Official Internet DVD FAQ

This is the June 27, 2013 revision of the official Internet DVD FAQ for the Usenet newsgroups.
(See below for what’s new.) Send corrections, additions, and new questions to
Jim Taylor <>.

This FAQ is usually updated at least once a month. If
you are looking at a version more than a few months old, it’s probably an out-of-date copy.
The most current version is at DVD Demystified.


Recent changes:

  • 2012-08-02: Clarification of codes for replicators/duplicators/authoring houses. (5.5)
  • 2011-10-14: Fixed or removed broken links.
  • 2011-05-07: Fixed or removed many broken links.
  • 2010-04-06: New section: [2.3] How does DVD compare with Blu-ray Disc?
    (Includes old 3.13.)
  • 2009-11-15: Updated longevity section, including links to M-ARC/Diamondisc and more studies. (3.12)
  • 2009-10-28: New link to French translation. (0.1)
  • 2009-10-24: New questions:
    [3.14] How does the player know where I stopped or ejected the

    [4.3.12] What’s an unfinalized disc and why won’t it play in my
  • 2009-07-13: Fixed links to NIST disc care guides.
  • 2009-07-13: Updated royalties section. New MPEG LA pricing.
  • 2009-07-13: New question: [3.4.2] What are jacket pictures?
  • 2009-07-02: Updated links to moved pages.
    (3.5) Thanks Mark and Mike.
  • 2009-06-30: More links to info sources.
  • 2009-06-30: Clean-up and clarification to royalties section. (6.1)
  • 2009-04-20: Minor rename and major update to copy section.
    Explained differences between rip, shrink, etc.
  • 2009-03-20: Finally got around to updating the “What is DVD?”
  • 2009-03-20: Explained that Sensormatic and Checkpoint tags
    don’t affect playback. Also mentioned RF activation.
  • 2009-03-20: Added DisneyDVD to section on marketing names.
  • 2009-03-19: Minor updates to laser rot and longevity sections,
    including fixes for broken links.
    (1.24 3.12)
  • 2008-09-21: More on matching disc speed rating to burn speed.
  • 2008-07-31: New link for Korean translation. (0.1)
  • 2008-07-30: Updated HD sections. (2.12,
  • 2008-07-30: Info on CSS Managed Recording. (6.5)
  • 2008-05-10: Switched from FrontPage to Expression Web to for site
    editing. Hopefully nothing major broke.

For the absurdly curious, here’s the list of
stretching back into the mists of time.

[0] Where can I get the DVD FAQ?

[0.1] Has the DVD FAQ been translated into other languages?

The following translations of the DVD FAQ are available. Translations to a
few other languages are in progress.

If you’d like to translate the DVD FAQ into another language (Klingon,
anyone?), please contact Jim.

Also see 6.4.5 for DVD info in other languages.

[0.2] This FAQ is too long and technical. Is there a simpler

Take a gander at
Earl’s Famous DVD
Technology Exposition Web Page Extravaganza Supreme Deluxe

Or you might prefer
The Simpsons’
. (Although Lisa erroneously claims DVD stands for “digital versatile
disc” — who you gonna believe, me or an 8-year old genius?)

[0.3] Is this FAQ any good? Who wrote it? How do I know it’s accurate?

Here are a few user
on the DVD FAQ. If you type “DVD” into Google, this Web site is
often the #1 result. It’s the most accurate source of DVD information in
this galaxy. If you find something you think is in error, please
let Jim know. There’s plenty of other good
information about DVD on the Internet. Pointers to other DVD sites are scattered throughout the FAQ and in section

The DVD FAQ is written by Jim Taylor, the author of

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About DVD
Blu-ray Disc Demystified
. Jim has been in the DVD
business since before there was a DVD business. In 1995 he found out about the upcoming DVD
format and
began writing articles to let others know about this amazing new technology. Jim
received the 2000 DVD Pro Discus Award for Outstanding Contribution to the
Industry, was named one of the 21 most influential DVD executives by DVD Report,
was an inaugural inductee into the 2002 Digital Media Hall of Fame, and was
named one of the Pioneers of DVD in the October 2003 issue of One to One
magazine. Jim has worked with interactive media for over 25 years, developing
educational software, laserdiscs, CD-ROMs, Web sites, and DVDs, along with
teaching workshops, seminars, and university courses. He writes articles and
columns about DVD for publications such as
Widescreen Review and serves as
Chairman of the IDMA/DVD Association. Jim was formerly
DVD Evangelist at Microsoft, and is currently Chief Technologist at
Sonic Solutions, the leading developer of DVD
and BD creation software.

[0.4] How big is this thing?

Since you asked, here are the stats as of March 2009:

Size: 598 KB
Number of words: 69,767
Number of external links: 1,978

If you’re wondering why it’s all in one big piece instead of broken into
smaller pieces that would load faster, the main reason is so you can use the
find feature of your browser to easily search the entire FAQ. I realize this
causes problems with WebTV browsers. Sorry. I might break it up some day.

[1] General DVD

[1.1] What is DVD?

DVD is movies on a shiny disc, and much more. It’s an optical disc storage technology
for video, audio, and computer data. DVD is
essentially a bigger, faster CD that can hold high-quality digital video, better-than-CD
audio, pictures, and any other sort of digital information. DVD encompasses home
entertainment, computers, and business information with a single digital format.
It replaced laserdisc, videotape, many video
game cartridge formats, and many CD-ROM applications. DVD has
widespread support from all major electronics companies, all major computer
hardware companies, and all major movie and music studios. With this
unprecedented support, DVD became the most successful consumer electronics
product of all time in less than three years of its introduction. In 2007, ten
years after launch, there were over one billion DVD playback devices worldwide,
counting DVD players, DVD PCs, and DVD game consoles.

It’s important to understand the difference between the physical formats
(such as DVD-ROM and DVD-R) and the application formats (such as
DVD-Video and DVD-Audio). DVD-ROM is the base format that holds data. DVD-Video
(often simply called DVD) defines how video programs such as movies are stored
on disc and played in a DVD-Video player or a DVD computer (see
). The difference is similar to that between CD-ROM and Audio CD. DVD-ROM
includes recordable variations: DVD-R/RW, DVD-RAM, and DVD+R/RW (see
4.3). The application formats include DVD-Video, DVD-Video
Recording (DVD-VR), DVD+RW Video Recording (DVD+VR), DVD-Audio Recording (DVD-AR),
DVD-Audio (DVD-A), and Super Audio
CD (SACD). There are also special application formats for game consoles such as
Sony PlayStation 2 and Microsoft Xbox.

[1.1.1] What do the letters DVD stand for?

All of the following have been proposed as the words behind the letters DVD.

  • Delayed, very delayed (referring to the many late releases of DVD formats)
  • Diversified, very diversified (referring to the proliferation of
    recordable formats and other spinoffs)
  • Digital venereal disease (referring to piracy and copying of DVDs)
  • Dead, very dead (from naysayers who predicted DVD would never take off)
  • Digital video disc (the original meaning proposed by some of DVD’s
  • Digital versatile disc (a meaning later proposed by some of DVD’s
  • Nothing

And the official answer is… “nothing.” The original initialism came from
“digital video disc.” Some members of the DVD Forum (see 6.1)
tried to express how DVD goes far beyond video by retrofitting the painfully
contorted phrase “digital versatile disc,” but this has never been officially
accepted by the DVD Forum as a whole. A report from DVD Forum Steering Committee
in 1999 decreed that DVD, as
an international standard, is simply three letters. Nevertheless, Toshiba
the maintainer of the DVD Forum Web site
still confusingly prefers “digital video disc.” And after all, how many people
ask what VHS stands for? (Guess what? No one agrees on that one either.)

[1.2] What are the features of DVD-Video?

  • Over 2 hours of high-quality digital video (a double-sided, dual-layer
    disc can hold about 8 hours of high-quality video, or 30 hours of VHS quality
  • Support for widescreen movies on standard or widescreen TVs (4:3 and 16:9
    aspect ratios).
  • Up to 8 tracks of digital audio (for multiple languages, commentaries,
    etc.), each with as many as 8 channels.
  • Up to 32 subtitle/karaoke tracks.
  • Automatic seamless branching of video (for multiple story lines or ratings
    on one disc).
  • Up to 9 camera angles (different viewpoints can be selected during
  • On-screen menus and simple interactive features (for games, quizzes,
  • Multilingual identifying text for title name, album name, song name, cast,
    crew, etc.
  • Instant rewind and fast forward (no “be kind, rewind” stickers and threats
    on rental discs)
  • Instant search to title, chapter, music track, and timecode.
  • Durable (no wear from playing, only from physical damage).
  • Not susceptible to magnetic fields. Resistant to heat.
  • Compact size (easy to handle, store, and ship; players can be portable;
    replication is cheaper than tapes or laserdiscs).
  • Noncomedogenic.

Note: Most discs do not contain all features (multiple
audio/subtitle tracks, seamless branching, parental control, etc.), as each
feature must be specially authored. Some discs may not allow searching or

Most players support a standard set of features:

  • Language choice (for automatic selection of video scenes, audio tracks,
    subtitle tracks, and menus).*
  • Special effects playback: freeze, step, slow, fast, and scan.
  • Parental lock (for denying playback of discs or scenes with objectionable
  • Programmability (playback of selected sections in a desired sequence).
  • Random play and repeat play.
  • Digital audio output (PCM stereo and Dolby Digital).
  • Recognition and output of DTS Digital Surround audio tracks.
  • Playback of audio CDs.

* Must be supported by additional content on the

Some players include additional features:

  • Component video output (YUV or RGB) for higher quality picture.
  • Progressive-scan component output (YUV or RGB) for highest quality analog
  • Digital video output (SDI, 1394, or DVI/HDMI) for perfect digital picture.
  • Six-channel analog output from internal audio decoder (Dolby Digital, DTS,
    or MLP).
  • Playback of Video CDs or Super Video CDs.
  • Playback of MP3 CDs.
  • Playback of MP3 DVDs.
  • Playback of video files in other formats such as DivX and MPEG-4.
  • Playback of Picture CDs and Photo CDs.
  • Playback of laserdiscs and CDVs.
  • Reverse single frame stepping.
  • Reverse play (normal speed).
  • RF output (for TVs with no direct video input).
  • Multilingual on-screen display.
  • Multiple disc capacity.
  • Digital zoom (2x or 4x enlargement of a section of the picture). This is a
    player feature, not a DVD disc feature.

[1.3] What’s the quality of DVD-Video?

DVD has the capability to produce near-studio-quality video and
better-than-CD-quality audio. DVD is vastly superior to consumer videotape and
generally better than laserdisc (see 2.7.). However, quality
depends on many production factors. As compression experience and technology
improves we see increasing quality, but as production costs decrease and DVD
authoring software becomes widely available we also see more shoddily produced
discs. A few low-budget DVDs even use MPEG-1 encoding (which is no better than
VHS) instead of higher-quality MPEG-2.

DVD video is usually encoded from digital studio master tapes to MPEG-2
format. The encoding process uses lossy compression that removes
redundant information (such as areas of the picture that don’t change) and
information that’s not readily perceptible by the human eye. The resulting
video, especially when it is complex or changing quickly, may sometimes contain
visual flaws, depending on the processing quality and amount of compression. At
average video data rates of 3.5 to 6 Mbps (million bits/second), compression
may be occasionally noticeable. Higher data rates can result in
higher quality, with almost no perceptible difference from the master at rates
above 6 Mbps. As MPEG compression technology improves, better quality is being
achieved at lower rates.

Video from DVD sometimes contains visible artifacts such as color
banding, blurriness, blockiness, fuzzy dots, shimmering, missing detail, and
even effects such as a face that “floats” behind the rest of the moving picture.
It’s important to understand that the term “artifact” refers to anything that is
not supposed to be in the picture. Artifacts are sometimes caused by poor MPEG
encoding, but artifacts are more often caused by a poorly adjusted TV, bad
cables, electrical interference, sloppy digital noise reduction, improper
picture enhancement, poor film-to-video transfer, film grain, player faults,
disc read errors, and so on. Most DVDs exhibit few visible MPEG compression
artifacts on a properly configured system.. If you think otherwise, you are
misinterpreting what you see.

Some early DVD demos were not very good, but this is simply an indication of
how bad DVD can be if not properly processed and correctly reproduced. In-store
demos should be viewed with a grain of salt, since most salespeople are
incapable of properly adjusting a television set.

Most TVs have the sharpness set too high for the clarity of DVD. This
exaggerates high-frequency video and causes distortion, just as the treble
control set too high on a stereo causes the audio to sound harsh. For best
quality the sharpness control should be set very low. Brightness should also not
be set too high. Some DVD players output video with a black-level setup of 0 IRE
(Japanese standard) rather than 7.5 IRE (US standard). On TVs that are not
properly adjusted this can cause some blotchiness in dark scenes. There may be
an option in the player menu to use standard black level. DVD video has
exceptional color fidelity, so muddy or washed-out colors are almost always a
problem in the display (or the original source), not in the DVD player or disc.

DVD audio quality is superb. DVD includes the option of PCM (pulse code
modulation) digital audio with sampling sizes and rates higher than audio CD.
Alternatively, audio for most movies is stored as discrete, multi-channel
surround sound using Dolby Digital or DTS audio compression similar to the
digital surround sound formats used in theaters. As with video, audio quality
depends on how well the processing and encoding was done. In spite of
compression, Dolby Digital and DTS can be close to or better than CD quality.

[1.4] What are the disadvantages of DVD?

  • Vagueness of the DVD specification and inadequate testing of players and
    discs has resulted in incompatibilities. Some movie discs don’t function fully
    (or don’t play at all) on some players. (See 1.41)
  • DVD recorders are more expensive than VCRs. (See 1.14
    and 4.3)
  • DVD has built-in copy protection and regional lockout. (See
    1.11 and 1.10)
  • DVD uses digital compression. Poorly compressed audio or video may be
    blocky, fuzzy, harsh, or vague. (See 1.3)
  • The audio downmix process for stereo/Dolby Surround may reduce dynamic
    range. (See 3.6)
  • DVD doesn’t fully support HDTV. (See 2.9)
  • Some DVD players and drives can’t read CD-Rs. (See 2.4.3)
  • Some DVD players and drives can’t read recordable DVDs. (See
  • Most DVD players and drives can’t read DVD-RAM discs. (See
  • Very few players can play in reverse at normal speed.
  • Variations and options such as DVD-Audio, DVD-VR, and DTS audio tracks are
    not supported by all players.

[1.5] What DVD players and drives are available?

Some manufacturers originally announced that DVD players would be available
as early as the middle of 1996. These predictions were woefully optimistic.
Delivery was initially held up for “political” reasons of copy protection
demanded by movie studios, but was later delayed by lack of titles. The first
players appeared in Japan in November, 1996, followed by U.S. players in March,
1997, with distribution limited to only 7 major cities for the first 6 months.
Players slowly trickled in to other regions around the world. Prices for the
first players in 1997 were $1000 and up. By the end of 2000, players were
available for under $100 at discount retailers. In 2003 players became available
for under $50. Six years after the initial launch, close to one thousand models
of DVD players were available from over a hundred consumer electronics
manufacturers (see 6.2).

Fujitsu supposedly released the first DVD-ROM-equipped computer on Nov. 6 in
Japan. Toshiba released a DVD-ROM-equipped computer and a DVD-ROM drive in Japan
in early 1997 (moved back from December which was moved back from November).
DVD-ROM drives from Toshiba, Pioneer, Panasonic, Hitachi, and Sony began
appearing in sample quantities as early as January 1997, but none were available
before May. The first PC upgrade kits (a combination of DVD-ROM drive and
hardware decoder card) became available from Creative Labs, Hi-Val, and Diamond
Multimedia in April and May of 1997.

Today, every major PC manufacturer has models that include DVD-ROM drives.
The price difference from the same system with a CD-ROM drive ranges from $30 to
$200 (laptops have more expensive drives). Upgrade kits for older computers have
available over the years for $100 to $700 from companies such as Creative
, DynaTek, E4 (Elecede),
, Margi Systems (for laptops),
Media Forte,
Pacific Digital,
Sigma Designs,
Sony, Toshiba,
Utobia, and others. For more information
about DVDs on computers, including writable DVD drives, see section

Note: If you buy a player or drive from
outside your country (e.g., a Japanese player for use in the US) you may not be
able to play region-locked discs on it. (See 1.10.)

The first DVD-Audio players were released in Japan by Pioneer in late 1999,
but they did not play copy-protected discs. Matsushita (under the Panasonic and
Technics labels) first released full-fledged players in July 2000 for $700 to
$1,200. DVD-Audio players are now also made by Aiwa, Denon, JVC, Kenwood,
Madrigal, Marantz, Nakamichi, Onkyo, Toshiba, Yamaha, and others. Sony released
the first SACD players in May 1999 for $5,000. Pioneer’s first DVD-Audio players
released in late 1999 also played SACD. SACD players are now also made by
Accuphase, Aiwa, Denon, Kenwood, Marantz, Philips, Sharp, and others. (See
1.12 for more information on DVD-Audio and SACD.)

More information on players and drives:

[1.5.1] Which player should I buy?

There are many good players available. Video and audio performance in all
modern DVD players is excellent. Personal preferences, your budget, and your
existing home theater setup all play a large role in determining which player is
best for you. Unless you have a high-end home theater setup, a player that costs
under $250 should be completely adequate. Make a list of things that are
important to you (such as ability to play CD-Rs, ability to play Video CDs, 96
kHz/24-bit audio decoding, DTS Digital Out, internal 6-channel Dolby Digital
decoder) to help you come up with a set of players. Then try out a few of the
players in your price range, focusing on ease of use (remote control design,
user interface, front-panel controls). Since there is not a big variation in
picture quality and sound quality within a given price range, convenience
features play a big part. The remote control, which you’ll use all the time, can
drive you crazy if it doesn’t suit your style.

Some players, especially cheaper models, don’t properly play all discs.
Before buying a player, you may want to test it with a few complex discs such as
The Matrix, The Abyss, Independence Day, and DVD
. See 1.41 for more information.

In certain cases, you might want to buy a DVD PC instead of a standard DVD
player, especially if you want progressive video. See 1.40
and 4.1.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself.

  • Do I want selectable sound tracks and subtitles, multiangle viewing,
    aspect ratio control, parental/multirating features, fast and slow playback,
    great digital video, multichannel digital audio, compatibility with Dolby Pro
    Logic receivers, on-screen menus, dual-layer playback, and ability to play
    audio CDs? This is a trick question, since all DVD players have all of these
  • Do I want DTS audio? If so, look for a player with the “DTS Digital Out”
    logo. (See 3.6.2.)
  • Do I want to play Video CDs? If so, check the specs for Video CD
    compatibility. (See 2.4.5.)
  • Do I want to play recordable DVDs? If so, check the specs or compatibility
    reports for ability to read -R, -RW, +R, and +RW formats . (See
  • Do I need a headphone jack?
  • Do I want player setup menus in languages other than English? If so, look
    for a multilanguage setup feature. (Note: all players support on-disc
    multilanguage menus.)
  • Do I want to play homemade CD-R audio discs? If so look for the “dual
    laser” feature. (See 2.4.3.)
  • Do I want to replace my CD player? If so, you might want a changer that
    can hold 3, 5, or even hundreds of discs.
  • Do I want to play discs from other countries? If so, beware of regions
    (see 1.10) and TV formats (see 1.19).
  • Do I want to control all my entertainment devices with one remote control?
    If so, look for a player with a programmable universal remote, or make sure
    your existing universal remote is compatible with the DVD player.
  • Do I want to zoom in to check details of the picture or get rid of the
    black letterbox bars? If so, look for players with picture zoom.
  • Do I have a DTV or progressive-scan display? If so, get a progressive-scan
    player. (See 1.40.)
  • Do I want to play HDCDs? If so, check for the HDCD logo. (See
  • Does my receiver have only optical or only coax digital audio inputs? If
    so, make sure the player has outputs to match. (See 3.2.)
  • Do I care about black-level adjustment?
  • Do I value special deals? If so, look for free DVD coupons and free DVD
    rentals that are available with many players.

For more information, read hardware reviews at Web sites such as
DVDFile or in magazines such as
Widescreen Review. You may also
want to read about user experiences at
Audio Review and in online
forums at Home Theater Forum and
DVDFile. There’s more advice at
DVDBuyingGuide and at, which
also has a list of links to reviews on other sites.

See sections 3.1 and 3.2 for specific
information on what audio/video connections are needed to fit into your existing

[1.6] What DVD titles are available?

[In the video distribution industry, a title refers to
a movie or other production release, like Snow White, or Star Wars,
or a boxed edition of a TV series, like Babylon 5 First Season. Titles
are collectively referred to as software, not to be confused with
computer software.]

DVD started off slowly. Rosy predictions of hundreds of movie titles for
Christmas of 1996 failed to materialize. Only a handful of DVD titles, mostly
music videos, were available in Japan for the November 1996 launch of DVD. The
first feature films on DVD appeared in Japan on December 20 (The Assassin,
Blade Runner, Eraser,
and The Fugitive from Warner Home Video). By
April, 1997 there were over 150 titles in Japan. The first titles released in the
U.S., on March 19, 1997, by Lumivision, authored by AIX Entertainment, were IMAX
adaptations: Africa: The Serengeti, Antarctica: An Adventure of a Different
Nature, Tropical Rainforest,
and Animation Greats. (Other movies such
as Batman and Space Jam had been demonstrated earlier, but were
not full versions available for sale.) The Warner Bros. U.S. launch followed on
March 24, but was limited to seven cities. Almost 19,000 discs were purchased in
the first two weeks of the US launch — more than expected. InfoTech predicted
over 600 titles by the end of 1997 and more than 8,000 titles by 2000. By
December 1997, over 1 million individual DVD discs were shipped, representing
about 530 titles. By the end of 1999, over 100 million discs had shipped,
representing about 5,000 titles. By the end of 2000 there were over 10,000
titles available in the US and over 15,000 worldwide. By the end of 2001 there
were about 14,000 titles available in the U.S. By the end of 2002 there were
about 23,000 titles available in the U.S. By March 2003, six years
after launch, over 1.5 billion copies of DVD titles had been shipped. Compared to other launches (CD, LD,
etc.) these are a huge numbers of titles released in a very short time. (Note
that these numbers don’t include adult titles, which account for an additional 15% or
so.) Just over 10,000 new DVD titles were released in 2003, and almost 11,000
came out in 2004, for a total of 42,500 titles (with about 40,300 still
available). It would
cost you about $800,000 to buy one copy of each.

A number of DVD launches in Europe were announced with little follow-through,
but DVD began to become established in Europe around the end of 1998.
Availability of DVDs in Europe was initially about 18 months to a year
behind the U.S., but has shortened over the years to a delay of only a few weeks
to a few months.

See 6.3 for a list of Web sites where you can buy or rent

There are many databases on the Internet to search for DVD titles. Here are a
few of the best:

DVD-Audio started even slower than DVD-Video. The first commercially
available DVD-Audio title, Big Phat Band, was released in October 2000 on the Silverline label of 5.1 Entertainment. Major music labels BMG
Entertainment, EMI Music, Universal Music, and Warner Music have committed to
DVD-Audio titles, although in fall 2001 Universal announced that it would
release SACD titles first. As of the end of 2001, just under 200 DVD-Audio
titles were available. The first SACD titles were released in Japan in May 1999.

DVD-ROM computer software is slowly appearing. Many initial DVD-ROM titles
were only available as part of a hardware or software bundle. IDC predicted that
over 13 percent of all software would be available in DVD-ROM format by the end
of 1998, but reality didn’t meet expectations. In one sense, DVD-ROMs are simply
larger faster CD-ROMs and contain the same material. In many cases CD-ROMs are
big enough that there’s no need to move to DVD-ROMs. But DVD-ROMs can also take
advantage of the high-quality video and multi-channel audio capabilities being
added to many DVD-ROM-equipped computers.

[1.6.1] Where can I read reviews of DVDs?

The following sites have reviews of at least 800 discs. Also see the list of
DVD review sites
at Yahoo.

[1.6.2] How do I find out when a movie or TV show will be available on

First, check one of the lists and databases mentioned in 1.6
to make sure it’s not already available. Then check the upcoming release lists
at DVD Review,
Laser Scans, and
VideoETA (where you can also sign up to be
notified when a movie is released). There’s
also the release list at Image
. A good source of info about unannounced titles is The Digital
Bits Rumor Mill.

[1.6.3] Why isn’t my favorite movie on DVD?

There are many factors that determine when a title is released on DVD.
Sometimes the director or producer has control over DVD/video release. Other
times it’s up to the studio marketing group. Often there are issues with rights.
For example, a DVD might be available in one country or region but not available
in another because different studios have distribution rights in different
countries. Studios do listen to customers, so let them know what titles you’d
like to see (see 6.2.2).

[1.6.4] How can I find DVDs with specific features or

Use one of the searchable databases in 1.6. Select the
features you’re looking for (anamorphic widescreen, French audio track, Flemish
subtitles, and so on). If a database doesn’t include the characteristic you’re
looking for, try a different database.

[1.6.5] Why do some rental stores and retailers not carry
widescreen DVDs?

Some rental chains such as Blockbuster and retailers such as Wal-Mart
originally carried only fullscreen (pan and scan) versions of movies when both
widescreen and fullscreen versions were available. This infuriated many DVD
fans, who could never countenance watching a non-widescreen version of a movie
on DVD. There was much complaining, including an
online petition
with over 25,000 signatures. In early 2003 Blockbuster reversed their policy
with the following statement: “We made a decision to purchase the majority of
titles we bring in on DVD in the widescreen format. We try to follow our
customer preferences. As DVD becomes increasingly popular, they become more
familiar with the features and with the benefits of letterboxing. They’ve
learned it’s a superior format to full-frame.” Wal-Mart similarly switched to
widescreen versions apparently after realizing that they sold better.

See 3.5 for more about widescreen. See
for pros and cons of letterboxing.

[1.7] How much do players and drives cost?

Mass-market DVD movie players list for $40 to $3000. (See 1.5
for more information.) DVD-ROM drives and upgrade kits for computers sell for
around $30 to $400. (OEM drive prices are around $40.)

[1.8] How much do discs cost?

It varies, but most DVD movies list for $20 to $30 with street prices between
$15 and $25, even those with supplemental material. Low-priced movies can be
found for under $10. DVDs have not followed the initial high-rental-price
model of VHS.

DVD-ROMs are usually slightly more expensive than CD-ROMs since there is more
on them, they cost a bit more to replicate, and the market is smaller. But as
the installed base of drives grow, DVD-ROMs will eventually cost about the same
as CD-ROMs do today.

The following sites help you find the lowest prices and discount coupons:

[1.9] How is DVD doing? Where can I get statistics?

DVD did not take off quite as fast as some early predictions, but it has sold
faster than videotape, CD, and laserdisc. In fact, before its third birthday in
March 2000, DVD had become the most successful consumer electronics
entertainment product ever.

Here are some predictions:

  • InfoTech (1995): Worldwide sales of DVD players in 1997 will be 800,000.
    Worldwide sales of DVD-ROM drives in 1997 will be 1.2 million, with sales of
    39 million drives in 2000.
  • Toshiba (1996): 100,000 to 150,000 DVD-Video players will be sold in Japan
    between Nov. 1 and Dec. 31, 1996, and 750,000-1 million by Nov. 1, 1997.
    (Actual count of combined shipments by Matsushita, Pioneer, and Toshiba was
    70,000 in Oct-Dec 1996.) Total worldwide DVD hardware market expected to reach
    120 million units in the year 2000. Worldwide settop DVD player market will be
    2 million units in the first year, with sales of 20 million in the year 2000.
  • Pioneer (1996): 400,000 DVD-Video players in 1996, 11 million by 2000.
    100,000 DVD-Audio players in 1996, 4 million by 2000.
  • InfoTech (1996): 820,000 DVD-Video players in first year, 80 million by
  • CEMA (1997): 400,000 DVD-Video players in U.S. in 1997, 1 million in 1998.
  • Time-Warner (1996): 10 million DVD players in the U.S. by 2002.
  • Paul Kagan (1997): 800,000 DVD players in the U.S. in 1997, 10 million in
    2000, and 40 million in 2006 (43% penetration). 5.6 million discs sold in
    1997, 172 million discs in 2000, and 623 million in 2006.
  • C-Cube (1996): 1 million players and drives in 1997.
  • BASES: 3 million DVD-Video players sold in first year, 13 million sold in
    6th year.
  • Dataquest (1997): over 33 million shipments of DVD players and drives by
  • Philips (1996): 25 million DVD-ROM drives worldwide by 2000 (10% of
    projected 250 million optical drives).
  • Pioneer (1996): 500,000 DVD-ROM drives sold in 1997, 54 million sold in
  • Toshiba (1996): 120 million DVD-ROM drives in 2000 (80% penetration of 100
    million PCs). Toshiba says they will no longer make CD-ROM drives in 2000.
  • IDC (1997): 10 million DVD-ROM drives sold in 1997, 70 million sold in
    2000 (surpassing CD-ROM), 118 million sold in 2001. Over 13% of all software
    available on DVD-ROM in 1998. DVD recordable drives more than 90% of combined
    CD/DVD recordable market in 2001.
  • AMI (1997): installed base of 7 million DVD-ROM drives by 2000.
  • Intel (1997): 70 million DVD-ROM drives by 1999 (sales will surpass CD-ROM
    drives in 1998).
  • SMD (1997): 100 million DVD-ROM/RAM drives shipped in 2000.
  • Microsoft (Peter Biddle, 1997): 15 million DVD PCs sold in 1998, 50
    million DVD PCs sold in 1999.
  • Microsoft (Jim Taylor, 1998): installed base of 35 million DVD PCs in
  • Forrester Research (1997): U.S. base of 53 million DVD-equipped PCs by
    2002. 5.2% of U.S. households (5 million) will have a DVD-V player in 2002; 2%
    will have a DVD-Audio player.
  • Yankee Group (Jan 1998): 650,000 DVD-Video players by 1998, 3.6 million by
    2001. 19 million DVD-PCs by 2001.
  • InfoTech (Jan 1998): 20 million DVD-Video players worldwide in 2002, 58
    million by 2005. 99 million DVD-ROM drives worldwide in 2005. No more than 500
    DVD-ROM titles available by the end of 1998. About 80,000 DVD-ROM titles
    available by 2005.
  • Screen Digest (Dec 1998): 125,000 DVD-Video player in European homes in
    1998, 485,000 in 1999, 1 million in 2000.
  • IRMA (Apr 2000): 12 million players will ship worldwide in 2000.
  • Baskerville (Apr 2000): Worldwide spending on DVD software will surpass
    that of VHS by 2003. There will be a worldwide installed based of 625 million
    DVD players by 2010 (55% of TV households).
  • Jon Peddie (Jun 2000): Almost 20 million DVD players will be sold in the
    U.S. in 2004.
  • IDC (July 2000): 70 million DVD players and drives will be sold by year’s
  • Screen Digest (June 2000): European installed base of DVD-Video players
    (1998) 0.3m; (1999) 1.5m; (2000) 5.4m; (2003) 47.1m.
  • Japanese Electronics and Information Technologies Association (December
    2000): 37 million DVD players worldwide by 2001.
  • DVD Entertainment Group (July 2001): Approximately 30 million DVD players
    sold in the U.S. by the end of 2001.
  • Understanding & Solutions (April 2002): DVD player penetration in the UK
    could grow to 70% by 2006 (CD player penetration reached only 50% in the same
    time period after launch).

Here’s reality:

  • 1997
    • 349,000 DVD-Video players shipped in the U.S. (About 200,000 sold into
    • 900 DVD-Video titles available in the U.S. Over 5 million copies
      shipped; about 2 million sold.
    • Over 500,000 DVD-Video players shipped worldwide.
    • Around 330,000 DVD-ROM drives shipped worldwide with about 1 million
      bundled DVD-ROM titles.
    • 60 DVD-ROM titles (mostly bundled).
  • 1998
    • 1,089,000 DVD-Video players shipped in the U.S. (Installed base of
    • 400 DVD-Video titles in Europe (135 movie and music titles).
    • 3,000 DVD-Video titles in the U.S. (2000 movie and music titles).
    • 7.2 million DVD-Video discs purchased.
  • 1999
    • 4,019,000 DVD-Video players shipped in the U.S. (Installed base of
    • Over 6,300 DVD-Video titles in the U.S.
    • About 26 million DVD-ROM drives worldwide.
    • About 75 DVD-ROM titles available in the U.S.
  • 2000
    • 8.5 million DVD-Video players shipped in the U.S. (Installed base of
    • About 46 million DVD-ROM drives worldwide.
    • Over 10,000 DVD-Video titles available in the U.S.
    • Belgium: 100 thousand installed base
    • France: 1.2 million installed base
    • Germany: 1.2 million installed base
    • Italy: 360 thousand installed base
    • Netherlands: 200 thousand installed base
    • Spain: 300 thousand installed base
    • Sweden: 120 thousand installed base
    • Switzerland: 250 thousand installed base
    • UK: 1 million installed base
  • 2001
    • 12.7 million DVD-Video players shipped in the U.S. (Installed base of
    • Over 45 million DVD-ROM drives in the U.S.
    • Over 90 million DVD-ROM drives worldwide.
    • UK: 3 million installed base
  • 2002
    • 17 million DVD-Video players shipped in the U.S. (Installed base of
    • Over 75 million DVD-ROM drives in the U.S.
    • Over 140 million DVD-ROM drives worldwide.
  • 2003 (fall)
    • 16 million DVD-Video players shipped in the U.S. (Installed base of
    • Over 27,000 DVD-Video titles available in the U.S.

For comparison, there were about 700 million audio CD players and 160 million
CD-ROM drives worldwide in 1997. 1.2 billion CD-ROMs were shipped worldwide in
1997 from a base of about 46,000 different titles. There were about 80 million
VCRs in the U.S. (89% of households) and about 400 million worldwide. 110,000
VCRs shipped in the first two years after release. Nearly 16 million VCRs were
shipped in 1998. In 2000 there were about 270 million TVs in the U.S. and 1.3
billion worldwide. When DVD came out in 1997 there were under 3 million
laserdisc players in the U.S.

For latest U.S. player sales statistics, see the
CEA page
at The Digital Bits. Other DVD statistics and forecasts can be found at
Twice. Industry analyses and forecasts can be
purchased from Adams Media Research,
Alexander & Associates,
British Video Association,
Cahners In-stat,
DVD Intelligence,
International Data Corporation (IDC)
Jon Peddie Associates (JPA),
Paul Kagan Associates,
Screen Digest,
SIMBA Information,
Strategy Analytics,
Understanding & Solutions and others.

[1.10] What are “regional codes,” “country codes,” or “zone

Motion picture studios want to control the home release of movies in
different countries because theater releases aren’t simultaneous (a movie may
come out on video in the U.S. when it’s just hitting screens in Europe). Also,
studios sell distribution rights to different foreign distributors and would
like to guarantee an exclusive market. Therefore they required that the DVD
standard include codes to prevent playback of certain discs in certain
geographical regions. Each player is given a code for the region in which it’s
sold. The player will refuse to play discs that are not coded for its region.
This means that a disc bought in one country may not play on a player bought in
another country. Some people believe that region codes are an illegal restraint
of trade, but no legal cases have established this.

Regional codes are entirely optional for the maker of a disc. Discs without
region locks will play on any player in any country. It’s not an encryption
system, it’s just one byte of information on the disc that the player checks.
Some studios originally announced that only their new releases would have
regional codes, but so far almost all Hollywood releases play in only one
region. Region codes are a permanent part of the disc, they won’t “unlock” after
a period of time. Region codes don’t apply to DVD-Audio, DVD-ROM, or recordable
DVD (see below for more detail).

Seven regions (also called locales or zones) have been defined, and each one is assigned a
number. Players and discs are often identified by their region number superimposed
on a world globe. If a disc plays in more than one region it will have more than
one number on the globe.
1: U.S., Canada, U.S. Territories
2: Japan, Europe, South Africa, and Middle East (including Egypt)
3: Southeast Asia and East Asia (including Hong Kong)
4: Australia, New Zealand, Pacific Islands, Central America, Mexico, South
America, and the Caribbean
5: Eastern Europe (Former Soviet Union), Indian subcontinent, Africa, North
Korea, and Mongolia
6: China
7: Reserved
8: Special international venues (airplanes, cruise ships, etc.)
(See the map at <>.)

Technically there is no such thing as a region zero disc or a region zero player.
There is such thing as an all-region disc. There are also all-region players.
Some players can be “hacked” using special command sequences from the remote
control to switch regions or play all regions. Some players can be physically
modified (“chipped”) to play discs regardless of the regional codes on the disc.
This usually voids the warranty, but is not illegal in most countries (since the
only thing that requires player manufacturers to region-code their players is
the CSS license; see 1.11). Many retailers, especially
outside North America, sell players that have already been modified for multiple
regions, or in some cases they simply provide instructions on how to access the
“secret” region change features already built into the player. As an interesting side
note, on Feb. 7, 2001, NASA sent two
multiregion DVD
to the International Space Station.

Extensive information about modifying players and buying region-free players
can be found on the Internet (see 6.4.2).

In addition to region codes, there are also differences in discs for NTSC and
PAL TV systems (see 1.19).

Some discs from Fox, Buena Vista/Touchstone/Miramax, MGM/Universal, Polygram,
and Columbia TriStar contain program code that checks for the proper region
setting in the player. (There’s Something About Mary and Psycho
are examples.) In late 2000, Warner Bros. began using the same active region
code checking that other studios had been using for over a year. They called it
“region code enhancement” (RCE, also known as REA), and it received much
publicity. RCE was first added to discs such as The Patriot and
Charlie’s Angels
. “Smart discs” with active region checking won’t play on
players that are set for all regions (FFh), but they can be played
on manual code-switchable players that allow you to use the remote
control to change the player’s region to match the disc. They may not work on
players that recognize and match the disc region. (It depends
on the default region setting of the player. An RCE disc has all its region
flags set so that the player doesn’t know which one to switch to. The disc
queries the player for the region setting and aborts playback if it’s the wrong one. A
default player setting of region 1 will fool RCE discs from region 1. Playing a
region 1 disc for a few seconds sets most auto-switching players to region 1
and thus enables them to play an RCE disc.) When an RCE disc detects the wrong region
or an all-region player, it will usually put up a message saying that the player
may have been altered and that the disc is not compatible with the player. A
serious side effect is that some legitimate players fail the test, such as the
Fisher DVDS-1000.

There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth when RCE first appeared, but DVD
fans quickly learned that it only affected some players. Makers of player
modification kits that didn’t work with RCE soon improved their chips to get
around it. For every higher wall there is a taller ladder. See DVDTalk’s
RCE FAQ for more info and

In general, region codes don’t apply
to recordable DVDs. A DVD that you make on a PC with a DVD burner or in a home
DVD video recorder will play in all regions (but don’t forget NTSC vs. PAL
differences, see 1.19). Region codes do not apply to

Regional codes apply to game consoles such as PlayStation 2 and Xbox, but
only for DVD-Video (movie) discs (see
for region modifications to PS2). PlayStation has a separate
regional lockout scheme for games. Regional codes also apply to DVD-ROM
but affect only DVD-Video discs, not DVD-ROM discs containing computer software.
Computer playback systems check for regional codes before playing movies from a CSS-protected DVD-Video (see 1.11 for CSS info). Newer
DVD-ROM drives let you change the region code several times. (RPC
stands for region protection control.) Once an RPC2 drive has reached the limit
of 5 changes it can’t be changed again unless the vendor or manufacturer resets
the drive. The Drive Info utility can tell you if you have an RPC2 drive
(it will say “This drive has region protection”). See 6.4.2
for links to more information about circumventing DVD-ROM region restrictions.
Since December 31, 1999, only RPC2 drives have been manufactured.

[1.11] What are the copy protection issues?

CPSA (content protection system architecture) is the name given to the
overall framework for security and access control across the entire DVD family.
Developed by the “4C” entity (Intel, IBM,
Matsushita, and Toshiba) in cooperation with the Copy Protection Technical
Working Group (CPTWG), it covers encryption, watermarking, protection of analog
and digital outputs, and so on. There are many forms of content protection that
apply to DVD.

