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Will DVD go the way of the Beta?

By fuzz in News
Tue Jul 04, 2000 at 12:31:15 AM EST
Tags: Technology (all tags)

DVD is the hottest medium for home viewing of films- But the format everyone loves needs some standards if it wants to compete directly with VHS for the medium of the home. Writeable DVDs are going to be huge for the rest of the year, with lots of different companies scrambling for their piece of the pie.

Wouldn't you like to be able to record your own DVDs at home - reaping the benefits of more capacity, improved quality of picture, sound and video?

Of course! And do you know what's standing in your way? The manufacturers of DVD players and new writeable DVD technology are unable to decide on a standard.

The 3 choices: DVD-RAM, DVD-RW or DVD+RW.

DVD-RAM has the advantage of first-to-market, but it defintely has its flaws.

Hitachi, Toshiba and Panasonic have announced their intentions to start pushing their DVD-RAM recorders onto consumers this year. Unfortunately for us, the discs produced by a DVD-RAM recorder can't be played in the DVD players that we already have. They require "RAM-capable" DVD players.

DVD+RW, the format pushed by Hewlett-Packard, Ricoh, Philips and Yamaha, doesn't have the same problem. The discs can be played in existing DVD players. However, the recorder itself is expected to be expensive (Phillips estimated $1000), and you can't get one for your computer.

DVD-RW is Pioneer's baby. You can pick one of these recorders up already, if you live in Tokyo. The target market for these badboys is enthusiasts. Projected pricetag? $3000. Ick.

The DVD-RW discs will be playable in Pioneer DVD players and "some players from other manufacturers." If rewritable isn't your biggest concern, they'll be able to use single-use media that will be playable on any player. (Hey, at least someone has the right idea.)

Fortunately, the DVD Forum, an association containing 230 companies, is regulating the whole mess.

Some other stories on the subject:

CNET from August 99



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Related Links
o CNET from August 99
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Will DVD go the way of the Beta? | 45 comments (29 topical, 16 editorial, 0 hidden)
Is the replacement for VHS even going to be such a (3.20 / 4) (#2)
by qube on Mon Jul 03, 2000 at 04:25:08 PM EST

..or will it be with TiVO-like devices that timeshift recordings? -leaving the bought/rented movie-watching to DVD in it's current form.

Watching movies and recording TV for later use must be the two most common uses of VHS. The movie-watching market is being eaten into by DVD (imho, sales of VHS are being kept up by the sudden drop in price of VHS - in the UK, loads of places have "3 videos for 12ukp" kind of offers), leaving "everything else" to other formats.

With digital TV (or HDTV or whatever you have where you are), people are becoming more quality-demanding - however that doesn't mean they're going to go to recordable DVD formats, especially with the silly prices these things are at (could take a while to come down too).

What's more, these recorders will be totally castrated by the MPAA/DVD-CCA to enforce their anti-piracy agendas. They see any digital recording medium as a big threat, and I'd expect either a video equivalent to SCMS, or no digital connections to begin with. What's the point of recording digital a digital source to a digital disc if you've got to D-A and A-D in between?

At the end of the day, I think their initial high prices will be their downfall. Who'll pay $1000+ for a glorified VCR (and pay through the nose for media) when you can pay $400 for a cool little TiVO box that'll record your favourite shows automatically for you?

Re: Is the replacement for VHS even going to be su (none / 0) (#12)
by haakon on Mon Jul 03, 2000 at 10:04:01 PM EST

A tivo with firewire would be the ultimate. :)

[ Parent ]
Re: Is the replacement for VHS even going to be su (none / 0) (#15)
by fluffy grue on Tue Jul 04, 2000 at 02:54:14 AM EST

That's called a ReplayTV, which also doesn't have any subscription fees, and although it's not running Linux, it has (IMNSHO) a much more compelling featureset. Bit pricey, though, likely to offset the lack of subscription fees.
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

Re: Is the replacement for VHS even going to be su (none / 0) (#43)
by haakon on Thu Jul 06, 2000 at 09:37:26 PM EST

Yeah I had a look at the sight but I be dammed if I could find some technical specs on it :(

