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CDs: more than music.

A few years ago, you brought your stereo system toward state-of-the-art sound by buying a CD player, which brought you perfectly reproduced music through digital sound. Now, lots of you have a CD-Changer which costs about the same as your single player. Soon you'll be looking it Kodak's Photo CD or one of the new CD-I players. There are several pieces of equipment brandishing the -D monogram. Let's try to clarify the various CD drives and players, what they do, how they differ and what you can do with them in your art program.

In 1982, just a few years after videodiscs made their debut, CDs (Compact Discs) were introduced as an audio-delivery medium. This format, unlike the videodisc which stores an analog signal, stores information as digital information.

For the first few years the CD-ROM industry took advantage of large volumes of information that could be put on disc...the equivalent of 250,000 typed pages. CD-ROM discs are easier to store and cheaper to produce than all that paper, so, for example, Grolier's Encyclopedia was a logical choice for a CD-ROM because it could condense many volumes to one disc which could be updated regularly and cheaply. In the last three or four years, CD-ROMs have changed dramatically from text-based database to full-color multimedia with high-quality sound and graphics.

Picture it, Play it, Read it. A CD is the disc itself which holds incredible amounts of information--over 600 MBs; more information than 1,700 low-density diskettes. Most of us have heard audio CDs and know they store music (up to seventy-five minutes), but CDs can hold any digital information. The advantage to these drives over traditional ones is that they arc removable, have a large storage capacity and are far more durable than floppy discs. Magnetic drives like your floppy and hard disc are still faster. A CD-ROM is used to augment the hard drive, not replace it.

More and more, CDs are being used to hold combinations of information, often as part of a multimedia system. Clearly, newer CDs are being designed to hold varieties of information like photographs, type fonts or clip art for the computer, and they have been designed to interact with the user. While CDs seem similar, there are differences; to further complicate matters, not all drives are compatible.

Videodisc vs CD

The difference between videodisc and CD is in the way they store information. The videodisc plays analog signals, so you can play full-motion video. Because CDs store information digitally, they must compress video information. While the CD is exceptional for sound and text, still images and animation, video compression is not yet what it should be, and full-motion video is difficult to store on CD.


It stands for Compact Disc-Read Only Memory. CD-ROMs are very much like your audio discs, except that a CD-ROM can also store data for text, graphics, animation and even some video. While you can access data like the compact discs you have at home you can't add delete or alter what's on the disc. Still, there are great advantages to CD-ROM; first is its vast storage capacity. Software can be purchased on CD-ROM rather than floppy discs. The advantage? They are cheaper and many come with an interactive training program.

CD-ROM multimedia formats store various data in separate files, combining information in a variety of ways. With CD-ROM's computer connection, the combination of audio, graphics, text and animation is possible; not only can you play these discs, but you can interact with them as well. illustrative sound clips, documentary presentations, games and even full-length symphonies are at your fingertips.

There are a number of titles that might interest art teachers. Some are art specific like I Photograph to Remember, but what may also be of value are discs like Last Chance to See, Exotic Japan and Silly Noisy House. Silly Noisy House is a view of a house (inside and out) that literally comes alive wherever you point the cursor. Open the refrigerator door and foods recite tongue twisters and rhymes. The teapot sings, and if you'd like more music, go to the living room and play the piano. The animation is fun, and it's filled with ideas that students (young and old) can build on.


The new CD-I players attach to your TV, and play interactive CDs with graphic images, animation and video. They'll also play your audio and photo CDs.

The technology was introduced in 1985 by Philips and Sony, but the consumer introduction kept hitting snags; it finally hit the market last year. With CD-I information, text, graphics, animation, audio and video can be mixed together on compact disc and played back on a television. You don't need a computer for this format, so it is definitely geared to the home market. But schools can make use of it; a number of titles are available that are art specific--from the Renaissance to the Impressionists.

The player comes with a thumb-stick remote control, but will operate with a mouse, joystick or kids' controller. It uses a simple connection to the TV (like a VCR connection). The greatest feature may be its backing by many companies; this may ensure standards and compatibility. While the CD-I players from Philips will play audio and Photo CDs, it will not play CD-ROM.