1) Analog CPS (Macrovision)
Videotape (analog) copying is prevented with a
Macrovision 7.0 or similar circuit in
every player. Macrovision may show up as stripes of color, distortion, rolling, black & white
picture, and dark/light cycling. Macrovision creates problems for most TV/VCR
combos (see 3.2.1) and some high-end equipment such as line
doublers and video projectors.

The general term for a system that prevents taping is APS (Analog Protection System), also sometimes
called copyguard. Computer video cards with composite or s-video (Y/C) output
must also use APS. Macrovision changes the composite video and s-video output in
two ways: the Colorstripe technique creates a rapidly modulated colorburst
signal, and the AGC technique inserts pulses in the vertical blanking signal. This confuses the synchronization and
automatic-recording-level circuitry in 95% of consumer VCRs. Unfortunately, it
can degrade the picture, especially with old or nonstandard equipment. Macrovision was not present on analog component
video output of early players, but is now required on component output (AGC
only, since there is no burst in a component signal).

The discs themselves contain “trigger bits”
telling the player whether or not to enable Macrovision AGC, with the optional
addition of 2-line or 4-line Colorstripe. The triggers occur about twice a
second, which allows fine control over what part of the video is protected. The
producer of the disc decides what amount of copy protection to enable and then
pays Macrovision royalties accordingly (several cents per disc). Just as with
videotapes, some DVDs are Macrovision-protected and some aren’t. (For a few
Macrovision details see STMicroelectronics’ NTSC/PAL video encoder datasheets at

Inexpensive devices can defeat Macrovision, although only a few work against
the more recent Colorstripe feature. These devices go under names such as DVD
Red, Video
Clarifier, Image Stabilizer, Color Corrector,
, and
CopyMaster. Or you can
build your own.
Some DVD players can be modified to turn off Macrovision output (see
6.4.2). Professional time-base correctors (TBCs) that regenerate line 21 also remove
Macrovision. APS affects only video, not audio.

Each disc contains information specifying if the contents can be copied.
This is a serial copy generation management system (SCMS) designed to prevent
initial copies or generational copies (copies of copies). The CGMS information
is embedded in the outgoing video signal. For CGMS to work, the equipment making
the copy must recognize and respect the CGMS information. The analog standard (CGMS-A)
encodes the data on NTSC line 21 (in the XDS service) or line 20. CGMS-A is
recognized by most digital camcorders and by some computer video capture cards
(they will flash a message such as “recording inhibited”). Professional
time-base correctors (TBCs) that regenerate lines 20 and 21 will remove CGMS-A
information from an analog signal. The digital standard (CGMS-D) is included in
DTCP and HDMI for digital connections such as
IEEE 1394/FireWire
. See subsections 6 and 7 below.

3) Content Scramble System (CSS)
Because of the potential for perfect digital copies, paranoid movie studios
forced a deeper copy protection requirement into the DVD standard. Content
Scramble System (CSS) is a data encryption and authentication scheme intended
to prevent copying video files directly from DVD-Video discs. CSS was developed
primarily by Matsushita and Toshiba. Each CSS player licensee is given a key from a
master set of 409 keys stored on every CSS-encrypted disc. The theory was to allow
a license to be revoked by removing its key from future discs. The CSS
decryption algorithm exchanges keys with the drive unit to generate an
encryption key that is then used to obfuscate the exchange of disc keys and
title keys that are needed to decrypt data from the disc. DVD players have CSS
circuitry that decrypts the data before it’s decoded and displayed, and computer DVD decoder hardware and software must include a CSS decryption
module. All DVD-ROM drives have extra firmware to exchange authentication and
decryption keys with the CSS module in the computer. As of 2000
DVD-ROM drives are required to support regional management in conjunction with CSS (see
and 4.1). Makers of
equipment used to display DVD-Video (drives, decoder chips, decoder software,
display adapters, etc.) must license CSS. There is an annual $15,000 fee for the CSS license,
and qualification is a lengthy process, so it’s recommended that interested parties apply
early. CSS is administered by the DVD Copy
Control Association
(DVD CCA). Near the end of May 1997, CSS licenses were
finally granted for software decoding. The license is extremely restrictive in
an attempt to keep the CSS algorithm and keys secret. Of course, nothing that’s
used on millions of players and drives worldwide could be kept secret for long.
In October 1999, the CSS algorithm was cracked and posted on the Internet,
triggering endless controversies and legal battles (see 4.8).

4) Content Protection for Prerecorded Media (CPPM)
CPPM is used only for DVD-Audio. It was developed as an improvement on CSS. Keys are
stored in the lead-in area, but unlike CSS no title keys are placed in the sector
headers. Each volume has a 56-bit album identifier, similar to a CSS disc key,
stored in the control area. Each disc contains a media key block, stored in a
file in the clear on the disc. The media key block data is logically ordered in
rows and columns that are used during the authentication process to generate a
decryption key from a specific set of player keys (device keys). As with CSS, the media key block can be updated to revoke the use of
compromised player keys. If the device key is revoked, the media key block
processing step will result in an invalid key value. The authentication mechanism is the same as for CSS, so
no changes are required to existing drives. A disc may contain both CSS and CPPM
content if it is a hybrid DVD-Video/DVD-Audio disc.

5) Content Protection for Recordable Media (CPRM)
CPRM is a mechanism that ties a recording to the media on which it is recorded.
It is supported by some DVD recorders, but not by many DVD players. Each blank
recordable DVD has a unique 64-bit media ID etched in the BCA (see
3.11). When protected content is recorded onto the disc, it
can be encrypted with a 56-bit C2 (Cryptomeria) cipher derived from the media
ID. During playback, the ID is read from the BCA and used to generate a key to
decrypt the contents of the disc. If the contents of the disc are copied to
other media, the ID will be absent or wrong and the data will not be decryptable.

6) Digital Copy Protection System (DCPS)
In order to provide digital connections between components without allowing
perfect digital copies, five digital copy protection systems were proposed to
the CEA. The frontrunner is
DTCP (digital transmission content
protection), which focuses on IEEE 1394/FireWire but can be applied to other
protocols. The draft proposal (called 5C, for the five companies that developed
it) was made by Intel, Sony, Hitachi, Matsushita, and Toshiba in February 1998.
Sony released a DTCP chip in mid 1999. Under DTCP, devices that are digitally
connected, such as a DVD player and a digital TV or a digital VCR, exchange keys
and authentication certificates to establish a secure channel. The DVD player
encrypts the encoded audio/video signal as it sends it to the receiving device,
which must decrypt it. This keeps other connected but unauthenticated devices
from stealing the signal. No encryption is needed for content that is not copy
protected. Security can be “renewed” by new content (such as new discs or new
broadcasts) and new devices that carry updated keys and revocation lists (to
identify unauthorized or compromised devices). A competing proposal, XCA
(extended conditional access), from Zenith and Thomson, is similar to DTCP but
can work with one-way digital interfaces (such as the EIA-762 RF remodulator
standard) and uses smart cards for renewable security. Other proposals have been
made by MRJ Technology, NDS, and Philips. In all five proposals, content is
marked with CGMS-style flags of “copy freely”, “copy once,” “don’t copy,” and
sometimes “no more copies”. Digital devices that do nothing more than reproduce
audio and video will be able to receive all data (as long as they can
authenticate that they are playback-only devices). Digital recording devices are
only able to receive data that is marked as copyable, and they must change the
flag to “don’t copy” or “no more copies” if the source is marked “copy once.”
DCPSes are designed for the next generation of digital TVs, digital receivers,
and digital video recorders. They require new DVD players with
digital connectors (such as those on DV equipment). These new products began to
appear in 2003. Since the encryption is done by the player,
no changes are needed to existing discs.

7) High-Bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP, DVI, and HDMI)
HDCP is similar to DTCP, but it was designed for digital video monitor
interfaces. In 1998, the Digital Display Working Group
(DDWG) was formed to create a universal interface standard between computers and
displays to replace the analog VGA connection standard. The resulting Digital
Visual Interface (DVI) specification, released in April 1999, was based on
Silicon Image’s PanelLink technology, which at 4.95 Gbps can support 1600×1200 (UXGA)
resolution, which covers all the HDTV resolutions. Intel proposed HDCP as a security
component for DVI. A new
connection standard called HDMI combines DVI and HDCP. DVD players with DVI or HDMI
digital video output appeared in spring 2003. Many new HDTV displays are
likely to have both IEEE 1394 and HDMI connections.

HDCP provides
authentication, encryption, and revocation. Specialized circuitry in the playback
device and in the display monitor encrypts video data before it is sent over the
link. When an HDMI output senses that the connected monitor does not support
HDCP, it lowers the image quality of protected content. The HDCP key exchange
process verifies that a receiving device is authorized to display or record
video. It uses an array of forty 56-bit secret device keys and a 40-bit key
selection vector — all supplied by the HDCP licensing entity. If the security
of a display device is compromised, its key selection vector is placed on the
revocation list. The host device has the responsibility of maintaining the
revocation list, which is updated by system renewability messages (SRMs) carried
by newer devices and by video content. Once the authority of the receiving
device has been established, the video is encrypted by an exclusive-or operation
with a stream cipher generated from keys exchanged during the authentication
process. If a display device with no decryption ability attempts to display
encrypted content, it appears as random noise.


The first four forms of copy protection (Macrovision, CGMS, CSS, and CPPM) are optional for the producer of a
disc. CSS decryption is optional for hardware and software playback
manufacturers, although a player or computer without decryption capability will only be
able to play unencrypted movies. CPRM is handled automatically by DVD recorders,
although it’s optional and many recorders don’t support it. DTCP and HDCP are
handled by DVD players with digital video outputs.

These copy protection schemes are designed only to guard against casual
copying (which the studios claim causes billions of dollars in lost revenue).
The goal is to “keep the honest people honest.” The people who developed the
copy protection standards are the first to admit they can’t stop
well-equipped pirates.

Movie studios have promoted legislation making it illegal to defeat DVD copy
protection. The result is the World Intellectual
Property Organization
(WIPO) Copyright Treaty and the WIPO Performances and
Phonograms Treaty (December 1996) and the compliant U.S.
Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA),
passed into law in October 1998. Software intended specifically to circumvent
copy protection is now illegal in the U.S. and many other countries. A co-chair
of the legal group of the DVD copy protection committee stated, “in the video
context, the contemplated legislation should also provide some specific
assurances that certain reasonable and customary home recording practices will
be permitted, in addition to providing penalties for circumvention.” It’s not at
all clear how this might be “permitted” by a player or by studios that routinely
set the “don’t copy” flag on all their discs.

DVD-ROM drives and computers, including DVD-ROM upgrade kits, are required to
support Macrovision, CGMS, and CSS. PC video cards with TV outputs that don’t
support Macrovision will not work with encrypted movies. Computers with IEEE
1394/FireWire connections must support the final DCPS standard in order to work
with other DCPS devices. Likewise computers with HDMI (DVI) connections must
support HDCP to output DVD-Video content. Every DVD-ROM drive must include CSS
circuitry to establish a secure connection to the decoder hardware or software
in the computer, although CSS can only be used on DVD-Video content. Of course,
since a DVD-ROM can hold any form of computer data, other encryption schemes can
be implemented. See 4.1 for more information on DVD-ROM

The Watermarking Review Panel (WaRP) –the successor to the Data-Hiding
Sub-Group (DHSG)– of the CPTWG selected an audio watermarking system that has
been accepted by the DVD Forum for DVD-Audio (see 1.12). The
original seven video watermarking proposals were merged into three: IBM/NEC,
Hitachi/Pioneer/Sony, and Macrovision/Digimarc/Philips. On February 17, 1999,
the first two groups combined to form the “Galaxy Group” and merged their
technologies into a single proposal. The second group has dubbed their
technology “Millennium.” Watermarking permanently marks each digital audio or
video frame with noise that is supposedly undetectable by human ears or eyes.
Watermark signatures can be recognized by playback and recording equipment to
prevent copying, even when the signal is transmitted via digital or analog
connections or is subjected to video processing. Watermarking is not an
encryption system, but rather a way to identify whether a copy of a piece of
video or audio is allowed to be played. New players and software are required to
support watermarking, but the DVD Forum intends to make watermarked discs
compatible with existing players. Reports were made that the early watermarking
technique used by Divx caused visible “raindrop” or “gunshot” patterns, but the
problem was apparently solved for later releases.

[1.12] What about music on DVD: DVD-Audio and SACD?

Note: Don’t confuse DVD-Audio with DVD-Music (see 1.12.1).

When DVD was released in 1996 there was no DVD-Audio format, although the
audio capabilities of DVD-Video far surpassed CD. The DVD Forum sought
additional input from the music industry before defining the DVD-Audio format. A
draft standard was released by the DVD Forum’s Working Group 4 (WG4) in January
1998, and version 0.9 was released in July. The final DVD-Audio 1.0
specification (minus copy protection) was approved in February 1999 and released
in March, but products were delayed in part by the slow process of selecting
copy protection features (encryption and watermarking), with complications
introduced by the Secure Digital Music Initiative (SDMI). The scheduled October
1999 release was further delayed until mid 2000, ostensibly because of concerns
caused by the CSS crack (see 4.8), but also because the
hardware wasn’t quite ready, production tools weren’t up to snuff, and there was
lackluster support from music labels. Pioneer released the first DVD-Audio
players (without copy protection support) in Japan in late 1999.

Matsushita released Panasonic and Technics brand universal
DVD-Audio/DVD-Video players in July 2000 for $700 to $1,200. Pioneer, JVC,
Yamaha, and others released DVD-Audio players in fall 2000 and early 2001. By
the end of 2000 there were about 50 DVD-Audio titles available. By the end of
2001 there were just under 200 DVD-Audio titles available.

DVD-Audio is a separate format from DVD-Video. DVD-Audio discs can be
designed to work in DVD-Video players, but it’s possible to make a DVD-Audio
disc that won’t play at all in a DVD-Video player, since the DVD-Audio
specification includes new formats and features, with content stored in a
separate “DVD-Audio zone” on the disc (the AUDIO_TS directory) that DVD-Video
players never look at. New DVD-Audio players are needed, or new “universal
players” that can play both DVD-Video and DVD-Audio discs. Universal players are
also called VCAPs (video-capable audio players).

A plea to producers: Universal players
are rare, but you can make universal discs easily.
With a small amount of effort, all DVD-Audio discs can be made to work on all
DVD players by including a Dolby Digital version of the audio in the DVD-Video

A plea to DVD-Audio authoring system developers:
Make your software do this by default or strongly recommend this option during

DVD-Audio players (and universal players) work with existing receivers. They
output PCM and Dolby Digital, and some will support the optional DTS and DSD
formats. However, most current receivers can’t decode high-definition,
multichannel PCM audio (see 3.6.1 for details), and even if
they could it can’t be carried on standard digital audio connections. DVD-Audio
players with high-end digital-to-analog converters (DACs) can only be hooked up
to receivers with 2-channel or 6-channel analog inputs, but some quality is lost
if the receiver converts back to digital for processing. New receivers with
improved digital connections such as IEEE 1394 (FireWire) are needed to use the
full digital resolution of DVD-Audio.

DVD audio is copyright protected by an embedded signaling or
digital watermark
feature. This uses signal processing technology to apply a
digital signature and optional encryption keys to the audio in the form of
supposedly inaudible noise so that new equipment will recognize copied audio and
refuse to play it. Proposals from Aris, Blue Spike, Cognicity, IBM, and Solana
were evaluated by major music companies in conjunction with the 4C Entity,
comprising IBM, Intel, Matsushita, and Toshiba. Aris and Solana merged to form a
new company called Verance, whose Galaxy technology was chosen for
DVD-Audio in August 1999. (In November 1999, Verance watermarking was also
selected for SDMI.) Verance and 4C claimed that tests on the Verance
watermarking method showed it was inaudible, but golden-eared listeners in later
tests were able to detect the watermarking noise.

Sony and Philips have developed a competing Super Audio CD format that uses
DVD discs. (See 3.6.1 for details.) Sony released version
0.9 of the SACD spec in April 1998, the final version appeared in April (?)
1999. SACD technology is available to existing Sony/Philips CD licensees at no
additional cost. Most initial SACD releases have been mixed in stereo, not
multichannel. SACD was originally supposed to provide “legacy” discs with two
layers, one that plays in existing CD players, plus a high-density layer for
DVD-Audio players, but technical difficulties kept dual-format discs from being
produced until the end of 2000, and only then in small quantities. Pioneer,
which released the first DVD-Audio players in Japan at the end of 1999, included
SACD support in their DVD-Audio players. If other manufacturers follow suit, the
entire SACD vs. DVD-Audio standards debate could be moot, since DVD-Audio
players would play both types of discs.

Sony released an SACD player in Japan in May 1999 at the tear-inducing price
of $5,000. The player was released in limited quantities in the U.S. at the end
of 1999. Philips released a $7,500 player in May 2000. Sony shipped a $750 SACD
player in Japan in mid 2000. About 40 SACD titles were available at the end of
1999, from studios such as DMP, Mobile Fidelity Labs, Pioneer, Sony, and Telarc.
Over 500 SACD titles were available by the end of 2001.

A drawback related to DVD-Audio and SACD players is that most audio receivers
with 6 channels of analog input aren’t able to do bass management. Receivers
with Dolby Digital and DTS decoders handle bass management internally, but
6-channel analog inputs are usually passed straight through to the amplifier.
Without full bass management on 6-channel analog inputs, any audio setup that
doesn’t have full-range speakers for all 5 surround channels will not properly
reproduce all the bass frequencies.

If you are interested in making the most of a DVD-Audio or SACD player, you
need a receiver with 6-channel analog audio inputs. You also need 5
full-frequency speakers (that is, each speaker should be able to handle
subwoofer frequencies) and a subwoofer, unless you have a receiver that can
perform bass management on the analog inputs, or you have an outboard bass
management box such as from
Outlaw Audio

For more on DVD-Audio, including lists of titles and player models, visit
Digital Audio Guide.

[1.12.1] What’s the difference between DVD-Audio discs and
DVD-Music discs?

DVD-Music isn’t actually an official DVD format, but it has become a commonly
used name for a DVD-Video disc that contains primarily music. A DVD-Music disc
plays in any standard DVD player with video or still pictures that accompany the
audio. As explained in 1.12, a DVD-Audio disc contains
special high-fidelity audio tracks that can only be played in DVD-Audio players.

[1.13] Which studios support DVD?

All major movie studios and most major music labels support DVD.

When DVD players became available in early 1997, Warner and Polygram were the
only major movie studios to release titles. Additional titles were available
from small publishers. The other studios gradually joined the DVD camp (see
6.2 for a full list, see 1.6 for movie
info). Dreamworks was the last significant studio to announce full DVD support.
Paramount, Fox, and Dreamworks initially supported only Divx, but in summer 1998
they each announced support for open DVD.

[1.14] Can DVD record from TV/VCR/etc?

Yes, if you have a DVD recorder. When DVD was originally introduced in 1997,
only players were available. Most DVD units sold today are still play-only, but
recorders are available and affordable. DVD video
recorders first appeared in Japan at the end of 1999, and in the rest of the world at
the end of 2000. Early units were expensive, $2,500 to $4,000, but models are
available for under $100 today. DVD recorders are
being added to satellite and cable receivers, hard-disk video recorders, and
other advanced consumer electronics devices.

A DVD recorder works like a VCR — it has a tuner and A/V inputs,
and it can be programmed to record shows. An important difference is that you
never have to rewind or fast forward — recordings on a disc are instantly
accessible, usually from an on-screen menu. Many DVD recorders include an
electronic program guide (EPG) that gives you onscreen TV listings from which
you can pick shows to record (no need to enter day, time, channel, and so on by
hand). Although DVD recorders use digital recording, most inputs are analog
video that is digitized inside the recorder. As of 2006 there are no DVD
recorders with digital tuners, so they are unable to directly record digital
broadcasts such as U.S. DTV or European DVB.

Note that DVD video recorders can’t
copy most DVD movie discs, which are protected (see 1.11).

Unfortunately there is more than one recordable DVD format, and they don’t
all play together nicely. It’s nothing like the old “VHS vs. Betamax battle” as
many in the press would have you believe, but it is rather confusing. See
4.3 to get more confused.

Don’t be further confused by DVD recordable drives (DVD burners) for
computers (see 4.3). These recorders can store data, but to
create full-featured DVD-Videos requires additional software to do video
encoding (MPEG), audio encoding (Dolby Digital, MPEG, or PCM), navigation and
control data generation, and so on (see 5.4 and

[1.15] What happens if I scratch the disc? Aren’t discs too
fragile to be rented?

Scratches may cause minor data errors that are easily corrected. That is,
data is stored on DVDs using powerful error correction techniques that can
recover from even large scratches with no loss of data. A common misperception
is that a scratch will be worse on a DVD than on a CD because of higher storage
density and because video is heavily compressed. DVD data density (say that fast
ten times!) is physically four times that of CD-ROM, so it’s true that a scratch
will affect more data. But DVD error correction is at least ten times better
than CD-ROM error correction and more than makes up for the density increase.
It’s also important to realize that MPEG-2 and Dolby Digital compression are
partly based on removal or reduction of imperceptible information, so
decompression doesn’t expand the data as much as might be assumed. Major
scratches may cause uncorrectable errors that will produce an I/O error on a
computer or show up as a momentary glitch in DVD-Video picture. Paradoxically,
sometimes the smallest scratches can cause the worst errors (because of the
particular orientation and refraction of the scratch). There are many schemes
for concealing errors in MPEG video, which may be used in future players.

See 1.39 for information on care and cleaning of DVDs.

The DVD computer advisory group specifically requested no mandatory caddies
or other protective carriers. Consider that laserdiscs, music CDs, and CD-ROMs
are likewise subject to scratches, but many video stores and libraries rent
them. Major chains such as Blockbuster and West Coast Entertainment rent DVDs in
many locations. Most reports of rental disc performance are positive, although
if you have problems playing a rental disc, check for scratches.

[1.16] VHS is good enough, why should I care about DVD?

The primary advantages of DVD are video quality, surround sound, and extra
features (see 1.2). In addition, DVD will not degrade with
age or after many playings like videotape will (which is an advantage for
parents with kids who watch Disney videos twice a week!). This is the same thing
that makes CDs more collectable than cassette tapes. Did I mention video
quality? The better your TV, the bigger the difference in picture quality
between VHS and DVD.

If none of this matters to you, then VHS probably is good enough.

[1.17] Is the packaging different from CD?

Manufacturers were worried about customers assuming DVDs would play in their
CD player, so they wanted the packaging to be different. Most DVD packages are
as wide as a CD jewel box (about 5-5/8″) and as tall as a VHS cassette box
(about 7-3/8″), as recommended by the Video Software Dealers Association (VSDA).
However, no one is being forced to use a larger package size. Some companies use
standard jewel cases or paper and vinyl sleeves. Divx discs came in paperboard
and plastic Q-Pack cases the same size as a CD jewel case.

Most movies are packaged in the Amaray “keep case,” an all-plastic clamshell
with clear vinyl pockets for inserts, that’s popular among consumers. Time
Warner’s “snapper,” a paperboard case with a plastic lip, is less popular.
There’s also a “super jewel box,” the stretch-limo version of a CD jewel case,
that’s common in Europe.

[1.18] What’s a dual-layer disc? Will it work in all players?

A dual-layer disc has two layers of data, one of them semi-transparent so
that the laser can focus through it and read the second layer. Since both layers
are read from the same side, a dual-layer disc can hold almost twice as much as
a single-layer disc, typically 4 hours of video (see 3.3 for
more details). Many discs use dual layers. Initially only a few replication
plants could make dual-layer discs, but most plants now have the capability. The
second layer can use either a PTP (parallel track path) layout where both tracks
run in parallel (for independent data or special switching effects), or an OTP
(opposite track path) layout where the second track runs in an opposite spiral;
that is, the pickup head reads out from the center on the first track then in
from the outside on the second track. The OTP layout, also called RSDL
(reverse-spiral dual layer), is designed to provide
continuous video across both layers. When the laser pickup head reaches the end
of the first layer it changes focus to the second layer and starts moving back
toward the center of the disc. The layer change can occur anywhere in the
video; it doesn’t have to be at a chapter point. There’s no guarantee that the
switch between layers will be seamless. The layer change is invisible on some
players, but it can cause the video to freeze for a fraction of a second or as
long as 4 seconds on other players. The “seamlessness” depends as much on the way the
disc is prepared as on the design of the player. The advantage of two layers is that long movies can
use higher data rates for better quality than with a single layer. See
1.27 for more about layer changes.

There are various ways to recognize dual-layer discs: 1) the gold color, 2) a
menu on the disc for selecting the widescreen or fullscreen version, 3) two
serial numbers on one side.

The DVD specification requires that players and drives read dual-layer discs.
There are very few units that have problems with dual-layer discs–this is a
design flaw and should be corrected for free by the manufacturer. Some discs are
designed with a “seamless layer change” that technically goes beyond what the
DVD spec allows. This causes problems on a few older players.

All players and drives also play double-sided discs if you flip them over. No
manufacturer has announced a model that will play both sides, other than a few
DVD jukeboxes. The added cost would be hard to justify since discs can hold over 4
hours of video on one side by using two layers. (Early discs used two sides
because dual-layer production was not widely supported. This is no longer a
problem.) Pioneer LD/DVD players can play both sides of a laserdisc, but not a DVD.
(See 2.12 for note on reading both sides simultaneously.)

[1.19] Is DVD-Video a worldwide standard? Does it work with

Video on a DVD is stored in digital format, but it’s formatted for one
of two mutually incompatible television systems: 525/60 (NTSC) or 625/50 (PAL/SECAM).
Therefore, there are two kinds of DVDs: “NTSC DVDs” and “PAL DVDs.” Some players
only play NTSC discs, others play PAL and NTSC discs. Discs are also coded for
different regions of the world (see 1.10). NTSC is the TV
format used in Canada, Japan, Mexico, Philippines, Taiwan, United States, and
other countries. PAL is the TV format used in most of Europe, most of Africa,
China, India, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, North Korea, and other countries.
(See the chart at
for a complete list.)

Almost all DVD players sold in PAL countries play both kinds of discs. These
multi-standard players partially convert NTSC to a 60-Hz PAL (4.43 NTSC)
signal. The player uses the PAL 4.43-MHz color subcarrier encoding format but
keeps the 525/60 NTSC scanning rate. Most modern PAL TVs can handle this
“pseudo-PAL” signal. A few multi-standard PAL players output true 3.58 NTSC from
NTSC discs, which requires an NTSC TV or a multi-standard TV. Some players have
a switch to choose 60-Hz PAL or true NTSC output when playing NTSC discs. There
are a few standards-converting PAL players that convert from an NTSC disc
to standard PAL output for older PAL TVs. Proper “on the fly” standards
conversion requires expensive hardware to handle scaling, temporal conversion,
and object motion analysis. Because the quality of conversion in DVD players is
poor, using 60-Hz PAL output with a compatible TV provides a better picture than
converting from NTSC to PAL. (Sound is not affected by video conversion.)

Most NTSC players can’t play PAL discs, and most NTSC TVs don’t work with PAL
video. A very small number of NTSC players
(such as Apex and SMC) can convert PAL to NTSC. External converter boxes are
also available, such as the Emerson EVC1595 ($350). High-quality converters are
available from companies such as TenLab and
Snell and Wilcox.

Beware, some standards-converting players can’t convert anamorphic widescreen video
for 4:3 displays (see 1.22).

latest software tools such as Adobe After Effects and Canopus ProCoder
do quite a good job of converting between PAL and NTSC at low cost, but they are
only appropriate for the production environment (converting the video before it
is encoded and put on the DVD). See Snell and Wilcox’s

The Engineer’s Guide to Standards Conversion
Engineer’s Guide to Motion Compensation
for technical details of conversion.

There are three differences between discs intended for playback on different
TV systems: picture dimensions and pixel aspect ratio (720×480 vs. 720×576),
display frame rate (29.97 vs. 25), and surround audio options (Dolby Digital vs.
MPEG audio). (See 3.4 and 3.6 for
details.) Video from film is usually encoded at 24 frames/sec but is
preformatted for one of the two required display rates. Movies formatted for PAL
display are usually sped up by 4% at playback, so the audio must be adjusted
accordingly before being encoded. All PAL DVD players can play Dolby Digital
audio tracks, but not all NTSC players can play MPEG audio tracks. PAL and SECAM
share the same scanning format, so discs are the same for both systems. The only
difference is that SECAM players output the color signal in the format required
by SECAM TVs. Note that modern TVs in most SECAM countries can also read PAL
signals, so you can use a player that only has PAL output. The only case in
which you need a player with SECAM output is for older SECAM-only TVs (and
you’ll probably need a SECAM RF connection, see 3.1).

A producer can choose to put 525/60 NTSC video on one side of the disc and
625/50 PAL on the other. Most studios put Dolby Digital audio tracks on their
PAL discs instead of MPEG audio tracks.

Because of PAL’s higher resolution, the video usually takes more space on the
disc than the NTSC version. See 3.4 for more details.

There are actually three types of DVD players if you count computers. Most
DVD PC software and hardware can play both NTSC and PAL video and both Dolby
Digital and MPEG audio. Some PCs can only display the converted video on the
computer monitor, but others can output it as a video signal for a TV.

Bottom line: NTSC discs (with Dolby Digital audio) play on over 95% of
DVD systems worldwide. PAL discs play on very few players outside of PAL
countries. (This is irrespective of regions — see 1.10.)

[1.20] What about animation on DVD? Doesn’t it compress

Some people claim that animation, especially hand-drawn cell animation such
as cartoons and anime, does not compress well with MPEG-2 or even ends up larger
than the original. Other people claim that animation is simple so it compresses
better. Neither is true.

Supposedly the “jitter” between frames caused by differences in the drawings
or in their alignment causes problems. An animation expert at Disney pointed out
that this doesn’t happen with modern animation techniques. And even if it did,
the motion estimation feature of MPEG-2 would compensate for it.

Because of the way MPEG-2 breaks a picture into blocks and transforms them
into frequency information it can have a problem with the sharp edges common in
animation. This loss of high-frequency information can show up as “ringing” or
blurry spots along edges (called the Gibbs effect). However, at the data rates
commonly used for DVD this problem does not usually occur.

[1.21] Why do some discs require side flipping? Can’t DVDs
hold four hours per side?

Even though DVD’s dual-layer technology (see 3.3) allows
over four hours of continuous playback from a single side, some movies are split
over two sides of a disc, requiring that the disc be flipped partway through.
Most “flipper” discs exist because of producers who are too lazy to optimize the
compression or make a dual-layer disc. Better picture quality is a cheap excuse
for increasing the data rate; in many cases the video will look better if
carefully encoded at a lower bit rate. Lack of dual-layer production capability
is also a lame excuse; in 1997 very few DVD plants could make dual-layer discs,
but this is no longer the case. Very few players can automatically switch
sides, but it’s not needed since most movies less than 4 hours long can easily
fit on one dual-layer (RSDL) side.

Film Vault at DVD
Review includes a list of “flipper” discs. Note: A flipper is not the same as a disc with a widescreen version on
one side and a pan & scan version or supplements on the other.

[1.22] Why is the picture squished, making things look too

Answer: RTFM. You are watching an anamorphic picture intended for display
only on a widescreen TV. (See 3.5 for technical details). You
need to go into the player’s setup menu and tell it you have a standard 4:3 TV,
not a widescreen 16:9 TV. It will then automatically letterbox the picture so
you can see the full width at the proper proportions.

In some cases you can change the aspect ratio as the disc is playing (by
pressing the “aspect” button on the remote control). On most players you have to
stop the disc before you can change aspect. Some discs are labeled with
widescreen on one side and standard on the other. In order to watch the
fullscreen version you must flip the disc over.

See 1.38 for more on letterboxing.

Apparently most players that convert from NTSC to PAL or vice-versa (see
1.19) can’t simultaneously letterbox (or pan and scan) an
anamorphic picture. Solutions are to use a widescreen TV, a multistandard TV, or
an external converter. Or get a better player.

[1.23] Do all videos use Dolby Digital (AC-3)? Do they all
have 5.1 channels?

Most DVD-Video discs contain Dolby Digital soundtracks. However, it’s not
required. Some discs, especially those containing only audio, have PCM tracks.
It’s possible –but rare– for a 625/50 (PAL) disc to contain only MPEG audio. Discs with DTS audio are required to also include a
Dolby Digital audio track (in a few rare cases they have a PCM track). See
1.32 for more on DTS.

Don’t assume that the Dolby Digital label is a guarantee of 5.1 channels. A
Dolby Digital soundtrack can be mono, dual mono, stereo, Dolby Surround stereo,
etc. For example, Blazing Saddles and Caddyshack have monophonic
soundtracks, so the Dolby Digital soundtrack on these DVDs has only one channel.
Some DVD packaging has small lettering or icons under the Dolby Digital logo
that indicates the channel configuration. In some cases, there is more than one
Dolby Digital version of a soundtrack: a 5.1-channel track and a track specially
remixed for stereo Dolby Surround. It’s perfectly normal for your DVD player to
indicate playback of a Dolby Digital audio track while your receiver indicates
Dolby Surround. This means the disc contains a two-channel Dolby Surround
signal encoded in Dolby Digital format.

See 3.6 for more audio details.

[1.24] Can DVDs have “laser rot”?

Laser rot is a colloquial term referring to various defects or
deteriorations of optical discs. There are rare cases of problems with DVDs, but
these have largely disappeared as manufacturing processes have improved.

The result of deterioration is that a disc which played perfectly when it was
new develops problems later, such as skipping, freezing, or picture breakup. If
a disc seems to go bad, make sure it’s not dirty, scratched, or warped (see
1.39). Try cleaning it and try playing it in other players.
If the disc consistently has problems, it may have deteriorated. If so, there’s
nothing you can do to fix it, so you should try to get a replacement from the

Before DVDs there were laserdiscs (see 2.6), which were
occasionally subject to what was commonly called laser rot: the
deterioration of the aluminum layer due to oxidation or other chemical change.
This usually results from the use of insufficiently pure metal for the reflective
coating created during replication, but can be exacerbated by mechanical shear
stress due to bending, warping or thermal cycles (the large size of laserdiscs
makes them flexible, so that movement along the bond between layers can break
the seal — this is called delamination). Deterioration of the data layer
can be caused by chemical contaminants or gases in the glue, or by moisture
that penetrates the plastic substrate.

Like laserdiscs, DVDs are made of two platters glued together, but DVDs are
more rigid and use newer adhesives. DVDs are molded from polycarbonate, which
absorbs about ten times less moisture than the slightly hygroscopic acrylic (PMMA)
used for laserdiscs.

DVDs can have delamination problems, partly because some cases or
players hold too tightly to the hub. Delamination by itself can cause problems
(because the data layer is no longer at the correct distance from the surface) and
can also lead to oxidation. Delamination may appear as concentric rings
or a “stain” around the hub.

DVDs have few “DVD rot” problems. Around 2003 there were reports of a few
discs going bad, possibly due to delamination, contaminated adhesive, chemical
reactions, or oxidation of the reflective layer (see



). The most likely explanation for
DVD deterioration is that during the early days of DVD (1997-2000), disc
manufacturing processes and materials were not as good as they should have been.
Many improvements have been made since then, so the minuscule problem seems to
have become even more minuscule.

There are occasional reports of
“cloudiness” or “milkiness” in DVDs, which can be caused by improper replication.
An example is when the molten plastic cools off too fast or isn’t under enough
pressure to completely fill all the bumps in the mold (see this

archived article
from TapeDisc
Business  for more). Minimal
clouding doesn’t hurt playback and doesn’t seem to deteriorate. If you can see
something with your naked eye it is probably not oxidation or other

[1.25] Which titles are pan & scan only? Why?

Some titles are available only in pan & scan because there was no letterbox
or anamorphic transfer made from film. (See 3.5 for more info
on pan & scan and anamorphic formats.) Since transfers cost $50,000 to $100,000,
studios may not think a new transfer is justified. In some cases the original
film or rights to it are no longer available for a new transfer. In the case of
old movies, they were shot full frame in the 1.37 “academy” aspect ratio so

no widescreen version can be created. Video shot with TV cameras, such as music
concerts, is already in 4:3 format.

There is a list of pan & scan titles in the
Film Vault at DVD
Review and in the
Movie Database
(which also includes discs with both widescreen and pan &
scan versions).

[1.26] How do I make the subtitles on my Pioneer player go

On the remote control, press Subtitle, then either Clear or 0 (zero). No need
to use the menus.

[1.27] Why does playback sometimes freeze for a second?

Some movies, especially those over two hours long or encoded at a high data
rate, are spread across two layers on one side of the disc. When the player
changes to the second layer, the video and audio may freeze for a moment as the
laser refocuses and finds its place. The
length of the pause depends on the player and on the layout of the disc. The
disc producer usually tries to choose a point where the pause will be less
noticeable. The
pause is not a defect in the player or the disc. See 1.18
for more information.

There is a list of layer switch points in the
Film Vault at DVD
Review. Please send new times to

[1.28] The disc says Dolby Digital. Why do I get 2-channel
surround audio?

Some discs (many from Columbia TriStar) have 2-channel Dolby Surround audio
(or plain stereo) on track one and 5.1-channel audio on track two. Some
studios create separate sound mixes optimized for Dolby Surround or stereo, and
they feel the default track should match the majority of sound systems in use.
Unless you specifically select the 5.1-channel track (with the audio button on
the remote or with the on-screen menu) the player will play the default
2-channel track. (Some players have a feature to
automatically select the first 5.1 track.)

Dolby Digital doesn’t necessarily mean 5.1 channels. See 1.23
and 3.6.

[1.29] Why doesn’t the repeat A-B feature work on some discs?

Almost all features of DVD such as search, pause, and scan can be disabled by
the disc, which can prevent the player from searching back to the beginning of a segment. If the player uses time search to repeat a segment, then a disc with
fancy non-sequential title organization will not have timecode information the
player needs to search. In many cases the authors don’t even realize they have
prevented the use of the repeat

[1.30] What’s the difference between first, second, and third
generation DVD?

There is no meaningful answer to this question, since you’ll get a different
response from everyone you ask. The terms “2nd generation” and “3rd generation,”
and so on refer both to DVD-Video players and to DVD-ROM drives. In general,
they simply mean newer versions of DVD playback devices. The terms haven’t been
used (yet) to refer to DVD products that can record, play video games, or so on.

According to some people, second-generation DVD players came out in the fall
of 1997 and third-generation players are those that came out in the beginning of
1998. According to others, the second generation of DVD will be HD players (see
2.12) that won’t come out until 2003 or so. Many
conflicting variations occur between these extremes, including the viewpoint that
DTS-compatible players or Divx players or progressive-scan players or 10-bit
video players or players that can play The Matrix constitute the second,
third, or fourth generation.

Things are a little more clear cut on the PC side, where second generation
(DVD II) usually means 2x DVD-ROM drives that can read CD-Rs, and third
generation (DVD III) usually means 5x (or sometimes 2x or 4.8x or 6x) DVD-ROM
drives, a few of which can read DVD-RAMs, and some of which are RPC2 format.
Some people refer to RPC2 drives or 10x drives as fourth generation. See section
4.2 for more speed info. See section 1.10
for an RPC2 explanation.

[1.31] What’s a hybrid DVD?

