc along the spot it's reading continually, increases, constant. Linear velocity encoding. Slows the disc down as the laser progresses, to keep the speed of the disc relative, to the laser constant. Rather, than keeping its absolute, rotational, speed constant, this. Allowed recording, an hour per side of the disc but, it also could, increase crosstalk, noise and because, the number of encoded, frames per revolution was, constantly, changing the, trick plate features of the CA V disc were eliminated, pioneer. Would reduce crosstalk, by modifying, CLV, into CA a which. Slowed the rotational, speed in, steps CA. A standing. For constant, angular acceleration was. More of a behind-the-scenes, alteration. Though and these discs were still marked as CL V on their sleeves real, cinephiles, once CA V discs there are a number of reasons for this but one of the most interesting, is the way the discs are indexed, play, a CL, V disc and the display acts like you would expect you. Get the chapters available, and the time counts up from zero but a CA V disc well. Just watch that's. Right these are frames, in a CA V disc each frame, is directly accessible by number and you, can simply type in a frame number and the player will nearly instantly, get to it and that, freeze-frame is perfect, this, opened up a lot of interactive, possibilities, of historical. Note is the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago's, use of laser discs to allow guests, to view every, front page of the Chicago Tribune, newspaper, this. Was back in 1980. There. Were also arcade, games and even home video games, Sims developed, which used laser discs as a random, access video system remember, how I said the collector's market saved, laser discs from dying completely, well. Much of that was due to special editions, like this Pocahontas, box set I know, there could be better films, to explore but this box set is actually perfect, for showing what laserdisc had to offer look. At all this extra stuff, the, first three sides are the film itself in CA V format, the analogue soundtrack, contains a commentary, track on the left channel though. It's mastered, very very poorly for some reasons back, that was I think John Pomeroy was the one who led. The character in animation the. Right channel, contains Dolby, Digital sound. More. On that briefly the, fourth side is in CLV, as it's an hour-long making-of, feature but. The third disc is where it gets really interesting. First of all look at all these chapters there are 48 alone, in special features but. The laserdisc was able to tell the player to freeze the frame this. Was used extensively in box sets like this to organize collections, of still images I'm.
Not Going to show you much of the actual content, because, I don't really want to get in trouble with Disney but I will go through some of the title cards so you can get an idea of how this is navigated, after. A brief intro the disc automatically, stops and you see the little leaf with step appear that's. Because what follows is a sequence of still frames if you, press play the, player will just resume normal playback, and you'll get an info blast style mess until, it receives the next command to stop but. On the remote the step button allows you to advance just one frame at a time and since, each of these frames has a discrete number you can get back to it simply by entering the frame number when, there's a segment of actual video the, leaf instead, says play so, you know what to do next you'll, see that there are also a lot of commentaries, here as well on the analogue tracks sure, the special feature section on a DVD can do all these same things but it's really something that an analog format from so long ago can do it too and I'm, left to wonder if there's anything on these laser discs that hasn't made its way onto a DVD or blu-ray release, in, fact there's a lot of content, on laserdisc that hasn't left the realm of laserdisc. And one, more thing before we move on the, search by chapter nature of the laserdisc made it prime material for the education, market this, desk here well. It's a weird one a showcase. Of computer-generated imagery, from 1986. I kid. You not this disc is the vaporwave, community's, dream and I, know this because when I learned what vapor wave was there. Was a video featuring this laser discs opening clip ah. But. There's more there's, this, this. Time-consuming. Process creates. Highly, detailed and, spectacular. Images. And, this. For your object. But. You don't know what color it's really gonna be until you light it and it, also features this creepy talking ahead. I'm. Fairly sure this was meant as an educational, disc but I'm not certain, oddly enough the, Voyager company the producers, of the disc was the publisher of The Criterion, Collection perhaps. The most famous collector's, edition laser discs anyway. Having, near-instant. Random access to any part of the disc made laser discs great for teachers if there, was a particular, clip that would easily show a concept you could cue it right up this, was particularly, useful in science classes to show experiments, quickly a VHS. Tape would require a lot of effort and patience, to queue up but, if the lesson on Newton's third law of motion was, chapter, 14 of a laser disc just, type in 14, and you're, ready to go on that note CLV discs took significantly, longer to cue up a new chapter because. Of the discs enormous size it takes a while to speed, up and slow down so. When searching for a chapter that's well away from the start the disk needs to slow down a lot, to get to the correct speed the. Laser doesn't take much time to get from one chapter to the next but it has to wait for the discs to get to the right speed before it can actually play now, I've stepped a little far ahead here showing, discs with digital sound and Dolby Digital let's. Take a step back and look more at the evolution of the format I had, mentioned in my introductory, video on laser discs that while the format began its life as a product, of a joint venture between Philips and the music Corporation, of America called, disco, vision the, Pioneer company of Japan would sort, of take over the format they, were part of the official renaming, of the format to laser vision and they, were the ones that branded their own players as a laser disc from, the mid-1980s, until the end of its life pioneer, was almost, the only manufacturer. Of laserdisc players there, were others with Sony producing, a good show but, it was pioneer that kept pushing the format and adding, new innovations, perhaps. The first major innovation, was the use of a solid-state, laser you might have noticed that this machine is massive. It's a lot wider than the VCR we were putting it up against which itself is big and bulky and this, is by far the largest piece of AV equipment I have ever run across much. Of its width comes from the laser carriage, initially. Laserdisc, players used a helium-neon laser tube, as its source of laser light this. Tube is quite large and so is the necessary optical, path the beam has to make to be focused onto the disc and reflected back to the light sensor I'll, be doing a teardown of this machine in a later video but let's take a quick peek this, entire, carriage, moves left and right as it scans the disc oddly.