[ Parent ]
Re: Is the replacement for VHS even going to be su (none / 0) (#44)
by fluffy grue on Fri Jul 07, 2000 at 11:38:48 AM EST

Heh. Ask them to mail you information and you'll get a big brochure with all the tech specs every other week. ;)
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

Re: Is the replacement for VHS even going to be su (none / 0) (#23)
by Anonymous Hero on Tue Jul 04, 2000 at 01:39:22 PM EST

wouldn't ethernet be much beter

[ Parent ]
Re: Is the replacement for VHS even going to be su (none / 0) (#29)
by PresJPolk on Tue Jul 04, 2000 at 08:41:06 PM EST

eh? Can't firewire get around 100MB/sec? Ethernet tops out at an eighth of that, unless you have the really expensive stuff.

[ Parent ]
Re: Is the replacement for VHS even going to be su (none / 0) (#42)
by Anonymous Hero on Wed Jul 05, 2000 at 08:18:15 PM EST

with firewire you can only cover a very sort distance and networking with it is difficult. Ethernet is almost as cheap and the pipes are already there for internet(a presumption but with cable or adsl almost a given). This makes it possible to play the movie from the tivo or dvd-jukebox in the living-room in any of the bedroom. And as added bonus you can youre tv as a very lousy terminal

[ Parent ]
Re: Is the replacement for VHS even going to be su (none / 0) (#25)
by Nyarlathotep on Tue Jul 04, 2000 at 02:33:03 PM EST

TiVo and ReplayTV are nice ideas, but we really need inexpencive hardware and open source software to do the same thing from a PC, then I can add my own features to detect and skip comercials, replace comercials with recorded portions of diffrent TV shows, etc. We need these featuyres. Only open source vwill bring them to us.
Campus Crusade for Cthulhu -- it found me!
[ Parent ]
Cost isn't everything in the beginning (5.00 / 1) (#16)
by Ethelred_Unraed on Tue Jul 04, 2000 at 02:59:15 AM EST

Both the posters above and the editorial seem to be missing the point: in the beginning, all gadgets are expensive, and there are often competing versions of the same technology.

It used to be, way back when, that cassettes were more expensive than vinyl and 8 tracks, at least where I lived. Cassettes and 8 tracks are more or less the same technology (magnetic tape) in different, incompatible forms (though you could get cassette-to-8 track adapters). Cassettes won out because of two things IMHO: conveniece (cassettes are smaller), and quality (8-tracks tended to be brittle and often only in mono), even though 8 tracks were cheaper in the beginning.

It's also interesting to note that the music industry fought against cassettes back then, too, and held up the 8 track as the alternative (since you can't record your own 8 tracks easily). Guess who won out?

The same goes for DVD. At the moment, we have competing and mutually exclusive formats. Some are more expensive than others. But eventually, I'm convinced that the best format will win out, and that prices will come down.

Besides, think about it: was Beta *that* much better than VHS and S-VHS? Put your thinking cap on and list the advantages and disadvantages of Beta and VHS (price for player, price for media, quality of picture, size of media, etc.). I've often thought it's a myth that Beta was so superior (yes, I've watched Betamax films) -- sure, the picture is better, but on NTSC and PAL format TVs, the difference is mostly lost anyway -- and VHS is cheaper, always was AFAIR.

Okay, I'm rambling, but you get the idea....

cya <A HREF="http://design.macnews.de/">Ethelred
[ Support LinuxPPC! ] [ LinuxMac.de ] [ Visit my site ]

Re: Cost isn't everything in the beginning (5.00 / 1) (#20)
by Demona on Tue Jul 04, 2000 at 11:29:54 AM EST

Yes, the much-touted superiority of Beta seems to break down under analysis for the most part.

DVD is an odd duck. VCD's were obviously inferior to tape in terms of video and audio quality, but DVD was "just good enough" to be more or less equal. However, the MPEG-2 compression still results in noticeable "blockiness", especially with solid colors and most notably with black (scenes in outer space look very bad). This is somewhat dependent on the bitrate and the quality of the transfer from film. But the upshot is that it's POSSIBLE (but not likely) to make a VCD that looks decent, while it's all too easy (and common) to make a DVD that looks and sounds like complete crap. Once that's out of the way, DVD's only advantages are in the "Convenience" category (no fast forward or rewind, instant access, extra stuff).