CD-I models from Philips are already available and on display at large department stores like Sears; consumer players will soon be available from Sony. CD-I will be joined with other market formats for games and business and training.

Photo CD

You won't need a scanner to take your favorite photos and transfer them to your computer. Using the new Photo CD system from Kodak, it's as easy as taking a roll of film, dropping it off at your photofinishing outlet, and receiving a disc of images along with prints and negatives. The disc you get can be used with any CD-ROM drive (Mac or IBM), in any CD-I drive, or in Kodak's own CD players which attach directly to your TV and play music as well.

Photo CD technology includes color compression, rapid retrieval of images from the disc, resolution support for HDTV, color separations for printing and access to high-quality, continuous-tone printing. This technology is available to anyone with film who can afford the cost of processing. The cost for recording a Photo CD disc with a roll of twenty-four images is $20. You can store about one hundred images on disc, and the image pac offers the image in five different resolutions: thumbnail size, low-resolution, TV and computer display, HDTV and high resolution for printing and color separations. The disc is packaged with an index print of thumbnail versions of the images, each numbered to correspond to an image pac.

Photo-CD players are easy to use, but not all CD Players can read them. Newer CD drives will be able to read these images (e.g. Apple CD drives) as does the Phillips CD-I, but check with a dealer; you might need to upgrade or enhance.

Professional photographers are enthusiastic about the new format. Eastman Kodak opened the Center for Creative Imaging in May of 1991 in Camden, Maine. Photographers like Richard Avedon and Barbara Kasten have joined digital artists Laurence Gartel and Barbara Nessim, as well as designers, musicians, cartoonists and videographers to explore the world of digital imaging. Uses in art programs, particularly where a photography department already exists, is exciting. Once these images are transferred to computer, they can be imported to favorite software with no loss of image quality. Once there, imagination is the only limitation.

A Final Thought

If all this has confused you, take heart. As I was writing this article, new drives were being released, the Kodak Photo-CD became a reality, and the Sears store in the next town put the Philips CD-I on display.

In general, the CD-I will probably be found more in the home where the user can simply hook up the CD player to the TV. CD-ROM connected to the computer will be found more in schools where computers are already in use, and great amounts of information in various fields are needed. The separation, of course, will not last long. Of course, all is not perfect in the world of CDs: not all are compatible with all drives, and drives are dependent on the computer. See your computer coordinator for help

Clearly the important thing for art educators is the availability of images both CD and Videodisc technologies afford us. Students will soon have access to clear images of thousands of pictures, sculptures, buildings, artifacts, jewelry, ad infinitum. They'll be able to look up information, find out about the artist, time period, country of origin, and so on. They'll be able to look to these images for inspiration, or they may find their inspiration from new imagery, computer images and multimedia works. It's hard to keep up, but when you get the feeling that it's all too much for you, know that you're not alone, and you can always ask your students for help! A

Debbie Greh is Assistant Director, Communication Arts Program, St. John's University in Jamaica, New York.


Broderbund (800) 521-6263 The Living Book Series for Macintosh

Warner New Media (800) 593-6334 Murmurs of Earth, The Orchestra, Word Tales, Sports Almanac and The View from Earth.

Voyager (31) 451-1383 Many Voyager titles have CD Companions which may include a pocket guide, glossary of terms, etc. Titles include: I Photograph to Remember by Pedro Meyer, Last Chance to See, Exotic Japan, Silly Noisy House and Amanda Stories Books include: Jurassic Park, and the Complete Annotated Alice Music discs include: Mozart, Strauss, Beethoven and Stravinsky.


Philips (800) 845-7301 Treasures of the Smithsonian, Time-Life Photography, Renaissance Gallery, French Impressionist, World of Impressionism, Harvest of the Sun (Van Gogh), Art of Czars.

Photo CD

Kodak's Center for Creative Imaging offers workships in Maine, and now offers two-day programs at the Apple Computer Marketing Center in Manhattan. They plan to expand to Apple centers in Boston, Chicago, Dallas, St. Louis and the West Coast. For information call (800) 428-7400.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Davis Publications, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:understanding the various types of compact disc
Author:Greh, Debbie
Publication:School Arts
Date:May 1, 1993
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