Enough This tiny little motor is responsible, for moving this whole thing and yes. That black crud is from the completely, disintegrated. Belt that was on here when I got this machine I have, a somewhat, suitable replacement, on here but it seems to have trouble reversing, the carriage it, advances, just fine though inside, this black plastic shield are a pair of mirrors attached to small Wiggly things and by shifting the angle, that the beam hits the glass ever so slightly you could maintain fine, tracking, on the disc see. Unless the disc is exactly, perfectly, centered which with this fine of a data strain it most certainly won't be the, laser will need to be constantly moving left right left right to follow the spiral groove of pits I strongly. Suspect that's what's wrong with this player as it, exhibits severe, crosstalk, when playing a CA V disc it. Does appear to be able to maintain focus distance as the objective, lens can move and it produces a picture but, without fine tracking, control the output will be a mess I don't, want to get started on this project quite yet though that'll, have to wait in either 1983. Or 1984, it, seems there's some date disagreement, pioneer, introduced the LD 700. Player which incorporated, a solid state laser this. Was also the first player to introduce a tray loading system by. Switching to a solid-state laser the, machines could be much smaller as the laser assembly was a small fraction of its previous size but, there was a small compromise made the. Helium-neon laser produced. A red orange light but, the laser diodes used in laser disc players shared, the same infrared, light of the compact, disc audio format the longer wavelength, of the infrared light could it be focused, quite as tightly as the shorter wavelength, red orange light this, meant a player with a solid-state, laser would be more susceptible to crosstalk, and scratches. Or other damage to the disc would affect its ability to read the pits to a greater degree however. The many advantages of a solid-state, laser pickup, system greatly outweighed this single, disadvantage, and thus, infrared, became the way to go by 1984. It was clear that laserdisc, would stay in the realm of the video file as the video cassette recorder seemed, perfectly, fine for the masses with, that in mind pioneer, started adding new features to their players and updated, the format along the way the, first main addition was that of digital, sound. You thought FM stereo wasn't enough how about uncompressed, 16-bit, stereo PCM. Audio when, introducing, a player with digital sound capabilities, pioneer, killed two birds with one stone by also, letting it play the newly introduced compact, disc the, digital audio on a laserdisc is encoded much the same as a CD so, pioneer already had the circuitry onboard to process the digital audio from a CD, thus. The CLD 900. Could play both, weirdly. Though this player contains, an odd mechanism, with two separate spindles, with one for holding a CD and the other a laserdisc, looking. On the laserdisc archive it seems many early players were designed this way I'm guessing. This was due to difficulty, in designing and controlling, one spindle, motor capable of spinning both the massive, laserdisc and the tiny CD correctly. Eventually. Though a single spindle but the collapsible, Center was used for both CDs and laser discs because, laser discs held two separate audio tracks in ntsc, discs one of these can be replaced with the digital soundtrack while, the other could remain as an analogue conventional, soundtrack a signal. On the disc would indicate to the player that the disc contained, digital, sound and it would switch to the secondary soundtrack, containing, the data the. Analogue soundtrack staying on the primary channel and older, players would just ignore the signal to switch to the secondary track but, the addition of digital audio caused, some compatibility issues, for, one pal discs didn't have two separate audio tracks not, sure why but, they didn't this, meant that a PAL laserdisc, was either digital, or analog, and an analogue only player could not play a disc with digital sound this.