Do you really want the answer to this one? Ok, you asked for it…

  1. A disc that works in both DVD-Video players and DVD-ROM PCs. (More accurately called an enhanced
  2. A DVD-ROM disc that runs on Windows and Mac OS computers. (More accurately
    called a cross-platform DVD.)
  3. A DVD-ROM or DVD-Video disc that also contains Web content for connecting
    to the Internet. (More accurately called a WebDVD or Enhanced
  4. A disc that contains both DVD-Video and DVD-Audio content or SACD content. (More
    accurately called a universal or AV DVD. The DVD-Audio standard
    allows this. The SACD standard does not officially allow video, so it’s
    unclear what a  given SACD player will do with a hybrid SACD+DVD-Video
    disc.) Other variations of this hybrid would be a disc with both DVD-Audio and
    SACD content, or a disc with all three formats.
  5. A disc with two layers, one that can be read in DVD players and one that
    can be read in CD players. (More accurately called a legacy or
    disc.) There are at least three variations of this hybrid,
    although most aren’t commercially available:

    1. A 0.9- to 1.2-mm CD substrate bonded to the back of a 0.6 mm DVD
      substrate. One side can be read by CD players, the other side by DVD
      players. The resulting disc is 0.6 mm thicker than a standard CD or DVD,
      which can cause problems in players with tight tolerances, such as
      portables. Sonopress, the first company to announce this type, calls it
      DVDPlus. It’s colloquially known as a fat disc. There’s a variation in
      which an 8-cm data area is embedded in a 12-cm substrate so that a label can
      be printed on the outer ring.
    2. A 0.6-mm CD substrate bonded to a semitransparent 0.6 mm DVD substrate.
      Both layers are read from the same side, with the CD player being required
      to read through the semitransparent DVD layer, causing problems with some CD
      players. The trick is to make the semitransparent layer “invisible” to
      780-nm CD lasers. This is the format used for hybrid SACDs.
    3. A 0.6-mm CD substrate, with a special refractive coating that causes a
      1.2 mm focal depth, bonded to the back of a 0.6 mm DVD substrate. One side
      can be read by CD players, the other side by DVD players.
    4. A 0.6-mm DVD substrate bonded to a CD+DVD hybrid substrate (#2 in this
      subsection). This disc would be readable by SACD and CD players on one side
      and by standard DVD players on the other (since most standard DVD players
      are confused by a hybrid disc with only a semitransparent layer).
  6. A disc with two layers or two sections one containing pressed (DVD-ROM)
    data and one containing rewritable (DVD-RAM or other) media for recording. (More accurately called a DVD-PROMmixed-media,
    or rewritable sandwich disc.)
  7. A disc with two layers on one side and one layer on the other. (More
    accurately called a DVD-14.)
  8. A disc with an embedded memory chip for storing custom usage data and
    access codes. (More accurately called a chipped DVD.)
  9. A disc that has a foreign language dubbed audio track and also has
    subtitles in that language.

Did I miss any?

[1.32] What’s the deal with DTS and DVD?

Digital Theater Systems Digital Surround is an audio encoding format similar
to Dolby Digital. It requires a decoder, either in the player or in an external
receiver. See 3.6.2 for technical details. Some people
claim that, because of its lower compression level, DTS sounds better than Dolby
Digital. Others claim there is no meaningfully perceptible difference,
especially at the typical data rate of 768 kbps, which is 60% more than Dolby
Digital. Because of the many variances in production, mixing, decoding, and
reference levels, it’s almost impossible to accurately compare the two formats
(DTS usually produces a higher volume level, causing it to sound better in
casual comparisons).

DTS originally did all encoding in house, but as of October 1999 DTS encoders
became available for purchase. DTS titles are often considered to be specialty
items intended for audio enthusiasts, so some DTS titles are also available in a Dolby
Digital-only version.

DTS is an optional format on DVD. Contrary to uninformed claims, the DVD
specification has included an ID code for DTS since 1996 (before the spec was
even finalized). Because DTS was slow in releasing encoders and test discs,
players made before mid 1998 (and many since) ignore DTS tracks. A few demo
discs were created in 1997 by embedding DTS data into a PCM track (the same
technique used with CDs and laserdiscs), and these are the only DTS DVD discs
that work on all players. New DTS-compatible players arrived in mid 1998, but
theatrical DTS discs using the DTS audio stream ID did not appear until
January 7, 1999 (they were originally scheduled to arrive in time for Christmas
1997). Mulan, a direct-to-video animation (not the Disney movie) with DTS
soundtrack appeared in November 1998. DTS-compatible players carry an official
“DTS Digital Out” logo.

Dolby Digital or PCM audio is required on 525/60 (NTSC) discs, and since
both PCM and DTS together don’t usually leave enough room for quality video
encoding of a full-length movie, essentially every disc with a DTS soundtrack
also carries a Dolby Digital soundtrack. This means that all DTS discs will work
in all DVD players, but a DTS-compatible player and a DTS decoder are required
to play the DTS soundtrack. DTS audio CDs work on all DVD players, because the DTS
data is encapsulated into standard PCM tracks that are passed untouched to the
digital audio output. DTS discs often carry a Dolby Digital 2.0 track in Dolby
Surround format instead of a full Dolby Digital 5.1 track.

[1.33] Why is the picture black and white or or tinted one

You may have connected one of the component outputs (usually colored red,
green, and blue) of
your DVD player to the composite input of your TV. Connect yellow to yellow. See section
for hookup details. Also, if you’ve hooked up component video,
check the three cables to make sure one of them hasn’t become disconnected or
developed a short and that they are connected in the correct order. If you use
an s-video connection, the chroma wire maybe broken — try a different cable or
try the composite connection.

If you live in a PAL country (most countries outside of the U.S., Canada, and
Japan) you may be playing an NTSC disc in a PAL player, but your PAL TV
can’t handle the signal. If your player has a switch or on-screen
setting to select the output format for NTSC discs, choosing PAL (60 Hz) should
solve the problem. See section 1.19 for more information.

[1.34] Why are both sides fullscreen when one side is
supposed to be widescreen?

Many DVD’s are labeled as having widescreen (16:9) format video on one side
and standard (4:3) on the other. If you think both sides are the same, you’re
probably seeing uncompressed 16:9 on the widescreen side. It may look like 4:3
full-frame, but if you look carefully you’ll discover that the picture is
horizontally compressed. The problem is that your player has been set for a
widescreen TV. See 1.22 for details.

[1.35] Why are the audio and video out of sync?

There have been numerous reports of “lip sync” problems, where the audio lags
slightly behind the video or sometimes precedes the video. Perception of a sync
problem is highly subjective; some people are
bothered by it while others can’t discern it. Problems have been reported
on a variety of players (notably the Pioneer 414 and 717 models, possibly all
Pioneer models, some Sony models including the 500 series and the PS2, some
Toshiba models including the 3109, and some PC decoder cards). Certain discs are
also more problematic (notably Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels; Lost In
Space; TRON; The Parent Trap;
and Austin Powers).

The cause of the sync problem is a complex interaction of as many as four

  1. Improper sync in audio/video encoding or DVD-Video formatting.
  2. Poor sync during film production or editing (especially post-dubbing or
  3. Loose sync tolerances in the player.
  4. Delay in the external decoder/receiver.

Factor 1 or 2 usually must be present in order for factor 3 or 4 to become
apparent. Some discs with severe sync problems have been reissued after being
re-encoded to fix the problem. In some cases, the sync problem in players can be
fixed by pausing or stopping playback and then restarting, or by turning the
player off, waiting a few seconds, then turning it back on.

A good way to test your player is to simultaneously listen to the analog and
digital outputs (play the digital output through your stereo and the analog
output through your TV). If the audio echoes or sounds hollow, then the player
is delaying the signal and is thus the main cause of the sync problem.

Unfortunately, there is no simple answer and no simple fix. More complaints
from customers should motivate manufacturers to take the problem more seriously
and correct it in future players or with firmware upgrades. Pioneer originally
stated that altering the audio-visual synchronization of their players “to
compensate for the software quality would dramatically compromise the picture
performance.” Since then Pioneer has fixed the problem on its new players. If
you have an older model, check with Pioneer about an upgrade.

For many more details, see Michael D’s
Pioneer Audio

[1.36] Why does the picture alternate between light and dark?

You are seeing the effects of Macrovision copy protection (see
1.11), probably because you are running your DVD player
through your VCR or VCR/TV combo (see 3.2.1).

[1.37] How do I find “Easter eggs” and other hidden features?

Some DVD movies contain hidden features, often called Easter eggs. These
are extra screens or video clips hidden in the disc by the developers. For
example, Dark City includes scenes from Lost in Space and the Twin Peaks movie
buried in the biography pages of William Hurt and Keifer Sutherland. There’s
also an amusing “Shell Beach” game entwined throughout the menus. On Mallrats,
perhaps indicating that DVD has already become too postmodern for its own good,
there’s a hidden clip of the director telling you to stop looking for Easter
eggs and do something useful.

It’s more fun to search for hidden features on your own, but if you need some
help, the best list is at DVD Review.

[1.38] How do I get rid of the black bars at the top and

The black bars are part of the letterbox process (see
), and in many cases you can’t get rid of them, even if you have a
widescreen TV. If you set the display
option in your player to pan & scan (sometimes called fullscreen or 4:3) instead
of letterbox, it won’t do you much good since almost no DVD movies have been
released with this feature enabled. If you set the player to 16:9 widescreen
output it will make the bars smaller, but this is intended for use with
widescreen TVs only — you will get a tall, stretched picture
on a standard TV.

In some cases, there may be both a fullscreen and a letterbox version of the
movie on the same disc, with a variety of ways to get to the fullscreen version
(usually only one works, so you may have to try all three):

  1. Check the other side of the disc (if it’s two-sided)
  2. Look for a fullscreen choice in the main menu
  3. Use the “aspect” button on the remote control

DVD was designed to make movies look as good as possible on TV. Since most
movies are wider than standard TVs, letterboxing preserves the format of the
theatrical presentation. (Nobody seems to complain that the top and bottom of
the picture are cut off in theaters.) DVD is ready for TVs of the future, which
are widescreen. For these and other reasons, many movies on DVD are only
available in widescreen format.

About two thirds of widescreen movies are filmed at 1.85 (flat) aspect
ratio or less. In this case, the actual size of the image on your TV is the same
for a letterbox version and a full-screen version, unless the pan & scan
technique is used to zoom in (which cuts off part of the picture). In other
words, the picture is the same size, with extra areas visible at the top
and bottom in the fullscreen version. In more other words, letterboxing covers
over the part of the picture that was also covered in the theater, or it allows
the entire widescreen picture to be visible for movies wider than 1.85, in which
case the letterboxed picture is smaller and has less detail than a pan & scan
version would.

If you have a widescreen TV, make sure your player is set to 16:9 widescreen
output. Most widescreen movies will fill the screen, but some movies are filmed
at an aspect ratio of around 2.4. These movies are usually letterboxed to fit
the 1.78 aspect ratio of your TV, so there’s nothing you can do about the black
bars. Just be happy they’re much thinner than they would be on a standard TV.

If there’s not a fullscreen version of the movie on the disc, one solution is
to use a DVD player with a zoom feature to enlarge the picture enough to fill
the screen. This will cut off the sides of the picture, but in many cases it’s a
similar effect to the pan and scan process. Just think of it as “do-it-yourself
pan and scan.”

For a detailed explanation of why most movie fans prefer
letterboxing, see the Letterbox/Widescreen
Advocacy Page
. For an explanation of anamorphic widescreen and links to more
information and examples on other Web sites, see 3.5.

The best solution to this entire mess might be the
FlikFX Digital Recomposition
, “the greatest advance in entertainment in 57 years.”

[1.39] How should I clean and care for DVDs?

Since DVDs are read by a laser, they are resistant to
fingerprints, dust, smudges, and scratches (see 1.15 for
more info). However, surface contaminants and scratches can cause data errors.
On a video player, the effect of data errors ranges from minor video artifacts
to frame skipping to complete unplayability. So it’s a good idea to take care of
your discs. In general treat them the same way as you would a CD.

Your player can’t be harmed by a scratched or dirty disc unless globs of nasty substances on it actually hit the lens. Still, it’s
best to keep your discs clean, which will also keep the inside of your player
clean. Don’t attempt to play a cracked disc, as it could shatter and damage the
player. It doesn’t hurt to leave the disc in the player, even if it’s paused and
still spinning, but leaving it running unattended for days on end might not be a
good idea.

In general, there’s no need to clean the lens on your player, since the air
moved by the rotating disc keeps it clean. However, if you use a lens
cleaning disc in your CD player, you may want to do the same with your DVD
player. It’s advisable to use a cleaning disc specifically designed for DVD players,
there are minor differences in lens positioning between DVD and CD players.

Periodic alignment of the pickup head is not necessary. Sometimes the
laser can drift out of alignment, especially after rough handling of the player,
but this is not a regular maintenance item.

Care and feeding of DVDs

Handle only at the hub or outer edge. Don’t touch the shiny surface with your
popcorn-greasy fingers.

Store in a protective case when not in use. Don’t bend the disc when taking
it out of the case, and be careful not to scratch the disc when placing it in
the case or in the player tray.

Make certain the disc is properly seated in the player tray before you close

Keep discs away from radiators, heaters, hot equipment surfaces, direct
sunlight (near a window or in a car during hot weather), pets, small children,
and other destructive forces. The DVD specification recommends that discs be
stored at a temperature between -20 to 50 °C (-4 to 122 °F) with less than 15 °C
(27 °F) variation per hour, at relative humidity of 5 to 90 percent. Artificial
light and indirect sunlight have no effect on replicated DVDs since they are made of polycarbonate, polymer adhesives, and
metal (usually aluminum or gold), none of which are significantly affected by
exposure to light. Exposure to bright sunlight may affect recordable DVDs,
specifically write-once DVDs (DVD-R and DVD+R) that use light-sensitive dyes.
Magnetic fields have no effect on DVDs, so it’s ok to leave them sitting on your

Coloring the outside edge of a DVD with a green marker (or any other color)
makes no difference in video or audio quality. Data is read based on pit
interference at 1/4 of the laser wavelength, a distance of less than 165
nanometers. A bit of dye that on average is more than 3 million times farther
away is not going to affect anything.

NIST has prepared a
1-page guide
and a

50-page guide
to disc care.

Cleaning and repairing DVDs

If you notice problems when playing a disc, you may be able to correct them
with a simple cleaning.

  • Do not use strong cleaners, abrasives, solvents, or acids.
  • With a soft, lint-free cloth, wipe gently in only a radial direction (a
    straight line between the hub and the rim). Since the data is arranged
    circularly on the disc, the micro scratches you create when cleaning the disc
    (or the nasty gouge you make with the dirt you didn’t see on your cleaning
    cloth) will cross more error correction blocks and be less likely to cause
    unrecoverable errors.
  • Don’t use canned or compressed air, which can be very cold and may
    thermally stress the disc.
  • For stubborn dirt or gummy adhesive, use water, water with mild soap, or
    isopropyl alcohol. As a last resort, try peanut oil. Let it sit for about a
    minute before wiping it off.
  • There are commercial products that clean discs and provide some protection
    from dust, fingerprints, and scratches. CD cleaning products work as well as
    DVD cleaning products.

If you continue to have problems after cleaning the disc, you may need to
attempt to repair one or more scratches. Sometimes even hairline scratches can
cause errors if they just happen to cover an entire error correction (ECC) block. Examine the disc
to find scratches,
keeping in mind that the laser reads from the bottom. There are essentially two
methods of repairing scratches: 1) fill or coat the scratch with an optical
material; 2) polish down the scratch. There are many commercial products that do
one or both of these, or you may wish to do it yourself with polishing compounds or toothpaste. The trick is to polish out the scratch without causing new
ones. A mess of small polishing scratches may cause more damage than a big
scratch. As with cleaning, polish only in the radial direction.

Libraries, rental shops, and other venues that need to clean a lot of discs may
wish to invest in a commercial polishing machine that can restore a disc to
pristine condition after an amazing amount of abuse. Keep in mind that the data
layer on a DVD is only half as deep as on a CD, so a DVD can only be repolished
about half as many times.

[1.40] What’s a progressive DVD player?

A progressive-scan DVD player converts the interlaced (480i or 576i) video from DVD
into progressive (480p or 576p) format for connection to a progressive-scan display (31.5 kHz
or higher). Progressive players work with all standard DVD titles, but look best
with film source. The result is a significant increase in perceived vertical
resolution for a more detailed and film-like picture. Since computers use
progressive-scan monitors, DVD PCs are by definition progressive-scan players,
although quality varies quite a bit (see
and 2.12).

There’s enormous confusion about whether DVD video is progressive or
interlaced. Here’s the one true answer:
Progressive-source video (such as from film) is usually encoded on DVD as
interlaced field pairs that can be reinterleaved by a progressive player to
recreate the original progressive video.
See 3.8 for
further explanation of interlaced and progressive scanning.

You must use a progressive-scan display in order to get the full benefit of a
progressive-scan player. However, all progressive players also include
interlaced outputs, so you can use one with a standard TV until you upgrade to a
progressive TV. (You may have to use a switch on the back of the player to set
it to interlaced output.)

Toshiba developed the first progressive-scan player (SD5109, $800) in mid
1998, but didn’t release it until fall of 1999 because of copy protection
concerns. Panasonic also released a progressive-scan player (DVD-H1000, $3000)
in fall of 1999. Many manufacturers have released progressive models since then
at progressively cheaper prices (pun intended). It’s also possible to buy an
external line multiplier to convert the output of a standard DVD player
to progressive scanning.

Converting interlaced DVD video to progressive video involves much more than
putting film frames back together. There are essentially three ways to convert
from interlaced to progressive:
1- reinterleaving (also called weave). If the original video is
from a progressive source, such as film, the two fields can be recombined into a
single frame.
2- Line doubling (also called bob). If the original video is from
an interlaced source, simply combining two fields will cause motion artifacts
(the effect is reminiscent of a zipper), so each line of a single field is
repeated twice to form a frame. Better line doublers use interpolation to
produce new lines that are a combination of the lines above and below. The term
line doubler is vague, since cheap line doublers only bob, while expensive line
doublers (those that contain digital signal processors) can also weave.
3- Field-adaptive deinterlacing, which examines individual pixels across
three or more fields and selectively weaves or bobs regions of the picture as
appropriate. Chips to do this used to cost $10,000 and up, but the feature is
now appearing in consumer DVD players.
4- And there’s also a fourth way, called motion-adaptive deinterlacing,
which examines MPEG-2 motion vectors or does massive image processing to
identify moving objects in order to selectively weave or bob regions of the
picture as appropriate. Most systems that do this well cost $50,000 and up
(aside from the cool but defunct Chromatic Mpact2 chip).

There are three common kinds of deinterlacing systems:
1- Integrated. This is usually best, where the deinterlacer is
integrated with the MPEG-2 decoder so that it can read MPEG-2 flags and analyze
the encoded video to determine when to bob and when to weave. Most DVD computers
use this method.
2- Internal. The digital video from the MPEG-2 decoder is passed to a
separate deinterlacing chip. The disadvantage is that MPEG-2 flags and motion
vectors may no longer available to help the deinterlacer determine the original
format and cadence. (Some internal chips receive the repeat_first_field and
top_field_first flags passed from the decoder, but not the progressive_scan
3- External. Analog video from the DVD player is passed to a separate
deinterlacer (line multiplier) or to a display with a built-in deinterlacer. In this case,
the video quality is slightly degraded from being converted to analog, back to
digital, and often back again to analog. However, for high-end projection
systems, a separate line multiplier (which scales the video and interpolates to
a variety of scanning rates) may achieve the best results.

Most progressive DVD players use an internal deinterlacing chip, usually
from Genesis/Faroudja. Some use MPEG decoders with integrated deinterlacing.
Some, such as Toshiba’s “Super Digital Progressive” players and Panasonic’s
progressive-scan player add 4:4:4 chroma oversampling, which provides a slight
quality boost from DVD’s native 4:2:0 format. Add-on internal deinterlacers
such as the Cinematrix and MSB Progressive Plus
are available to convert existing players to progressive-scan output.
Silicon Image
(DVDO), and Videon
(Omega) line multipliers are examples of external deinterlacers.

A progressive DVD player has to determine whether the video should be
line-doubled (bobbed) or reinterleaved (weaved). When
reinterleaving film-source video, an NTSC DVD player also has to deal with the
difference between film frame rate (24 Hz) and TV frame rate (30 Hz). Since the
2-3 pulldown trick can’t be used to spread film frames across video fields,
there are worse motion artifacts than with interleaved video. However, the
increase in resolvable detail more than makes up for it. Advanced progressive
players such as the Princeton PVD-5000 and DVD computers can get around the
problem by displaying at multiples of 24 Hz such as 72 Hz, 96 Hz, and so on.

A progressive player also has to deal with problems such as video that
doesn’t have clean cadence (as when it’s edited after being converted to
interlaced video, when bad fields are removed during encoding, when the video is
speed-shifted to match the audio track, and so on). Another problem is that many
DVDs are encoded with incorrect MPEG-2 flags, so the reinterleaver has to
recognize and deal with pathological cases. In some instances it’s practically
impossible to determine if a sequence is 30-frame interlaced video or 30-frame
progressive video. For example, the documentary on Apollo 13 is
interlaced video encoded as if it were progressive. Other examples of improper
encoding are Titanic, Austin Powers, Fargo, More Tales
of the City,
the Galaxy Quest theatrical trailer, and The Big
making-of featurette.

One problem is that many TVs with progressive input don’t allow the aspect
ratio to be changed — they assume all progressive-scan input is anamorphic.
When a non-anamorphic (4:3) picture is sent to these TVs they distort it by
stretching it out! Before you buy a DTV, make sure that it allows aspect ratio
adjustment on progressive input. Or get a player with an aspect ratio control
option that “windowboxes” 4:3 video into a 16:9 rectangle by squeezing it
horizontally and adding black bars on the side. Because of the added scaling
step this degrades picture quality, but at least it gets around the problem.

Just as early DVD computers did a poor job of progressive-scan display of
DVDs, the first generations of progressive consumer players are also a bit
disappointing. But as techniques improve, and as DVD producers become more aware
of the steps they must take to ensure good progressive display, and as more
progressive displays appear in homes, the experience will undoubtedly improve,
bringing home theaters closer to real theaters.

For more on progressive video and DVD, see

part 5

player ratings
in the excellent

DVD Benchmark
series at Secrets of Home Theater and High Fidelity.

[1.41] Why doesn’t disc X work in player Y?

The DVD specification is complex and open to interpretation. DVD-Video title
authoring is also very complex. As with any new technology, there are
compatibility problems. The DVD-Video standard has not changed substantially
since it was finalized in 1996, but many players don’t properly support it.
Discs have become more complex as authoring tools improve, so recent discs often
uncover engineering flaws in players. Some discs behave strangely or won’t play
at all in certain players. In some cases, manufacturers can fix the problem with
an upgrade to the player (see 1.47). In other cases, disc
producers need to reauthor the title to correct an authoring problem or to work
around a player defect. Problems can also occur because of damaged or defective
discs or because of a defective player.

If you have problems playing a disc, try the following:

  1. Check the list below to see if it’s a reported problem. Also check the
    list of problem discs in DVD Review’s
    Film Vault and at
    InterActual’s tech support page.
    Try a newsgroup search at Google.
  2. Try playing the disc a few more times. If you don’t get the exact same
    problem every time, then it’s probably a defective or damaged disc. Make sure
    the disc isn’t dirty or scratched (see 1.39).
  3. Try the disc in a different player. (Visit a friend or a nearby store that
    sells players.) If the disc plays properly in a different player then your
    player is likely at fault. Contact the manufacturer of your player for a
    firmware upgrade. Or, if you bought the player recently, you may wish to
    return it for a different model.
  4. Try a different copy of the disc. If the problem doesn’t recur, it
    indicates that your first copy was probably damaged or defective. If more than
    one copy of the disc has problems in more than one player, it may be a misauthored disc. Contact the distributor or the studio about getting a
    corrected disc.
  5. If it’s a recordable disc (R/RW), your player might not be able to read it
    (see 4.3.1).

For other DVD and home theater problems, try
or DVD Digest’s
Tech Support Zone
. If you have a Samsung 709, see the
Samsung 709 FAQ. For
troubleshooting DVD on computers, see 4.6. The
Dell Inspiron 7000 DVD
Movie List
has Inspiron-specific problems.

Below are problems reported by readers of this FAQ. The FAQ author has not
verified these claims and takes no responsibility for their accuracy. Please
report other confirmed problems.

various Polygram titlesearly Toshiba and Magnavox modelswon’t load or freezesupgrade available from Toshiba service centers
various Central Park Media (anime) titlessimilar problems as The Matrix
any all-region titlemany JVC modelsrejects disc
RCE titles (see 1.10)Fisher DVDS-1000,  Sanyo Model DVD5100world map and “only plays on non-modified players” messagecontact tech Sanyo/Fisher support for workaround
The Abyss, SEearly Toshiba modelsdisc 2 won’t load or freezesupgrade available from Toshiba service centers
many cheap playersrepeats scenesplayer doesn’t properly handle seamless branching, get
upgrade from manufacturer
Apex AD-600Ascenes play twicecheck with Apex for upgrade
AI (PAL region 2)Wharfdale 750won’t play
Akira SEPioneer DV-37, DV-737, DV-525freezes in several placesfast forward to skip trouble spots
Aliens 20th Anniversary EditionPioneer DV-S737picture degrades after layer change
American Beauty (Awards Edition)Toshiba SD-3108, Philips DVD805won’t loadupgrade from manufacturer service center (Toshiba firmware
3.30 or newer)
American PiePhilips 940freezes at layer change (1:17:09)
Any Given SundayPioneer Elite DVL90won’t loadupgrade from Pioneer service center
Arlington Roadsee Cruel Intentions
ArmageddonPanasonic A115-U and A120-Uwon’t loadunplug player with disc inserted, plug in, turn on
Avenger’s TV series (A&E)Toshiba SD-3108locks up playerupgrade available from Toshiba service centers
Philips 930, 935won’t loadcheck with Philips for firmware upgrade
Back to the Future Trilogy (region 4)various players“anecdote” subpictures don’t play properly
BatsApex AD 600Awont’ loadcheck with Apex for upgrade
Big Trouble in Little China Special EditionPanasonic SC-DK3won’t loadunplug player with disc inserted, plug in, turn on
The Blair Witch Projectsome Toshiba playersdoesn’t play properlyupgrade available from Toshiba service centers
Bruce Springsteen: Live in Barcelonavarious playersmenu doesn’t work or tour documentary doesn’t playcall Sony Pictures at 800-255-7514 for a new version of the
Cheers, Season 2Apex AD-3201no audio
Cruel Intentionssome JVC and Yamaha playerserror in first release messes up parental controls, causing
other discs to not play
the player
or get the corrected version of the disc or set parental
country code to AD with password of 8888
Deep Blue Seasimilar problems as The Matrix
Dinosaurmany players (JVC-XV501BK, Philips DVD781 CH, Pioneer
DV-737/ DV-37/ DV-09/ DVL-919/ DV-525/ DVL-90/ KV-301C, Sony 7700, Panasonic
A300, Toshiba SD-3109, RCA 5220, Denon DVD 2500, Magnavox DVD502AT Toshiba
2109/3109, JVC XV-D2000/XV-D701 Oritron DVD600/DVD100, Sylvania DVL100A, and
won’t load, ejects disc, freezes, skips, slow menus, won’t
pause/forward/rewind, sound cuts out
authoring problem — contact Disney for a replacement (also
see Disney’s The Kid below)
Disney’s The Kidmany players (Apex 600AD, Philips 711, Pioneer DV-737, RCA,
and others)
skips, ejects disc, freezes, blue lines on screenauthoring problem — contact Disney for a replacement;
(solution on Philips player: put disc in drawer, do not close drawer, press
“1” on remote to jump to chapter 1)
Dragon’s LairToshiba SD-2109/3109 (before mid 1999)variousupgrade available from Toshiba service centers
most Samsung, Aiwavariouscheck with Samsung (800-726-7864) or Aiwa for firmware
Enigma-2002Toshiba SD-4700won’t play
EntrapmentJVC, Sony 850freezescheck with JVC for
firmware upgrade
Sigma Hollywood Plussee The World Is Not Enough
Everything, Everything (Underworld)Toshiba SD3108 and SD3109won’t loadupgrade available from Toshiba service centers
EvolutionMany computer DVD software playerswon’t playcontact studio for new version of disc
Finding NemoPioneer DV-563ASpixelization in spots (especially Sea Turtle sequence)
Galaxy Questmost Samsung playersfreezes at chapter 7check with Samsung (800-726-7864) for firmware upgrade
Girl, InterruptedApex AD-600A, Shinco 2120, Smart DVDMP3000, othersjumps to Features menu, won’t play moviepress Resume on remote control; upgrade available for
GladiatorToshiba SD3108/SD3109, Wharfedale DVD 750, otherswon’t loadcontact studio for new version of disc
The Godfather Collection, bonus discA few playersvarious problemsupgrade your player or get new disc from Paramount
(replacement disc works around player bugs)
Good Will HuntingApex AD-3201won’t play audio commentary
Idle Handssee Cruel Intentions
In the Heat of the NightPioneer Elite DVL-90won’t play
In Too DeepToshiba SD-5109won’t play Dolby Digital audio unless PCM (music video)
played first
Independence DayToshiba SD3108 and SD3109won’t loadupgrade available from Toshiba service centers
Philips DVD805 and DVD855won’t loadcheck for upgrade from Philips
many cheap playersrepeats scenesplayer doesn’t properly handle seamless branching, get
upgrade from manufacturer
InsomniaToshiba SD1700stutters and freezes
The Last BroadcastGE 1105Pwon’t load
The Last Of the Mohicanssee The World Is Not Enough
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Extended EditionAiwa XD-DV370discs 3 and 4 won’t playcheck with Aiwa
Lord Peter Wimsey: The Nine TaylorsYamaha DVD-C900disc 2 won’t load or freezes in menu
Lost In SpaceSharpfreezes
Creative DXR3freezes, audio out of synccheck for updated
The Man With The Golden Guna few first-generation players, many software playergarbled video after layer changemight be a disc authoring error
The Matrixvarious playersvarious problemsdetails at
InterActual tech support

(for GE 1105-P, serial number beginning with 940 or lower,
get upgrade from GE; see
Samsung 709 FAQ
Mission Impossible IIToshiba SD-3108won’t loadget upgrade from manufacturer service center
Mission to MarsToshiba SD-3108won’t loadget upgrade from manufacturer service center
Monsters Inc.Various playerslocks up near end of movieseems to be player flaws — check for player upgrade; Disney
may re-author disc with a workaround
The MummyPhilips 930, 935won’t load
The Mummy ReturnsZenith DVD 2200Video skewed left or right on bonus material
The PatriotApex AD 600Awont’ play moviecheck with Apex for upgrade (pressing Resume may work)
JVC XV-511BKwon’t loadcheck with JVC for upgrade
The Perfect StormToshiba SD-3108won’t loadget upgrade from manufacturer service center
Planet of the ApesToshiba SD-2109PIP feature activates and locks up when the two ape generals
The Princess Bride Special EditionToshiba SD-3109freezes during first sword fight scene
Saving Private Ryanall playersdistortion (smearing, flares)  in beach scene at end of
ch. 4
This is a deliberate camera effect in the film. Stop
returning discs.
Scary MovieCreative Encore 12x, GE 1105Pcrashes in FBI warningtry to skip past FBI warning; check for bug fix from
The Simpsons; The Complete Second SeasonYamaha DVD-C900some special features on disc 4 cause player to crash
The Sixth SenseSigma Hollywood PlusMMSYSTEM275 errorwait for a software update from Sigma
Sleepy Hollowsome Toshiba playersdoesn’t play properlyupgrade available from Toshiba service centers
Snow WhiteWindows 2000 and Windows XPdoesn’t play movie
available from Microsoft
Space Acesee Dragon’s Lair
Stargate SEMagnavox 400ATfreezes in director’s commentary
Stuart Littlesee Girl Interrupted
The Three KingsLG DVD-2310Pwon’t play extras
Thomas the Tank Enginesee Girl Interrupted
Tomorrow Never DiesSharp 600U
Bush DVD2000
locks up player
won’t load
Universal SoldierWharfedale 750picture breakup after ch. 30might be a problem with the disc
Wild Wild WestSamsung DVD 709; Philips 930, 935; GE 1105Pwon’t loadcheck with Samsung (800-726-7864), Philips, or GE for
firmware upgrade
The World Is Not EnoughSigma Hollywood PlusMMSYSTEM275 errorWait for a software update from Sigma. Might be related to
trying to play in wrong region.
The World Is Not Enough (region 2)Philips 750stutters and freezespresumably a flaw in the player; plays region 1 version ok
You’ve Got Mailvarious playersvarious problemsdetails at
InterActual tech support

[1.42] How do the parental control and multi-rating features

DVD includes parental management features for blocking playback and for
providing multiple versions of a movie on a single disc. Players (including software
players on PCs) can be set to a specific parental level using the onscreen
settings. If a disc with a rating above that level is put in the player, it
won’t play. In some cases, different programs on the disc have different
ratings. The level setting can be protected with a password.

A disc can also be designed so that it plays a different version of the movie
depending on the parental level that has been set in the player. By taking
advantage of the seamless branching feature of DVD, objectionable scenes are
automatically skipped over or replaced during playback. This requires that the
disc be carefully authored with alternate scenes and branch points that don’t
cause interruptions or discontinuities in the soundtrack. There is no standard
way to identify which discs have multi-rated content.

Unfortunately, very few multi-rating discs have been produced. Hollywood
studios are not convinced that there is a big enough demand to justify the extra
work involved (shooting extra footage, recording extra audio, editing new
sequences, creating branch points, synchronizing the soundtrack across jumps,
submitting new versions for MPAA rating, dealing with players that don’t
properly implement parental branching, having video store chains refuse to carry
discs with unrated content, and much more). If this feature is important to you,
let the studios know. A list of studio addresses is available at
DVD File, and
there’s a Studio and Manufacturer Feedback area at
Home Theater Forum. You might also
want to visit the Viewer Freedom

Multi-ratings discs include Kalifornia, Crash, Damage, Embrace of the
Vampire, Poison Ivy, Species II
. In most cases these discs provide “un-cut”
or unrated versions that are more intense than the original theatrical release.
Discs that use multi-story branching (not always seamless) for a director’s cut
or special edition version include Dark Star, Stargate SE, The Abyss,
Independence Day,
and Terminator 2 SE (2000 release). Also see
multipath movies at Brilliant Digital.

Another option is to use a software player on a computer that can read a

playlist telling it where to skip scenes or mute the audio. Playlists can be
created for the thousands of DVD movies that have been produced without parental
control features. ClearPlay seems to be
the most successful product of this type. A shareware Cine-bit DVD Player did this, but it has been withdrawn apparently because of legal
threats from Nissim, who seem determined to
stifle the very market they claim to support. A Canadian company,
Select Viewing, is releasing software
for customized DVD playback on Windows PCs. A few similar projects are under

Yet another option is TVGuardian, a device that attaches
between the DVD player and the TV to filter out profanity and vulgar language.
The box reads the closed caption text and automatically mutes the audio and
provides substitute captions for objectionable words. (Note that current
versions of these devices don’t work with digital audio connections, and don’t
work with DVDs without NTSC Closed Captioning.)

[1.43] Which discs include multiple camera angles?

There’s a euphemism in the DVD industry, where “multi-angle titles” –spoken
with the right inflection– means adult titles. However, apart from thousands of
XXX-rated discs, not very many mainstream DVDs have multiple angles, since it
takes extra work and limits playing time (a segment with two angles uses up
twice as much space on the disc).

Short Cinema Journal vol. 1 was one of the first to use camera angles, in the
animated “Big Story,” which is also available on the DVD Demystified first
edition sample disc.
Ultimate DVD
(Gold or Platinum) is another sample disc with examples of
Crimson: Deja Vroom
has excellent angles, allowing you to focus on any
of the musicians. Other multi-angle music discs include Dave Matthews Band:
Listener Supported,
Metallica Cunning Stunts, Sarah McLachlan
Some movies, such as Detroit Rock City (KISS video),
Ghostbusters SE, Mallrats, Suicide Kings, Terminator 2 SE,
and Tomorrow
Never Dies SE
use multiple angles in supplements. Some discs, especially
those from Buena Vista, use the angle feature to show credits in the selected
language (usually with the angle key locked out).

You can get an incomplete list of multi-angle discs by doing an
extended search
at DVD File or other sites with searchable databases (see 1.6).

[1.44] Is it ok to put labels or magnetic strips on DVDs?

It depends on the label. If a label or adhesive strip is heavy enough it can
unbalance the disc and cause read errors or slow down the disc speed. This is
especially a problem with magnetic strips for library or rental store security.
As DVD-ROM drives get faster and faster, an unbalanced becomes more critical.
DVD players and drives are designed to compensate for unbalanced discs, so a
thin, light label is usually ok. Pressure-sensitive adhesives break down over time,
or may be weak to begin with, so it’s
possible for a label to come loose while the disc is spinning and damage the
player or drive. The best option is a ring-shaped “donut” label
that goes around the center of the disc. As long as the circular label doesn’t
interfere with the player clamping onto the hub, it should be ok. If you have to
use a non-circular sticker, place it as close to the center as possible to
minimize unbalancing. Placing a second sticker straight across from the center
will also help. High-adhesion labels are best.

Writing with a marker in the clear (not reflective) area at the
hub is better than using a sticker, although there’s not much room to write.
It’s best to write inside a 44-mm diameter, since writing elsewhere with certain
kinds of inks could possibly eat away the protective coating and
damage the data layer underneath.

In most cases a better alternative for security is a case that can only be opened
with special equipment at the register or checkout counter. Barcodes, stickers,
and security strips can be placed on the case without endangering discs (or
players). This is especially good for double-sided discs, which have no space
for stickers.

There are full-size round labels designed to go on recordable CDs and DVDs,
but they have been known to cause problems, especially if not applied smoothly
and straight. A better
(but more expensive) solution is to use an inkjet disc printer (IMT,
Trace Affex
) with printable-surface discs. Some drives have the HP
LightScribe feature, where if you have
software that supports LightScribe, and you use special LightScribe discs with a
photosensitive side, after you record the disc you can put it back in the
drive upside down to “etch” a label on the disc.

If you do use adhesive paper “donut” labels, it’s best to get one of the
devices that helps you center the label on the disc. has
free templates for
printing on CD and DVD adhesive labels.

[1.45] What’s the difference between Closed Captions and

Closed Captions (CC) are a standardized method of encoding text into an NTSC
television signal. The text can be displayed by a TV with a built-in decoder or
by a separate decoder. All TVs larger than 13 inches sold in the US since 1993
have Closed Caption decoders. Closed Captions can be carried on DVD, videotape,
broadcast TV, cable TV, and so on.

Even though the terms caption and subtitle have similar
definitions, captions commonly refer to on-screen text specifically
designed for hearing impaired viewers, while subtitles are straight
transcriptions or translations of the dialogue. Captions are usually positioned
below the person who is speaking, and they include descriptions of sounds (such
as gunshots or closing doors) and music. Closed captions are not visible
until the viewer activates them. Open captions are always visible, such
as subtitles on foreign videotapes.

Closed Captions on DVDs are carried in a special data channel of the MPEG-2
video stream and are automatically sent to the TV. You can’t turn them on or off
from the DVD player. Subtitles, on the other hand, are DVD subpictures, which
are full-screen graphical overlays (see 3.4 for technical
details). One of up to 32 subpicture tracks can be turned on to show text or
graphics on top of the video. Subpictures can also be used to create captions.
To differentiate from NTSC Closed Captions and from subtitles, captions created
as subpictures are usually called “captions for the hearing impaired.”

If this is all too confusing, just follow this advice: To see Closed
Captions, use the CC button on the TV remote. To see subtitles or captions for
the hearing impaired, use the subtitle button on the DVD remote or use the
onscreen menu provided by the disc. Don’t turn both on at once or they’ll end up
on top of each other. Keep in mind that not all DVDs have Closed Captions or
subtitles. Also, some DVD players don’t reproduce Closed Captions at all.

See DVD File’s A
Guide to DVD Subtitles and Captioning
, Gary Robson’s
Caption FAQ, and Joe
Clark’s DVD Accessibility for
more about Closed Captions. Note that DVD does not support PAL Teletext, the
much-improved European equivalent of Closed Captions.

[1.46] What do the “D” codes on region 2 DVDs mean?

Some non-U.S. discs from Warner, MGM, and Disney are marked with a
distribution zone number. “D1” identifies a UK-only release. These often have
English-only soundtracks with BBFC censoring. “D2” and “D3” identify European
DVDs that are not sold in the UK and Ireland. These often contain uncut or less
cut versions of films. “D4” identifies DVDs that are distributed throughout all
of Europe (region 2) and Australia/New Zealand (region 4).

[1.47] What’s firmware and why would I need to upgrade it?