So DVD's are good enough for most people, and in that respect I'm sure they will become the new "low end". But I'm still not satisfied, and anyone else who has ever noticed the jagged edges of a compressed digital picture is going to be dissatisfied as well.

Are there any reasons other than hatred/mistrust of the Chinese government that keep people from doing anything with the SVCD format? It uses MPEG-2, not 1, so is better quality; supports Dolby AAC-3 (I think I'm remembering that right), has more sophisticated support for things like interactive menus and multiple language tracks, AND uses the Compact Disc physical format, not DVD, so can be read/recorded on current commodity hardware. NOBODY in the world sells any movies in SVCD format! However, a lot of CD authoring software supports it, so I encourage everyone to learn more. SVCD looks like an excellent and affordable way for most folks to archive all their old videotapes, just as so many have been digitizing their old albums and cassettes.

I have only addressed technical issues in this post, and as we all know, this field of technology more than most has been politicized to the extreme, to the point where the average user simply MUST educate themselves about the non-technical issues, at least to some extent, if they don't want to get screwed. I always make sure to point out the disadvantages of DVD, both technically and politically, to people unfamiliar with the format.

[ Parent ]

Re: Cost isn't everything in the beginning (4.50 / 2) (#39)
by Potsy on Wed Jul 05, 2000 at 04:27:15 PM EST

I'm with you all the way on the poor quality of DVDs. I got sucked into all the hype and bought a player last year. I have been very disappointed with the quality of DVDs thus far. I see compression artifacts on almost every disc I look at. Many are so bad that I actually prefer the VHS copy, simply because it is uncompressed. I want to see the actual picture, not some compression algorithm's approximation of the picture.

DVD is at its worst when it comes to close-ups of people's faces. You can see blockiness and solarization artifacts whenever there is a close-up of an actor's face on almost any DVD on the market today. I don't understand why it seems that I'm just about the only person who notices this.

Furthermore, the transfer services are still using low quality, error-prone telecine converters to do the transfer from film to video when mastering discs. Why, pray tell? They should be using an ArriLaser scanner to get a 4k hi-res scan of the film, and then carefully do a bi-cubic downsample to DVD resolution and use that as the source material. Then we would really start to see some good picture quality. But no, they think the best way to get an image from the film is to just point a video camera at a projector and hope it comes out okay.

The DVD fanboy websites don't help matters, either. They almost never critize DVDs that show compression artifacts. They're too busy gushing about all the trailers and other extras that came with the disc to notice that, gee, the picture doesn't look very good. And the more extras they clamor for, the less room there will be on the disc for the movie itself. I wouldn't be surprised if the average bitrate on new DVDs eventually dropped below 1.0 Mbit/sec because all the space on the discs is taken up with commentaries, trailers, and behind-the-scenes-footage-that-is-actually-just-more-advertising-in-disguise. (Note: I am not against putting extras on discs, and I actually enjoy them quite a bit, but the picture and sound quality of the acutal movie must come first.)

Based on statements in the "official" DVD FAQ and other places, I think that some people have actually convinced themselves that when they see blockiness on a DVD image, what they are looking at is actually film grain. Sheesh. Unless it the movie was shot in 8mm or something, that's not going to be the case. With the resolution of today's motion picture film, the individual grains are only visible on a scale many times smaller than the size of an individual pixel on a 720x480 DVD image. People need to understand that the blockiness seen on DVDs is not film grain, it's compression artifacts!

[ Parent ]

Re: Cost isn't everything in the beginning (3.00 / 1) (#30)
by David Gerard on Tue Jul 04, 2000 at 11:34:04 PM EST

The price comment is right - it wasn't so long ago that CD burners cost in the thousands, and blank CDs a shade under $100 ... Prices will drop if the format takes off.

Now, which of these three really is technically better?

[ Parent ]

Re: Cost isn't everything in the beginning (none / 0) (#31)
by Demona on Wed Jul 05, 2000 at 02:36:27 AM EST

>Prices will drop if the format takes off.

Chicken and egg, supply and demand...

>Now, which of these three really is technically better?

Better to whom, and for what purpose?