Probably, Didn't help the already poor sales in Europe at first, pioneer, had to sacrifice playing, time to fit digital audio on the discs the, first digital audio discs only held 55, minutes per side which, left some titles like this copy of Back to the Future released. As analog only even though digital sound was available at the time of its release because. This film is 1 hour and 56, minutes it would fit on a single disc with analog sound but would need a second, disc for digital sound so, they stuck with analog, to keep it on a single disc. By. 1987. Pioneer, had figured out how to get an hour runtime and still have digital sound Hey look MCA then, we get to surround sound, laserdisc, was pretty much the only way to get true surround sound until DVD came along but, the way surround was encoded was to, put it kindly, messy. If, a disc contained a Dolby AC 3 soundtrack the AC 3, data was FM modulated, on the right channel of the analog track and required, the use of a receiver capable, of demodulating. This into a digital output, modern. Receivers, don't have this functionality, so, to get the Dolby AC 3 soundtrack off a laserdisc, requires, an external AC 3 T modulator, but. Because it'll be AC three encoded disc uses one channel of the analog tract and leaves standard stereo digital sound in place these, discs can only be played in mono on an analog only laserdisc player not. That many of those stuck around for very long as once digital sound was introduced nearly every player manufactured, could utilize it then there's DTS, audio a DTS. Encoded, disc uses the digital tracks so, to play it on a normal player required, switching back to the analog tracks as, an example this copy of Casper has a DTS, soundtrack because. If there's any movie that needs DTS, surround its, Casper, when. You play it the player doesn't know it shouldn't be reading the digital track and it's producing a garbage, output you, need to manually, switch back to the analog soundtrack if you want to hear the movie so. If you want a digital surround sound you, need to match your player to a compatible receiver and then also make sure you're buying the right discs, there, certainly are people, who are that dedicated, but, not many ok so aside from format, technicalities, let's look at some of the more clever things pioneer did my. Personal, favorite is what they dubbed both side play just. As Auto reverse cassette, recorders came on the scene to save you the trouble of flipping the tape pioneer, also developed laserdisc players that can play both sides of the disc and the, way they go about it is just, so, awesome so your both side play is my favorite example of forced engineering, I'll, explain what I mean there but first let's have a look at a machine with this feature this, is a pioneer, CL DD, 502, their. Model naming scheme by the way helps explain what the machine can do it wasn't, entirely consistent, over the years but in general this c and c LD means it can also play audio CDs and CD video discs not video, CDs though the, D means it can play both sides and, the 502, is the model number with, higher numbers generally, having more features for example the, CL DD 702, added, extra AV out ports featured an altered VFD display and had better video performance a model.
Like The CL ds2. A one could only play a single side there. Were also the CLD and models, which featured a 5 disc CD changer alongside, normal, laser disc operation, this. Channel used to have a video featuring one of those machines however I've taken it down temporarily, because I want to redo that video properly, and not in the very rambley, style of the first incarnation, stay, tuned for its replacement anyway, you might know what's involved in playing the second side but for those who don't see, if you can guess I'll. Start the disc on side a. Okay, so it's fun the disk up and is now playing but, listen to what happens when I switch to side B. You. Probably noticed it's stopping the disk then, the motor that moves the train in an out didson moving about and there, was a third sound you, haven't heard yet along, with the disk spinning back up, obviously. A good deal of stuff just happened, so let's, look inside in, addition to usually being a little bit taller than a single sided laserdisc, player both, side play models generally have this protrusion, out the back this. Houses the laser turn, mechanism, that's. Right in these machines the entire laser assembly has moved to the top side of the disk this, is some pretty crazy engineering, in a number of ways so. Let's see it in action the. Laser assembly normally, sits here and rides along the bottom rails but, when it needs to read side B it travels all the way to the rear of the machine where, it enters the sort of ferris wheel like contraption, this. Lifts the laser to the top as well as flips it upside down and, then the laser moves forward, and engages with the second set of rails on the top the. Disc stops to reverse direction as, it would otherwise be spinning the wrong way let's, look at that in slow motion because, why not this, is no simple feat as the laser needs to derail itself from the bottom and reattach, to the top it, also requires, a relatively complex, and delicate ribbon, cable situation, to actually send power and retrieve, signals from the laser head assembly but. The fact that this was necessary has to yet another reason laser disc didn't achieve mass-market. Success see. If someone were interested today, in making a CD or DVD player that could read both sides of a disc which, admittedly isn't really ever necessary almost. Certainly the cheapest, and simplest way to do it would be to place a second, laser assembly on the top and simply, change which one was being used in fact. There were a number of stylized, CD changes available, that simply had multiple, CD player mechanisms, stacked in a tower. Obviously. It was pretty cheap to make a CD player assembly. But, clearly there was something about the laser assembly of a laser disc player that, made it much more expensive and, I'm not talking about the rails or the motor that moves it I mean this guy itself, if it, were easy to make why not just use two of them why, bother with engineering. Manufacturing, this elaborate, mechanism, I suspect. That the analog nature of the laserdisc meant, tighter tolerances. And higher quality components. Were required here see with a digital format the clarity. Of the signal coming from the laser is pretty. Much irrelevant so, long as a pit can be distinguished, from Al and the, output would be the same in other, words a fuzzy, and hard to decipher one, zero zero one one one zero zero means. The same thing to a digital to analog converter as a strong and clear one zero zero one one one zero zero in, other. Other words the signal to noise ratio, is irrelevant, in a digital format either the signal is there or it isn't signal-to-noise. Ratio, can get really bad before the data is not recoverable, but. Since laserdisc, was an analog, format the signal to noise ratio, did matter if the, pits become harder to distinguish from the lands then, the Patriot produces, gets less clear as well I suspect. That the laser assemblies, of compact, disc players can be made much more cheaply that laserdisc, players due, to this fundamental, advantage, of the digital format, if you look at the list price of a basic CD player made around the same time as this laserdisc player you'll, see that they could be had for about a hundred dollars this. Laserdisc player is listed at 459, and the C LD s 201, a single, side machine is listed, at 319. Now. If manufacturers. Could turn a profit on, a CD player at, just over $100 that, laser pickup, probably didn't cost more than $30.00 or so to make of course. A laserdisc player has much more circuitry, and a larger spindle motor than a CD player but. The way the data is read from the disk is the same I'm, sure, if pioneer could have figured out how to make an acceptable analog laser pickup for $30, this, mechanism, would have been ditched for a second laser permanently, attached to these upper rails but.