DVD players are simple computers. Each one has a software program that
controls how it plays discs. Since the software is stored on a chip, it’s called
firmware. Some players have flaws in their programming that cause problems
playing certain DVDs. In order to correct the flaws, or in some cases to work
around authoring errors on popular discs, the player must be upgraded with a
replacement firmware chip. This usually has to be done in a factory service
center, although some players can be upgraded simply by inserting a CD. See
1.41 for more on compatibility problems.

[1.48] Are there discs to help me test, optimize, or show off
my audio/video system?

A few DVDs are designed specifically for testing and optimizing video
and audio playback. Some also demonstrate special features of DVD:

Here are a few movies that work especially well for demonstrating DVD’s video
and audio quality:

  • Dinosaur – Direct-to-DVD digital transfer gives sharp, clear
    images; good bass on footsteps and fights.
  • The Eagles: Hell Freezes Over – Outstanding 5.1-channel music (DTS
    only, Dolby Digital tracks are 2-channel).
  • The Fifth Element – Excellent video, especially in beginning desert
    scenes, with stellar audio as well.
  • Gladiator – Stunning surround audio with brilliantly mixed
  • O Brother, Where Art Thou – Beautiful color and incredible detail
    (check out facial stubble) with well-rendered shadows.
  • Terminator 2: Judgment Day (Ultimate Edition) – Great video for
    shadows and reds; highly dimensional audio.
  • Toy Story 2 – Perfect all-digital transfer results in sharp, rich
    images; sound effects are nicely staged.
  • U-571 – Intense surround effects. Earthshaking bass makes a great subwoofer demo.

Films on Disc has a list of
— examples of the best of the craft.

[1.49] What do Sensormatic and Checkpoint mean?

Sensormatic and Checkpoint are two point-of-sale security systems. They use little metal tags inserted into DVD packaging to set off
an alarm if you go through the sensors at the store entrance without having the
tags deactivated during checkout. The tags are placed in the packages at the
replication plant so that it doesn’t have to be done at the store. This is
called source tagging.

The tags are not placed on the discs themselves and have nothing to do with
whether a DVD will play or not.

There is RF-based technology that can make DVDs unplayable until they are
passed through an activation field at checkout, but it hasn’t been commercially

[1.50] What are Superbit, Infinifilm, and other variations of

There is one single DVD-Video standard. However, within the DVD-Video format
there is a great deal of flexibility in the way discs can be created. Different
studios have come up with brand names for their particular implementations of
advanced features. There’s nothing extraordinary about any particular variation,
other than a studio spending a lot of time and effort making it work well and
promoting it. These kinds of advanced DVDs should play on most players but may
reveal more player bugs than standard discs (see 1.41).

Superbit DVDs, from Columbia TriStar, use a high data rate for the
video to improve picture quality. Additional language tracks and other extras
are left off the disc to make room for more video data and for a DTS audio
track. In most cases the difference is subtle, but it does improve the
experience on high-end players and progressive-scan displays. See for marketing fluff.

Infinifilm DVDs, from New Line, let you watch a movie with pop-ups
that direct you to extra content such as an interview,
behind-the-scenes-footage, or historical information. See for more hype.

DisneyDVD is Walt Disney Studio’s own name for DVDs with
special features, but nothing especially more special than what other DVD
producers put on their special edition discs.

[1.51] I don’t know the parental control password for my
player. What do I do?

Most DVD players allow you to lock out discs above a certain rating (see
1.42). The rating level is protected by a password so that
children (or spouses) can’t change it. If you don’t know the password you won’t
be able to play some discs. You might be able to clear the password by resetting
the player (see the user manual) or unplugging it for a few days. In some cases
you might be able to use the default password (0000, 9999, or 3308). Otherwise
you’ll have to call the customer service number of the manufacturer and see if
they can help you. Make sure you speak in a deep voice so they don’t think you
are a kid trying to hack into his parents’ player.

[1.52] Can my DVD player get a virus?

There’s almost no chance your DVD player can be infected with a virus of the
kind that infect computer software. DVD players have simple computers in them
that run commands from the disc as it plays, but memory is reset when you press
Stop or eject the disc. The firmware in some DVD players can be upgraded by
inserting a special disc (see 1.47), so it’s theoretically
possible someone could make a disc that damages the firmware of a player, but
it’s highly unlikely and would only affect a few models.

[1.53] Will x-rays hurt DVDs?

No. X-ray machines such as those used for airport security have no effect on
storebought DVDs or on DVDs that you have recorded (R, RW, or RAM format).

[1.54] Why does a little camera sometimes pop up on the

Your player is telling you that there are multiple camera angles or multiple
video views on the disc. You can use the “Angle” key on the remote control to
switch angles. On some players you need to press the “Info” or “Display” key to
bring up an on-screen interface to change angles (see your manual for details). You can turn off angle notification in
the preferences or setup menu of some players, but on other players it can’t be turned off.

[2] DVD’s Relationship to Other Products and Technologies

[2.1] Will DVD replace VCRs?

Eventually. DVD player sales exceeded VCR sales in 2001. DVD recorders (see 1.14)
will hasten the death of VCRs once
the price difference is small enough. DVDs have many advantages over tapes, such as
no rewinding, quick access to any part of a recording, and fundamentally lower
technology cost for hardware and disc production. Some projections show DVD
recorder sales passing VCR sales in 2005. By 2010 VHS may be as dead as vinyl
records were in 2000.

[2.2] Will DVD replace CD?

CD-ROMs and recordable CDs will probably never disappear since they are
cheaper and can be use instead of DVD when the extra capacity isn’t needed.
Likewise CD audio discs will probably never be replaced by DVD-Video or
DVD-Audio discs since CDs are cheap and simple to make. However, DVD-ROM drives
and recordable DVD drives will eventually replace CD-ROM drives and CD-RW drives
in computers. Most manufacturers plan to cease CD drive production in favor of DVD drives
once they are cheap enough. Because DVD-ROM drives can read CD-ROMs, and because
DVD recordable drives can write CD-R and CD-RW discs, there is a compatible
forward migration path.

[2.3] How does DVD compare with Blu-ray Disc (BD)?

The Blu-ray Disc (BD) format, released in 2006, was developed by most of the
same companies that developed DVD. It’s the next generation “HD” version of DVD,
where HD means both high definition (better video and audio) and high density
(more storage capacity).

BDs come in 25- and 50-Gbyte capacities, which can easily hold hours of
high-definition video at resolutions of 1280×720 or 1920×1080 with multichannel
audio tracks in compressed or uncompressed format.

The interactivity of DVD has been significantly extended for BD, with menus
that can pop up over the video as it plays. A version of the Java programming
language is built into every BD player, so BDs can include games and other
sophisticated programs. There is also an Internet-connected version, called
BD-Live. BD-Live discs require a BD-Live player to work.

Jim has been working on a BD FAQ for several years now but hasn’t found
time to get it into shape to post. In the meantime you can buy his book,

Blu-ray Disc Demystified
, or see Hugh Bennett’s
Disc (BD) FAQ
for more information.

[2.3.1] Is BD compatible with DVD?

You can’t play BDs in a DVD player. You can play DVDs (and CDs) in a BD
player. In other words, if you want to move to high-definition movies on BD you
will need a new player, but your collection of DVDs will play just fine in the
new player.

[2.3.2] What about the other HD formats?

Next-generation DVD was actually under development before DVD came
out but didn’t begin to emerge until 2003, and the formats were not used for
movies until 2006. Some high-definition optical formats use the original DVD physical format but depend on new video encoding
technology such as H.264 and VC-1 to fit high-definition video in the space that
held only standard-definition video. High-density formats use blue or violet
lasers to read smaller pits, increasing data capacity to around 15 to 30 GB per
layer. High-density formats use high-definition MPEG-2 video (for compatibility
with ATSC and DVB HD broadcasts, see 2.9) and also use
advanced encoding formats such as AVC (H.264) and VC-1, supporting 720p and 1080p video.

In early 2008, Blu-ray “won the war” and became the dominant HD optical
format for entertainment when Toshiba officially threw in the towel for HD DVD. Here’s a
summary of the contenders, some of which are still around.

   FormatBackersData depthLaserVideoAudioCapacity (single layer/dual layer)Data rate
Blu-ray (BD)Blu-Ray Disc Association (BDA)0.1 mmBlue (405 nm)MPEG-2 HD, H.264, VC-1PCM, Dolby Digital +, DTS HD27G / 50G36 Mbps
HD DVDDVD Forum0.6 mmBlue (405 nm)MPEG-2 SD/HD, H.264, VC-1PCM, Dolby TrueHD (MLP), Dolby Digital +, DTS HD15G / 30G (ROM), 20G / 40G (recordable)36 Mbps
WMV HDMicrosoft0.6 mmRed (650 nm)WMV9WMA94.7G / 8.5G (standard DVD)22 Mbps
EVDeWorld (Govt. of China)0.6 mmRed (650 nm)HD MPEG-2 (later AVS)ExACna / 8.5G (ROM)22 Mbps
FVDAOSRA/ITRI (Taiwan)0.6 mmRed (650 nm)WMV9 (1280×720)WMA96G / 11/G25.05 Mbps

*VC-1 is the SMPTE standard based on Microsoft’s Windows Media Series 9.

Next-generation discs do not play on standard DVD players. Even red-laser
discs, which the player may be able to physically read, require new circuitry to
decode and display the high-def video. Red-laser discs can play on DVD PCs with
the right software (for example, HD versions of DVDs using Microsoft HD-WMV were
available in 2003). Blue-laser discs require new optical assemblies and
controllers. Next-generation players read standard DVDs as well as audio CDs.

Blu-ray Disc (BD)

Blu-ray is a high-density physical format that holds 25 GB per layer using
a blue-ultraviolet laser and a 0.1-mm data depth. Because of the 0.1-mm cover
layer it required significant changes to production equipment. Blu-ray was
initially intended for home recording, professional recording, and data
recording. Sony released the first BD recorder in Japan in April 2003, although
it was designed for home recording only (not for playing pre-recorded HD
movies), and only worked with Japan’s digital HD broadcast system. Mass-market distribution of pre-recorded movies came later,
after the read-only format, called BD-ROM, was developed. Primary Blu-ray
backers were Dell, Hitachi, HP, LG, Panasonic, Philips, Pioneer, Mitsubishi,
Samsung, Sharp, Sony, and Thomson.

Technical details: 25 GB per layer using 0.1-mm recording depth (to
reduce aberration from disc tilt), 405-nm blue-violet semiconductor with 0.85 NA
(numerical aperture)
lens design to provide 0.32 µm track pitch (half that of DVD) and as small as
0.138 µm pit length. Variations include 23.3 GB capacity with 0.160-µm minimum
pit length (used by Sony’s Professional Disc system) and 25 GB capacity with 0.149-µm minimum pit length. The physical
discs uses phase-change groove recording on a 12-cm diameter, 1.2-mm thick
disc, similar to DVD-RW and DVD+RW. 36 Mbps data transfer rate. Recording
capacity on a single layer is about 2 hours of HD video (at 28 Mbps) or about 10
hours of standard-definition video (at 4.5 Mbps).


The DVD Forum developed a next-generation format,
initially called Advanced Optical Disc (AOD) and later christened HD DVD. HD DVD is a modification of the original DVD physical format to enable about
15 GB per layer using a blue-ultraviolet readout laser to handle smaller pits
and closer tracks. The same 0.6-mm data
depth as DVD is used. HD DVD is designed to improve data capacity while theoretically
being able to use existing replication equipment. It was primarily supported by
Toshiba and Microsoft, with Intel jumping on board late in the game.

There was also a subformat called HD DVD-9 that put
HD DVD video on standard, dual-layer DVD-9 discs. It was
essentially a compatible-but-cheaper-to-replicate companion to
blue-laser HD DVD. A 2-hour movie can fit on a DVD-9 at data rates of 6 to 7
Mbps. Given advances in video compression technology, it’s possible to
get high-definition quality of at least 720p24 at these data rates (720 lines of
progressive video at 24 frames/second). Shorter movies could be encoded in
1080p24 format.

Although Toshiba and the DVD Forum abandoned HD DVD in early 2008, the format
lives on in China. The DVD Forum licensed the specifications to the China High
Definition DVD Industry Association (CHDA), which is developing a China High
Definition DVD (CH-DVD) format by adding home-grown audio and video encoding
formats. CH-DVD uses a different modulation technique, which makes the discs
incompatible with other HD DVD players.


WMV HD isn’t really a new format.
Microsoft’s high-definition video format came on standard dual-layer DVDs and
played in Windows PCs with enough power (2.4 to 3 GHz). As of 2005 about 40
titles were available in WMV HD format, usually with both a standard DVD and a
WMV HD DVD in the package. This was an interim format that disappeared after HD DVD and BD came
out, but it’s still a viable option for publishing high-definition video on DVD.


A government-backed consortium of companies in China, called eWorld, developed a domestic version of DVD called EVD (Enhanced Versatile Disc). EVD is
an aggressive program to standardize on technology developed within China, but
in order to realistically release products, the early phases borrow from
existing standards. EVD players released in December 2003 used standard red
lasers and MPEG HD video, along with China’s own ExAC audio format. The plan was
to switch to a Chinese video format, AVS, in 2004, but as of 2008, AVS was still
not finalized. Future versions were planned to use multilevel red laser and
multilevel blue laser recording, where the pit depth is varied to achieve higher
density, but the EVD format never achieved much success and is fading out.

EVD was ostensibly developed to reduce reliance on and cost of non-Chinese
patents, but ironically all EVD players play DVD, so nothing has changed in the
short term.


The Advanced Optical Storage Research Alliance (AOSRA), formed by Taiwan’s
Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) developed its own tweaked red-laser format called Forward Versatile Disc (FVD).
The track pitch was reduced from 0.74µm to 0.64µm to increase capacity to
5.4 GB, with the potential to hit 6 GB (9.8 to 11 GB with dual layers).
Microsoft’s WM9 is used for video and audio encoding. So far even Taiwanese
companies seem to be paying more attention to BD than FVD. AOSRA also
developed its own variations of
0.6-mm and 0.1-mm blue-laser formats, but they may never make it out of the
research lab.

[] Which format will win, Blu-ray or HD DVD?

This was the burning question for many years as HD DVD and Blu-ray duked it
out in the marketplace and court of public opinion. The question has been
answered, but it’s left here in the FAQ for historical flavor.

Before January 2008, no one really knew the answer to this question despite
myriad strong opinions. Blu-ray had more consumer companies supporting it, but
HD DVD was cheaper and had Microsoft behind it. What made it uncertain was that
the Hollywood studios were split roughly 50-50 between the two formats, with
Warner Bros. releasing titles for both formats. But on January 4, 2008, Warner
completely changed the game when it announced that it would support Blu-ray
exclusively after May. Successful formats are driven by content, and suddenly Blu-ray
had the lion’s share of the content. Rumors circulated that Toshiba and Sony had
each offered increasingly large payments to Warner, and that Toshiba thought it
had won the tussle by getting Fox to switch to HD DVD, which would have brought
Warner off the fence. Fox allegedly bailed out at the last minute, possibly
because of a $120 million payment from Sony, and Warner was said to have
received around $400 million from Sony. Given Fox’s strong support for Blu-ray
from early on, parts of this story are hard to swallow, but Sony was apparently
writing large checks in an effort to end the stalemate and get on with business.
Toshiba execs were clearly shell-shocked by Warner’s announcement, cancelling
their planned CES press conference and recalling execs to Japan. On February 19,
2008 Toshiba officially announced that it would stop making HD DVD players and
would focus on other areas such as flash memory. Later, in an about-face that
smacked of sour grapes, Toshiba introduced high-powered hardware that it claimed
could make standard DVDs look as good as HD.

[2.4] Is CD compatible with DVD?

This is actually many questions with many answers, covered in the following
[Note the differentiation between DVD (general case) and
DVD-ROM (computer data).]

[2.4.1] Is CD audio (CD-DA) compatible with DVD?

Yes. All DVD players and drives will read audio CDs (Red Book). This is not
actually required by the DVD spec, but so far all manufacturers have made their
DVD hardware read CDs.

On the other hand, you can’t play a DVD in a CD player. (The pits are
smaller, the tracks are closer together, the data layer is a different distance
from the surface, the modulation is different, the error correction coding is
new, etc.) Also, you can’t put CD audio data onto a DVD and have it play in DVD
players. (Red Book audio frames are different than DVD data sectors.)

[2.4.2] Is CD-ROM compatible with DVD-ROM?

Yes. All DVD-ROM drives will read CD-ROMs (Yellow Book). Software on a CD-ROM
will run fine in a DVD-ROM system.

However, DVD-ROMs are not readable by CD-ROM drives.

[2.4.3] Is CD-R compatible with DVD?

Sometimes. The problem is that most CD-Rs (Orange Book Part II) are
“invisible” to DVD laser wavelength because the dye used to make the CD-R
doesn’t reflect the beam. Some first-generation DVD-ROM drives and many DVD
players can’t read CD-Rs. The formulation of dye used by different CD-R
manufacturers also affects readability. That is, some brands of CD-R discs have
better reflectivity at DVD laser wavelength, but even these don’t reliably work
in all players.

The common solution is for the DVD player or drive to use two lasers at
different wavelengths: one for reading DVDs and the other for reading CDs and
CD-Rs. Variations on the theme include Sony’s “dual discrete optical pickup”
with switchable pickup assemblies with separate optics, dual-wavelength lasers
(initially deployed on Sony’s Playstation 2), Samsung’s “annular masked
objective lens” with a shared optical path, Toshiba’s similar shared optical
path using an objective lens masked with a coating that’s transparent only to
650-nm light, Hitachi’s switchable objective lens assembly, and Matsushita’s
holographic dual-focus lens. The MultiRead logo guarantees compatibility with
CD-R and CD-RW media, but unfortunately, few manufacturers are using it.

Bottom line: If you want a DVD player that can read CD-R discs, look for a
“dual laser,” “twin laser,” or “dual optics” feature.

An effort to develop CD-R “Type II” media compatible with both CD and DVD
wavelengths was abandoned.

DVD-ROM drives can’t record on CD-R or any other media, but a few
combination DVD-ROM/CD-RW drives can write to CD-R and CD-RW. Most newer
recordable DVD drives (see 4.3) can also record on CD-R or

CD-R burners can’t read or write DVD discs of any kind. There are no “upgrades” to convert CD-R drives to DVD-R, since this would cost
more than purchasing a new DVD-R drive.

[2.4.4] Is CD-RW compatible with DVD?

Usually. CD-Rewritable (Orange Book Part III) discs have a smaller reflectivity
difference, requiring new automatic-gain-control (AGC) circuitry in CD-ROM
drives and CD players. Most existing CD-ROM drives
and CD players can’t read CD-RW discs. The OSTA MultiRead standard addresses this, and some DVD
manufacturers have suggested they will support it. The optical circuitry in even
first-generation DVD-ROM drives and DVD players is usually able to read CD-RW
discs, since CD-RW does not have the “invisibility” problem of CD-R (see

Most newer recordable DVD drives (see 4.3) can also record
on CD-R or CD-RW.

CD-RW burners can’t read or write DVD discs of any kind.

[2.4.5] Is Video CD compatible with DVD?

Sometimes. It’s not required by the DVD spec, but it’s trivial to support the
Video CD (White Book) standard since any MPEG-2 decoder can also decode MPEG-1
from a Video CD. About two thirds of DVD players can play Video CDs. Most
Panasonic, RCA, Samsung, and Sony models play Video CDs. Japanese Pioneer models
play Video CDs but American models older than the DVL-909 don’t. Toshiba players
older than models 2100, 3107, and 3108 don’t play Video CDs.

VCD resolution is 352×288 for PAL and 352×240 for NTSC. The way most DVD
players and Video CD players deal with the difference is to chop off the extra
lines or add blank lines. When playing PAL VCDs, the Panasonic and RCA NTSC
players apparently cut 48 lines (17%) off the bottom. Sony NTSC players scale
all 288 lines to fit.

Because PAL VCDs are encoded for 25 fps playback of 24 fps film, there is
usually a 4% speedup. Playing time is shorter, and the audio is shifted up in
pitch unless it was digitally processed before encoding to shift the pitch back
to normal. This also happens with PAL DVDs (see 1.19).

All DVD-ROM computers can play Video CDs (with the right software).

Standard VCD players can’t play DVDs.

Note: Many Asian VCDs carry two soundtracks by putting one language on the
left channel and another on the right. The two channels are mixed together into babel on a stereo system unless you adjust the balance or disconnect one input
to get only one channel.

For more on Video CD, see Glenn Sanderse’s
Video CD FAQ
at CDPage, or Russil Wvong’s
Video CD FAQ.

[2.4.6] Is Super Video CD compatible with DVD?

Not generally. Super Video CD (SVCD) is an enhancement to Video CD that was
developed by a Chinese government-backed committee of manufacturers and
researchers, partly to sidestep DVD technology royalties and partly to create
pressure for lower DVD player and disc prices in China. The final SVCD spec was
announced in September 1998, winning out over C-Cube’s China Video CD (CVD) and
HQ-VCD (from the developers of the original Video CD). In terms of video and
audio quality, SVCD is in between Video CD and DVD, using a 2x CD drive to
support 2.2 Mbps VBR MPEG-2 video (at 480×480 NSTC or 480×576 PAL resolution) and
2-channel MPEG-2 Layer II audio. As with DVD, it can overlay graphics for
subtitles. It’s technically easy to make a DVD-Video player compatible with SVCD,
but it’s being done mostly on Asian DVD player models. The Philip’s DVD170
player can be upgraded (using a special disc) to play SVCD discs.

SVCD players can’t play DVDs, since the players are based on CD drives.

See Jukka Aho’s Super
Video CD Overview
Super Video CD FAQ
for more info.

[2.4.7] Is Picture CD or Photo CD compatible with DVD?

Sometimes. Because Picture CDs and Photo CDs are usually on CD-R media, they
suffer from the CD-R problem (see 2.4.3). That aside, some
DVD players can play Picture CDs. Only a few can play Photo CDs.

Most DVD-ROM drives will read Picture CDs or Photo CDs (if they read CD-Rs)
since it’s trivial to support the XA and Orange Book multisession standards.
Picture CDs are designed to work with Windows. Photo CDs require specific
support from an application or an OS.

Photos can be put on recordable DVDs using the DVD-Video slideshow feature,
which works on all DVD players. See 5.8.

[2.4.8] Is CD-i compatible with DVD?

In general, no. DVD players do not play CD-i (Green Book) discs. Philips once
announced that it would make a DVD player that supported CD-i, but it never
appeared. Some people expected Philips to create a “DVD-i” format in an attempt
to breathe a little more life into CD-i (and recover a bit more of the billion
or so dollars they invested in it). A DVD-ROM PC with a CD-i card should be able
to play CD-i discs.

There are also “CD-i movies” that use the CD-i Digital Video format that was
the precursor to Video CD. Early CD-i DV discs won’t play on DVD players or VCD
players, but newer CD-i movies, which use the standard VCD format, will play on any
player that can play VCDs (see 2.4.5).

See Jorg Kennis’ CD-i FAQ for more
information on CD-i.

[2.4.9] Is Enhanced CD compatible with DVD?

Yes. DVD players will play music from enhanced music CDs (Blue Book, CD Plus,
CD Extra), and DVD-ROM drives will play music and read data from enhanced CDs.
Older ECD formats such as mixed mode and track zero (pregap, hidden track)
should also be compatible, but there is a problem with Microsoft and other
CD/DVD-ROM drivers skipping track zero.

[2.4.10] Is CD+G compatible with DVD?

Only a few players, such as the Pioneer DVL-9 player and Pioneer karaoke DVD
models DV-K800 and DVK-1000, support CD+G discs. Most DVD players don’t support
this mostly obsolete format. All DVD-ROM drives can read the CD+G
information, but special software is required to make use of it.

[2.4.11] Is CDV compatible with DVD?

Sort of. CDV, sometimes called Video Single, is actually a weird combination
of CD and laserdisc. Part of the disc contains 20 minutes of digital audio
playable on any CD or DVD player. The other part contains 5 minutes of analog
video and digital audio in laserdisc format, playable only on a CDV-compatible
laserdisc player. Pioneer’s combination DVD/laserdisc players are the only DVD
players that can play CDVs.

Standard laserdisc/CDV players can’t play DVDs. (See 2.5
for more LD info.)

[2.4.12] Is MP3 compatible with DVD?

Not officially. MP3 is the MPEG Layer 3 audio compression format. (MP3 is not
MPEG-3, which doesn’t exist.) The DVD-Video spec allows only Layer 2 for MPEG
audio (MP2). However, MP3 files can be played from DVD on any computer with a DVD-ROM drive, and
many DVD players (particularly those manufactured in Asia) can play MP3 CDs.
However, most DVD players can’t play MP3 DVDs, because they are shortsightedly
designed to only look for MP3 files on CDs. Check the
player list at
for players that can play MP3 CDs or MP3 DVDs.

[2.4.13] Is HDCD compatible with DVD?

Yes. Pacific Microsonics’ HDCD
(high-definition compatible digital) is an encoding process that enhances audio
CDs so that they play normally in standard CD and DVD players (and allegedly
sound better than normal CDs) yet produce an extra 4 bits of precision (20 bits
instead of 16) when played on CD and DVD players equipped with HDCD decoders.

[2.5] Is laserdisc compatible with DVD?

No. Standard DVD players will not play laserdiscs, and you can’t play a DVD
disc on any standard laserdisc player. (Laserdisc uses analog video, DVD uses
digital video; they are very different formats.)

Pioneer makes combo players that play laserdiscs and DVDs (and also CDVs and
audio CDs).

[2.6] Will DVD replace laserdisc?

When this question was first entered in the FAQ in 1996, before DVD was available,
many people wondered if DVD would replace laserdisc, the 12-inch optical disc
format that had been around since 1978. Some argued that DVD would fail and its
adherents would come groveling back to laserdisc. After DVD was released, it
soon became clear that it had doomed laserdisc to quick obscurity. Pioneer
Entertainment, the long-time champion of laserdisc, abandoned laserdisc
production in the U.S. in June of 1999. This was sooner than even Pioneer
thought possible (in September 1998, Pioneer’s president Kaneo Ito said the
company expected laserdisc products to be in the market for another
one-and-a-half to two years), although Pioneer did continue to release small
runs in Japan until 2001.

Laserdisc still fills niches in education, training, and video installations, but
it’s fading even
there. Existing laserdisc players and discs will be around for a while, though
essentially no
new discs are being produced. There were about 18,000 laserdisc titles in the
US and a total of over 35,000 titles worldwide that could be played on over 7
million laserdisc players. (See Julien Wilk’s
Laserdisc Database
for the most extensive list of titles.) It took DVD several years to reach this level, and
there are still rare titles available on laserdisc but not on DVD. One bright
point is that laserdiscs can now be had at bargain prices.

[2.7] How does DVD compare to laserdisc?

  • Features: DVD has the same basic features as CLV LD (scan, pause, search)
    and CAV LD (freeze, slow) and adds branching, multiple camera angles, parental
    control, video menus, interactivity, etc., although some of these features are
    not available on all discs.
  • Capacity: Single-layer DVD holds over 2 hours, dual-layer holds over 4
    hours. CLV LD holds one hour per side, CAV holds half an hour. A CAV laserdisc
    can hold 104,000 still images. DVD can hold thousands of still pictures
    accompanied by hundreds of hours of audio and text.
  • Convenience: An entire movie fits on one side of a DVD, so there’s no need
    to flip the disc or wait for the player to do it. DVDs are smaller and easier
    to handle. DVD players can be portable, similar to CD players. Discs can be
    easily and cheaply sent through the mail. On the other hand, laserdiscs have
    larger covers for better art and text.
  • Noise: Most LD players make a whirring noise that can be heard during
    quiet segments of a movie. Most DVD players are as quiet as CD players.
  • Audio: LD can have better quality on Dolby Surround soundtracks stored in
    uncompressed PCM format. DVD has better quality on Dolby Digital or music only
    (PCM). LD has 2 audio tracks: analog and digital, whereas DVD has up to 8 audio
    tracks. LD uses PCM audio sampled with 16 bits at 44.1 kHz. DVD LPCM audio can
    use 16, 20, or 24 bit samples at 48 or 96 kHz (although PCM is not used with
    most movies). LD has surround audio in Dolby Surround, Dolby Digital (AC-3),
    and DTS formats. 5.1-channel surround sound is available by using one channel
    of the analog track for AC-3 or both channels of the digital track for DTS.
    DVD uses the same Dolby Digital surround sound, usually at a higher data rate
    of 448 kbps, and can optionally include DTS (at data rates up to 1536 kbps
    compared to LD’s 1411 kbps, but in practice DTS data rates are often 768
    kbps). DVD players convert Dolby Digital to Dolby Surround. The downmixing,
    combined with the effects of compression, often results in lower-quality sound
    than from LD Dolby Surround tracks.
  • Video: DVD usually has better video. LD suffers from degradation inherent
    in analog storage and in the composite NTSC or PAL video signal. DVD uses
    digital video, and even though it’s heavily compressed, most professionals
    agree that when properly and carefully encoded it’s virtually
    indistinguishable from studio masters. This doesn’t mean that the video
    quality of DVD is always better than LD. Only that it can be better. Also keep
    in mind that the average television is of insufficient quality to show much
    difference between LD and DVD. Home theater systems or HDTVs are needed to
    take full advantage of the improved quality.
  • Resolution: In numerical terms DVD has 345,600 pixels (720×480), which is
    1.3 times LD’s approximately 272,160 pixels (567×480). Widescreen DVD has 1.7
    times the pixels of letterboxed LD (or 1.3 times anamorphic LD). As for lines
    of horizontal resolution, DVD has about 500 whereas LD has about 425 (more info
    in 3.4.1). In analog output signal terms, typical luma
    frequency response maintains full amplitude to between 5.0 and 5.5 MHz. This
    is below the 6.75 MHz native frequency of the MPEG-2 digital signal. Chroma
    frequency response is one-half that of luma. Laserdisc frequency response
    usually begins to fall off at 3 MHz. (All figures are for NTSC, not PAL.)
  • Legacy titles: Some movies on laserdisc will probably never appear on DVD
    (see Julien Wilk’s Laserdisc Database).
  • Availability: DVD players and discs are available for purchase and rental
    in thousands of outlets and on the Internet. LD players and discs are becoming
    hard to find.
  • Price: Low-cost DVD players are cheaper than the cheapest LD player. Most
    movies on DVD cost less than on LD.
  • Restrictions: For those outside the US, regional coding (see
    1.10) is a definite drawback of DVD. For some people
    Macrovision copy protection (see 1.11) is an annoyance.
    Laserdisc has no copy protection and does not have regional differences other
    than PAL vs. NTSC.
  • Recordable: DVD recorders are increasingly affordable. Laserdisc
    recording, at a low of $250 per disc, was never available to general

For more laserdisc info, see Leopold’s FAQ at <>,
and Bob Niland’s FAQs and overview at <>
(overview reprinted from Widescreen Review magazine).

[2.8] Can I modify or upgrade my laserdisc player to play DVD?

No. DVD circuitry is completely different, the pickup laser is a different
wavelength, the tracking control is more precise, etc. No hardware upgrades have
been announced, and in any case they would be more expensive than buying a DVD
player to put next to the laserdisc player.

[2.9] Does DVD support HDTV (DTV)? Will HDTV make DVD

Short answers: Partially. No.

First, some quick definitions: HDTV (high-definition TV) encompasses both
analog and digital televisions that have a widescreen 16:9 aspect ratio and approximately 5
times the resolution of standard TV (double vertical, double horizontal, wider
aspect). DTV (digital TV) applies to digital broadcasts in general and to the
U.S. ATSC standard in specific. The ATSC standard includes both
standard-definition (SD) and high-definition (HD) digital formats. The notation
H/DTV is often used to specifically refer to high-definition digital TV.

In December of 1996 the FCC approved the U.S. DTV standard. HDTVs became
available in late 1998, but they are still expensive and won’t become widespread
for many years. DVDs are not HD, but they look great on HDTVs. Over 80 percent
of the 2 million DTV sets sold in the U.S. in 2002 did not have tuners,
indicating that their owners got them for watching DVDs.

DVD-Video does not directly support HDTV. No digital HDTV standards were
finalized when DVD was developed. In order to be compatible with existing
televisions, DVD’s MPEG-2 video resolutions and frame rates are closely tied to
NTSC and PAL/SECAM video formats (see 1.19). DVD does use
the same 16:9 aspect ratio of HDTV and the Dolby Digital audio format of U.S.

HDTV in the U.S. is part of the ATSC DTV format. The resolution and frame rates
of DTV in the US generally correspond to the ATSC recommendations for SD
(640×480 and 704×480 at 24p, 30p, 60p, 60i) and HD (1280×720 at 24p, 30p, and
60p; 1920×1080 at 24p, 30p and 60i). (24p means 24 progressive frames/sec, 60i
means 60 interlaced fields/sec [30 frames/sec].) The current DVD-Video spec
covers all of SD except 60p. It’s expected that future DVD players will output
digital video signals from existing discs in SDTV formats. The HD formats are
2.7 and 6 times the resolution of DVD, and the 60p version is twice the frame
rate. The ITU-R is working on BT.709 HDTV standards of 1125/60 (1920×1035/30)
(same as SMPTE 240M, similar to Japan’s analog MUSE HDTV) and 1250/50
(1920×1152/25) which may be used in Europe. The latter is 5.3 times the
resolution of DVD’s 720×576/25 format. HD maximum data rate is usually 19.4
Mbps, almost twice the maximum DVD-Video data rate. In other words, DVD-Video
does not currently support HDTV video content.

HDTV will not make DVD obsolete. Those who postpone purchasing a DVD player
because of HDTV are in for a long wait. It will take many years before even a
small percentage of homes have HDTV sets. The CEA
expects 10 percent of U.S. households to have HDTV in 2003, 20 percent by 2005,
and 30 percent by 2006.

HDTV sets include analog video connectors (composite, s-video, and component)
that work with all DVD players and other existing video equipment such as VCRs.
Existing DVD players and discs will work perfectly with HDTV sets and provide a
much better picture than any other prerecorded consumer video format, especially
when using a progressive-scan player. Since the cheapest route to HDTV reception
will be HDTV converters for existing TV sets, broadcast HDTV for many viewers
will look no better than DVD.

HDTV displays support digital connections such as HDMI (DVI) and IEEE
1394/FireWire, although standardization is not quite finished. Digital
connections for audio and video provide the best possible reproduction of DVDs,
especially in widescreen mode. The DVD Forum finalized specifications for
supporting 1394 and HDMI in 2002, and players with DVI/HDMI digital outputs
appeared in 2003. When the DVD stream recording (SR) format is finalized, DVD-SR
players may be usable as “transports” that output any kind of A/V data (even
formats developed after the player was built) to different sorts of external
displays or converters.

The interesting thing many people don’t realize is that DTV happened sooner,
faster, and cheaper on PCs. A year before any consumer DTV sets came out you
could buy a DVD PC with a 34″ VGA monitor and get gorgeous progressive-scan
movies for under $3000. The quality of a good DVD PC connected to a data-grade
video projector can beat a $30,000 line-doubler system. (See
Digital Connection, and
Sleekline for product
examples. Video projectors are available from
, Dwin,
, Projectavision,
, Sony,
Vidikron, and others.)

Eventually the DVD-Video format will be upgraded to an HD DVD format. See
2.12, 3.13 and 6.5.

[2.10] What is Divx?

There are two Divxes. The original was a pay-per-view version of DVD. The
later claimant of the name (spelled DivX), is a video encoding format.

The original Divx

Depending on whom you ask, Divx (Digital Video Express, first known as ZoomTV)
was either an insidious evil scheme for greedy studios to control what you see
in your own living room or an innovative approach to video rental that would
have offered cheap discs you could get almost anywhere and keep for later

Developed by Circuit City and a Hollywood law firm, Divx was supported by
Disney (Buena Vista), Twentieth Century Fox, Paramount, Universal, MGM, and
DreamWorks SKG, all of which also released discs in “open DVD” format, since the
Divx agreement was non-exclusive. Harman/Kardon, JVC, Kenwood, Matsushita
(Panasonic), Pioneer, Thomson (RCA/Proscan/GE), and Zenith announced Divx
players, though some never came to market. (Divx models are Panasonic X410,
Proscan PS8680Z, RCA RC5230Z and RC5231Z, and Zenith DVX2100.) The studios and
hardware makers supporting Divx were given incentives in the form of guaranteed
licensing payments totaling over $110 million. Divx discs were manufactured by
Nimbus, Panasonic, and Pioneer. Circuit City lost over $114 million (after tax
writeoffs) on Divx.

Divx was a pay-per-viewing-period variation of DVD. Divx discs sold for
$4.50. Once inserted into a Divx player the disc would play normally (allowing
the viewer to pause, rewind, even put in another disc before finishing the first
disc) for the next 48 hours, after which the “owner” had to pay $3.25 to unlock
it for another 48 hours. A Divx DVD player, which cost about $100 more than a
regular player, had to be hooked up to a phone line so it could call an 800
number for about 20 seconds during the night once each month (or after playing
10 or so discs) to upload billing information. Most Divx discs could be
converted to DivxSilver status by paying an additional fee (usually $20) to
allow unlimited plays on a single account (as of Dec 1998, 85% of Divx discs
were convertible). Unlimited-playback DivxGold discs were announced but never
produced. Divx players can also play regular DVD discs, but Divx discs do not
play in standard DVD players. Divx discs are serialized (with a barcode in the
standard Burst Cutting Area) and in addition to normal DVD copy protection (see
1.11) they employ watermarking of the video, modified
channel modulation, and triple DES encryption (two 56-bit keys) of serial
communications. Divx technology never worked on PCs, which undoubtedly
contributed to its demise. Because of the DES encryption, Divx technology may
not have been allowed outside the U.S.

Divx was originally announced for summer 1998 release. Limited trials began
June 8, 1998 in San Francisco, CA and Richmond, VA. The only available player
was from Zenith (which at the time was in Chapter 11 bankruptcy), and the
promised 150 movies had dwindled to 14. The limited nationwide rollout (with one
Zenith player model and 150 movies in 190 stores) began on September 25, 1998.
By the end of 1998 about 87,000 Divx players (from four models available) and
535,000 Divx discs were sold (from about 300 titles available). The company
apparently counted the five discs bundled with each player, which means 100,000
additional discs were sold. By March 1999, 420 Divx titles were available
(compared to over 3,500 open DVD titles). All things considered, Divx players
were selling well and titles were being produced with impressive speed.

On June 16, 1999, less than a year after initial product trials, Circuit City
withdrew its support and Divx announced that it was closing down. Divx did not
confuse or delay development of the DVD market nearly as much as many people
predicted (including yours truly). In fact, it probably helped by stimulating
Internet rental companies to provide better services and prices, by encouraging
manufacturers to offer more free discs with player purchases, and by motivating
studios to develop rental programs.

When it closed down, the company offered $100 rebate coupons to all owners of
Divx players. This made the players a good deal, since they can play open DVDs
just as well as other low-end players that cost more. On July 7th, 2001, Divx
players dialed into the central billing computer, which decommissioned them.
(Divx players not connected to phone lines have expired their playback
allowance.) Divx discs are no longer playable in any players.

For more information see the Divx Owner’s

Advantages of Divx:

  • Viewing could be delayed, unlike rentals.
  • Discs need not be returned. No late fees.
  • You could watch the movie again for a small fee. Initial cost of “owning”
    a disc was reduced.
  • Discs could be unlocked for unlimited viewing (Divx Silver), an
    inexpensive way to preview before deciding to purchase.
  • The disc is new; no damage from previous renters.
  • The “rental” market was opened up to other retailers, including mail
  • Studios got more control over the use of their content.
  • You received special offers from studios in your Divx mailbox.
  • Divx players (with better quality and features than comparable players)
    were a steal after Divx went out of business.

