Adios – VCD (MPEG1) : The Sunset on the World’s First Digital Format..

VCD's available for Rs.12 each ( 2 Discs) at Keestu Ganam, Madurai
VCD’s available for Rs.12 each ( 2 Discs) at Keestu Ganam, Madurai

The VCD was the first commercial Video Format made available to the General Public. It was available in India, in the late 90s, almost parallel to the emergence of the Internet. It was a continuation of the first setbacks suffered by the Main Stream Movie Industry, which had no answer to the mp3 format, which was a big success, unfortunately for the Musical companies, which continued to push out the fading out magnetic tapes and humongously expensive Audio CDs, at costs as high as Rs.400 for a single Album.. ( I personally remember seeing one, in the late 90s. 🙂 at this cost..)

When One looks back in hindsight, the VCD quality is terrible. It was much prone to damages, and the quality was way too low ( CIF – 288p), compared to the Video Resolutions of 1080p-> 4k.  which are accessible today. It was also lacked native support for Add On Features like Streaming or Subtitles. Although the VCD Format could support Resolutions of 1080p and above, the transport media at that period in time did not have the capacity, to store the content. ( Each VCD only had a storage space of 700 MB.) More over, the VCD Format lacked the compression power of Modern Codecs like H.264 and its successor still in development, the H.265.

With the economic factor coming in, it was only possible to publish content in 352×288 resolution. Only such a resolution could accomadate an entire 2-3 hour Indian in movie in 3 discs. Later movies, were better optimized or a few scenes were chopped off, to compress an entire movie in 2 Discs. This became the standard format. Later, the DVD replaced the VCD. With Time running out for the DVD itself, it is no surprise that people hardly want the VCD anymore.

Keestu Ganam Proprietor Mr.Thulasiram in an interview with me, told me that they do not stock VCD’s anymore. However, During my last visit, I found stacks on unindexed VCD’s being given at throw away prices. These are original unused VCDs that were unsold. While It is possible that some of the movies are legitimately available on YouTube, Not all of them are. There are quite a few rare movies as well. Most of them seem to be coming from one of TamilNadu’s leading Digital Media Publisher – MODERN CINEMA, a few streets away from Keestu Ganam, which surprisingly is one of the few publishing companies that operate out of Chennai.

This might also be a golden chance for those people like me, who have serious issues with bandwidth problems. My guess is that, even if someone watched a movie in YouTube, the cost of power and the cost of bandwidth ( Internet is drastically expensive in India) would far exceed the cost of Rs.12 ( You get 2 VCDs for Rs.25). Its a golden opportunity, if your based in an around Madurai. Pay a visit. It may be your last chance to pay tribute to a Digital Video Format that changed our lives permanently.

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