That Clearly wasn't possible as pioneer. Was forced to keep using similar laser transfer, mechanisms, until the end of laserdisc digital, formats were also helped by the implementation, of error correction a CD. Player can, detect errors and correct them through cross intraday, 3d solemn encoding and it can also use interpolation, to mask a very large error in fact. I have a copy of Lincoln, by they might be giants which has a bunch of small holes in the aluminum layer. You, can hold it to a light and see right through them but it still plays fine as even, with chunks, of missing data the, CD players were a bust error correction, allows it to make it through a laser. Disc enjoys this sort of redundancy, in its digital soundtrack but, the video has no such error correction, a large. Enough scratch on the disk will be visible sometimes, as a simple black speck, in a, CA V disc the speck would briefly stay on the screen in the same place but. In a CL V disk it would dart around the screen and then. There's laser rot ah yes, laser, rot someone, in the comments noted, that it's called disk rot as it has nothing to do with the laser which. Is technically, correct but laser rot is the term used when specifically. Talking about disk rot occurring. On laser discs the. Original disco vision manufacturing. Plants made their disks very sloppily, it, wasn't, uncommon for the aluminum reflective, layer to start to oxidize and, lose its reflectivity likely. Due to poor adhesive, which didn't seal the discs correctly, you. Can forgive them a little though as they were literally, writing the book on how to make an optical disk oxidation. Of the aluminium layer would cause a disc to exhibit more and more visual artifacts, and eventually, become unplayable, this copy of Star Trek the motion picture, from 1980, exhibits, severe, laser rot you, can see that this disc is completely, gone just by looking at it it should, not look like that but, its companion, while not showing physical signs of rot doesn't, play well at all take. A look.
Intruder, Identified, the. Luminescent. Cloud to be enormous. Power field, surrounding. Aside. From the frequent signal dropouts the player isn't able to maintain tracking. And sometimes, gets locked reading the same spot, you. Haven't logged a single star hour in two and a half years. That. Plus your unfamiliar. Most. Discs don't rot so badly that you can simply tell at a glance this. Disk is a true disaster, laser. Rot wasn't that common possibly. Affecting as few as 1% of disks according to the laser disc database, of course, that exists, but certain factories were notorious. For producing discs that are rotting today, the. DA DC, plant in Terre Haute Indiana seems to have been the worst offender, with. 1490. Titles from this Factory known to have rot including. This disk of Fargo the, 21st most commonly, reported discs with rot. Okay. Yeah, I. Think. I'll take a drive down there then oh yeah. Twin cities oh. Yeah. No. Wait, they were real clear they said they'd call tomorrow with instructions, and it's got to be delivered by me alone it's, my money I'll deliver, it wow. This video got long quickly, we're almost done with the saga on laserdisc and I'll leave you with this machine, this, is a pioneer, DVL 700. The. D at the beginning means it can also play DVDs. This. Is a very early DVD, player from 1997. As we, know DVD was a huge success and they continued to sell in large numbers already. DVD, is as old as laserdisc, was when it died but DVD, shows no signs of dying quite yet in the. Next video we'll look at some of laser discs features that we didn't get in the States and we'll, also see why DVD was able to succeed, where laser discs failed thanks, for watching I hope you enjoyed the video if this is your first time watching this channel and you liked what you saw please consider, subscribing this. Channel is made possible by supporters, on patreon, patrons. Of the channel are what keeps these videos coming in fact, with the support of viewers like you I now spend more time on this channel than, I do at work if you're, interested in helping out as well please check out my patreon page for the link on your screen or, down below in the description thanks. For your consideration and, I'll see you next time. With, the advent of three-dimensional. Computer animation. Different. Looks and styles have, evolved.