Disadvantages of Divx :

  • Higher player cost (about $100 more at first, about $50 later).
  • Although discs did not have to be returned, the viewer still had to go to
    the effort of purchasing the disc. Cable/satellite pay per view is more
  • Higher cost than for regular DVD rental ($3 to $7 vs. $2 to $4). There
    were few obstacles to the company raising prices later, since it had a
  • Casual quick viewing (looking for a name in the credits, playing a
    favorite scene, watching supplements) required paying a fee.
  • Most Divx titles were pan & scan (see 3.5) without
    extras such as foreign language tracks, subtitles, biographies, trailers, and
  • The player had to be hooked to your phone line, possibly requiring a new
    jack in your living room or a phone extension cable strung across it. (Players
    required a connection once a month or so, so you could periodically connect it
    to a phone line.)
  • Divx couldn’t be used in mobile environments, such as a van or RV, unless
    you took it out and connected it to a phone line about once a month.
  • The Divx central computer collected information about your viewing habits,
    as do cable/satellite pay-per-view services and large rental chains.
    (According to Divx, the law did not allow them to use the information for
    resale and marketing.)
  • Divx players included a “mailbox” for companies to send you unsolicited
    offers (spam).
  • Those who didn’t lock out their Divx player could receive unexpected bills
    when their kids or visitors played Divx discs.
  • Divx discs wouldn’t play in regular DVD players or on PCs with DVD-ROM
    drives. Some uninformed consumers bought Divx discs only to find they wouldn’t
    play in their non-Divx player.
  • Unlocked Silver discs would only work in players on the same account.
    Playback in a friend’s Divx player would incur a charge. (Gold discs, which
    were never released, would have played without charge in all Divx players.)
  • There was no market for used Divx discs.
  • Divx discs became unplayable after June 2001.
  • Divx players were never available outside the U.S. and Canada.

The new DivX

In March 2000, a DVD redistribution technology called DivX;-) appeared. (Yes,
the smiley face was originally part of the name, which was a take-off on the
original Divx format. The perpetrators should be drawn and quartered for the
stupid joke, which has caused untold confusion.) DivX was originally a simple
hack of Microsoft’s MPEG-4 video codec, combined with MP3 audio, allowing
decrypted video from a DVD to be re-encoded for downloading and playing in
Windows Media Player.
Work on DivX evolved through Project Mayo
and a version originally called DivX Deux into an open-source initiative known
as OpenDivX, based on the MPEG-4 standard. Out
of all this came DivXNetworks, a company that has turned
DivX into an extensive video encoding and
delivery system based on proprietary implementations of MPEG-4. A variation called
3ivx has also made the jump from open source
to commercial. XviD seems to be the remaining
alternative that’s still open source.

Some DVD players can play files encoded in DivX format. See

[2.11] How can I record from DVD to videotape?

Why in the world would you want to degrade DVD’s beautiful digital picture by
copying it to analog tape? Especially since you lose the interactive menus and
other nice features.

If you really want to copy to VHS, hook the audio/video outputs of the DVD
player to the audio/video inputs of your VCR, then record the disc to tape.
You’ll discover that most of the time the resulting tape is garbled and
unwatchable. This is because of the Macrovision feature designed to prevent you
from doing this. See 1.11.

[2.12] Will high-definition DVD or 720p DVD make current
players and discs obsolete?

Not for a while. The high definition Blu-ray Disc format is still new, and it
will take years before Blu-ray surpasses DVD as the dominant format. Even then,
players can play old DVD discs and often make them look even better (with
progressive-scan video and HD upconversion). New Blu-ray discs don’t play in
standard DVD players, but your collection of standard DVDs will be playable for years
if not decades to come, and they will only become “obsolete” in the sense that you
might want to replace them with new high-definition versions. In other words,
you’ll need to buy a new player if you want to be able to play the new discs,
but you don’t necessarily have to replace any of the discs you already own. Consider that U.S.
HDTV was anticipated to be available in 1989, yet it was not finalized until
1996 and did not appear until 1998. Has it made standard-definition programming obsolete yet?

See 3.13 for more details of HD DVD, and
for more on the future of DVD.

Ironically, computers supported HDTV before set-top players, because 2x DVD-ROM
drives coupled with appropriate playback and display hardware met the 19 Mbps
data rate needed for HDTV. This led to various “720p DVD” projects, which
use the existing DVD format to store video in 1280×720 or 1920×1080 resolution
at 24 progressive frames per second. It’s possible that 720p DVDs can be made
compatible with existing players (which would only recognize and play the
480-line line data).

Note: The term HDVD has already been
taken for “high-density volumetric display.”

Some have speculated that a “double-headed” player reading both sides of the
disc at the same time could double the data rate or provide an enhancement
stream for applications such as HDTV. This is currently impossible since the
track spirals go in opposite directions (unless all four layers are used). The
DVD spec would have to be changed to allow reverse spirals on layer 0. Even
then, keeping both sides in sync, especially with MPEG-2’s variable bit rate,
would require independently tracking heads, precise track and pit spacing, and a
larger, more sophisticated track buffer. Another option would be to use two
heads to read both layers of one side simultaneously. This is technically
feasible but has no advantage over reading one layer twice as fast, which is
simpler and cheaper.

See 2.9 for more information about HDTV and DVD.

[2.13] What effect will FMD have on DVD?

Very little, as predicted from the beginning in this FAQ.
Constellation 3D ran out of money in mid 2002.
The various reports of fluorescent multilayer disc (FMD) causing the early death
of DVD were wildly exaggerated and not founded in reality.

Fluorescent multilayer technology, which can be used in cards or discs, aims
a laser at fluorescent dye, causing it to emit light. Since it doesn’t depend on
reflected laser light, it’s possible to create many data layers (C3D prototyped
50 layers in its lab). It can use the same 650 nm laser as DVD, so FMD drives
could be made to read DVDs. In June 2000, C3D announced a program to make FMDs
with 25 GB per side that would be readable by DVD drives with a “minor and
inexpensive modification.” C3D later said players would be available by mid
2001. FMD was very cool technology, but it was new, with no track record,
developed by one small company. DVD is based on decades of optical storage
technology development by dozens of companies. The monumental task of changing
entire production infrastructures over to a new format was too much for C3D,
even with tens of millions of dollars and some large partners.

[2.14] How does MPEG-4 affect DVD?

MPEG-4 is a video encoding standard designed primarily for low-data rate
streaming video, although it’s actually more efficient than MPEG-2 at DVD and
HDTV data rates. MPEG-4 also provides for advanced multimedia with media
, but most implementations only support simple video (Simple
Visual Profile
). There’s also MPEG-4 part 10, also known as H.264 (and also
known as JVT or AVC), which is an even better video encoding standard.

DVD uses MPEG-2 video encoding (see 3.4 for details).
Standard DVD players don’t recognize the MPEG-4 video format. MPEG-4 files can
be stored on DVD-ROM for use on computers. For example, DivX uses MPEG-4 (see

It’s possible that MPEG-4 or H.264 will be used in a future, high-definition
version of DVD. In any case, it will probably not appear before 2005 at the

For more about MPEG, see Tristan’s
site and the MPEG home page.

[2.15] What’s WebDVD or Enhanced DVD?

WebDVD is the simple but powerful concept of combining DVD content with
Internet technology. It combines the best of DVD (fast access to high-quality
video, audio, and data) with the best of the Internet (interactivity, dynamic
updates, and communication). In general, WebDVD refers to enhancing a DVD with
HTML pages, links and scripting, or enhancing a Web site with content from a
local DVD drive. WebDVD is not a trademarked term of AOL-Warner, Microsoft, or
any other company. Variations on the WebDVD concept are known as iDVD, eDVD,
Connected DVD, and so on. It’s not a new idea –it’s been done with CD-ROM for
years– but the differences with DVD are that the quality of the audio and video
are finally better than TV, and the discs can be played in low-cost settop

Almost all WebDVD implementations are currently for PCs, but some new DVD
players are adding WebDVD features. A working group of the DVD Forum is creating
a standardized WebDVD format for set-top DVD players, to be known as Enhanced

Most professional authoring systems (see 5.4) include rudimentary
tools for adding HTML enhancements to DVD. For fancier WebDVD development there
are a variety of tools; see 4.9.

For more on WebDVD, see Phil DeLancie’s
EMedia article.
Good examples of WebDVD sites are Mars:
The Red Planet
, Stargaze,
and DVD Demystified. The authors
of these sites (Ralph LaBarge and Jim Taylor) encourage you to copy their code
as a starting place for your own WebDVD creations. You can request a copy of the
WebDVD Demystified disc from DVD.Learn.

[2.16] What’s a Nuon player?

Nuon was a specialized “media processor” chip, designed by VM Labs, that was powerful enough to play
DVDs and video games. The chip was originally intended for video game consoles,
but was hitched to DVD’s wagon when the game market dried up and the
DVD market exploded. Some DVD players from Samsung, Thomson (RCA), and Toshiba
were built on Nuon technology. The extra processing power in a Nuon player
enabled special features such as graphical overlays, digital zoom, and live
thumbnails. Some DVD movies were produced with added content designed
specifically for the Nuon platform. As of the beginning of 2002, four Nuon-enhanced DVD movies
were available: The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai (Special
Edition), Bedazzled
, Dr. Doolittle 2, and Planet of the Apes.

In December 2001 VM Labs filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and in March 2002
the company’s assets were purchased by
Genesis Microchip
. A new division, Nuon
Semiconductor, was formed to market Nuon chips under the Aries name. On July
24, 2002, Genesis laid off the entire Nuon division. RIP.

[2.17] What effect will D-VHS have on DVD?

D-VHS (the D stands for data or digital), the digital successor to VHS tape,
was first announced in 1995 but didn’t appear outside of Japan until 1998. At
the time D-VHS decks could only record pre-encoded bit streams such as from a
digital satellite receiver. In 2001 the D-Theater format was released, which
standardized MPEG compression and copy protection, paving the way for the
release of pre-recorded movies on D-VHS tape in 2002. D-Theater became the first
format for viable commercial distribution of movies in high-definition. Quality
is excellent, with a resolution of 1280x720p (2.7 times NTSC DVD, 2.2 times PAL
DVD) or 1920x1080i (roughly 4 times NTSC DVD, 3.5 times PAL DVD). However, consumers have shown a distinct preference
for discs instead of tapes, so D-VHS will never become more than a niche product. Since
HD DVD began to arrive in 2003 (see
3.13), consumers other than early adopters and HD
aficionados are choosing to wait for the next generation of DVD for pre-recorded movies and for home
recording of HD programs.

[2.18] Will DVD players stop working in the U.S. in 2009?

A lot of people seem to be confused and think that the FCC cutoff date will
affect NTSC DVD players. It’s true that most analog television broadcasts in the
U.S. will stop on or before the
DTV transition date of
February 17, 2009, but this will have no effect on DVD players. Think about it:
your DVD player and your TV work fine today. The U.S. government doesn’t have a
magic switch to make them all suddenly stop working. The only thing the FCC has
done is require broadcasters to switch to digital transmissions only. But this
doesn’t affect the direct connection from a DVD player to a TV. The transition
to new DTV sets also does not cause problems for DVD players. Hundreds of
millions of people worldwide already have HDTV sets that work fine with their
DVD players. So even after analog transmissions cease in 2009, and you have to
buy a new DTV or a converter box for your old analog TV, your DVD player will
still work with both old and new TVs.

[3] DVD Technical Details

[3.1] What are the outputs of a DVD player?

DVD players usually have two or three kinds of video output
(composite, s-video, and component) and three or four kinds of audio output
(analog stereo, digital PCM stereo, Dolby Digital, and DTS). More details below
and in 3.2.

Video outputs

Most DVD players have the following video output connections, which can carry
an NTSC, PAL, or SECAM signal.

  • S-video (Y/C). 4-pin round plug. Carries brightness signal (Y) and two
    combined color signals (C).
  • Composite video (CVBS). Standard yellow RCA video plug. Combines all three
    video signals into one.
  • European players combine both of the signals above, and others, into a
    21-pin rectangular SCART connector (aka Peritel or Euro Connector [EC]).

Some players may have additional video connections:

  • Component interlaced analog video (EIA 770.1). Keeps all three video
    signals separate.
    – Y’PbPr format: 3 RCA or BNC connectors.
    – RGB (or RGBS or RGBHV) format: SCART connector or 3, 4, or 5 RCA or BNC
  • Component progressive analog video. Keeps all three video signals
    – Y’PbPr format: 3 RCA connectors.
    – RGB (or RGBS or RGBHV) format: SCART connector or 3, 4, or 5 RCA or BNC
  • RF video. For connecting to the TV antenna input, usually on channel 3 or
    – Screw-on, 75-ohm, F-type connector. May require an adapter for TVs that have
    300-ohm, two-screw, antenna wire connectors.
  • DVI. Digital video output. Uses HDCP for copy-protected content.
  • HDMI. Digital video in the DVI format (with HDCP), plus digital audio.

Most DVD players with component video outputs use YUV (Y’PbPr), which
is incompatible with RGB equipment. European players with component video
outputs usually provide RGBS (red/green/blue/sync) signals on the SCART
connector. YUV to RGB transcoders are rumored to be available for $200-$300, but
seem hard to track down. A $700 converter is available from
avscience, and $900 converter, the CVC
100, is available from Extron. Converters
are also available from Altinex,
Monster Cable, and others. For
progressive scan you need a converter that can handle 31.5 kHz signals.
Converters from s-video are also an option (try

Note: The correct term for analog color-difference output is Y’PbPr,
not Y’CbCr (which is digital, not analog). To simplify things, this FAQ
sometimes uses the term YUV in the generic sense to refer to analog color
difference signals.

There are specialty players from companies such as
Function Communications,
Theta Digital, and
Vigatec with SDI (serial digital interface)
output, but they connect only to high-end or production equipment.

Audio outputs

Most DVD players have the following audio output connections.

  • Analog stereo audio. May be in Dolby Surround, depending on the disc.
    – Two RCA connectors, red and white.
    – European players transmit analog stereo audio on the SCART connector.
  • Digital audio with 1 to 5.1 channels. Raw digital audio in PCM, MLP, Dolby
    Digital (AC-3), DTS, or MPEG-2 format. Requires an amplifier/receiver with a
    built-in decoder (or a separate external decoder).
    – S/PDIF coax format: RCA connector. (IEC-958 Type II)
    – Toslink format: square optical connector. (EIAJ CP-340 and EIAJ CP-1201)

Some players may have additional audio connections:

  • Multichannel analog audio. Requires a multichannel-ready or “Dolby Digital
    ready” amplifier/receiver with 6 inputs.
    – Six RCA connectors or one DB-25 connector.
  • AC-3 RF audio. Only on combination LD/DVD players. Carries audio from AC-3
    – One RCA connector.
  • High-resolution digital audio.
    – 1394 (FireWire): rectangular connector. Requires a receiver with 1394 audio
    input (and DTCP compatibility).
    – HDMI. Requires a receiver or TV with HDMI input.

Some players and receivers support only S/PDIF or only Toslink. If your
player and receiver don’t match, you’ll need a converter such as the
Audio Authority 977
Midiman C02, COP 1, or

Some players can output 96/24 PCM audio using a non-standard variation of
IEC-958 running at 6.144 Mbps instead of the normal limit of 3.1 MHz.

The CSS license does not allow digital PCM output of CSS-protected
material at 96 kHz. The player must downsample to 48 kHz.

[3.2] How do I hook up a DVD player?

It depends on your audio/video system and your DVD player. Most DVD players
have 2 or 3 video hookup options and 3 audio hookup options. Choose the output
format with the best quality (indicated below) that is supported by your video
and audio systems. See 3.1 for output connector details.

On many TVs you will need to switch the TV to auxiliary input (line input).
You might need to tune it to channel 0 to make this happen.

If you want to hook multiple devices (DVD player, VCR, cable/satellite box,
WebTV, and so on) to a single TV, you need one of the following:

  • a TV with multiple inputs
  • a manual audio/video switchbox (~$30 at electronics suppliers such as
  • an A/V receiver (to switch between video sources via remote control). If
    you plan on getting an A/V receiver, make sure it can handle the video format
    you want to use (component or s-video).

Video hookup (pick one from the list)

  • S-video (good quality): Almost all DVD players have s-video output.
    S-video looks much better than composite video and is only slightly inferior
    to component video. Hook an s-video cable from the player to the display (or
    to an A/V receiver that can switch s-video). The round, 4-pin connector may be
    labeled Y/C, s-video, or S-VHS. If you’re in Europe, you can use a SCART
  • Composite video (ok quality): All DVD players have standard RCA
    (Cinch) baseband video connectors or a SCART connector (in Europe) to carry
    composite video. Hook a standard video cable or a SCART cable from the player
    to the display (or to an A/V receiver to switch the video). The RCA video
    connectors are usually yellow and may be labeled video, CVBS, composite, or
  • Component video (better quality): Some U.S. and Japanese players
    have interlaced component YUV (Y’PbPr) video output. Connectors may be
    labeled YUV, color difference, YPbPr, or Y/B-Y/R-Y, and may be colored
    green/blue/red. (Some players incorrectly label the output as YCbCr.) Some
    players have RGB component video output via a SCART connector or 3 RCA or BNC
    connectors labeled R/G/B. Hook cables from the three video outputs of the
    player to the three video inputs of the display, or hook a SCART cable from
    the player to the display.
    Note: There is no standardization of the output interface format (voltage and
    setup). Players apparently use SMPTE 253M (286 mV sync,
    0% luma setup with 700 mV peak, +/-300 mV color excursion)
    , Betacam
    (286 mV sync, 7.5% luma setup with 714 mV peak, +/-350
    mV color excursion)
    , M-II (300 mV sync, 7.5% luma
    setup with 700 mV peak, +/-324.5 mV color excursion)
    , or non-standard
    variations. Note that outputs with zero IRE setup can provide a wider range of
    luma values for a slightly better picture. For equipment with RGB input, a YUV
    converter is usually needed. See section 3.1.
  • Progressive video (even better quality): A few players have
    progressive-scan YUV (Y’PbPr) or RGB (European players only) component video
    output. Hook decent-quality cables from the three video outputs of the player
    to the three video inputs of a progressive-scan line multiplier or a
    progressive-scan TV, or use a SCART cable if you have a European player and
    progressive-scan TV with the right connectors. Toshiba calls progressive scan ColorStream PRO. Progressive video  preserves the progressive nature of
    most movies, providing a film-like, flicker-free image with improved vertical
    resolution and smoother motion. DVD computers can also produce progressive
    video from DVD. In this case, use a 15-pin computer video cable to connect the
    VGA output of the PC to the VGA input of a monitor or projector. If the
    projector only has RGB or YPbPr inputs, you’ll need a converter such as the
    Audio Authority 9A60.
    See 1.40, 2.12, and 4.1
    for more information on progressive video.
  • Digital video (best quality). A few players have
    HDMI (DVI) or
    digital outputs. This preserves the true digital signal from the DVD.
    Hook an HDMI or 1394 cable from the output of the player to the HDMI or 1394
    input of a digital television or other digital A/V system. The same cable
    carries the digital audio signal.
  • RF video (worst quality): You should use this connection only if
    you have an old TV that has only a screw-on antenna input. Most DVD players
    don’t have RF output, so you will probably need to buy an RF modulator (~$30
    at Radio Shack or
    Comtrad or
    Markertek). But first see the warning
    below about using a VCR as an RF modulator. If the player has built-in RF
    output it will include audio, although it may only be mono. Connect a coax
    cable from the yellow video output of the player to the input of the
    modulator. If you are not hooking the player up to a separate stereo system,
    then connect a coax cable from the left audio output of the player to the
    audio input of the modulator. (If you have a stereo modulator, connect another
    cable for the right audio channel.) Connect a coax antenna cable from the
    modulator to the TV. You may need a 300 ohm to 75 ohm adapter (to switch
    between a two-wire antenna connection and a threaded coax connection). Tune
    the TV to channel 3 or 4 (or channel 36 in Germany and some other European
    countries) and set the switch on the modulator or the back of the player to
    match. If you also want to hook up a VCR, connect an antenna cable from the
    output of the VCR to the antenna input of the modulator.

Warning: If you connect your DVD player
to a VCR and then to your TV (or to a combination TV/VCR), you will probably
have problems with discs that enable the player’s Macrovision circuit. See

Warning: Some video projectors don’t recognize
the 4.43 NTSC signal from NTSC discs in PAL players (see 1.19).
They see the 60Hz scanning frequency and switch to NSTC even though the color
subcarrier is in PAL format.

Note: Most DVD players support widescreen signaling, which tells a widescreen
display what the aspect ratio is so that it can automatically adjust. One
standard (ITU-R BT.1119, used mostly in Europe) includes information in a video
scanline. Another standard, for Y/C connectors, adds a 5V DC signal to the
chroma line to designate a widescreen signal. Unfortunately, some switchers and
amps throw away the DC component instead of passing it on to the TV.

For more information on conversions between formats, see the amazing
Notes on Video Conversion
from the Sci.Electronics.Repair FAQ.

Audio hookup (pick one from the list)

Note: All DVD players have a built-in 2-channel Dolby Digital (AC-3)
decoder. Some can also decode MPEG audio or DTS audio. The decoder
translates multichannel audio into 2-channel PCM audio. This goes to the
digital output and is also converted to analog for standard audio output. Some
players have a built-in multichannel Dolby Digital decoder, but it’s only
useful if you have an audio system with multichannel analog inputs. See
3.6.3 for more explanation.

  • Analog audio (2-channel stereo/surround) (ok quality): All DVD
    players include two RCA connectors for stereo output. Any disc with
    multichannel audio is automatically decoded and downmixed to 2-channel Dolby Surround
    output for connection to a regular stereo system or a Dolby Surround/Pro Logic
    system. Connect two audio cables between the player and a receiver, amplifier,
    or TV. Connectors may be labeled “audio” or “left/right;” left is usually white,
    right is usually red. If your TV has only one audio input, connect the left
    channel from the DVD player.
    If your DVD player has multichannel analog outputs (left/center/right/left
    rear/right rear), do not connect them to a stereo system with only two
    inputs or you will lose center and rear audio — use the 2-channel
    left/right outputs instead.
  • Digital audio (best quality): Almost all DVD players have digital
    audio outputs. The same output can carry Dolby Digital (AC-3), PCM audio
    (including PCM from CDs), DTS, MPEG-2 audio (PAL/SECAM players only), and MLP
    audio (from DVD-Audio discs). For PCM, a digital receiver or an outboard DAC
    is required. For all other formats, the appropriate decoder is required in the
    receiver/amplifier or as a separate audio processor. For example, to play a
    disc with a Dolby Digital soundtrack using a digital audio connection, the
    receiver has to have the Dolby Digital feature. DTS discs require a player
    with the “DTS Digital Out” mark (older players don’t recognize DTS tracks) and
    the DTS decoding feature in the receiver. (All DVD players can play DTS CDs if
    a DTS decoder is connected to the digital PCM output signal.) Some DVD players
    have coax connectors (SP/DIF), some have fiber-optic connectors (Toslink), and
    many have both. There are endless arguments over which of these is better.
    Coax seems to have more advocates, since it’s inherently simpler. Optical
    cable is not affected by electromagnetic interference, but it’s more fragile
    and can’t curve tightly. Suffice it to say that since the signal is digital, a
    quality cable of either type will provide similar results. Hook a 75-ohm coax
    cable or a fiber-optic cable between the player and the receiver. (You might
    need a converter, see 3.1.)
    Some players provide separate connectors for Dolby Digital/DTS/MPEG and for
    PCM. On others, you may need to select the desired output format using the
    player setup menu or a switch on the back of the player. If you try to feed
    Dolby Digital or DTS to digital receiver that doesn’t recognize it, you’ll get
    no audio.
    Note: Make sure you use a quality cable; a cheap RCA patch cable may
    cause the audio to sound poor or not work at all.
    Note: Connecting to the AC-3/RF (laserdisc) input of a receiver will
    not work unless your receiver can autoswitch, since DVD digital audio is not
    in RF format (see below).
  • Component analog audio (excellent quality): Some players provide
    6-channel analog output from the internal Dolby Digital or DTS decoder. A few
    provide 7-channel output from 6.1 tracks. The digital-to-analog conversion
    quality in the player may be better or worse than in an external decoder. A
    receiver/amplifier with 6 or 7 inputs (or more than one amplifier) is
    required; this type of unit is often called “Dolby Digital ready” or “AC-3
    ready.” Unfortunately, in many cases you won’t be able to adjust the volume of
    individual channels or perform bass management. Hook 6 (or 7) audio cables to
    the RCA connectors on the player and to the matching connectors on the
    receiver/amplifier. Some receivers require an adapter cable with a DB-25
    connector on one end and RCA connectors on the other.
    Note: Until there is a digital connection standard, the only way to get
    multichannel PCM output from DVD-Audio players will be with analog connections
    or proprietary connections. If you plan to get a DVD-Audio player, you’ll need
    a receiver with analog multichannel inputs.
  • RF digital audio (laserdisc only): Combination LD/DVD players
    include AC-3 RF output for digital audio from laserdiscs. Hook a coax cable to
    the AC-3 RF input of the receiver/processor. Note: digital audio from DVDs
    does not come out of the RF output, it comes out of the optical/coax outputs.
    Analog audio from LDs will come out the stereo connectors, so three separate
    audio hookups are required to cover all variations.

[3.2.1] Will I have problems connecting my VCR between my TV
and my DVD player?

It’s not a good idea to route the video from your DVD player through your
VCR. Most movies use Macrovision protection (see 1.11),
which affects VCRs and causes problems such as a repeated darkening and
lightening of the picture. If your TV doesn’t have a direct video input, you may
need a separate RF converter (see 3.2). Or better yet, get a
new TV with direct video inputs.

You may also have problems with a TV/VCR combo, since many of them route the
video input through the VCR circuitry. The best solution is to get a box to
strip Macrovision (see 1.11).

[3.2.2] Why is the audio or video bad?

The number one cause of bad video is a poorly adjusted TV. The high fidelity
of DVD video demands much more from the display. Turn the sharpness and
brightness down. See 1.3 for more information. For technical
details of TV calibration, see Anthony Haukap’s
FAQ: How To Adjust a

If you get audio hum or noisy video, it’s probably caused by interference or
a ground loop. Try a different set of cables. Try a shorter cable. (Long cables
can degrade the signal.) Make sure the cables are good quality with shielding.
Try turning off all equipment except the pieces you are testing. Try moving
things farther apart. Try plugging into a different circuit. Make sure all
equipment is plugged into the same outlet. If all else fails, ground your braces
and wrap your entire house in tinfoil. For more on ground loops, see <>.
More information for repair technicians is available at

Video or audio problems can also be caused by a faulty player or bad disc
(see 1.41.) If the video freezes or breaks up, it may be caused by scratches on the disc
(see 1.39). It’s normal for DVDs to freeze for a fraction of
a second in the middle of a movie — this is a layer break (see

[3.3] What are the sizes and capacities of DVD?

There are many variations on the DVD theme. Discs come in two physical sizes: 12
cm (4.7 inches) and 8 cm (3.1 inches), both 1.2 mm thick, made of two 0.6mm
substrates glued together. These are the same form factors as CD. A DVD disc can
be single-sided or double-sided. Each side can have one or two layers of data.
The amount of video a disc can hold depends on how much audio accompanies it and
how heavily the video and audio are compressed. The oft-quoted figure of 133
minutes is apocryphal: a DVD with only one audio track easily holds over 160
minutes, and a single layer can actually hold up to 9 hours of video and audio
if it’s compressed to VHS quality.

At a rough average rate of 5 Mbps (4 Mbps for video and 1 Mbps for two or
three tracks or audio), a single-layer DVD can hold a little over two hours. A
dual-layer disc can hold a two-hour movie at an average of 9.5 Mbps (close to
the 10.08 Mbps limit).

A DVD-Video disc containing mostly audio can play for 13 hours (24 hours with
dual layers) using 48/16 PCM (slightly better than CD quality). It can play 160
hours of audio (or a whopping 295 hours with dual layers) using Dolby Digital 64
kbps compression of monophonic audio, which is perfect for audio books.

Capacities of DVD:

For reference, a CD-ROM holds about 650 megabytes, which is 0.64 gigabytes or
0.68 billion bytes. In the list below, SS/DS means single-sided/double-sided,
SL/DL/ML means single-layer/dual-layer/mixed-layer (mixed means single layer on
one side, dual layer on the other side), gig means gigabytes (2^30), BB means
billions of bytes (10^9). See note about giga vs. billion in section

DVD-5 (12 cm, SS/SL)4.37 gig (4.70 BB) of data, over 2 hours of video
DVD-9 (12 cm, SS/DL)7.95 gig (8.54 BB), about 4 hours
DVD-10 (12 cm, DS/SL)8.74 gig (9.40 BB), about 4.5 hours
DVD-14 (12 cm, DS/ML)12.32 gig (13.24 BB), about 6.5 hours
DVD-18 (12 cm, DS/DL)15.90 gig (17.08 BB), over 8 hours
DVD-1 (8 cm, SS/SL)1.36 gig (1.46 BB), about half an hour
DVD-2 (8 cm, SS/DL)2.47 gig (2.66 BB), about 1.3 hours
DVD-3 (8 cm, DS/SL)2.72 gig (2.92 BB), about 1.4 hours
DVD-4 (8 cm, DS/DL)4.95 gig (5.32 BB), about 2.5 hours
DVD-R 1.0 (12 cm, SS/SL)3.68 gig (3.95 BB)
DVD-R 2.0 (12 cm, SS/SL)4.37 gig (4.70 BB)
DVD-R 2.0 (12 cm, DS/SL)8.75 gig (9.40 BB)
DVD-RW 2.0 (12 cm, SS/SL)4.37 gig (4.70 BB)
DVD-RW 2.0 (12 cm, DS/SL)8.75 gig (9.40 BB)
DVD+R 2.0 (12 cm, SS/SL)4.37 gig (4.70 BB)
DVD+R 2.0 (12 cm, DS/SL)8.75 gig (9.40 BB)
DVD+RW 2.0 (12 cm, SS/SL)4.37 gig (4.70 BB)
DVD+RW 2.0 (12 cm, DS/SL)8.75 gig (9.40 BB)
DVD-RAM 1.0 (12 cm, SS/SL)2.40 gig (2.58 BB)
DVD-RAM 1.0 (12 cm, DS/SL)4.80 gig (5.16 BB)
DVD-RAM 2.0 (12 cm, SS/SL)4.37 gig (4.70 BB)*
DVD-RAM 2.0 (12 cm, DS/SL)8.75 gig (9.40 BB)*
DVD-RAM 2.0 (8 cm, SS/SL)1.36 gig (1.46 BB)*
DVD-RAM 2.0 (8 cm, DS/SL)2.47 gig (2.65 BB)*
CD-ROM (12 cm, SS/SL, 74 minutes)0.635 gig (0.682 BB)
CD-ROM (12 cm, SS/SL, 80 minutes)0.687 gig (0.737 BB)
CD-ROM (8 cm, SS/SL)0.180 gig (0.194 BB)
DDCD-ROM (12 cm, SS/SL)1.270 gig (1.364 BB)
DDCD-ROM (8 cm, SS/SL)0.360 gig (0.387 BB)

* Formatted DVD-RAM discs have slightly less than stated capacity. For
example, the contents of a completely full DVD-R will not quite fit on a

Tip: It takes about two gigabytes to store one hour of average video.

The increase in capacity from CD-ROM is due to: 1) smaller pit length
(~2.08x), 2) tighter tracks (~2.16x), 3) slightly larger data area (~1.02x), 4)
more efficient channel bit modulation (~1.06x), 5) more efficient error
correction (~1.32x), 6) less sector overhead (~1.06x). Total increase for a
single layer is about 7 times a standard CD-ROM. There’s a slightly different
explanation at <>.

The capacity of a dual-layer disc is slightly less than double that of a
single-layer disc. The laser has to read “through” the outer layer to the inner
layer (a distance of 20 to 70 microns). To reduce inter-layer crosstalk, the
minimum pit length of both layers is increased from 0.4 um to 0.44 um. To
compensate, the reference scanning velocity is slightly faster, 3.84 m/s, as
opposed to 3.49 m/s for single layer discs. Longer pits, spaced farther apart,
are easier to read correctly and are less susceptible to jitter. The increased
length means fewer pits per revolution, which results in reduced capacity per

Note: Older versions of Windows that use FAT16
instead of UDF, FAT32, or NTFS to read a DVD may run into problems with the 4
gigabyte volume size limit. FAT16 also has a 2 gigabyte file size limit, while
FAT32 has a 4 gigabyte file size limit. (NTFS has a 2 terabyte limit, so we’re
ok there for a while.)

See 4.3 for details of writable DVD. More info on disc
specifications and manufacturing can be found at
and other disc replicator sites.

[3.3.1] When did double-sided, dual-layer discs (DVD-18)
become available?

These super-size discs are used for data but are not commonly used for
movies. The first commercial DVD-18 title, The Stand, was released in
October 1999. A DVD-18 requires a completely different way of creating two
layers. A single-sided, dual-layer disc (DVD-9) is produced by putting one data
layer on each substrate and gluing the halves together with transparent adhesive
so that the pickup laser can read both layers from one side. But in order to get
four layers, each substrate needs to hold two. This requires stamping a second
data layer on top of the first, a much more complicated prospect. Only a few
replicators can make DVD-18s, and the low yield (number of usable discs in a
batch) makes it more difficult and expensive than making DVD-9s.

(My prediction in this FAQ, in December 1998, was that we wouldn’t see
commercial DVD-18 discs until fall 1999, in spite of many rumors that they would
appear sooner.)

[3.3.2] What’s a MiniDVD?

The term “miniDVD” confusingly refers to 8-cm DVDs and to CDs with DVD-Video
content on them, more appropriately called cDVDs. 8-cm DVDs are defined in the
DVD specification and will play on almost all DVD players and drives, but they
don’t work in most slot-loading systems, such as in cars. cDVDs play on most DVD
PCs, but only on very few DVD players (see 5.7 for details).

[3.4] What are the video details?

DVD-Video is an application of DVD-ROM, according to the specification
created by the DVD Forum (see 6.1). DVD-Video is also an
application of MPEG-1, MPEG-2, Dolby Digital, DTS, and other formats. This means
the DVD-Video format defines subsets of these standards and formats to be
applied in practice to make discs intended for DVD-Video players. DVD-ROM can
contain any desired digital information, but DVD-Video is limited to certain
data types designed for television reproduction.

A disc has one track (stream) of MPEG-2 constant bit rate (CBR) or variable
bit rate (VBR) compressed digital video. A restricted version of MPEG-2 Main
Profile at Main Level (MP@ML) is used. SP@ML is also supported. MPEG-1 CBR and
VBR video is also allowed. 525/60 (NTSC, 29.97 interlaced frames/sec) and 625/50
(PAL/SECAM, 25 interlaced frames/sec) video display systems are expressly
supported. Coded frame rates of 24 fps progressive from film, 25 fps interlaced
from PAL video, and 29.97 fps interlaced from NTSC video are typical. MPEG-2
progressive_sequence is not allowed, but interlaced sequences can contain
progressive pictures and progressive macroblocks. In the case of 24 fps source,
the encoder embeds MPEG-2 repeat_first_field flags into the video stream to make
the decoder either perform 2-3 pulldown for 60Hz NTSC displays (actually
59.94Hz) or 2-2 pulldown (with resulting 4% speedup) for 50Hz PAL/SECAM
displays. In other words, the player doesn’t “know” what the encoded rate is, it
simply follows the MPEG-2 encoder’s instructions to produce the predetermined
display rate of 25 fps or 29.97 fps. This is one of the main reasons there are
two kinds of discs, one for NTSC and one for PAL. (Very few players convert from
PAL to NTSC or NTSC to PAL. See 1.19.)

Because film transfers for NTSC and PAL usually use the same coded picture
rate (24 fps) but PAL resolution is higher, the PAL version takes more space on
the disc. The raw increase before encoding is 20% (480 to 576), but the final result
is closer to 15%, depending on encoder efficiency. This translates to an
increase of 600 to 700 megabytes on PAL discs compared to NTSC discs.

It’s interesting to note that even interlaced source video can be rendered as progressive-structured MPEG pictures
by a good encoder, with interlaced field-encoded macroblocks used only when needed for motion. Most film sources
are encoded at 24 frames per second (the inverse telecine process during encoding removes duplicate 2-3 pulldown fields from
the videotape source, and the remaining field pairs, although technically in
interlaced form, can be re-interleaved by a progressive player). Most video sources are encoded
at 25 or 30 interlaced frames per second. These may be mixed on the same disc, such as an interlaced-source logo
followed by a progressive-source movie.

See 3.8 for an explanation of progressive and interlaced
scanning. See 1.40 for progressive-scan players. See the
MPEG page <> for more information
on MPEG-2 video.

Picture dimensions are at maximum 720×480 (for 525/60 NTSC display) or 720×576 (for
625/50 PAL/SECAM display). Pictures are subsampled from 4:2:2 ITU-R BT.601 down
to 4:2:0 before encoding, allocating an average of 12 bits/pixel in Y’CbCr
format. (Color depth is 24 bits, since color samples are shared across 4
pixels.) DVD pixels are not square (see 3.5). The
uncompressed source is 124.416 Mbps for video source (720x480x12x30 or
720x576x12x25), or 99.533 or 119.439 Mbps for film source (720x480x12x24 or
720x576x12x24). In analog output terms, lines of horizontal resolution is
usually around 500, but can go up to 540 (see 3.4.1).
Typical luma frequency response maintains full amplitude to between 5.0 and 5.5
MHz. This is below the 6.75 MHz native frequency of the MPEG-2 digital signal
(in other words, most players fall short of reproducing the full quality of
DVD). Chroma frequency response is half that of luma.

Allowable picture resolutions are:
MPEG-2, 525/60 (NTSC): 720×480, 704×480, 352×480, 352×240
MPEG-2, 625/50 (PAL): 720×576, 704×576, 352×576, 352×288
MPEG-1, 525/60 (NTSC): 352×240
MPEG-1, 625/50 (PAL): 352×288

Different players use different numbers of bits for the video
digital-to-analog converter, wit the best-quality players using 10 or 12 bits.
This has nothing to do with the MPEG decoding process, since each original
component signal is limited to 8 bits per sample. More bits in the player
provide more “headroom” and more signal levels during digital-to-analog
conversion, which can help produce a better picture.

Maximum video bit rate is 9.8 Mbps. The “average” video bit rate is around 4
Mbps but depends entirely on the length, quality, amount of audio, etc. This is
a 31:1 reduction from uncompressed 124 Mbps video source (or a 25:1 reduction
from 100 Mbps film source). Raw channel data is read off the disc at a constant
26.16 Mbps. After 8/16 demodulation it’s down to 13.08 Mbps. After error
correction the user data stream goes into the track buffer at a constant 11.08
Mbps. The track buffer feeds system stream data out at a variable rate of up to
10.08 Mbps. After system overhead, the maximum rate of combined elementary
streams (audio + video + subpicture) is 10.08. MPEG-1 video rate is limited to
1.856 Mbps with a typical rate of 1.15 Mbps.

Still frames (encoded as MPEG I-frames) are supported and can be displayed
for a specific amount of time or indefinitely. These are used for menus or
slideshows. Still frames can be accompanied by audio.

A disc also can have up to 32 subpicture streams that overlay the video for
subtitles, captions for the hard of hearing, captions for children, karaoke,
menus, simple animation, etc. These are full-screen, run-length-encoded bitmaps
with two bits per pixel, giving four color values and four transparency values.
For each group of subpictures, four colors are selected from a palette of 16
(from the YCbCr gamut), and four contrast values are selected out of 16 levels
from transparent to opaque. Since one of the four values is usually 100%
transparency (to let the video show through), only three combinations of colors
and transparencies are left, making overlay graphics rather crude. Subpicture
display command sequences can be used to create effects such as scroll, move,
color/highlight, and fade. The maximum subpicture data rate is 3.36 Mbps, with a
maximum size per frame of 53220 bytes.

In addition to subtitles in subpicture streams, DVD also supports NTSC Closed
Captions. Closed Caption text is stored in the video stream as MPEG-2 user data
(in packet headers) and is regenerated by the player as a line-21 analog
waveform in the video signal, which then must be decoded by a Closed Caption
decoder in the television. Although the DVD-Video spec mentions NTSC only, there
is no technical reason PAL/SECAM DVD players could not be made to output the
Closed Caption text in World System Teletext (WST) format; the only trick is to
deal with frame rate differences. Unfortunate note: DVD Closed Caption MPEG-2
storage format is slightly different than the ATSC format. See
for more about Closed Captions.

