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CD + Graphics is a format used for making special CD's. Those CD's, when played in a normal player, will unveil their audio information, as do all normal CD's. However, if played in a special player with a video output, they also give graphics data which can be fed into a TV or video screen.

The CD+G standard works by putting the extra graphics data onto a subchannel area (namely the subchannels R-W) of the audio disc, so that no extra space is wasted. There's still only one session on the disc, which basically contains the graphics interleaved with the audio, but normal audio players won't take notice of the graphics.

The subchannel's data rate is quite limited, so you can't do smooth animations on CD+G's. Though the resolution of a CD+G image is only 288 x 192 in 16 colors out of 4096 (somewhat comparable to the late 80's home computers), it takes the disc about 10 seconds to completely build up such an image on screen.

Contrary to the writeup above, Sega was NOT the only company building players for this format. In fact, many players were and still are built. Some of those are:

  • The Commodore CDTV (built in 1991)
  • The Philips / Magnavox CD-i (built in 1992)
  • The Sega Mega CD II (built in 1992-1993)
  • The Commodore CD32 (built in 1994)
  • The Sega Saturn (built in 1995)
  • All 3DO machines (built around 1994-1995)
  • a stereo system, a portable player (the XP-80G) and a boom box, all by AIWA
  • some software players for the PC
  • SOME DVD players (but you won't necessarely recognize that capability at one glance)
  • ...and many special players.

To explain this, when CD+G was introduced, some record labels put out audio CD's accompanied by graphics (such as Fleetwood Mac's album Behind the mask), but the majority of CD+G discs coming out were and still are Karaoke discs.

Today CD+G is the standard dominating the Karaoke market, but has failed to succeed in any other applications. So if you want to buy a (pure) CD+G player today, you'll have to go to a Karaoke shop, because the normal electronics manufacturers have given up on that standard, including Sega whose newest child, the Dreamcast, can't read CD+G anymore. Some of these newer players also have other capabilities, like a built-in microphone mixer with reverb, or the ability to also play DVD, VCD or laser discs. However, if you buy a normal DVD player, you may find it's able to play CD+G's too, though it's not a standard among DVD players to support this. The DVD players that do, surprisingly, are mostly cheap ones coming from the Far East, built by rather unknown companies. But the only way to make sure is trying, because you won't even find that feature mentioned in the manual or on the package if it's there... maybe because some of them can't play all CD+G's properly, but make mistakes in scrolling or color fades and color cycling.

But on the Karaoke market, CD+G is still well and alive. There are over 3000 different Karaoke CD+G's available by some dozen manufacturers, with over 80 new ones appearing each month.

Some of the biggest ones are Sound Choice, Pocket Songs, Music Maestro, Sunfly, Top Tunes and Song Factory, who have all put out more than hundred CD+G Karaoke discs each.

Moreover, there's now software available which lets you create your own CD+G if you desire to do so. Not surprisingly, most of the programs are specialized in doing Karaoke discs (which is the song lyrics appearing and changing color in synch with the background music you should sing to). These programs currently range from free (CDG Creator) to about $2000 (Karaoke Pro). These are:

With all these programs you can create CD+G discs of some sort. CDG Creator and Karaoke Builder have specialized to convert graphic images only, while the others also provide means of syncing lyrics to the music.

To be able to burn a CD+G, you'll need a specialized CD Writer. Not all of them support that format, but for instance those made by Plextor do. Some of the software packages mentioned above already include software for burning the discs, for others you'll need a separate CD burning program, like CDRWIN by Goldenhawk which is the best one for this job, in my opinion.

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