Each format has its own advantages and disadvantages depending on who you are (individual or Evil Industry Stooge :) and what you want to do (best quality? most storage? fastest access? most technical restrictions keeping those damn users from getting at your precious content?). It would be a shame, for instance, if the "new industry standard" was crippled like the lawyers want. Or, say, made deliberately incompatible with the emerging Open Video Disc standard...

[ Parent ]

Re: Cost isn't everything in the beginning (none / 0) (#40)
by Potsy on Wed Jul 05, 2000 at 06:36:30 PM EST

"Open Video Disc standard..."? What's that?

[ Parent ]
Open Video Disc project (none / 0) (#41)
by Demona on Wed Jul 05, 2000 at 07:39:00 PM EST

There is a development-oriented mailing list which can be subscribed to at ovd-dev-subscribe@linuxvideo.org. It spun off from discussions on the LiViD-dev list. The goal is to provide an alternative to DVD which is free of licenses, patents and other onerous technical or legal restrictions.

[ Parent ]
Re: Cost isn't everything in the beginning (none / 0) (#34)
by Anonymous Hero on Wed Jul 05, 2000 at 12:09:16 PM EST

The problem with 8-tracks was mechanical. The single spindle of an 8-track cartridge holds a loop of magnetic tape (rust glued to plastic, essentially) that is pulled from the center near the axis and wrapped back on the outer circumference of the roll of tape surrounding the spindle. If you perform the experiment, you'll find that this system requires constant slippage of the tape along the entire wound surface - endless abrasion - and, more importantly, the tape gradually gets stretched out with a corresponding loss of sound quality. But hey, you shouldn't listen to Aethelred the Redeless anyway, right? --Harald Hardraada

[ Parent ]
Harald, meet Harold (none / 0) (#35)
by Ethelred_Unraed on Wed Jul 05, 2000 at 02:16:05 PM EST

But hey, you shouldn't listen to Aethelred the Redeless anyway, right? --Harald Hardraada

Cool! A guy who knows his history...well, actually, it was Cnut/Canute who beat up on little ole me -- Harald was up against Harold Godwinson, who clobbered Harald, then in turn got pounded by Billy and his oh-so-butch Normans... ;-)

Not that this has much of anything to do with DVDs anymore...wait! Anybody ever see "Matrix" on DVD? ;-)


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[ Parent ]

I don't think DVD is the answer (4.50 / 2) (#21)
by Buck Satan on Tue Jul 04, 2000 at 12:08:04 PM EST

I am one of the early DVD adopters and I have a quite sizeable collection of stuff, so I think I can speak with a little bit of authority about it.

When I got my player in June 1997, there was hardly anything out on DVD. And of course the question I kept getting asked over and over was "can you record on it?" Why in the world would you want to do that?

You would be recording broadcast signals. There is degredation in this process no matter how close you are to the source of the signal. I can't stand crappy looking video, which is why I was never much for VHS tapes unless it was something I REALLY WANTED. Once I got DVD I have refused to ever buy another tape again.

Another reason I fail to see the usefulness of writing a DVD is that most people I know of use their current vcrs for one thing and one thing only - time shifting. I have my DVHS deck set up to record a certain number of shows during the week so I can watch them when I can. But I am quickly tiring of DVHS, so I am thinking about moving to a Replay TV or TiVo. Then again, I am not a big fan of having my (or potentially having my) viewing habits monitored, so I am thinking about building my own. Wouldn't one of these units be a better solution in the long run?

The future for digital video at home (4.00 / 2) (#22)
by sergent on Tue Jul 04, 2000 at 12:25:00 PM EST

The future for digital video at home is not DVD, IMHO. It's something that looks more like a Tivo but with a really big network connection, so you can download or stream stuff that you want to watch.

I can see DVD continuing to be useful for archival storage, I suppose. I don't think it's really possible to record on it in the fashion that a video camera would require, so I suspect that will continue to be on tape -- although a built-in removable hard disk and a 1394 link would also suffice.

It's not clear how far off this is. It seems like getting fast enough networks is the hard problem here, but people tell me it's not really as hard of a problem as it seems. But maybe they're wrong, and most people will be stuck with ~40kbit/sec of bandwidth for the forseeable future.