[3.4.1] What does “lines of resolution” mean?

Everyone gets confused by the term “lines of horizontal resolution,” also
known as LoHR or TVL. It’s a carryover from analog video, it’s poorly
understood, and it’s inconsistently measured and reported by manufacturers, but
we’re stuck with it until all video is digital and we can simply report resolution
in pixels.

Technically, lines of horizontal resolution refers to visually resolvable
vertical lines per picture height
. In other words, it’s measured by counting
the number of vertical black and white lines that can be distinguished an area
that is as wide as the picture is high. The idea is to make the measurement
independent of the aspect ratio. Lines of horizontal resolution applies both to
television displays and to signal formats such as that produced by a DVD player.
Most TVs have ludicrously high numbers listed for their horizontal resolution.

Since DVD has 720 horizontal pixels (on both NTSC and PAL discs), the
horizontal resolution can be calculated by dividing 720 by 1.33 (from the 4:3
aspect ratio) to get 540 lines. On a 1.78 (16:9) display, you get 405 lines. In
practice, most DVD players provide about 500 lines instead of 540 because of
filtering and low-quality digital-to-analog converters. VHS has about 230 (172
widescreen) lines, broadcast TV has about 330 (248 widescreen), and laserdisc
has about 425 (318 widescreen).

Don’t confuse lines of horizontal resolution (resolution along the x axis)
with scan lines (resolution along the y axis). DVD produces exactly 480 scan
lines of active picture for NTSC and 576 for PAL. The NTSC standard has 525
total scan lines, but only 480 to 483 or so are visible. (The extra lines
contain sync pulses and other information, such as the Closed Captions that are
encoded into line 21). PAL has 625 total scan lines, but only about 576 to 580
are visible. Since all video formats (DVD, VHS, LD, broadcast, and so on) have the same
number of scan lines, it’s the horizontal resolution that makes the big
difference in picture quality.

For more information, see Allan Jayne’s
TV and Video Resolution

[3.4.2] What are jacket pictures?

A DVD can optionally include a representative still image called a jacket
, which is displayed by some DVD players when the disc is inserted, paused,
or stopped. Some DVD jukeboxes also use jacket pictures for thumbnail lists.

A jacket picture is often the same cover art used on the DVD package or
sometimes a simplified picture, especially for the smaller sizes. The
picture is stored on the disc in the root-level JACKET_P folder as MPEG-2
still images in three sizes —large, medium, and small— in either 1.33
or 1.78 (widescreen) NTSC or PAL
format to match the video format of the disc. The filenames and pixel
dimensions are:


See Crady von Pawlack’s Guide to DVD Jacket Picture Creation
for more information.

[3.5] What’s widescreen? How do the aspect ratios work?

Video can be stored on a DVD in 4:3 format (standard TV shape) or 16:9
(widescreen). The width-to-height ratio of standard televisions is 4 to 3; in
other words, 1.33 times wider than high. New widescreen televisions,
specifically those designed for HDTV, have a ratio of 16 to 9; that is, 1.78
times wider than high.

DVD is specially designed to support widescreen displays. Widescreen 16:9
video, such as from a 16:9 video camera, can be stored on the disc in
form, meaning the picture is squeezed horizontally to fit the
standard 4:3 rectangle, then unsqueezed during playback.

Things get more complicated when film is transferred to video, since most
movies today have an aspect ratio of 1.66, 1.85 (“flat”), or 2.40 (“scope”).
Because these don’t match 1.33 or 1.78 TV shapes, two processes are employed to
make various movie pegs fit TV holes:

Letterbox (often abbreviated to LBX) means the video is presented in
its theatrical aspect ratio, which is wider than standard or widescreen TV.
Black bars, called mattes, are used to cover the gaps at the top and
bottom. A 1.85 movie that has been letterboxed for 1.33 display has thinner
mattes than a 2.4 movie letterboxed to 1.33 (28% of display height vs. 44%),
although the former are about the same thickness as those of a 2.4 movie
letterboxed to 1.78 (26% of display height). The mattes used to letterbox a 1.85
movie for 1.78 display are so thin (2%) that they’re hidden by the overscan of
most widescreen TVs. Some movies, especially animated features and European
films, have an aspect ratio of 1.66, which can be letterboxed for 1.33 display
or sideboxed (windowboxed) for 1.78 display.

Pan & scan means the thinner TV “window” is panned and zoomed across
the wider movie picture, chopping off the sides. However, most movies today are
shot soft matte, which means a full 1.33 aspect film frame is used. (The
cinematographer has two sets of frame marks in her viewfinder, one for 1.33 and
one for 1.85, so he or she can allow for both formats.) The top and bottom are masked
off in the theater, but when the film is transferred to video the full 1.33
frame can be used in the pan & scan process. Pan & scan is primarily used for
1.33 formatting, not for 1.78 formatting, since widescreen fans prefer that
letterboxing be used to preserve the theatrical effect.

For more details and nice visual aids see Leopold’s
How Film Is Transferred
to Video

Once the video is formatted to fullscreen or widescreen form, it’s encoded
and stored on DVD discs. DVD players have four playback modes, one for 4:3 video
and three for 16:9 video:

  • full frame (4:3 video for 4:3 display)
  • auto letterbox (16:9 anamorphic video for 4:3 display)
  • auto pan & scan (16:9 anamorphic video for 4:3 display)
  • widescreen (16:9 anamorphic video for 16:9 display)

Video stored in 4:3 format is not changed by the player. It appears
normally on a standard 4:3 display. Widescreen systems either enlarge it or
add black bars to the sides. 4:3 video may have been formatted with letterboxing
or pan & scan before being transferred to DVD. All formatting done to the video
prior to it being stored on the disc is transparent to the player. It merely
reproduces it as a standard 4:3 TV picture. Video that is letterboxed before
being encoded can be flagged so that the player will tell a widescreen TV to
automatically expand the picture. Unfortunately, some discs (such as Fargo)
do not flag the video properly. And worse, some players ignore the flags.

The beauty of anamorphosis is that less of the picture is wasted on letterbox
mattes. DVD has a frame size designed for 1.33 display, so the video still has
to be made to fit, but because it’s only squeezed horizontally, 33% more pixels
(25% of the total pixels in a video frame) are used to store active picture
instead of black. Anamorphic video is best displayed on widescreen equipment,
which stretches the video back out to its original width. Alternatively, many
new 4:3 TV’s can reduce the vertical scan area to restore the proper aspect
ratio without losing resolution (an automatic trigger signal is sent to European
TVs on SCART pin 8). Even though almost all computers have 4:3 monitors, they
have higher resolution than TVs so they can display the full widescreen picture
in a window (854×480 pixels or bigger for NTSC; 1024×576 or bigger for PAL).

Anamorphic video can be converted by the player for display on standard 4:3
TVs in letterbox or pan & scan form. If anamorphic video is shown unchanged on a
standard 4:3 display, people will look tall and skinny as if they have been on a
crash diet. The setup options of DVD players allow the viewer to indicate
whether they have a 16:9 or 4:3 TV. In the case of a 4:3 TV, a second option
lets the viewer indicate a preference for how the player will reformat
anamorphic video. The two options are detailed below.

For automatic letterbox mode, the player generates black bars at the top and
the bottom of the picture (60 lines each for NTSC, 72 for PAL). This leaves 3/4
of the height remaining, creating a shorter but wider rectangle (1.78:1). In
order to fit this shorter rectangle, the anamorphic picture is squeezed
vertically using a letterbox filter that combines every 4 lines into 3,
reducing the vertical resolution from 480 scan lines to 360 (576 to 432 for PAL). If the video was
already letterboxed to fit the 1.78 aspect, then the mattes generated by the
player seamlessly extend the mattes in the video.) The vertical squeezing exactly
compensates for the original horizontal squeezing so that the movie is shown in
its full width. Some players have better letterbox filters than others, using
weighted averaging to combine lines (scaling 4 lines into 3 or merging the
boundary lines) rather than simply dropping one out of every four lines.
Widescreen video can be letterboxed to 4:3 on expensive studio equipment before
it’s stored on the disc, or it can be stored in anamorphic form and letterboxed
to 4:3 in the player. If you compare the two, the letterbox mattes will be
identical but the picture quality of the studio version may be slightly better.
(See 1.38 for more about letterboxing.)

For automatic pan & scan mode, the anamorphic video is unsqueezed to 16:9 and
the sides are cropped off so that a portion of the image is shown at full height
on a 4:3 screen by following a center of interest offset encoded
in the video stream according to the preferences of those who transferred
the film to video. The pan & scan “window” is 75% of the full width, which
reduces the horizontal pixels from 720 to 540. The pan & scan window can only
travel laterally. This does not duplicate a true pan & scan process in which the
window can also travel up and down and zoom in and out. Auto pan & scan has
three strikes against it: 1) it doesn’t provide the same artistic control as
studio pan & scan, 2) there is a loss of detail when the picture is scaled up,
and 3) equipment for recording picture shift information is not widely
available. Therefore, no anamorphic movies have been released with auto pan &
scan enabled, although some discs use the pan & scan feature in menus so that
the same menu video can be used in both widescreen and 4:3 mode. In order to
present a quality full-screen picture to the vast majority of TV viewers, yet
still provide the best experience for widescreen owners, some DVD producers
choose to put two versions on a single disc: 4:3 studio pan & scan and 16:9

Playback of widescreen material can be restricted by the disc producer. Programs can be marked for the following display modes:
– 4:3 full frame
– 4:3 LB (for sending a letterbox expand signal to widescreen TV)
– 16:9 LB only (the player is not allowed to pan & scan on a 4:3 TV)
– 16:9 PS only (the player is not allowed to letterbox on a 4:3 TV)
– 16:9 LB or PS (the viewer can select pan & scan or letterbox on a 4:3 TV)

You can usually tell if a disc contains anamorphic video if the packaging
says “enhanced for 16:9 widescreen” or something similar. If all it says is
“widescreen,” it may be letterboxed to 4:3, not 16:9.
Widescreen Review has a list of
anamorphic DVD titles.

Additional explanations of how anamorphic video works can be found at Greg
Lovern’s What’s an
Anamorphic DVD?
page, Bill Hunt’s
Ultimate Guide to
Anamorphic Widescreen DVD
, and Dan Ramer’s
What the Heck Is Anamorphic?. More information can be found at the

Anamorphic Widescreen Support Page
, the
Letterbox/Widescreen Advocacy Page, and
The American Widescreen
. You
might also be interested in Guy Wright’s

The Widescreen Scam
. See 1.38 for further discussion of

Anamorphosis causes no problems with line doublers and other video scalers,
which simply duplicate the scan lines before they are stretched out by the
widescreen display.

For anamorphic video, the pixels are fatter. Different pixel aspect ratios
(none of them square) are used for each aspect ratio and resolution. 720-pixel
and 704-pixel sizes have the same aspect ratio because the first includes
overscan. Note that conventional values of 1.0950 and 0.9157 are for
height/width (and are tweaked to match scanning rates). The table below uses
less-confusing width/height values (y/x * h/w).

      720x480   720x576
      704x480   704x576   352x480   352x576
4:3     0.909     1.091     1.818     2.182
16:9    1.212     1.455     2.424     2.909

For gory details of video resolution and pixel aspect ratios see Jukka Aho’s
Quick Guide to Digital Video
Resolution and Aspect Ratio Conversions

[3.6] What are the audio details?

DVD comes in two home-entertainment flavors: DVD-Video and DVD-Audio.
Each supports high-definition multichannel audio, but DVD-Audio includes
higher-quality PCM audio.

[3.6.1] Details of DVD-Audio and SACD

LPCM is mandatory in DVD-Audio discs, with up to 6 channels at sample rates
of 48/96/192 kHz (also 44.1/88.2/176.4 kHz) and sample sizes of 16/20/24 bits.
This allows theoretical frequency response of up to 96 kHz and dynamic range of
up to 144 dB. Multichannel PCM is downmixable by the player, although at 192 and
176.4 kHz only two channels are available. Sampling rates and sizes can vary for
different channels by using a predefined set of groups. The maximum data rate is
9.6 Mbps.

The DVD Forum’s Working Group for audio (WG4) decided to include lossless compression, and on
August 5, 1998 approved Meridian‘s
MLP (Meridian Lossless
Packing) scheme, licensed by Dolby. MLP removes redundancy from the signal to
achieve a compression ratio of about 2:1 while allowing the PCM signal to be
completely recreated by the MLP decoder that’s required in all DVD-Audio players. MLP
allows playing times of about 74 to 135 minutes of 6-channel 96-kHz/24-bit audio
on a single layer (compared to 45 minutes without packing). Two-channel
192-kHz/24-bit playing times are about 120 to 140 minutes (compared to 67 minutes
without packing).

Other audio formats of DVD-Video (Dolby Digital, MPEG audio, and DTS,
described below) are optional on DVD-Audio discs, although Dolby Digital is
required for audio content that has associated video. A subset of DVD-Video
features (no angles, no seamless branching, etc.) is allowed. Most DVD-Audio
players are also “universal” players that play DVD-Video discs as well.

DVD-Audio includes specialized downmixing features for PCM channels. Unlike
DVD-Video, where the decoder determines how to mix from 6 channels down to 2,
DVD-Audio includes coefficient tables to control mixdown and avoid volume buildup
from channel aggregation. Up to 16 tables can be defined by each Audio Title Set
(album), and each track can be identified with a table. Coefficients range from
0dB to 60dB. This feature goes by the horribly contrived name of SMART
(system-managed audio resource technique). (Dolby Digital, supported in both
DVD-Audio and DVD-Video, also includes downmixing information that can be set at
encode time.)

DVD-Audio can provide up to 99 still images per track (at typical compression
levels about 20 images fit into the 2 MB buffer in the player), with a set of
limited transitions (cut in/out, fade in/out, dissolve, and wipe). Unlike
DVD-Video, the user can move at will through the slides without interrupting the
audio as it plays: this is called a browsable slideshow. On-screen displays
can be used for synchronized lyrics and navigation menus. A special simplified
navigation mode can be used on players without a video display.

Sony and Philips are promoting SACD, a competing DVD-based format using
Direct Stream Digital (DSD) encoding with sampling rates of 2.8224 MHz. DSD
is based on the pulse-density modulation (PDM) technique that uses single bits
to represent the incremental rise or fall of the audio waveform. This supposedly
improves quality by removing the brick wall filters required for PCM encoding.
It also makes downsampling more accurate and efficient. DSD provides a frequency
response from DC to over 100 kHz with a dynamic range of over 120 dB. DSD
includes a lossless encoding technique that produces approximately 2:1 data
reduction by predicting each sample and then run-length encoding the error
signal. The maximum data rate is 2.8 Mbps.

SACD includes a physical watermarking feature, pit signal processing (PSP),
modulates the width of pits on the disc to store a digital watermark (data is
stored in the pit length). The optical pickup must contain additional circuitry
to read the PSP watermark, which is then compared to information on the disc to
make sure it’s legitimate. Because of the requirement for specialized watermark
detection circuitry, protected SACD discs are not playable in standard DVD-ROM drives.

SACD includes text and still graphics, but no video. Sony says the format is
aimed at audiophiles and is not intended to replace the audio CD format.

See 1.12 for more general info on DVD-Audio and SACD.

[3.6.2] Audio details of DVD-Video

The following details are for audio tracks in DVD-Video. Some DVD
manufacturers such as Pioneer are developing audio-only players using the
DVD-Video format. Some DVD-Video discs contain mostly audio with only still

A DVD-Video disc can have up to 8 audio tracks (streams) associated with each
video track (or each video angle). Each audio track can be in one of three

  • Dolby Digital (AC-3): 1 to 5.1 channels
  • MPEG-2 audio: 1 to 5.1 or 7.1 channels
  • PCM: 1 to 8 channels.

Two additional optional formats are provided: DTS and SDDS. Both require the
appropriate decoders and are not supported by all players.

The “.1” refers to a low-frequency effects (LFE) channel that connects to a
subwoofer. This channel carries an emphasized bass audio signal.

Linear PCM is uncompressed (lossless) digital audio, the
same format used on CDs and most studio masters. It can be sampled at 48 or 96
kHz with 16, 20, or 24 bits/sample. (Audio CD is limited to 44.1 kHz at 16
bits.) There can be from 1 to 8 channels. The maximum bit rate is 6.144 Mbps,
which limits sample rates and bit sizes when there are 5 or more channels. It’s
generally felt that the 120 dB dynamic range of 20 bits combined with a
frequency response of around 22,000 Hz from 48 kHz sampling is adequate for
high-fidelity sound reproduction. However, additional bits and higher sampling
rates are useful in audiophile applications, studio work, noise shaping,
advanced digital processing, and three-dimensional sound field reproduction. DVD
players are required to support all the variations of LPCM, but many subsample
96 kHz down to 48 kHz, and some may not use all 20 or 24 bits. The signal
provided on the digital output for external digital-to-analog converters may be
limited to less than 96 kHz and less than 24 bits.

Dolby Digital is multi-channel digital audio, using lossy
AC-3 coding technology from PCM source with a sample rate of 48 kHz at
up to 24 bits. The bitrate is 64 kbps to 448 kbps, with 384 or 448 being the
normal rate for 5.1 channels and 192 being the typical rate for stereo (with or
without surround encoding). (Most Dolby Digital decoders support up to 640 kbps,
so non-standard discs with 640 kbps tracks play on many players.) The channel
combinations are (front/surround): 1/0, 1+1/0 (dual mono), 2/0, 3/0, 2/1, 3/1,
2/2, and 3/2. The LFE channel is optional with all 8 combinations. For details
see ATSC document A/52 <>.
Dolby Digital is the format used for audio tracks on almost all DVDs.

MPEG audio is multi-channel digital audio, using lossy
compression from original PCM format with sample rate of 48 kHz at 16 or 20
bits. Both MPEG-1 and MPEG-2 formats are supported. The variable bit rate is 32
kbps to 912 kbps, with 384 being the normal average rate. MPEG-1 is limited to
384 kbps. Channel combinations are (front/surround): 1/0, 2/0, 2/1, 2/2, 3/0,
3/1, 3/2, and 5/2. The LFE channel is optional with all combinations. The 7.1
channel format adds left-center and right-center channels, but is
rare for home use. MPEG-2 surround channels are in an extension stream matrixed
onto the MPEG-1 stereo channels, which makes MPEG-2 audio backwards compatible
with MPEG-1 hardware (an MPEG-1 system will only see the two stereo channels.)
MPEG Layer 3 (MP3) and MPEG-2 AAC (also known as NBC or unmatrix) are not supported by the
DVD-Video standard. MPEG audio is not used much on DVDs, although some
inexpensive DVD recording software programs use MPEG audio, even on NTSC discs, which
goes against the DVD standard and is not supported by all NTSC players.

DTS (Digital Theater Systems) Digital Surround is an
optional multi-channel digital audio format, using lossy compression from
PCM at 48 kHz at up to 24 bits. The data rate is from 64 kbps to 1536 kbps, with
typical rates of 754.5 and 1509.25 for 5.1 channels and 377 or 754 for 2
channels. (The DTS Coherent Acoustics format supports up to 4096 kbps variable
data rate for lossless compression, but this isn’t supported by DVD. DVD also
does not allow DTS sampling rates other than 48 kHz.). Channel combinations are
(front/surround): 1/0, 2/0, 3/0, 2/1, 2/2, 3/2. The LFE channel is optional with
all combinations. DTS ES support 6.1 channels in two ways: 1) a Dolby Surround
EX compatible matrixed rear center channel, 2) a discrete 7th channel. DTS also
has a 7.1-channel mode (8 discrete channels), but no DVDs have used it yet. The
7-channel and 8-channel modes require a new decoder. The DVD standard includes
an audio stream format reserved for DTS, but many older players ignore it. The
DTS format used on DVDs is different from the one used in theaters (Audio
Processing Technology
‘s apt-X, an ADPCM coder, not a psychoacoustic coder).
All DVD players can play DTS audio CDs, since the standard PCM stream holds the
DTS code. See 1.32 for general DTS information. For more
info visit <> and read Adam Barratt’s

SDDS (Sony Dynamic Digital Sound) is an optional
multi-channel (5.1 or 7.1) digital audio format, compressed from PCM at 48 kHz.
The data rate can go up to 1280 kbps. SDDS is a theatrical film soundtrack
format based on the ATRAC compression format that is also used by Minidisc. Sony
has not announced any plans to support SDDS on DVD.

THX (Tomlinson Holman Experiment) is not an audio format.
It’s a certification and quality control program that applies to sound systems
and acoustics in theaters, home equipment, and digital mastering processes. The
LucasFilm THX Digital Mastering program uses a patented process to track video
quality through the multiple video generations needed to make a final format
disc or tape, setup of video monitors to ensure that the filmmaker is seeing a
precise rendition of what is on tape before approval of the master, and other
steps along the way. THX-certified “4.0” amplifiers enhance Dolby Pro Logic
in the following ways:
a crossover that sends bass from front channels to subwoofer; re-equalization on front
channels (to compensate for high-frequency boost in theater mix designed for
speakers behind the screen); timbre matching on rear channels; decorrelation of
rear channels; a bass curve that emphasizes low frequencies. THX-certified “5.1”
amplifiers enhance Dolby Digital and improve on 4.0 in the following ways: rear speakers are full
range, so the crossover sends bass from both front and rear to the subwoofer; decorrelation is turned on automatically when rear channels have the same audio,
but not during split-surround effects, which don’t need to be decorrelated. More
info at Home
THX Program Overview

Discs containing 525/60 (NTSC) video must use PCM or Dolby Digital on at
least one track. Discs containing 625/50 (PAL/SECAM) video must use PCM or MPEG
audio or Dolby Digital on at least one track. Additional tracks may be in any
format. A few first-generation players, such as those made by Matsushita, can’t
output MPEG-2 audio to external decoders.

The original DVD-Video spec required either MPEG audio or PCM on 625/50 (PAL) discs. There
was a brief scuffle led by Philips when early discs came out with only
two-channel MPEG and multichannel Dolby Digital, but the DVD Forum clarified in
May of 1997 that only stereo MPEG audio was mandatory for 625/50 discs. In December
1997 the lack of MPEG-2 encoders (and decoders) was a big enough problem that
the spec was revised to allow Dolby Digital audio tracks to be used on 625/50
discs without MPEG audio tracks.

Because of the 4% speedup from 24 fps film to 25 fps PAL display, the audio
must be adjusted to match before it is encoded. Unless the audio is digitally
processed to shift the pitch back to normal it will be slightly high (about half a semitone).

For stereo output (analog or digital), all players have a built-in 2-channel
Dolby Digital decoder that downmixes from 5.1 channels (if present on the
disc) to Dolby Surround stereo. That is,  5 channels are phase matrixed into 2
channels to be decoded to 4 channels by a Dolby Pro Logic processor or 5
channels by a Pro Logic II processor. PAL players also have an MPEG or MPEG-2
audio decoder. Both Dolby Digital and MPEG-2 support 2-channel Dolby Surround as
the source in cases where the disc producer can’t or doesn’t want to remix the
original onto discrete channels. This means that a DVD labeled as having Dolby
Digital sound may only use the L/R channels for surround or “plain” stereo. Even
movies with old monophonic soundtracks may use Dolby Digital with only 1 or 2
channels. Some players can optionally downmix to non-surround stereo. If
surround audio is important to you, you will hear significantly better results
from multichannel discs if you have a Dolby Digital system.

The new Dolby Digital Surround EX format (DD-EX), which adds a rear center
channel, is compatible with DVD discs and players, and with existing Dolby
Digital decoders. The new DTS-ES Matrix format, which likewise adds a rear
center channel, works with existing DTS decoders and with DTS-compatible DVD
players. However, for full use of either new format you need a new decoder to
extract the rear center channel, which is phase matrixed into the two standard
rear channels in the same way Dolby Surround is matrixed into standard stereo
channels. Without a new decoder you’ll get the same 5.1-channel audio you get
now. Because the additional rear channel isn’t a full-bandwidth discrete
channel, it’s appropriate to call the new formats “5.2-channel” digital
surround. There is also DTS-ES Discrete, which adds a full-bandwidth discrete
rear center channel in an extension stream which is used by DTS ES Discrete
decoders but ignored by older DTS decoders. DTS-ES decoders include DTS Neo:6,
which is not an encoding format but a matrix decoding process that provides 5 or
6 channels.

The Dolby Digital downmix process does not usually include the LFE channel
and may compress the dynamic range in order to improve dialog audibility and
keep the sound from becoming “muddy” on average home audio systems. This can
result in reduced sound quality on high-end audio systems. The downmix is
auditioned when the disc is prepared, and if the result is not acceptable the
audio may be tweaked or a separate L/R Dolby Surround track may be added.
Experience has shown that minor tweaking is sometimes required to make the
dialog more audible within the limited dynamic range of a home stereo system.
Some disc producers include a separately mixed stereo track rather than fiddle
with the surround mix.

The Dolby Digital dynamic range compression (DRC) feature, often
called midnight mode, reduces the difference between loud and soft sounds
so that you can turn the volume down to avoid disturbing others yet still hear
the detail of quiet passages. Some players have the option to turn off DRC.

Dolby Digital also includes a feature called dialog normalization (DN),
which should more accurately be called volume standardization. DN is designed to
keep the sound level the same when switching between different sources. This
will become more important as additional Dolby Digital sources (digital
satellite, DTV, etc) become common. Each Dolby Digital track contains loudness
information so that the receiver can automatically adjust the volume, turning it
down, for example, on a loud commercial. (Of course the commercial makers can
cheat and set an artificially low DN level, causing your receiver to turn up the
volume during the commercial.) Turning DN on or off on your receiver has no
effect on dynamic range or sound quality; its effect is no different than
turning the volume control up or down.

All five DVD-Video audio formats support karaoke mode, which has two channels
for stereo (L and R) plus an optional guide melody channel (M) and two optional
vocal channels (V1 and V2).

A DVD-5 with only one surround stereo audio stream (at 192 kbps) can hold
over 55 hours of audio. A DVD-18 can hold over 200 hours.

For more information about multichannel surround sound, see Bobby Owsinski’s
FAQ at <>.

[3.6.3] Can you explain this Dolby Digital, Dolby Surround,
Dolby Pro Logic, DTS stuff in plain English?

Almost every DVD contains audio in the Dolby Digital (AC-3) format. DTS
is an optional audio format that can be added to a disc in addition to Dolby
Digital audio. Dolby Digital and DTS can store mono, stereo, and multichannel
audio (usually 5.1 channels).

Every DVD player in the world has an internal Dolby Digital decoder. The
built-in 2-channel decoder turns Dolby Digital into stereo audio, which can be
fed to almost any type of audio equipment (receiver, TV, boombox, etc.) as a
standard analog stereo signal using a pair of stereo audio cables or as a
digital PCM audio signal using a coax or optical cable. See 3.2
for more information.

A standard audio mixing technique, called Dolby Surround, “piggybacks” a rear channel and a center channel onto a 2-channel signal. A
Dolby Surround signal can be played on any stereo system (or even a mono
system), in which case the rear- and center-channel sounds remain mixed in with
the left and right channels. When a Dolby Surround signal is played on a multichannel audio system that knows how to handle it, the extra channels are
extracted to feed center speakers and rear speakers. The original technique of
decoding Dolby Surround, called simply Dolby Surround, extracts only the
rear channel. The improved decoding technique, Dolby Pro Logic, also
extracts the center channel. A brand new decoding technology,
Dolby Pro Logic II
, extracts both the center channel and the rear
channel and also processes the signals to create more of a 3D audio environment.
Dolby Surround is independent of the storage or transmission format. In other
words, a 2-channel Dolby Surround signal can be analog audio, broadcast TV
audio, digital PCM audio, Dolby Digital, DTS, MP3, audio on a VHS tape, etc.

Unlike Dolby Surround, Dolby Digital encodes each channel independently.
Dolby Digital can carry up to 5 channels (left, center, right, left surround,
right surround) plus an omnidirectional low-frequency channel. The built-in,
2-channel Dolby Digital decoder in every DVD player handles multichannel audio
by downmixing it to two channels using Dolby Surround (see
3.6.2). This allows the analog stereo outputs to be
connected to just about anything, including TVs and receivers with Dolby Pro
Logic capability. Most DVD players also output the downmixed 2-channel Dolby
Surround signal in digital PCM format, which can be connected to a digital audio
receiver, most of which do Dolby Pro Logic decoding.

Most DVD players also output the “raw” Dolby Digital signal for connection to
a receiver with a built-in Dolby Digital decoder. Some DVD players have built-in
multichannel decoders to provide 6 (or 7) analog audio outputs to feed a
receiver or amplifier with multichannel analog inputs. See 3.1
for more info.

DTS is handled differently. Many DVD players have a DTS Digital Out
feature (also called DTS pass-through), which sends the raw DTS signal to an
external receiver with a DTS decoder. A few players have a built-in 2-channel
DTS decoder that downmixes to Dolby Surround, just like a 2-channel Dolby
Digital decoder. Some players have a built-in multichannel DTS decoder with 6
(or 7) analog outputs. Some DVD players don’t recognize DTS tracks at all (see

If you have a POS (plain old stereo), a Dolby Surround receiver, or a Dolby
Pro Logic receiver, you don’t need anything special in the DVD player. Any model
will connect to your system. If you have a Dolby Digital receiver, then you need
a player with Dolby Digital out (all but the cheapest players have this). If
your receiver can also do DTS, you should get a player with DTS Digital Out. The
only reason to get a player with 6-channel Dolby Digital or DTS decoder output
is if you want use multichannel analog connections to the receiver (see the
component analog section of 3.2).

[3.6.4] Why is the audio level from my DVD player so low?

Many people complain that the audio level from DVD players is too low. In
truth the audio level is too high on everything else. Movie soundtracks are
extremely dynamic, ranging from near silence to intense explosions. In order to
support an increased dynamic range and hit peaks (near the 2V RMS limit) without
distortion, the average sound volume must be lower. This is why the line level
from DVD players is lower than from almost all other sources. So far, unlike on
CDs and LDs, the level is much more consistent between discs. If the change in
volume when switching between DVD and other audio sources is annoying, you may
be able to
adjust the output signal level on some players or the input signal level on
some receivers, but other than that, there’s not much you can do.

[3.6.5] Why is the dialog hard to hear?

Dialog (people speaking) is usually mixed into the center channel, with
music, effects, and ambience mixed into other channels. If your audio system
isn’t hooked up correctly or doesn’t work properly, the center channel might not
be properly reproduced. If you have a system with only two speakers, make sure
it is connected to the stereo outputs, not the multichannel outputs (see

In some cases the movie sound was not mixed well in the studio, making the
dialog hard to hear. In this case there’s not much you can do other than curse
the sound engineer who thought sound effects were more important than
understanding what people are saying.

Try turning on dynamic range compression (see 3.6.2) or
check the disc to see if there is a separate 2-channel soundtrack mix.

[3.7] How do the interactive features work?

DVD-Video players (and software DVD-Video navigators for computers) support a command set
that provides rudimentary interactivity. The main feature is menus, which are
present on almost all discs to allow content selection and feature control. Each
menu has a still or motion background and up to 36 highlightable, rectangular
“buttons” (only 12 if widescreen, letterbox, and pan & scan modes are used).
Remote control units have up/down/left/right arrow keys for selecting onscreen
buttons, along with numeric keys, a select (enter) key, a menu key, a top menu (title) key, and
a return key. Additional remote functions may include freeze, step, slow, fast,
scan, next, previous, audio select, subtitle select, camera angle select, play
mode select, search to program, search to part of title (chapter), search to
time, and search to camera angle. Any of these features can be disabled by the
producer of the disc, an act which is called user operation control (UOP). It’s
commonly used to lock you into the copyright warning or movie previews at the
beginning of the disc, or to keep you from changing audio or subtitle tracks
during the movie.

Additional features of the command set include simple math (add, subtract,
multiply, divide, modulo, random), bitwise and, bitwise or, bitwise xor, plus
comparisons (equal, greater than, etc.), and register loading, moving, and
swapping. There are 24 system registers for information such as language code,
audio and subpicture settings, and parental level. There are 16 general
registers for command use. A countdown timer is also provided. Commands can
branch or jump to other commands. Commands can also control player settings,
jump to different parts of the disc, and control presentation of audio, video,
subpicture, camera angles, and so on. The command set enables relatively
sophisticated discs, such as games or interactive educational programs.

DVD-V content is broken into titles (movies or albums), and parts of
(chapters or songs). Titles are made up of cells grouped into
programs and linked together by one or more program chains (PGC). A
PGC can be one of three types: sequential play, random play (may repeat), or
shuffle play (random order but no repeats). Individual cells may be used by more
than one PGC, which is how parental management and seamless branching are
accomplished: different PGCs define different sequences through mostly the same

Additional material for camera angles and seamless branching is interleaved
together in small chunks. The player jumps from chunk to chunk, skipping over
unused angles or branches, to stitch together the seamless video. Since angles
are stored separately, they have no direct effect on the bitrate but they do
affect the playing time. Adding 1 camera angle for a program roughly doubles the
amount of space needed (and cuts the playing time in half). Examples of
branching (seamless and non-seamless) include Kalifornia, Dark Star,
Stargate SE, and The Abyss.

[3.8] What is the difference between interlaced and
progressive video?

There are basically two ways to display video: interlaced scan or
progressive scan.
Progressive scan, used in computer monitors and digital
televisions, displays all the horizontal lines of a picture at one time as a
single frame. Interlaced scan, used in standard television formats (NTSC,
PAL, and SECAM), displays only half of the horizontal lines at a time (the first
field, containing the odd-numbered lines, is displayed, followed by the
second field, containing the even-numbered lines). Interlacing relies on
phosphor persistence of the TV tube to blend the fields together over a fraction
of a second into a seemingly single picture. The advantage of interlaced video
is that a high refresh rate (50 or 60 Hz) can be achieved with only half the
bandwidth. The disadvantage is that the vertical resolution is essentially cut
in half, and the video is often filtered to avoid flicker (interfield twitter)
and other artifacts.

It may help to understand the difference by considering how the source images
are captured. A film camera captures full frames in intervals that are 1/24th of
a second long, whereas a video camera alternately scans fields of odd and even
lines in 1/60th of a second intervals, resulting in interlaced frames that are
1/30th of a second long.
(Unlike projected film, where the entire frame is shown in an instant, many
progressive-scan displays trace a series of lines from top to bottom, but the
end result is about the same.)

DVD is specifically designed to be displayed on interlaced-scan displays,
which represent 99.9 percent of the more than one billion TVs worldwide. However, most DVD
content comes from film, which is inherently progressive. To make film content
work in interlaced form, the video from each film frame is split into two video
fields —240 lines in one field, and 240 lines in the other— and encoded as
separate fields in the MPEG-2 stream. A complication is that film runs at 24
frames per second, whereas TV runs at 30 frames (60 fields) per second for NTSC,
or 25 frames (50 fields) per second for PAL and SECAM. For PAL/SECAM display,
the simple solution is to show the film frames at 25 per second, which is a 4
percent speed increase, and to speed up the audio to match. For NTSC display, the solution is
to spread 24 frames across 60 fields by alternating the display of the first
film frame for 2 video fields and the next film frame for 3 video fields. This
is called 2-3 pulldown. The sequence works as shown below, where A
through D represent
film frames; A1, A2, B1, and so on represent the separation of each film frame into
two video fields; and 1 through 5 represent the final video frames.

Film frames:   |  A  |   B    |  C  |   D    |
Video fields:  |A1 A2|B1 B2|B1 C2|C1 D2|D1 D2|
Video frames:  |  1  |  2  |  3  |  4  |  5  |

For MPEG-2 encoding, repeated fields (B1 and D2) are not actually stored
twice. Instead, a flag is set to tell the decoder to repeat the field. (The

inverted order of  C2 and C1, and D2 and D1 are because of the
requirement that top and bottom fields alternate. Since the fields are from the
same film frame, the order doesn’t matter.) MPEG-2 also has a flag to indicate
when a frame is progressive (that the two fields come from the same instant in
time). For film content, the progressive_frame flag should be true for every
frame. See 3.4 for more MPEG-2 details.

As you can see, there are a couple of problems inherent in 2-3 pulldown: 1)
some film frames are shown for a longer period of time than others, causing
, or jerkiness, that shows up especially in smooth pans; 2) if you
freeze the video on the third or fourth video frame when there is motion in the
picture you will see two separate images combined in a flickering mess. Most DVD
players avoid the second problem by only pausing on coherent frames or by only
showing one field, although some allow you to freeze on flicker-frames. (This is
what the frame/field still option in the player’s setup menu refers to.)

Most DVD players are hooked up to interlaced TVs, so there’s not much that
can be done about artifacts from film conversion. However, see
for information about progressive DVD players.

For more on progressive video and DVD, see

part 5

player ratings
in the excellent

DVD Benchmark
series at Secrets of Home Theater and High Fidelity, and Dan

What The Heck Is 3:2 Pulldown?

Note: “2-3 pulldown” is the same term as “3:2 pulldown,” but this FAQ
uses the “2-3” notation to indicate that it’s a sequence, not a ratio, and that
in practice 2 video fields are usually created from the first film frame.

[3.9] What is edge enhancement?

When films are transferred to video in preparation for DVD encoding, they are
commonly run through digital processes that attempt to clean up the picture.
These processes include digital video noise reduction (DVNR) and image
enhancement. Enhancement increases contrast (similar to the effect of the
“sharpen” or “unsharp mask” filters in PhotoShop), but can tend to overdo areas
of transition between light and dark or different colors, causing a “chiseled”
look or a ringing effect like the haloes you see around streetlights when
driving in the rain.

Video noise reduction is a good thing, when done well, since it can remove
scratches, spots, and other defects from the original film. Enhancement, which
is rarely done well, is a bad thing. The video may look sharper and clearer to
the casual observer, but fine tonal details of the original picture are altered
and lost.

Note that ringing can also be caused by the player and by the TV. Scan
velocity modulation (SVM), for example, causes ringing.

[3.10] Does DVD work with barcodes?

If your humble FAQ author and other long-time developers of laserdisc had
prevailed, all DVD players would support barcodes. This would have made for
really cool printed supplements and educational material that could jump to any
part of a disc with a swipe of a barcode wand. But the rejection of our
recommendations after an all-star meeting in August 1995 is another story for
another day.

So the answer is “mostly no.” A few industrial players, the Pioneer LD-V7200,
LD-V7400, and
Philips ProDVD-170 support barcodes,
including compatibility with the LaserBarCode standard. The DVD must be authored
with one_sequential_PGC titles in order for timecode search to work. More info
can be found in the Pioneer

technical manuals

[3.11] What is BCA or NBCA?

BCA stands for burst cutting area, a zone near the hub of a DVD reserved for
a barcode that can be etched into the disc by a high-powered (YAG) laser.
NBCA (narrow burst cutting area) is a thinner-diameter variation used on
recordable discs to avoid impinging on the lead-in. Because barcode cutting
is independent of the stamping process, each disc can have unique data recorded
in the BCA, such as a serialized ID. DVD readers can use the laser pickup head to
read the BCA.

The BCA is used by CPRM (see 1.11) and Divx (see
2.10) to uniquely identify each disc.

[3.12] How long do DVDs last?

DVDs are read by a laser, so they never wear out from being played since
nothing touches the disc. Pressed discs (the kind that movies come on) will
probably last longer than you will,
anywhere from 50 to 300 years.

Expected longevity of dye-based DVD-R and DVD+R discs is anywhere from 20 to
250 years, about as long as CD-R discs. Some dye formulations (such as
phthalocyanine and azo) are more stable and are expected to last longer, 100 years or more,
compared to 20 or 30 years for less stable dyes. The phase-change erasable formats (DVD-RAM, DVD-RW, and DVD+RW) have an
expected lifetime of 25 to 100 years.

