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Studying VideoNow (PVD)

January 20th, 2010 by Multimedia Mike

I bought this VideoNow disc a long time ago. It was during the month of December, but the year is a bit fuzzy. It was probably 2004. I wrote up a brief MultimediaWiki page somewhere along the line and even found a set of free tools for processing the data on these discs. But there was just one minor issue keeping me from investigating this disc thoroughly: How do I read it?

VideoNow PVD jewel case cover: Pod's Travels

VideoNow discs are made to be played in a custom standalone player. The disc is based on standard compact disc optics while being just a little bit smaller than a regular 120mm disc. Officially, this thing measures 108mm. It seems crazy that they developed this custom size and all the tooling that would be required. But they did and probably made it profitable as evidenced that there were at least 2 generations of the players: mono and color. The Wikipedia page reports that there were even more models later.

Here is a VideoNow PVD compared to other optical disc sizes taken from my collection:

4-disc comparison between optical disc sizes

There is a 108mm PVD and a 120mm CD on top; a business-card sized 80mm CD and a round 80mm DVD on the bottom. Here is a picture of the 4 discs stacked:

4 disc sizes compared in a stack

Since most optical drives I have ever owned are trays, I have never tried to read this in a standard drive. Then there are those laptop slide drive varieties that can’t accept anything except the standard 120mm disc. I recently realized that I have an external optical drive which requires that the disc be manually attached to the spindle:

VideoNow PVD in normal optical drive

From there, it becomes a simple matter of executing:

  cdparanoia -B -r -d <device>

This command rips each track (of which there are 15 on this particular disc) to a separate file, storing the data in raw tracks in little-endian format (which should be native for CDs).

Regarding those free software tools for processing this data, there is a package called PVDTools from about 6 years ago. The notes on the site seem to imply that the tools operate on the mono version of the video files. Mono, according to the notes, is actually 16-color grayscale.

The Wikipedia page also reports that Hasbro released desktop software for creating videos as well as blank PVD media. I’m not particularly motivated to study this too much further, but I know there are always people out there who are. If you are one of those people, I have made samples available.

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