Shades of that Qwest commercial...

DVD was never marketted as a "timeshift" (3.00 / 1) (#24)
by Justinfinity on Tue Jul 04, 2000 at 02:32:45 PM EST

DVD has always been marketed as a high-quality media for distributing motion pictures and/or computer data. In this sense, it won't go the way of Beta, simply because of a large user base.

It's true that not many people have DVD-R? devices, but a lot of homes have a DVD Player or DVD drive in a computer. With every new movie realease coming out on DVD and many old releases beging converted, I don't think DVD has anything to worry about in that area. Since streaming video with DVD quality to anywhere and everywhere is still a bit off into the future, that is not really on option yet. Downloading DVD quality data to a mass storage device is feasible with broadband, but without a semi-permanant media for it (the DVD-R? battles are delaying this) DVD-ROM still rules that arena too.

Many more companies are now also using DVD to distribute software that previously would have taken up numerous CD-ROMs.

When a DVD-R? standard arrives, downloading movies may become much more prevelant, but many people may stick with regular DVD, they'll be paying for the convienence of not having to wait for a download and 5+ GB of data to be burned. Just look at how many people buy Linux distros instead of burning their own CDs. BTW, I personally have at least 7 distros on CDs burned from downloaded .ISO images :-).

And until we all have dedicated giga-bit (or better :-)connections to our homes, streaming video won't have the quality of DVD.

Since their isn't yet a supposedly inferior format competing with DVD, the question of whether DVD will go the way of BetaMax is actually inappropriate (no offense to the original poster). A better topic could have been "Will the DVD-ROM standard be the best long enough to be worth it?" IMHO

"Just imagine..."

An analogous situation to cds? (none / 0) (#26)
by scheme on Tue Jul 04, 2000 at 02:47:57 PM EST

It seems like the situation will become analogous to the whole cd/cdr situation. Cd drives are slowly being displaced but the difficulties in mastering cds (it's gotten easier but burning a cd isn't something you as easily as recording a cassette or minidisc or vhs tape) have made the transition pretty slow. I think that's one of the big problems with writable DVDs. If you're going to burn and finalize a dvd you'll need to free up 2-5 GB which even with today's hard drives isn't trivial. I'm not sure whether multisession dvds are possible but that would probably make the process of writing a dvd easier. However, I don't think writable dvds will become popular until a few years after one standard has been worked out.

"Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. THAT'S relativity." --Albert Einstein

R and RW in the SAME device??? (none / 0) (#28)
by Anonymous Hero on Tue Jul 04, 2000 at 08:21:00 PM EST

Is there a CD recorder to do CD-R _and_ CD-RW , i.e. using just one box instead of a CD-R box and a CD-RW box?

DVD: Same question :- can you get DVD-R and DVD-RW recorder in one box???

A single DVD-R/RW box'd be handy to save space in the PC case. Are there any technical reasons against one? It'd need two different lasers (one high power for the DVD-RW) but maybe that's difficult to integrate in one box.

Re: R and RW in the SAME device??? (none / 0) (#37)
by Rand Race on Wed Jul 05, 2000 at 03:13:55 PM EST

Most all CD-RWs can write to CD-R as well. Don't know about DVD but it's probably to young a technology for multi-use devices yet. However, I have a Ricoh 9600 CD/-R/-RW/DVD (24x8x6x6) that didn't cost any more than most CD-RW drives and works with BeOS (not the DVD part alas). I wouldn't buy a dedicated DVD right now, but the Ricoh multiple device was a no-brainer.

"Question with boldness even the existence of God; because if there be one, He must approve the homage of Reason rather than that of blindfolded Fear." - Thomas Jefferson
[ Parent ]

1) Yes, 2) No (none / 0) (#38)
by Anonymous Hero on Wed Jul 05, 2000 at 03:14:15 PM EST

1) Yes- almost all CD-Rs are CD-RW also. Check any HW site.
2) No. All 3 formats use different 'methods' for storing media. Plus, you'd need the firmware for 4 different formats- CD-R and CD-RW are still ISO-9660 (The major reason you can't read a CDRW in any computer (various packet-writing technologies aside) is due to the fact that older drives read mechanisms aren't strong enough to read the 'weaker' CDRW. Even if it was physicially possible, trying to license the 3 different companies to support one standard- not likely.