In actuality DVDs often don’t last as long as the above statistically-based longevity figures would lead you to
expect. Longevity can be reduced by problems in manufacturing or recording and by poor quality material. Shoddy pressed
DVDs may deteriorate within a few years and cheap recordable DVDs may produce
errors when recording or may become unreadable after a while. (See
1.24.) In other words, you get what you pay for. If
longevity is important, invest in high-quality media.

In 2009, Millenniata introduced M-ARC technology (also marketed by
Cranberry as DiamonDisc), a DVD-compatible recordable format using an obsidian-like
synthetic recording layer etched by a high-powered laser. The discs are expected to last hundreds of years. They require
special, very expensive recorders, but the discs can be read by standard DVD readers. Because of the high recording
costs, Cranberry offers an online service for uploading data to be burned.

For more info on disc longevity see
The Relative Stabilities of Optical Disc Formats
Lifetime of
KODAK CD-R Ultima Media
, and

Professor Kelin J. Kuhn lecture notes

For comparison, magnetic media (tapes and disks) last 10 to 30 years;
high-quality, acid-neutral paper can last 100 years or longer; and
archival-quality microfilm is projected to last 300 years or more. Note that
computer storage media often becomes technically obsolete within 20 to 30 years,
long before it physically deteriorates. In other words, before the media becomes
unviable it may become difficult or impossible to find equipment that can read
it. Optical media is proving to be one of the exceptions to this rule, since DVD and Blu-ray readers can read CDs from
1983, although the CD/DVD/BD format will begin to fall out of use around 2020.

[3.13] How does the player know where I stopped or ejected the disc?

Some DVD players set a bookmark when the disc is stopped or ejected so they can restart at the same spot when the
disc is reinserted. This requires saving the entire state of the player (registers, mode, current program, timecode,
etc.) as well as a fingerprint of the disc so they player can tell the difference between it and a different
disc. The fingerprint is usually a hash of certain sectors at the beginning of the disc. Some players only save one
bookmark for the most recent disc, whereas other players save bookmarks for many discs.

Unlike cassette tapes, where the position of the tape itself naturally lets the player start at the same spot,
DVDs are read by a laser and can’t store new information. Therefore the player has to remember where you stopped
playing. That’s why if you take the disc out of one player and put it into another player, it will start over at the

[4] DVD and Computers

[4.1] Can I play DVD movies on my computer?

Yes, if your computer has the right stuff. Almost all Windows and Mac OS
computers with DVD drives come with software to play DVDs.

The computer operating system or playback software must support regional
codes and be licensed to descramble copy-protected movies. If the computer has
TV video out, it must support Macrovision in order to play copy-protected
movies. You may also need software that can read the UDF file system format used
by DVDs. You don’t need special drivers for Windows or Mac OS, since the
existing CD-ROM drivers work fine with DVD-ROM drives. In addition to a DVD-ROM
drive you must have software (or extra hardware) that knows how to play the
DVD-Video format and decode MPEG-2 video and Dolby Digital or MPEG-2 audio.
Good-quality software-only playback requires a 350-MHz Pentium II or a Mac G4.
Almost all new computers with DVD-ROM drives use software decoding instead of
hardware decoding. Hardware upgrade kits can be purchased for older computers
(usually minimum 133 MHz Pentium or G3), starting at $150.

Mac OS X 10.0 (Cheetah) had no support for DVD playback when released in
March 2001, and also did not support Apple’s DVD authoring applications (iDVD
and DVD Studio Pro). (More info at
Support for DVD playback was added to version 10.1 (Puma).

If you’re having problems playing movies on your computer, see section

Certain MPEG decoding tasks such as motion compensation, IDCT (inverse
discrete cosine transform), IVLC (inverse variable length coding), and even
subpicture decoding can be performed by special circuitry on a video graphics
chip, improving the performance of software decoders. This is called hardware
decode acceleration
, hardware motion comp, or hardware assist.
Some card makers also call it hardware decode, even though they don’t do all the
decoding in hardware. All modern graphics cards also provide hardware colorspace
conversion (YCbCr to RGB) and videoport overlay (some graphics card makers make
a big deal about this even though all their competitors’ cards have the same

Microsoft Windows 98, 2000, Me, and XP include
DirectShow, which provides
standardized support for DVD-Video and MPEG-2 playback. DirectShow can also be
installed in Windows 95 (it’s available for
DirectShow creates a framework for DVD applications, but a third-party hardware
or software decoder is required (see below). Windows NT 4.0 supports DVD-ROM
drives for data, but has very little support for playing DVD-Video discs. Margi
DVD-To-Go, Sigma Designs Hollywood Plus, and the related Creative Labs Dxr3 are
among the few hardware decoders that work in NT 4.0. InterVideo WinDVD software
works in NT 4.0 (National Semiconductor DVD Express and MGI SoftDVD Max also
work in NT 4.0, but they aren’t available retail.) Windows 98 and newer can read
UDF discs. Version 6.1 of
Windows Media Player
enabled scriptable DVD playback in an HTML page (see
4.9 for more on DVD playback control). Version 7 of Windows
Media Player dropped all DVD support. Version 8 of Windows Media Player added a
user interface for DVD playback, but no scripting.
Roxio provides a free filesystem driver,
UDF Reader, for Windows 95/98/NT.
Software Architects
sells Read DVD for Windows 95.

Apple QuickTime 6 is partially
ready for DVD-Video and MPEG-2 but does not yet have full decoding or DVD-Video
playback support in place. Mac OS 8.1 or newer can read UDF discs.
Roxio provides a free utility, UDF
Volume Access
, that enables Mac OS 7.6 and newer to read UDF discs.
Software Architects sells UDF reading
software for Mac OS called DVD-RAM TuneUp.
Intech‘s CD/DVD SpeedTools software
allows most any DVD drive to be used with a Mac.

Note: The QuickTime MPEG Extension for Mac OS
is for MPEG-1 only and does not play MPEG-2 DVD-Video.

DVD player applications (using either software or hardware decoding) are
virtual DVD players. They support DVD-Video features (menus, subpictures, etc.)
and emulate the functionality of a DVD-Video player remote control. Many player
applications include additional features such as bookmarks, chapter lists, and
subtitle language lists.

Microsoft Windows includes a DVD software player, but does not include the
necessary decoder. You must have a third-party software or hardware decoder in
order to play a DVD. Most PCs that come with a DVD drive include a decoder, or
you can purchase one. See 4.11 and 4.12
for more info.

Software decoders and DVD player applications for Microsoft Windows PCs:

  • ATI: special version of CineMaster
    software for certain ATI graphics cards
  • ASUS: ASUSDVD (custom version of
    InterVideo WinDVD software or CyberLink PowerDVD software)
  • KiSS: CoolDVD
    (DirectShow [Windows 98/Me/2000/XP])
  • Creative Technology: SoftPC-DVD
  • CyberLink: PowerDVD
    (DirectShow [Windows 98/Me/2000/XP]; NT 4.0; available for

  • ELSA: ELSAMovie, German only
  • InterVideo: WinDVD
    (DirectShow [Windows 98/Me/2000/XP]; NT 4.0; available for

  • Matrox: special version of CineMaster
    software for certain Matrox graphics cards
  • National Semiconductor:
    DVD Express (DirectShow [Windows 98/Me/2000/XP]; OEM only)
  • NEC (NEC PCs only)
  • Odyssey DVD Player
    is no longer available
  • Orion Studios: DirectDVD
    (DirectShow, downloadable trial; note unsatisfactory rating at
  • Sonic (formerly Ravisent, formerly
    Quadrant International): CinePlayer (DirectShow [Windows
    98/Me/2000/XP]; available for purchase)
  • Varo Vision: VaroDVD
  • Xing DVDPlayer is no longer available since the company was
    purchased by Real Networks

Software decoders need at least a 350 MHz Pentium II and a DVD-ROM drive with
bus mastering DMA to play without dropped frames. Anything slower than a 400 MHz
Pentium III will benefit quite a bit from hardware decode acceleration in the
graphics card. An AGP graphics card (rather than PCI) also improves the
performance of software decoders.

Hardware decoder cards and DVD-ROM upgrade kits for Microsoft Windows PCs are
pretty much a thing of the past. Hardware decoders use video overlay
to insert the video into the computer display. Some use analog overlay, which
takes the analog VGA signal output from the graphics card and keys in the video,
while others use video port extension (VPE), a direct digital connection to the
graphics adapter via a cable inside the computer. Analog overlay may degrade the
quality of the VGA signal. See 4.4 for more overlay info.

Many Macintosh models come standard with DVD-ROM, DVD-RAM, or DVD-RW drives.
The included Apple software DVD player uses hardware acceleration in the ATI
graphics card. The still-unreleased QuickTime MPEG-2 decoder may use the
Velocity Engine (AltiVec) portion of the PowerPC (G4) chip for video and audio
decoding. DVD-ROM upgrade kits and decoder cards for Macintoshes were made by
E4 (Elecede) (Cool DVD, C-Cube chip) [E4
has gone out of business], EZQuest (BOA Mac
), Fantom Drives (DVD Home
kit: DVD-ROM or DVD-RAM drive with Wired MPEG-2 card), and
Wired (Wired 4DVD, Sigma EM8300
chip [same card as Hollywood plus]; MasonX [can’t play encrypted movies];
DVD-To-Go [out of production]; Wired was acquired by
Media100 but later reconstituted). There’s
a beta version of a shareware DVD
software player that
can play unencrypted movies.

The Sigma Designs NetStream 2000
DVD decoder card supports Linux DVD playback. InterVideo and CyberLink have also
announced DVD player applications for Linux, although the CyberLink player is
only available to OEMs. In addition, there are free software players for Linux,
Unix, BeOS, and other operating systems: OMS (LiViD),
VideoLan, and

Computers have the potential to produce better video than set-top DVD-Video
players by using progressive display and higher scan rates, but many PC systems
don’t look as good as a home player hooked up to a quality TV.

If you want to hook a DVD computer to a TV, the decoder card or the VGA card
must have a TV output (composite video or s-video). Video quality is much better
with s-video. Alternatively, you can connect a scan converter to the VGA output.
Scan converters are available from ADS
, AITech,
, AVerMedia,
Communications Specialties,
Digital Vision,
Focus Enhancements,
Key Digital Systems,
RGB Products, and others. Make sure the scan
converter can handle the display resolution you have chosen: 640×480, 800×600,
etc., although keep in mind that even 800×600 is beyond the ability of a
standard TV, so higher resolutions won’t make the TV picture better.

The quality of video from a PC depends on the decoder, the graphics card, the
TV encoder chip, and other factors. The RGB output of the VGA card in computers
is at a different frequency than standard component RGB video, so it can’t be
directly connected to most RGB video monitors. If the decoder card or the sound
card has Dolby Digital or DTS output, you can connect to your A/V receiver to
get multichannel audio.

A DVD PC connected to a progressive-scan monitor or video projector, instead
of a standard TV, usually looks much better than a consumer player. See
2.9. Also see the
Home Theater Computers
forum at AVS.

For remote control of DVD playback on your PC, check out
Animax Anir Multimedia Magic,
Evation IRMan,
Multimedia Studio Miro MediaRemote,
Packard Bell RemoteMedia,
Remote Control
, and X10 MouseRemote.
Many remotes are supported by Visual
‘s Remote Selector software.

[4.1.1] Can I play DVD-Audio discs on my computer?

Usually not. DVD-ROM drives can read DVD-Audio discs, but as of 2005
only the Sound Blaster Audigy 2 card
includes the software needed to play DVD-Audio on a computer. Part of the reason
for general lack of support is that very few computers provide the high quality
audio environment needed to take advantage of DVD-Audio fidelity.

It’s possible that Microsoft could add DVD-Audio playback to a future version
of Windows, in which case you would only need to download some inexpensive
decoding software to get DVD-Audio playback.

[4.2] What are the features and speeds of DVD drives?

Unlike CD-ROM drives, which took years to move up to 2x, 3x, and faster spin
rates, faster DVD-ROM drives began appearing in the first year. A 1x DVD-ROM
drive provides a data transfer rate of 1.321 MB/s (11.08*10^6/8/2^20) with burst
transfer rates of up to 12 MB/s or higher. The data transfer rate from a DVD-ROM
disc at 1x speed is roughly equivalent to a 9x CD-ROM drive (1x CD-ROM data
transfer rate is 150 KB/s, or 0.146 MB/s). DVD physical spin rate is about 3
times faster than CD (that is, 1x DVD spin ~ 3x CD spin), but most DVD-ROM
drives increase motor speed when reading CD-ROMs, achieving 12x or faster
performance. A drive listed as “16x/40x” reads a DVD at 16 times normal, or a CD
at 40 times normal. DVD-ROM drives are available in 1x, 2x, 4x, 4.8x, 5x, 6x,
8x, 10x, and 16x speeds, although they usually don’t achieve sustained transfer
at their full rating. The “max” in DVD and CD speed ratings means that the
listed speed only applies when reading data at the outer edge of the disc, which
moves faster. The average data rate is lower than the max rate. Most 1x DVD-ROM
drives have a seek time of 85-200 ms and access time of 90-250 ms. Newer drives
have seek times as low as 45 ms.

Likewise, DVD recordable drives have steadily increased in write speed. 16x
DVD writers began to be widely available in 2004. Note that recordable discs
have different speed ratings (see 4.3.11).

Current thinking is that DVD drive speeds have topped out at 16x, since disc
wobbling and other physical factors become a problem at faster speeds.

DVD drive speedData rateDisc write time*Equivalent CD rateCD reading speed
1x11.08 Mbps (1.32 MB/s)53 min.9x8x-18x
2x22.16 Mbps (2.64 MB/s)27 min.18x20x-24x
4x44.32 Mbps (5.28 MB/s)14 min.36x24x-32x
5x55.40 Mbps (6.60 MB/s)11 min.45x24x-32x
6x66.48 Mbps (7.93 MB/s)9 min.54x24x-32x
8x88.64 Mbps (10.57 MB/s)7 min.72x32x-40x
10x110.80 Mbps (13.21 MB/s)6 min.90x32x-40x
16x177.28 Mbps (21.13 MB/s)4 min.144x32x-40x

* “Disc write time” is the approximate theoretical time it takes to write a
DVD-5, which doesn’t include software overhead, time to write leadout, etc. In
practice, writing will take longer.

The bigger the cache (memory buffer) in a DVD-ROM drive, the faster it can
supply data to the computer. This is useful primarily for data, not video. It
may reduce or eliminate the pause during layer changes, but has no effect on
video quality.

Rewritable DVD drives (see 4.3) write at about half their
advertised speed when the data verification feature is turned on, which reads
each block of data after it is written. Verification is usually on by default in
DVD-RAM drives. Turning it off will speed up writing. Whether this endangers
your data is a subject of debate. Verification is off in DVD-RW and DVD+RW

In order to maintain constant linear density, typical CD-ROM and DVD-ROM
drives spin the disc more slowly when reading or writing near the outside where there is
more physical surface in each track. (This is called CLV, constant linear
velocity.) Some faster drives keep the rotational speed constant and use a
buffer to deal with the differences in data readout or writeout speed. (This is called CAV,
constant angular velocity.) In CAV drives, the data is read or written fastest at the
outside of the disc, which is why specifications often list “max speed.”

Note: When playing movies, a fast DVD drive gains you nothing more than
possibly smoother scanning and faster searching. Speeds above 1x do not improve
video quality from DVD-Video discs. Higher speeds only make a difference when
reading computer data, such as when playing a multimedia game or when using a

Connectivity of DVD drives is similar to that of CD drives: EIDE (ATAPI),
SCSI-2, etc. All DVD drives have audio connections for playing audio CDs. No DVD
drives have been announced with their own DVD audio or video outputs (which
would require internal audio/video decoding hardware).

Almost all DVD-Video and DVD-ROM discs use the UDF bridge format,
which is a combination of the DVD MicroUDF (subset of UDF 1.02) and ISO
9660 file systems. The OSTA UDF file system
will eventually replace the ISO 9660 system originally designed for CD-ROMs, but
the bridge format provides backwards compatibility until more operating systems
support UDF.

4.2.1 What is the audio output connector on a DVD drive for?

DVD-ROM drives and DVD recordable drives have an RCA connector or a 4-pin
flat (Molex) connector to send analog audio to the audio card in the PC. This is
just like the connector on a CD drive, and in fact it’s only for playing audio
CDs. The audio from DVDs comes through the computer, not out of the drive.
Playing audio from a CD used to require the analog audio output, but most PCs
can now play digital audio directly from the CD so the analog connector is not

[4.3] What about recordable DVD: DVD-R, DVD-RAM, DVD-RW,
DVD+RW, and DVD+R?

There are six recordable versions of DVD: DVD-R for General, DVD-R for
Authoring, DVD-RAM, DVD-RW, DVD+RW, and DVD+R. DVD-R and DVD+R can record data
once, like CD-R, whereas DVD-RAM, DVD-RW, and DVD+RW can be rewritten thousands of
times, like CD-RW. DVD-R was first available in fall 1997. DVD-RAM followed in
summer 1998. DVD-RW came out in Japan in December 1999, but was not available in
the U.S. until spring 2001. DVD+RW became available in fall 2001. DVD+R was
released in mid 2002.

Recordable DVD was first available for use on computers only. Home DVD video
recorders (see 1.14) appeared worldwide in 2000. This FAQ
uses the terms “drive” or “burner” to refer to recordable computer
drives and the term “video recorder” to refer to home set-top recorders.

DVD-RAM is more of a removable storage device for computers than a video
recording format, although it has become widely used in DVD video recorders
because of the flexibility it provides in editing a recording. The other two
recordable format families (DVD-R/RW and DVD+R/RW) are essentially in
competition with each other. The market will determine which of them succeeds or
if they end up coexisting or merging.  There are many claims that one or
the other format is better, but they are actually very similar. In 2003 many
companies began making drives that could record in both “dash” and “plus”

Each writable DVD format is covered briefly below. See section
6.2.3 for hardware manufacturers. For more on writable DVD
see Dana Parker’s

Writable DVD – A Guide For the Perplexed
(very good, although a bit out of
More information on writable DVD formats is available at industry associations:
RW Products Promotion Initiative (RWPPI),
Recordable DVD Council (RDVDC), and
DVD+RW Alliance. Also
DVD Writers and If you’re interested in
writable DVD for data storage, visit Steve Rothman’s
page for FAQ and mailing list info.

[4.3.1] Is it true there are compatibility problems with
recordable DVD formats?

Yes. None of the writable formats are fully compatible
with each other or even with existing drives and players. In other words, a DVD+R/RW drive can’t write a DVD-R or DVD-RW disc, and vice versa (unless it’s a
combo drive that writes both formats). As time goes by the different formats are
becoming more compatible and more intermixed. A player with the DVD Forum’s
DVD Multi
is guaranteed to read DVD-R, DVD-RW, and DVD-RAM discs, and a
DVD Multi
recorder can record using all three formats. Some new “super
combo” drives can record in both plus and dash format, and a few “super multi”
drives can record all 5 disc types (DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD+R, DVD+RW,
and DVD-RAM).

In addition, not all players and drives can read recorded discs. The basic
problem is that recordable discs have different reflectivity than pressed discs
(the pre-recorded kind you buy in a store — see 5), and not
all players have been correctly designed to read them. There are compatibility
lists at
, DVDMadeEasy,

and elsewhere that indicate player
compatibility with DVD-R and DVD-RW discs.
maintains a list of  DVD+RW compatible
players and

. (Note: test results vary depending on media quality, handling,
writing conditions, player tolerances, and so on. The indications of
compatibility in these lists are often anecdotal in nature and are only general
guidelines.) There is insignificant compatibility difference between the “dash”
and “plus” formats (see 4.3.6). There are much bigger
compatibility differences between brands, so be careful about buying cheap

Very roughly, DVD-R and DVD+R discs work in about 85% of existing
drives and players, while DVD-RW and DVD+RW discs work in around 80%. The
situation is steadily improving. In another few years compatibility problems
will mostly be behind us, just as with CD-R (did you know that early CD-Rs had
all kinds of compatibility problems?).

Here is a summary of recordable DVD compatibility. Below each drive is a
column indicating how well it can read or write each format (for simplicity,
“doesn’t write” is implied if not otherwise specified).

DVD unitDVD-R(G) unitDVD-R(A) unitDVD-RW unitDVD-RAM unitDVD+RW unit
DVD-ROM discreadsreadsreadsreadsreadsreads
DVD-R(G) discoften readsreads, writesreadsreads, writesreadsreads
DVD-R(A) discusually readsreadsreads, writesreadsreadsreads
DVD-RW discoften readsreadsreadsreads, writesusually readsusually reads
DVD-RAM discrarely readsdoesn’t readdoesn’t readdoesn’t readreads, writesdoesn’t read
DVD+RW discusually readsusually readsusually readsusually readsusually readsreads, writes
DVD+R discoften readsusually readsusually readsusually readsreadsreads, may write

The author of this DVD FAQ is a member of the OSTA/DVDA/NIST
Recordable DVD Compatibility Study committee. A report on

phase 1 DVD-ROM drive testing
is available from NIST.

[4.3.2] DVD-R

DVD-R (which is pronounced “dash R” not “minus R”) uses organic dye
technology, like CD-R, and is compatible with most DVD drives and players.
First-generation capacity was 3.95 billion bytes, later extended to 4.7 billion
bytes. Matching the 4.7G capacity of DVD-ROM was crucial for desktop DVD
production. In early 2000 the format was split into an “authoring” version and a
“general” version. The general version, intended for home use, writes with a
cheaper 650-nm laser, the same as DVD-RAM. DVD-R(A) is intended for professional
development and uses a 635-nm laser. DVD-R(A) discs are not writable in DVD-R(G)
recorders, and vice-versa, but both kinds of discs are readable in most DVD
players and drives. The main differences, in addition to recording wavelength,
are that DVD-R(G) uses decrementing pre-pit addresses, a pre-stamped (version
1.0) or pre-recorded (version 1.1) control area, CPRM (see 1.11),
and allows double-sided discs. A third version for “special authoring,” allowing
protected movie content to be recorded on DVD-R media, was considered but will
probably not happen.

Pioneer released 3.95G DVD-R(A) 1.0 drives in October 1997 (about 6 months
late) for $17,000. New 4.7G DVD-R(A) 1.9 drives appeared in limited quantities
in May 1999 (about 6 months late) for $5,400. Version 2.0 drives became
available in fall 2000. Version 1.9 drives can be upgraded to 2.0 via downloaded
software. (This removes the 2,500 hour recording limit.) New 2.0 [4.7G] media
(with newer copy protection features), can only be written in 2.0 drives. 1.9
media (and old 1.0 [3.95G] media) can still be written in 2.0 drives. Version
1.0 (3.95G) discs are still available, and can be recorded in Pioneer DVD-R(A)
drives. Although 3.95G discs hold less data, they are more compatible with
existing players and drives.

Pioneer’s DVR-A03 DVD-R(G) drive was released in May 2001 for under $1000. By
August it was available for under $700, and by February 2002 it was under $400.
The same drive (model DVR-103) was built into certain Apple Macs and Compaq PCs.
Many companies now produce DVD-RW drives, all of which write CD-R/RW. As of mid
2002 DVD-RW drives were selling for under $200. Most DVD-RAM drives also write
DVD-R discs, some also write DVD-RW discs. Many new drives write both DVD-R/RW
and DVD+R/RW.

Pioneer released a professional DVD video recorder in 2002. It sells for
about $3000 and provides component video (YPbPr) and 1394 (DV) inputs (along
with s-video and composite). It has 1-hour (10 Mbps) and 2-hour (5 Mbps)
recording modes, and includes a 2-channel Dolby Digital audio encoder.

Prices for blank DVD-R(A) discs are $10 to $25 (down from the original $50),
although cheaper discs seem to have more compatibility problems. Prices for blank
DVD-R(G) discs are around $1. Blank media are made by CMC Magnetics, Fuji, Hitachi
Maxell, Mitsubishi, Mitsui, Pioneer, Ricoh, Ritek, Taiyo Yuden, Sony, TDK,
Verbatim, Victor, and others.

The DVD-R 1.0 format is standardized in
ECMA-279. Andy Parsons
at Pioneer has written a

white paper
that explains the differences between DVD-R(G) and DVD-R(A).

It’s possible to submit DVD-R(A) and DVD-R(G) discs for replication, with
limitations. First, not all replicators will accept submissions on DVD-R.
Second, there can be problems with compatibility and data loss when using DVD-R,
so it’s best to generate a checksum that the replicator can verify. Third, DVD-R
does not directly support CSS, regions, and Macrovision. Support for this is
being added to DVD-R(A) with the cutting master format (CMF), which stores DDP
information in the control area, but it will take a while before many authoring
software programs and replicators support CMF.

[4.3.3] DVD-RW

DVD-RW (formerly DVD-R/W and also briefly known as DVD-ER) is a phase-change
erasable format. Developed by Pioneer based on DVD-R, using similar track pitch,
mark length, and rotation control, DVD-RW is playable in many DVD drives and
players. (Some drives and players are confused by DVD-RW media’s lower
reflectivity into thinking it’s a dual-layer disc. In other cases the drive or
player doesn’t recognize the disc format code and doesn’t even try to read the
disc. Simple firmware upgrades can solve both problems.) DVD-RW uses groove
recording with address info on land areas for synchronization at write time
(land data is ignored during reading). Capacity is 4.7 billion bytes. DVD-RW
discs can be rewritten about 1,000 times.

In December 1999, Pioneer released DVD-RW home video recorders in Japan. The
units cost 250,000 yen (about $2,500) and blank discs cost 3,000 yen (about
$30). Since the recorder used the new DVD-VR (video recording) format, the discs
wouldn’t play in existing players (the discs were physically compatible,
but not logically compatible). Recording time varies from 1 hour to 6
hours, depending on quality. A new version of the recorder was later released
that also recorded on DVD-R(G) discs and used the DVD-Video format for better
compatibility with existing players.

DVD-RW drives write DVD-R, DVD-RW, CD-R, and CD-RW discs. DVD-RW disc prices
are around $2 (down from the original $30). Blank media is being made by CMC Magnetics, Hitachi Maxell, Mitsubishi, Mitsui, Pioneer, Ricoh, Ritek, Sony,
Taiyo Yuden, TDK, Verbatim, Victor, and others.

There are three kinds of DVD-RW discs. All are 4.7G capacity. Version 1.0
discs, rarely found outside of Japan, have an embossed lead-in (to prevent
copying of CSS information), which causes compatibility problems. Version 1.1
discs have a pre-recorded lead-in that improves compatibility. Version 1.1 discs
also come in a “B” version that carries a unique ID in the BCA for use with CPRM.
B-type discs are required when copying certain kinds of protected video. (See
1.11 for more on CPRM; 3.11 for more on
BCA.) The DVD-RW format is standardized in

Note: The Apple SuperDrive (even with older 1.22 firmware) can write to DVD-RW
discs, but not from the iDVD application. You must use a different software
utility, such as Toast, to write to DVD-RW discs.

[4.3.4] DVD-RAM

DVD-RAM, with an initial storage capacity of 2.58 billion bytes, later
increased to 4.7, uses phase-change dual (PD) technology with some magneto-optic
(MO) features mixed in. DVD-RAM is the best suited of the writable DVD formats
for use in computers, because of its defect management and zoned CLV format for
rapid access. However, it’s not compatible with most drives and players (because
of defect management, reflectivity differences, and minor format differences). A
wobbled groove is used to provide clocking data, with marks written in both the
groove and the land between grooves. The grooves and pre-embossed sector headers
are molded into the disc during manufacturing. Single-sided DVD-RAM discs come
with or without cartridges. There are nine types of cartridges (see Discs can only be written while in the
cartridge. Double-sided DVD-RAM discs were initially available in sealed
cartridges only, but now come in removable versions as well. Cartridge
dimensions are 124.6 mm x 135.5 mm x 8.0 mm. DVD-RAM can be rewritten more than
100,000 times, and the discs are expected to last at least 30 years.

DVD-RAM 1.0 drives appeared in June 1998 (about 6 months late) for $500 to
$800, with blank discs at about $30 for single-sided and $45 for double-sided.
The first DVD-ROM drive to read DVD-RAM discs was released by Panasonic in 1999
(SR-8583, 5x DVD-ROM, 32x CD). Hitachi’s GD-5000 drive, released in late 1999,
also reads DVD-RAM discs. Blank DVD-RAM media is manufactured by CMC Magnetics,
Hitachi Maxell, Eastman Kodak, Mitsubishi, Mitsui, Ritek, TDK, and others.

The spec for DVD-RAM version 2.0, with a capacity of 4.7 billion bytes per
side, was published in October 1999. The first drives appeared in June 2000 at
about the same price as DVD-RAM 1.0 drives. Single-sided discs were priced
around $25, and double-sided discs were around $30. Disc prices were under $10
and retail drive prices were under $200 by 2003. DVD-RAM 2.0 also specifies 8-cm
discs and cartridges for portable uses such as digital camcorders. Future
DVD-RAM discs may use a contrast enhancement layer and a thermal buffer layer to
achieve higher density.

Samsung and C-Cube made a technology demonstration (not a product
announcement) in October 1999 of a DVD-RAM video recorder using the new DVD-VR
format (see DVD-RW section above for more about DVD-VR). Panasonic demonstrated
a $3,000 DVD-RAM video recorder at CES in January 2000. It appeared in the U.S.
in September for $4,000 (model DMR-E10). At the beginning of 2001, Hitachi and
Panasonic released DVD camcorders that use small DVD-RAM discs. The instant
access and on-the-fly editing and deleting capabilities of the DVD camcorders
are impressive. Panasonic’s 2nd-generation DVD-RAM video recorder appeared in
October 2001 for $1,500 and also wrote to DVD-R discs.

The DVD-RAM 1.0 format is standardized in
ECMA-272 and
2.0 format is standardized in
ECMA-330 and

[] What are the DVD-RAM cartridge types?

  • Type 1 – A case for a one-sided (Type 1S) or a two-sided (Type 2S) 120
    mm DVD-RAM disk such that the disk cannot be removed from the case. This
    case is reversible.
  • Type 2 – A case for a one-sided (Type 1S) 120 mm DVD-RAM disk such that
    the disk may be removed from the case. This case is not reversible.
  • Type 3 – A case into which a one-sided (Type 1S) or a two-sided (Type
    2S) 120 mm DVD-RAM disk may be inserted, then used as a cartridge. This case
    is not reversible.
  • Type 4 – A case for a two-sided (Type 2S) 120 mm DVD-RAM disk such that
    the disk may be removed from the case. This case is reversible.
  • Type 5 – A case into which a one-sided (Type 1S) or a two-sided (Type
    2S) 120 mm DVD-RAM disk may be inserted, then used as a cartridge. This case
    is reversible.
  • Type 6 – A case for a two-sided (Type 2S) 80 mm DVD-RAM disk such that
    the disk may be removed from the case. This case is reversible.
  • Type 7 – A case for a one-sided (Type 1S) 80 mm DVD-RAM disk such that
    the disk may be removed from the case. This case is not reversible.
  • Type 8 – A case into which a two-sided (Type 2S) 80 mm DVD-RAM disk may
    be inserted, then used as a cartridge. This case is reversible.
  • Type 9 – A case into which a one-sided (Type 1S) 80 mm DVD-RAM disk may
    be inserted, then used as a cartridge. This case is not reversible.

[] How do I remove a DVD-RAM type 2 disc from the

Type 2 DVD-RAM cartridges allow the disc to be removed so that it can be
played in standard players or drives. (However, most players and drives still
won’t be able to read the disc — see 4.3.1.)

First break (yes, break) the locking pin by pushing on it with a pointed
object such as a ballpoint pen. Remove the locking pin. Unlatch the cover by
using a pointed object to press the indentation on the back left corner of the
cartridge. Data is recorded on the unprinted side of the disc — do not touch
it. When you put the bare disc back the cartridge, make sure the printed side of
the shutter and the printed side of the disc face the same direction.

Most DVD-RAM drives will not allow you to write to a bare disc. Some will not
allow you to write to a cartridge if the disc has been removed.

[4.3.5] DVD+RW and DVD+R

DVD+RW is an erasable format based on CD-RW technology. It became available
in late 2001. DVD+RW is supported by Philips, Sony, Hewlett-Packard, Dell,
Ricoh, Yamaha, and others. It is not supported by the DVD Forum (even though
most of the DVD+RW companies are members), but the Forum has no power to set
standards. DVD+RW drives read DVD-ROMs and CDs, and usually read DVD-Rs and DVD-RWs,
but do not read or write DVD-RAM discs. DVD+RW drives also write CD-Rs and CD-RWs.
DVD+RW discs, which hold 4.7 billion bytes per side, are readable in many
existing DVD-Video players and DVD-ROM drives. (They run into the same
reflectivity and disc format recognition problems as DVD-RW.)

DVD+RW backers claimed in 1997 that the format would be used only for
computer data, not home video, but this was apparently a smokescreen intended to
placate the DVD Forum and competitors. The original 1.0 format, which held 3
billion bytes (2.8 gigabytes) per side and was not compatible with any existing
players and drives, was abandoned in late 1999.

The DVD+RW format uses phase-change media with a high-frequency wobbled
groove that allows it to eliminate linking sectors. This, plus the option of no
defect management, allows DVD+RW discs to be written in a way that is compatible
with many existing DVD readers. The DVD+RW specification allows for either CLV
format for sequential video access (read at CAV speeds by the drive) or CAV
format for random access, but CAV recording is not supported by any current
hardware. DVD+R discs can only be recorded in CLV mode. Only CLV-formatted discs
can be read in standard DVD drives and players. DVD+RW media can be rewritten
about 1,000 times (down from 100,000 times in the original 1.0 version).

DVD+R is a write-once variation of DVD+RW, which appeared in mid 2002. It’s a
dye-based medium, like DVD-R, so it has similar compatibility as DVD-R. Original
DVD+RW drives did not fulfill the promise of a simple upgrade to add DVD+R
writing support, so they have to be replaced with newer models. The original
Philips DVD+RW video recorders, on the other hand, can be customer-upgraded to
write +R discs.

Philips announced a DVD+RW home video recorder for late 2001. The Philips
recorder uses the DVD-Video format, so discs play in many existing players. HP
announced a $600 DVD+RW drive (made by Ricoh) and $16 DVD+RW discs for September
2001. HP’s drive reads DVDs at 8x and CDs at 32x, and writes to DVD+RW at 2.4x,
CD-R at 12x, and CD-RW at 10x.

In 2005 DVD+R discs cost around $1 and DVD+RW discs cost around $2. DVD+RW media is produced by CMC Magnetics, Hewlett-Packard, MCC/Verbatim,
Memorex, Mitsubishi, Optodisc, Philips, Ricoh, Ritek, and Sony.

More DVD+RW information is at
and The obsolete
DVD+RW 1.0 format is standardized in
ECMA-274. DVD+RW 2.0 format is standardized in
ECMA-337 and DVD+R in

[4.3.6] Which recordable DVD format should I buy?

As explained in the previous sections, there are two main formats: “dash”
(DVD-R/RW) and “plus” (DVD+R/RW). There’s not much difference between them. They
both record data and video, and they both read back data and play back video.
Both formats are available as recordable drives for computers and as home video
recorders. In spite of claims that one format is more compatible with players
and drives, both formats are similarly compatible (see 4.3.1).
There are speed differences, but it’s a game of leapfrog. One format will
come out with faster write speeds, then the other one will match it or surpass
it. 16x is the theoretical maximum speed, so the latest drives from both
formats are close to the limit.

Modern “combo” drives can write to almost all disc formats (DVD-R, DVD-RW,
DVD+R, DVD+RW, CD-R, CD-RW). Older drives write only their DVD format, so you
may have to get DVD+R/RW discs for a DVD+RW drive and DVD-R/RW discs for a DVD-RW

The DVD+RW format has a few advantages when used in a computer, but if data
backup or access speed is important, also consider the DVD-RAM format. DVD-RAM is
fast and reliable, and the discs have an optional cartridge to help protect
data. Most DVD-RAM drives also write DVD-R/RW discs, and some “super combo” drives
write all three formats.

[4.3.7] Other recordable optical formats

Competitors to recordable DVD were announced but never appeared, thanks in
part to the success of the entire DVD family. These formats included AS-MO
(formerly MO7), which was to hold 5 to 6 billion bytes, and NEC’s Multimedia
Video Disc (MVDisc, formerly MMVF, Multimedia Video File), which was to hold 5.2
billion bytes and was targeted at home recording. ASMO drives were expected to
read DVD-ROM and compatible writable formats, but not DVD-RAM. MVDisc was
similar to DVD-RW and DVD+RW, using two bonded 0.6mm phase-change substrates,
land and groove recording, and a 640nm laser, but contrary to initial reports,
the drives were not expected to be able to read DVD-ROM or compatible discs.

There was also FMD (see 2.13). And there are new HD formats
(see 6.5).

[4.3.8] How long does DVD recording take?

The time it takes to burn a DVD depends on the speed of the recorder and the
amount of data. Playing time of the video may have little to do with recording
time, since a half hour at high data rates can take more space than an hour at
low data rates. A 2x recorder, running at 22 Mbps, can write a full 4.7G DVD in
about 30 minutes. A 4x recorder can do it in about 15 minutes.

Note that the -R/RW format often writes a full lead-out to the diameter
required by the DVD spec, so small amounts of data (like a very short video
clip) may take the same amount of time as large amounts.

[4.3.9] Which color of recordable DVD is best?

Different colors of recordable CDs and DVDs come from the combination of the
reflective metal layer (gold or silver) and the dye used in the recording layer
(cyanine [blue], phthalocyanine [clear], azo [dark blue], formazan [green],
etc.). Judging DVD quality by color is like judging bell pepper quality by color
(is yellow better than red or green?). You may find that some color discs seem
to work better in some players, but you’ll also find that there is little
correlation between color and readability across multiple brands of disc. Other factors such as manufacturing
quality and chemical formulation have much more of an effect on how well a disc
records and plays back.

Color does indicate longevity, since some dyes (such as phthalocyanine and
azo) are more stable and last longer. See 3.12.

[4.3.10] When will dual-layer rewritable DVDs be available?

Dual-layer record-once (R) drives and discs have been available since 2004.
Dual-layer rewritable (RW) discs have been available since 2006.

[4.3.11] What does 2x, 4x, 16x, and so on mean on
recordable discs, and which one should I use?

Recordable discs come in different speed ratings (2x = twice standard write speed, 8x
= eight times standard speed, and so forth). The speed ratings of blank discs
match the speed ratings of drives (see 4.2). As faster
drives become available, new discs are designed to work with the new drives as
well as older drives. Discs have different speed ratings because there are
different write strategies and media formulations for faster speeds, since the
recording laser operates at higher power and moves much faster over the surface
of the disc (in other words, it spends less time “burning holes” on the disc). You
will get the best results by using discs that are rated at or above the speed of
your drive. For example, if you have a 4x drive you should use 4x or faster
discs, not 1x or 2x, unless you set the drive to 1x or 2x speed. Matching the
speed rating of the disc to the speed rating you burn at will give the best

Almost all home DVD video recorders use 1x drives, so discs with any speed
rating should work, although 1x or 2x discs tend to work better.

[4.3.12] What’s an unfinalized disc and why won’t it play in my player?

Many DVD recorders can record onto DVD-R and DVD+R discs in unfinalized form, where temporary directory
information is recorded after the last recorded section instead of at the beginning of the disc in the normal place.
(This is sometimes called the TMPVMGI format, after the name for the temporary data.) This technique allows a write-once
disc to be recorded in more than one session, since updated temporary directory information is written after each new
recorded area. Most DVD recorders and some DVD players can read unfinalized discs by checking in reverse order from the
end of the disc for the most recently recorded directory information. When a disc is finalized, the directory
information is written in the normal place, allowing standard DVD players to recognize and play the disc.

[4.4] Why can’t I take a screenshot of DVD video? Why do I get
a pink or black square?

Most DVD PCs, even those with software decoders, use video overlay hardware
to insert the video directly into the VGA signal. This an efficient way to
handle the very high bandwidth of full-motion video. Some decoder cards, such as
the Creative Labs Encore Dxr series and the Sigma Designs Hollywood series, use
a pass-through cable that overlays the video into the analog VGA signal after it
comes out of the video display card. Video overlay uses a technique called
to selectively replace a specified pixel color (often magenta or
near-black) with video content. Anywhere a colorkey pixel appears in the
computer graphics video, it’s replaced by video from the DVD decoder. This
process occurs “downstream” from the computer’s video memory, so if you try to
take a screenshot (which grabs pixels from video RAM), all you get is a solid
square of the colorkey color.