[ Parent ]
In a way I kind of hope so. (4.00 / 1) (#32)
by Greener on Wed Jul 05, 2000 at 11:59:05 AM EST

I refuse to buy a DVD layer for a couple of reasons and am not going to get one until I can legally purchase one with unencrypted digital output and no country code restrictions.

To view a DVD as it is supposed to be seen you need digital output of the signal to the digital input of a flat screen plasma TV which I will get when I can get a DVD player that meets my specs. Right now IIRC the signal is converted to analog before being sent to the TV so while you are getting better quality than VHS it's still not the perfect digital quality they claim. Until I can go all digital and not pseudo-digital, an analog TV and VCR are fine for me.

I also don't want to spend the money to get DVD's of all the movies I already own only to have DVD's replaced by the next latest and greatest technology in 5 to 10 years. It's all part of a ploy to keep paying money to see a movie you already own. If you already bought a license to view a movie by buying the VHS you should only have to pay for the cost of the media when buying the same movie on DVD since you already own the license to view it. Maybe I'll just skip the DVD stage altogether.

Right now I can buy a movie on VHS for 1/2 to 1/3 the price of a DVD. Why are people willing to shell out for an over priced DVD and not an over priced CD. One could argue that we're paying more for all that extra content but what are my options if I don't want it.

Sorry if this doesn't make any sense. I find it hard to put my thoughts in writing and keep it coherent. But that's why I'm a programmer and not a writer.

CD < DVD < FMD (none / 0) (#33)
by Anonymous Hero on Wed Jul 05, 2000 at 11:59:40 AM EST

Fluorescent Multilayer Disk technology makes the point moot. DVDs make fine coasters!

FMD...not really there yet (none / 0) (#45)
by braman on Fri Jul 07, 2000 at 03:58:03 PM EST

Given that C-3D has only just announced that a scaled back red-laser version of their product may be in production by next year, the best you could say is that FMD *may* make the point moot at some time in the future. Still, I would agree that the technology is *very* cool, and I wish I had it today.

[ Parent ]
Yes! (5.00 / 2) (#36)
by freakazoid on Wed Jul 05, 2000 at 02:57:17 PM EST

In spite of the fact that I own a DVD player (and may buy a better one at some point) and several thousand dollars worth of DVDs, mostly anime, I believe and hope that DVD goes the way of the dinosaur. Here's why.

The two primary reasons are CSS and AC3. CSS is proprietary, poorly implemented, and designed to prevent fair use (like playing in an unauthorized player). AC3 is patented and requires royalties. In the US, DVDs are required to contain either AC3 or PCM audio. So you either pay the royalties or in many cases have to go to a two layer or two sided disc when previously a single side and a single layer would have been sufficient, driving up your costs. At least in Europe, MPEG2 audio streams are allowed. (Note: the same thing is happening with digital television in the US.)

Also, the IFO file format used for navigation and side information is proprietary, though that's been mostly reverse engineered at this point.

I will fully accept DVD and stop wishing for its demise when CSS (and any of its bastard children) is eliminated, MPEG2 audio or some other royalty-free compressed audio format is allowed without PCM or AC3 needing to be present, and the IFO file format is openly published.

Please do not say "then stop buying DVDs." I feel even more screwed buying VHS tapes, because frequently they have bad audio or bad vertical sync, their quality sucks to begin with, and they don't last very long compared to DVDs. Incidentally, I've noticed many anime DVDs from the smaller producers don't have CSS and use PCM audio instead of AC3.

There has been a little work on an "open" standard for encoding multimedia both into files and onto digital media. Its preliminary name is "OVD," though this probably won't stick. There is a SourceForge project that hasn't seen much activity at http://sourceforge.net/project/?group_id=2074 and a draft proposal written by me (it would be on SourceForge, but nobody replied to my request to be added to the project) at http://www.literati.org/~seanl/ovd.html

Comments welcome, and if you're interested in the development of an open multimedia standard, let me know.

Will DVD go the way of the Beta? | 45 comments (29 topical, 16 editorial, 0 hidden)
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