Hardware acceleration must be turned off before screen capture will work.
This makes some decoders write to standard video memory. Utilities such as
Creative Softworx,
HyperSnap, and
SD Capture can then grab still
pictures. Some player applications such as PowerDVD and the Windows Me player
can take screenshots if hardware acceleration is turned off.

[4.5] Why can’t I play movies copied to my hard drive?

Almost all movies are encrypted with CSS copy protection (see
). Decryption keys are stored in the normally inaccessible lead-in area
of the disc. You’ll usually get an error if you try to copy the contents of an
encrypted DVD to a hard drive. However, if you have used a software player to
play the movie it will have authenticated the disc in the drive, allowing you to
copy without error, but the encryption keys will not be copied. If you try to
play the copied VOB files, the decoder will request the keys from the DVD-ROM
drive and will fail. You may get the message “Cannot play copy-protected files”.

[4.6] Why do I have problems playing DVDs on my computer?

There are thousands of answers to this question, but here are some basic
troubleshooting steps to help you track down problems such as jerky playback,
pauses, error messages, and so on.

  • Get updated software. Driver bugs are the biggest cause of playback
    problems, ranging from freezes to bogus error messages about regions. Go to
    the support section on the Web sites of your equipment manufacturers and make
    sure you have the latest drivers for your graphics adapter, audio card, and
    DVD decoder (if you have a hardware decoder). Also make sure you have the
    latest update of the player program.
    Apple has released numerous updates for audio drivers and the DVD player
    application. Make sure you have the latest versions. Go to the
    downloads page and search for DVD.
  • If you have multiple DVD players installed, especially trial versions
    that have expired, uninstall all but one of them. (You may then have to
    reinstall your preferred player.)
  • If you have problems loading a DVD on a Mac, hold down the Command,
    Option, and I keys when inserting the disk. (This mounts the disc using ISO
    9660 instead of UDF.)
  • Make sure DMA or SDT is turned on. In Windows, go into the System
    Properties Device Manager, choose CD-ROM, open the CD/DVD driver properties,
    choose the Settings tab, and make sure the DMA box (for IDE drives) or the
    Sync Data Transfer box (for SCSI drives) is checked. Download
    CD Speed to check the performance of
    your drive (if it’s below 1x, you have problems).
    Caution: You may run into problems turning DMA
    on, especially with an AMD K6 CPU or VIA chipset. Check for a BIOS upgrade, a
    drive controller upgrade, a bus mastering driver upgrade, and a CD/DVD-ROM
    driver upgrade from your system manufacturer before turning DMA on. If the
    drive disappears, reboot in safe mode, uncheck DMA, and reboot again. You may
    have to tell Windows to restore the registry settings from its last registry
  • If you get an error about unavailable overlay surface, reduce the display
    resolution or number of colors (right-click desktop, choose Settings tab).
  • Try turning off programs that are running in the background. (In Windows,
    close or exit applets in the system tray — the icons in the lower right
    corner. In Mac OS, turn off AppleTalk, file sharing, and virtual memory.)
  • Allocate more memory to the Apple DVD Player.
  • If you are using a SCSI DVD-ROM drive, make sure that it’s the first
    or last device in the SCSI chain. If it’s the last device, make sure it’s
  • Reinstall the Windows bus mastering drivers. (Delete them from the device
    manager and let Windows ask for original disc.)
  • Bad video when connecting to a TV could be from too long a cable or from
    interference or a ground loop. See 3.2.2.

More information on specific graphics cards and driver updates:

[4.7] Can I stream DVD over a network or the Internet?

Short answer: Not if the disc is copy protected.

With a fast enough network (100 Mbps or better, with good performance and low
traffic) and a high-performance server, it’s possible to stream DVD-Video from a
server to client stations. If the source on the server is a DVD-ROM drive (or
jukebox), then more than one user simultaneously accessing the same disc will
cause breaks in the video unless the server has a fast DVD-ROM drive and a very
good caching system designed for streaming video.

A big problem is that CSS-encrypted movies (see 1.11)
can’t be remotely sourced because of security issues. The CSS license does not
allow decrypted video to be sent over an accessible bus or network, so the
decoder has to be on the remote PC. If the decoder has a secure channel to
perform authentication with the drive on the server, then it’s possible to
stream encrypted video over a network to be decrypted and decoded remotely. (But
so far almost no decoders can do this.)

One solution is the VideoLAN project
which runs on GNU/Linux/Unix, BeOS, Mac OS X, and other operating systems. It
includes a player with built-in CSS decryption. Although the code is different
from DeCSS, it’s an unlicensed implementation and is probably illegal in most
countries (see 4.8).

An alternative approach is to decode the video at the server and send it to
individual stations via separate cables (usually RF). The advantage is that
performance is very good, but the disadvantage is that DVD interactivity is
usually limited, and every viewer connected to a single drive/decoder must watch
the same thing at the same time.

Many companies provide support for streaming video (MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4,
etc.) over LANs, but only from files or realtime encoders, not from DVD-Video

The Internet is a different matter. It takes over a week to download the
contents of a single-layer DVD using a 56k modem. It takes about 7 hours on a T1
line. Cable modems theoretically cut the time down to a few hours, but if other
users in the same neighborhood have cable modems, bandwidth could drop
significantly. [Jim’s prediction, made in 2001: the average DVD viewing
household won’t have sufficiently fast Internet connections before 2007 at the
earliest. Around that time there will be a new high-definition version of DVD
with double the data rate, which will once again exceed the capacity of the
typical Internet connection.]

[4.8] What is DeCSS?

CSS (Content Scrambling System) is an encryption and authentication scheme
intended to prevent DVD movies from being digitally copied. See
for details. DeCSS refers to the general process of defeating CSS, as
well as to DeCSS source code and programs.

Computer software to decrypt CSS was released to the Internet in October 1999
(see Dana Parker’s article at
), although other “ripping” methods
were available before that (see 6.4.2). The difference
between circumventing CSS encryption with DeCSS and intercepting decrypted,
decompressed video with a DVD ripper is that DeCSS can be considered illegal
under the DMCA and the
WIPO treaties. The DeCSS information can be
used to “guess” at master keys, such that a standard PC can generate the entire
list of 409 keys, rendering the key secrecy process useless.

In any case, there’s not much appeal to being able to copy a set of movie
files (often without menus and other DVD special features) that would take over
a week to download on a 56K modem and would fill up a 6G hard disk or a dozen
CD-Rs. An alternative is to recompress the video with a different encoding
format such as DivX (see 2.10) so that it will take less
space, but this often results in significantly reduced picture quality. In spite
of lower data rates of DivX et al, the time and effort it takes to find and
download the files is not worth the bother for most movie viewers. The reality
is that most people ripping and downloading DVDs are doing it for the challenge,
not to avoid buying discs.

The supporters of DeCSS point out that it was only developed to allow DVD
movies to be played on the Linux operating system, which had been excluded from
CSS licensing because of its open-source nature. This is specifically allowed by
DMCA and WIPO laws. However, the DeCSS.exe program posted on the Internet is a
Windows application that decrypts movie files. The lack of differentiation
between the DeCSS process in Linux and the DeCSS.exe Windows application is
hurting the cause of DeCSS backers, since DeCSS.exe can be used in the process
of copying and illegally distributing movies from DVD. See Tom Vogt’s
DeCSS central for more information
on DeCSS.

Worthy of note is that DVD piracy was around long before DeCSS. Serious DVD
pirates can copy the disc bit for bit, including the normally unreadable lead in
(this can be done with a specially modified drive), or copy the video output
from a standard DVD player, or get a copy of the video from another source such
as laserdisc, VHS, or a camcorder smuggled into a theater. It’s certainly true
that DVD piracy is a problem, but DeCSS has little to do with it.

Shortly after the appearance of DeCSS, the
DVD CCA filed a lawsuit and requested
a temporary injunction in an attempt to prevent Web sites from posting (or even
linking to!) DeCSS information. The request was denied by a California court on
December 29, 1999. On January 14, 2000, the seven top U.S. movie studios
(Disney, MGM, Paramount, Sony [Columbia/TriStar], Time Warner, Twentieth Century
Fox, and Universal), backed by the MPAA, filed
lawsuits in Connecticut and New York in a further attempt to stop the
distribution of DeCSS on Web sites in those states. On January 21, the judge for
the New York suit granted a

preliminary injunction
, and on January 24, the judge for the CCA suit in
California reversed his earlier decision and likewise granted a

preliminary injunction
. In both cases, the judges ruled that the injunction
applied only to sites with DeCSS information, not to linking sites. (Good thing,
since this FAQ links to DeCSS sites!) The CCA suit is based on misappropriation
of trade secrets (somewhat shaky ground), while the MPAA suits are based on
copyright circumvention. On January 24, 16-year old Jon Johansen, the Norwegian
programmer who first distributed DeCSS, was questioned by local police who
raided his house and confiscated his computer equipment and cell phone. Johansen
says the actual cracking work was done by two anonymous programmers, one German
and one Dutch, who call themselves Masters of Reverse Engineering (MoRE).

This all seems to be a losing battle, since the DeCSS source code is
available on
T-shirts and was made publicly available by the DVD CCA itself in
court records–oops! See
Fire, Work
With Me
for a facetious look at the broad issue.

[4.9] How do I play DVD video in HTML,
PowerPoint, Director, VB, etc.?

A variety of multimedia development/authoring programs can be extended to
play video from a DVD, either as titles and chapters from a DVD-Video volume, or
as MPEG-2 files. In Windows, this is usually done with ActiveX controls. On the
Mac, until DVD-Video support is added to QuickTime, the options are
limited. Newer versions of the Apple DVD Player can be controlled with

DVD-Video and MPEG-2 video can be played back in an HTML page in Microsoft
Internet Explorer using many different ActiveX controls (see table). Some
ActiveX controls also work in PowerPoint, Visual Basic, and other ActiveX hosts.
Netscape Navigator is out of the game until it supports ActiveX objects. Simple
MPEG-2 playback can be done in PowerPoint using the Insert Movie feature
(requires that a DirectShow-compatible MPEG-2 decoder be installed). DVD and
MPEG-2 playback can be integrated into Macromedia Director using specialized

PriceHTML (IE only)PowerPointActiveX host (VB, etc.)Director


(see MSDN

Windows Media Player
(docs in

Windows Media SDK
InterActual PC Friendlynot availablecertain versionsnonono
Player 2.0
$2000 and upyesyesyesyes?
PE: $120, Web: $1200 and upWeb versionPE versionnono
Visible Light
Onstage DVD
$500 and upActiveX versionActiveX versionActiveX versionDirector version
Sonic eDVD
(InterActual engine, feature of Sonic products)
DVD Presenter (InterActual engine, no longer available)
$200nononoMPEG-2/VOB files, but not DVD-Video volumes
LBO Xtra DVD$500?nononoyes

Matinée Presenter
?Separate presentation application. Plays MPEG-2
files (not DVD-Video).

Of course, if you simply treat DVD-ROM as a bigger, faster CD-ROM, you can
create projects using traditional tools (Director, Flash, Toolbook, HyperCard,
VB, HTML, etc.) and traditional media types (CinePak, Sorenson, Indeo, Windows
Media, etc. in QuickTime or AVI format) and they’ll work just fine from DVD. You
can even raise the data rate for bigger or better quality video. But it usually
won’t look as good as MPEG-2.

[4.10] What are .IFO, .VOB, .AOB, and .VRO files? How
can I play them?

The DVD-Video and DVD-Audio specifications (see 6.1)
define how audio and video data are stored in specialized files. The .IFO files
contain menus and other information about the video and audio. The .BUP files
are backup copies of the .IFO files. The .VOB files (for DVD-Video) and .AOB
files (for DVD-Audio) are MPEG-2 program streams with additional packets
containing navigation and search information.

Since a .VOB file is just a specialized MPEG-2 file, most MPEG-2 decoders and
software DVD players can play them. You may need to change the extension from .VOB to .MPG.
However, any special features such as angles or branching will cause strange
effects. The best way to play a .VOB file is to use a DVD player application to
play the entire volume (or to open the VIDEO_TS.IFO file), since this will make
sure all the DVD-Video features are used properly.

Many DVDs are encrypted, which means the .VOB files won’t play when copied to
your hard drive. See 4.5.

If you try to copy the .IFO and .VOB files to a recordable DVD it may not
play. See 5.9.

.VRO files are created by DVD video recorders using the DVD-VR
format. In some cases you can treat the files just like .VOB files, but in many
cases they are fragmented and unplayable. Newer version of
Cyberlink PowerDVD,
InterVideo WinDVD, and
Sonic Cineplayer can play them. Otherwise you’ll need a utility such as
Heuris Extractor or Panasonic DVD-MovieAlbum to copy them to a hard disk
in usable format. Alternatively you can use DVD disc creation software such as
InterVideo WinDVD Creator,
MedioStream neoDVD, or
Sonic MyDVD can import from -VR
discs and write out standard DVD-Video discs.

[4.11] How do I get the Microsoft Windows DVD player
application to run?

Windows 98 and Windows 2000 included a simple player application. It requires
that a DirectShow-compatible DVD decoder be installed (see 4.1).
During setup, Windows installs the player application if it finds a compatible
hardware decoder. You must install the player by hand if you want to use it with
a software decoder or an unrecognized hardware decoder. Using WinZip or other
utility that can extract from cab files, extract dvdplay.exe from
(on the original Windows disc). This is the only file you need, but you can also
extract the help file from, and you can extract dvdrgn.exe from if you intend to change the drive region.)

Windows Me includes a much improved player, although it still requires a
third-party DirectShow-compatible decoder. Windws ME DVD Player is always
installed, but it usually does not appear in the Start menu. To use the player,
choose Run… from the Start menu, then enter dvdplay.

Windows XP moved DVD playback into Windows Media Player. It requires a DVD
Decoder Pack (which contains a DirectShow-compatible DVD decoder). See

DVD Support in Windows XP
page for more info and links to Decoder
Packs. Microsoft also has a list of

supported software decoders
for Windows XP.

[4.12] I upgraded to Windows XP, why did my DVD software stop

DVD player software written for Windows 98 and ME does not work in Windows
XP. Most Windows 2000 software also requires an upgrade. Check with your DVD
software manufacturer or your PC manufacturer for an upgrade, which in many
cases is free. Or you may want to buy a low-cost Windows XP DVD Decoder Pack
(see 4.11).

[4.13] How can I rip audio from a DVD to play as MP3 or burn
to a CD?

Keep in mind that unless you are copying something for your own personal use
from a DVD that you own, copying a DVD is usually a copyright violation, which
is illegal and dishonest.

Use a DVD ripping tool (see 4.8 and 6.4.2)
to extract Dolby Digital or PCM (WAV) files from a DVD. Then use a utility to
convert to MP3, WMA, or other formats, or to burn to an audio CD.

Alternatively you can connect the audio output from a DVD player (see
3.1) to an audio recorder or to audio inputs on a computer.

[5] DVD Creation

DVD production has two basic phases: development and publishing.
Development is different for DVD-ROM and DVD-Video, publishing is essentially
the same for both. Cheap, low-volume productions can be duplicated on
recordable discs, whereas high-volume, mass-market products such as movies must
be replicated in specialized factories.

DVD-ROM content can be developed with traditional software development tools
such as Macromedia Director, Visual BASIC, Quark mTropolis, and C++. Discs,
including DVD-R check discs, can be created with UDF formatting software (see
5.3). DVD-ROMs that take advantage of DVD-Video’s MPEG-2
video and multichannel Dolby Digital or MPEG-2 audio require video and audio
encoding (see 5.3).

DVD-Video content development has three basic parts: encoding,
(design, layout, and testing), and premastering (formatting
a disc image). The entire development process is sometimes referred to as
authoring. Development facilities are provided by many service bureaus (see
5.5). If you intend to produce numerous DVD-Video titles (or
you want to set up a service bureau), you may want to invest in encoding and
authoring systems (see 5.3 and 5.4).

Replication (including mastering) is the process of pressing discs in
production lines that spit out a new disc every few seconds. Replication is done
by large plants (see 5.5 for a list) that also replicate CDs.
DVD replication equipment typically costs millions of dollars. A variety of
machines are used to create a glass master, create metal stamping masters, stamp
substrates in hydraulic molds, apply reflective layers, bond substrates
together, print labels, and insert discs in packages. Most replication plants
provide one-off or check disc services, where one to a hundred discs are
made for testing before mass duplication. Unlike DVD-ROM mastering, DVD-Video
mastering may include an additional step for CSS encryption, Macrovision, and
regionalization. There is more information on mastering and replication at
and Disctronics.

For projects requiring fewer than a few hundred copies, it can be cheaper to use recordable
discs (see 4.3). Automated machines can feed recordable
blanks into a recorder, and even print labels on each disc. This is called
, as distinguished from replication.

[5.1] How much does it cost to produce a DVD? How does it
compare to videotape or CD?

Videotape, laserdisc, and CD-ROM can’t be compared to DVD in a
straightforward manner. There are basically three areas of cost: production,
pre-mastering (authoring, encoding, and formatting), and mastering/replication.

DVD video production costs are not much higher than for VHS and similar video
formats unless extra features of DVD such as multiple sound tracks, camera
angles, seamless branching, etc. are employed.

Authoring and pre-mastering costs are proportionately the most expensive part
of DVD. Video and audio must be encoded, menus and control information have to
be authored and encoded, it all has to be multiplexed into a single data stream,
and finally encoded in low level format. Typical charges for compression are
$40/min for video, $15/min for audio, $5/min for subtitles, plus formatting and
testing at about $30/min. A ballpark cost for producing a Hollywood-quality
two-hour DVD movie with motion menus, multiple audio tracks, subtitles,
trailers, and a few info screens is about $15,000. Alternatively, many
facilities charge for time, at rates of around $300/hour. A simple two-hour
DVD-Video title with menus and various video clips can cost as low as $2,000. If
you want to do it yourself, authoring and encoding systems can be purchased at
prices from $30 to over $2 million. See 5.8 for more on
low-cost DVD creation.

Videotapes don’t really have a mastering cost, and they run about $2.40 for
replication. CDs cost about $1,000 to master and under $0.40 to replicate in
quantity. Laserdiscs
cost about $3,000 to master and about $8 to replicate. As of 2007, DVDs cost
about $800 to master and under $0.50 to replicate in quantity. Double-sided or dual-layer
discs cost about $0.20 more to replicate.
Double-sided, dual-layer discs (DVD-18s) are more difficult and more expensive
(see 3.3.1).

[5.2] What DVD-ROM formatting tools are available?

  • GEAR
    • GEAR Pro DVD. DVD formatting software for Windows 95/98/NT4.
      Writes to DVD-R, DVD-RAM, jukeboxes, and tape, along with general UDF
      formatting and CD-R/RW burning features. $700.
  • JVC Professional Computer Products
    • DVD RomMaker. DVD formatting systems with RAID hardware. $60,000
      to $100,000. (Seems to be discontinued.)
  • Nero
    • Nero. DVD formatting software for Windows. Can make disc image
      files and bootable discs. $70.
  • Philips
    • DVD-ROM Disc Builder. DVD formatting software for Windows NT.
      Writes to tape. (Seems to be discontinued.)
  • Pinnacle
    Note: Pinnacle Systems was
    acquired by Avid in August 2005.

    • InstantCD/DVD. Software tools for recording files to CD-R/W,
      DVD-RAM and DVD-R/W discs from Windows. Can make a bootable DVD. $50.
    • InstantCopy. CD/DVD copy software for
      Windows. $30.
  • Roxio
    Note: Roxio was
    acquired by Sonic in January 2005.
  • SmartDisk (acquired MTC)
    • ForDVD. DVD formatting software for Windows. Writes to DVD-R and
      tape. Can create DVD-Video discs from VOB and IFO files. $1200.
  • Smart Storage
    • SmartDVD Maker. DVD formatting software for Windows NT. Writes to
      DVD-R and tape. Can create DVD-Video discs from VOB and IFO files. $2500.
      (Discontinued as of  March 2001.)
  • Software Architects
    • WriteDVD Pro and WriteUDF. DVD formatting software for Mac
      OS and Windows. Writes to DVD-R and DVD-RAM.
  • Sonic (acquired Daikin, Veritas DMD,
    and Roxio)

    • ROM Formatter. Professional DVD formatting software for Windows
      NT/2000/XP. Writes to DVD-R and tape. Can create DVD-Video discs from VOB
      and IFO files.
    • RecordNow. CD and DVD
      burning software for music, photos, and video. Windows. $30 (standard), $50
      (Deluxe), $70 (Deluxe Suite).
    • Backup MyPC and Simple Backup. Windows file backup
      software for recordable DVD and CD.
    • Toast DVD. DVD formatting software for Mac OS. Writes to DVD-R
      and tape. Can create DVD-Video discs from VOB and IFO files. $200
  • Veritas (acquired Prassi)
    Note: Veritas Desktop and Mobile Division was
    acquired by Sonic in November 2002.
  • VOB
    Note: VOB was acquired by Pinnacle Systems in
    October 2002.
  • Young Minds
    • DVD Studio and MakeDisc for DVD. DVD formatting software
      for Windows NT and Unix. Writes to DVD-R.

Features to look for in DVD formatters:

  • Support for UDF file system, including MicroUDF (UDF 1.02 Appendix 6.9)
    for DVD-Video and DVD-Audio zones.
  • Support for UDF bridge format, which stores both UDF and ISO-9660 file
    systems on the disc.
  • Ability to recognize VIDEO_TS and AUDIO_TS directories (containing IFO,
    VOB, and AOB files) and place them contiguously at the physical beginning of
    the disc for compatibility with DVD-Video players. Placement of directory
    entries in first UDF file descriptor is also needed for compatibility with
    certain deficient consumer players.
  • Support for long filenames in Windows (Joliet format recommended).
  • Full equivalence between UDF and Joliet (ISO-9660) filenames.
    (Windows NT 4.0 and Windows 98 read Joliet filenames; Mac OS 8.1+, Windows 98,
    and Windows 2000 read UDF filenames. MS-DOS and Windows 95 and earlier read
    ISO-9660 filenames. Mac OS 8.0 and earlier read HFS or ISO-9660 filenames.)
  • Proper truncation and translation of ISO-9660 filenames to 8.3 format for
    discs intended for use with MS-DOS and certain other OSes.
  • Support for Mac OS file information within the UDF file system (for use
    with Mac OS 8.1 and later).
  • Support for Mac OS HFS file system if icons and other file information is
    needed for Mac OS versions earlier than 8.1.
  • Ability to create a bootable disc using the
    El Torito specification in
    the ISO-9660 sectors.

[5.3] What DVD production tools are available?

[5.3.1] Video encoding tools

  • Brent Beyeler
    • bbMPEG. Basic MPEG-2 encoder for Windows. Free from various
      download sites.
  • Canopus
    • ProCoder. Software video format converter with MPEG encoding.
      Two-pass VBR. Advanced features such as NTSC<->PAL conversion,
      deinterlacing, 2-3 pulldown, and batch processing. Windows. $700.
    • MVR1000. Hardware real-time video capture and MPEG encoder board
      for Windows. VBR and CBR. Includes Sonic DVDit SE for DVD/VCD
    • Amber. MPEG-2 hardware designed for encoding and archiving video
      in MPEG format. VBR and CBR. (Panasonic MN85560 encoder chip). Windows.
    • DVRaptor RT. Hardware DV video editing with MPEG output. Windows.
    • DVStorm. Hardware video editing/encoding system for MPEG and DV.
      Includes Ulead DVD Workshop for DVD/VCD authoring. Windows. $1,100.
    • DVRex RT Professional. Hardware video editing/encoding system for
      MPEG and DV. Includes Sonic DVDit SE for DVD/VCD authoring. Windows.
  • Custom Technology
    • Cinemacraft Encoder-PRO. MPEG-2 real-time NTSC video encoding
      software for Windows NT. $38,000.
    • Cinema Craft Encoder-SP. MPEG video encoding software for Windows
      XP and 2000. CBR and VBR. $2,000 .
    • Cinema Craft Encoder-Basic. MPEG video encoding software for
      Windows. CBR and VBR. $60 .
  • Darim
    • MPEGator 2. MPEG-2 real-time encoding hardware for Windows and Windows
      NT. $1,800.
  • Dazzle
    • Digital Video Creator II. MPEG-2 video capture/edit/encode system
      with PCI card. Includes Sonic DVDit LE. Windows 98/2000. $300.
  • Digital Ventures
    • DVDComposer. MPEG-2 video encoding system for SGI. VBR and CBR.
      (C-Cube chip). $50,000.
  • Digital Vision
    • BitPack. MPEG-2 video encoding workstation. Extendable to HDTV.
    • DVNR system for video pre-processing.
  • Digigami
    • MegaPeg. MPEG-2 video encoding software for Windows. VBR and CBR.
      $500. Also available as Adobe Premiere plug-in for Windows or PowerMac.
  • DV Studio
    • Apollo Expert. MPEG-2 video encoding (and decoding) hardware for
      Windows NT. $2,000.
  • FlaskMPEG
    • Freeware encoding software for Windows.
  • Gunjarm Digital/Metaware (formerly Gunzameory
    and DreamCom)

    • MPEGRich. Professional MPEG-2 real-time encoding hardware. CBR
      and VBR. Windows NT.
  • Heuris
    • MPEG Power Professional 1, MPEG Power Professional 2, MPEG Power
      Professional DVD,
      MPEG Power Professional DTV-SD, and Power
      Professional DTV-HD
      . MPEG-2 video encoding software for Mac OS and
      Windows. DVD and DTV versions include VBR encoding. $350, $1,000, $1,500 and
    • Cyclone. MPEG-1 and MPEG-2 encoding software designed for OEMs.
      Mac OS and Windows NT.
  • Ligos
    • LSX-MPEG Encoder. MPEG-2 video encoding software. CBR and VBR.
      Windows. $150.
    • LSX-MPEG Suite. Adobe Premiere plug-in for producing MPEG-1 or
      MPEG-2 output. Includes standalone LSX-MPEG player. Windows 9x/NT. $400.
  • Media100
    • iFinish RealTime MPEG Option. Editing software with MPEG-2 video
      encoding add-on. Windows NT. $6,000 to $18,000.
  • Microcosmos/Nanocosmos
    • MPEG SoftEngine. MPEG-2 video encoding software for Windows,
      Solaris, and Linux. $250 to $3500.
  • Minerva
    • Compressionist 110, 200, and 250. Professional MPEG-2
      real-time encoding hardware. CBR and VBR. Mac OS host computer. $70,000. [No
      longer available.]
    • Publisher 300. Professional MPEG-2 video and MPEG Layer 2 audio
      real-time encoding hardware. CBR and VBR. Mac OS. [No longer available.]
  • Optibase
    • MPEG MovieMaker 200. Professional MPEG-2 video and Dolby Digital audio
      real-time encoding hardware for Windows and Windows NT. CBR and VBR. $7,000
      to $22,000.
  • Pegasys
    • TMPGEnc and TMPGEnc Plus. MPEG-1 and MPEG-2 software video
      encoders, plus multiplexing/demultiplexing, file joining, and trimming
      tools. Basic version is free; Plus version is $48 to download, $88 in retail
  • Philips
    • DVS3110. Professional MPEG-2 video encoder for PAL and NTSC. CBR
      and VBR.
  • PixelTools
    • Expert-DVD. MPEG-2 video encoding software. CBR and VBR. Windows.
    • Expert-2. Professional, tweakable MPEG encoder. Windows.
  • Snell & Wilcox
    • Prefix CPP100, Prefix CPP200, NRS500, Kudos NRS50, and Kudos
      . Video preprocessors (noise reduction and image enhancement).
  • Sonic Solutions
    • SD-1000. Professional MPEG-2 video encoding hardware. CBR and VBR.
      Segment-based reencoding. Mac OS and Windows OS. $13,000.
    • DVD Fusion. Encoding/authoring plug-in for Media 100 and
      QuickTime video editing systems. Hardware-accelerated version (velocity
      engine) encodes VBR and CBR in real time. Mac OS. $8,000 and $12,000.
  • Sony
    • DVA-V1100. High-end MPEG-2 video encoding hardware. CBR and VBR.
      Windows NT.
  • Spruce Technologies
    Note: Spruce was acquired in July 2001 by Apple. The
    MPX-3000 encoder might still be available from some dealers.

    • MPX-3000. Professional MPEG-2 real-time encoding hardware. CBR
      and VBR. Windows NT.
    • MPEGXpress 2000 (formerly from CagEnt). Professional MPEG-2
      real-time encoding hardware. CBR and VBR. Windows NT.
  • VisionTech
    • MVCast. Low-end real-time MPEG-2 video/audio encoding hardware
      for Windows NT and Solaris. AVI-to-MPEG-2 conversion. $2000.
  • Vitech
    • MPEG Toolbox-2. AVI to MPEG-2 VBR/CBR. MPEG-2 video editing.
      Windows 95/98/NT. $250.
  • Wired
    • MediaPress. MPEG-2 encoding hardware (PCI). CBR and VBR. Mac OS
      and Windows 95/98/NT. $2,500.
  • Yusuf Motiwala
    • YMPEG. Basic MPEG-1 and MPEG-2 plug-in software encoder for
      Windows. Also does KVCD. Free.
  • Zapex
    • ZP-200. Real-time PCI encoder for MPEG-2 video and PCM Audio.
      Non-real-time encoding and VOB multiplexing from Adobe Premiere. Windows NT.
    • ZP-300. Real-time PCI Encoder for CBR/VBR MPEG-2 video, 2-channel
      Dolby Digital, and PCM Audio. Non-real-time encoding and VOB multiplexing
      from Adobe Premiere. Windows NT.

[5.3.2] Audio encoding tools

  • Astarte
    Note: Astarte was acquired in April 2000 by Apple.
  • Digital Vision
    • BitPack. Multichannel audio encoding workstation for Dolby
      Digital, MPEG-2, and PCM.
  • Dolby
    • DP569. Multichannel Dolby Digital audio encoding hardware.
  • Kind of Loud Technologies
    • SmartCode Pro/Dolby Digital. 5.1-channel encoding software plugin
      for Digidesign Pro Tools. $1000.
    • SmartCode Pro/DTS. 5.1-channel encoding software plugin for
      Digidesign Pro Tools. $2000.
  • Microcosmos
    • MPEG SoftEngine/Audio. MPEG audio encoding software for
      Windows/Solaris. $95/$350.
  • Minerva
    • Audio Compressionist. Professional Dolby Digital real-time,
      5.1-channel encoder. Windows NT.
  • Minnetonka Audio Software
    • SurCode for DOlby Digital. Multichannel Dolby Digital audio
      encoding software. $1000.
    • SurCode DVD Professional for DTS. Multichannel DTS audio encoding
      software. $2000.
  • Philips
    • DVD3310. Professional MPEG-2 multichannel audio encoder.
  • PixelTools
    • Expert-Audio. MPEG Layer 2 audio encoding software. Windows.
  • Sonic Solutions
    • Sonic DVD Studio. Professional real-time Dolby Digital 5.1,
      MPEG-2, and PCM audio encoding hardware. Mac OS.
    • MLP Encoder. $9,000.
  • Sonic Foundry
    • Soft Encode. Dolby Digital 2-channel or 5.1-channel audio
      encoding software. Windows 95/98/NT. $500 (2 channels) or $900 (5.1
  • Sony
    • DVA-A1100. High-end, real-time Dolby Digital 5.1, MPEG-2, and PCM
      audio encoding hardware. Windows NT.
  • Spruce Technologies
    Note: Spruce was acquired in July 2001 by Apple. The
    ACX-5100 encoder is still available from some dealers.

    • ACX- 5100 (formerly from CagEnt). Professional Dolby Digital
      real-time, 5.1-channel encoder. Windows NT.
    • ACX-2000 (formerly from CagEnt). Professional Dolby Digital
      real-time, 2-channel encoder. Windows NT.
  • Zapex
    • ZP-100. Real-time PCI encoder for 2- or 5.1-channel Dolby Digital
      and MPEG Layer 2. Windows NT.

[5.3.3] Other production tools

  • Alcohol Software
    • Alcohol 52%. Emulate CDs and DVDs without physical disc. Windows.
    • Alcohol 68%. Copy CDs and DVDs. Windows. $30.
    • Alcohol 120%. Combination of Alcohol 52% and Alcohol
      Windows. $50.
    • Industrial DVD players, touchscreens, and DVD kiosk products.
  • BCD Associates
    • DVD controllers for custom installations.
  • Cambridge Multimedia
    • Touchscreens and other custom interfaces for industrial DVD players.
  • Computer Prompting & Captioning Co.
    • CPC-DVD. Closed Caption production system. DOS. $6,000.
  • DCA (Doug Carson & Associates)
    • MIS (Mastering Interface System). Mastering interface system for
      DVD and CD. Windows NT.
    • ITS (Image Transfer System). Transfer and convert DVD and CD
    • DVS+ (Data Verification System). Checks DVD and CD images.
      Includes Interra Surveyor to check for DVD-Video spec compliance. Can
      transfer between discs and tape. Windows NT.
    • INMS (Integrated Network Mastering System). Combination of MIS,
      ITS, DVS+ in a system with a RAID.
  • Eclipse Data Technologies
    • EclipseSuite. DVD and CD premastering tools to copy and verify
      images, copy tapes, etc. Windows NT.
    • ImageEncoder. LBR mastering interface for CD and DVD mastering.
      Windows NT.
  • FAB
    • FAB Subtitler DVD Edition. Subtitle generator program (text and bitmap
      formats) that works with most DVD authoring systems. Windows.
  • Heuris
    • Xtractor. Software to extract video and audio streams from unencrypted
      DVD-Video discs and DVD-VR discs. $150.
  • Isomedia
    • DVD DLT utilities: copy DLTs, extract images, inspect ISO/UDF/DDP info,
      checksums, etc.
  • Museum Technology Source
    • DVD controllers for Pioneer industrial players in custom installations.
  • Novastor
    • TapeCopy. Copy DLTs, inspect tape blocks.
  • PixelTools
    • MPEGRepair. Software to analyze, repair, insert Closed Captions,
      add panscan vectors, and do other handy things to MPEG files. Windows.
  • Smart Projects
    • ISOBuster. Inspect CD and DVD volumes and image files. Freeware/shareware
  • SoftNI
    • The DVD Subtitler. Subtitle graphics preparation software.
      Windows 95/98/NT/2000.
    • The Caption Encoder. Closed Caption production system. DOS,
      Windows 95/98.
    • The Caption Retriever. Closed Caption recovery and decoding
      system. Windows 95/98/NT/2000.
  • Tapedisk
    • TD Raw. Reads raw data from a SCSI tape drive as if it were a
      hard disk. DOS/Windows. $500.
    • TD RAW NT. Version of TD Raw for Windows NT 4.0. $750.
  • Technovision
    • Touchscreens and other custom interfaces for industrial DVD players.
  • Teco
    • ParseMPEG ($500) and Bitrate Viewer (free). Software to
      analyze MPEG streams. Windows.

Also see 5.6 for DVD emulation, verification, and analysis

[5.3.4] Other production services

[5.4] What DVD authoring systems are available?

For more detail on the systems listed below, follow the links or see the
comparison table of selected DVD authoring systems at

  • Apple
    • DVD Studio Pro. Mid-level DVD-Video authoring tool for Mac
      OS. $1,000.
    • iDVD. Simple, drag-and-drop DVD-Video authoring, bundled with
      Macs that have DVD-R drives.
  • Astarte
    Note: Astarte was acquired in April 2000 by Apple,
    so their products are generally no longer available, although they resurfaced in March
    2001 as iDVD and DVD Studio Pro from Apple.

    • DVDirector and DVDirector Pro. Low-end and mid-level
      DVD-Video authoring tools for Mac OS. Pro version includes MediaPress
      hardware MPEG-2 encoder from Wired.
      Millennium Bundle
      turnkey workstation includes DVDirector Pro,
      Mac G4, and more. $5,400, $10,000, $15,000.
    • DVDelight. Simple, drag-and-drop DVD-Video authoring for Mac OS.
    • DVDExport. Software to convert Macromedia Director presentations
      to DVD-Video format. Mac OS. $900.
  • Authoringware
    • DVD WISE. Mid-level authoring system for Windows 95/98/NT. $950.
    • DVD Quickbuilder. Multiplexing software.
  • Avid
    • Xpress DV. Video editing software with DVD-Video output (using
      Sonic AuthorScript). $1,700.
    • Xpress DV Powerpack. Xpress DV with other software,
      including Sonic DVDit SE. $3,000.
  • Blossom Technologies
    • DaViD 2000, 4000, 6000, and 10000. Turnkey Windows NT 4.0 systems
      using Daikin Scenarist authoring software and Optibase encoding
      hardware or Sonic Foundry audio encoding software. $20,000 to $100,000.
  • Canopus
    • Amber for DVD. Amber MPEG-2 encoding hardware with Spruce
      authoring software. $3,300.
  • Daikin (Daikin US Comtec
    Note: Daikin’s DVD business was acquired by Sonic in
    February 2001. Scenarist, ReelDVD, and ROM Formatter are now carried by Sonic.
  • DreamCom (formerly Gunzameory)
    • DVDRich. Mid-level DVD-Video authoring/encoding on Windows NT.
      Uses MPEGRich encoder and Daikin Scenarist or Intec DVDAuthorQuick. $30,000.
  • DV Studio
    • Apollo Expert Author and Apollo Expert DVDer. Mid-level
      DVD-Video authoring system for Windows NT, using DV Studio Apollo Expert
      MPEG-2 encoding hardware and Intec DVDAuthorQuick authoring software
      (Author package, $4,000) or Sonic DVDit (DVDer package,
    • Apollo Expert Archiver. MPEG-2 encoding system for archiving
      video to DVD-RAM. $2,500 (DVD-RAM drive included).
  • Futuretel
    • Crescendo.
  • Houpert Digital Audio (HDA)
    • CubeDVD-A. DVD-Audio authoring plug-in module for Cube-Tec
      AudioCube digital audio workstation. Uses audio assets mastered by
      NuendoCube. Windows 2000.
  • InnovaCom
    • DVDimpact. DVD-Video authoring aimed at multimedia studios and
      corporations. Uses InnovaCom DV5100 hardware encoding station and
      Daikin Scenarist NT or Intec DVDAuthorQuick software. $47,500
      and $29,000.
  • Intec America
    • DVDAuthorQuick. Mid-level and low-level DVD-Video authoring
      software line for Windows NT. Comes in three versions: Pro,
      , and LE. $8,000, $2,500, and $400.
  • InterVideo
    • WinDVD Creator. Basic DVD-Video authoring software for
      Windows. $50 (Gold) and $70 (Platinum).
  • Margi Systems
    • DVPublish-to-Go. Simple DVD authoring to DVD-R or CD-R/W.
      Includes Margi’s 1394-to-Go PC, MGI’s VideoWave III, and Sonic
      Solution’s DVDit LETx. Windows 98 SE or 2000. $300.
  • Matrox
    • Matrox RT2000 and DigiSuite DTV. Video capture and editing
      in DV and MPEG-2 formats. Includes Sonic Solution’s DVDit LE for
      simple DVD authoring. Windows 98. $1,300.
  • Mediachance
    • DVD-lab. DVD-Video authoring software with some unique features.
      Windows. $100.
  • Microboards
    • DVD AuthorSuite. DVD-Video authoring/encoding for Windows NT.
      Uses Intec DVDAuthorQuick software, Zapex encoders, and Sigma Designs
      decoder. $25,000.
  • Minerva

    Note: Minerva DVD authoring software was acquired
    by Pinnacle in 2000, so it is no longer generally available. Impression was
    re-released by Pinnacle in July 2001.

    • DVD-Professional SL and DVD-Professional XL. DVD-Video
      authoring/encoding systems for Windows NT. Includes Publisher 300 and
      Minerva Studio. $100,000.
    • Impression. DVD-Video authoring/encoding system for Windows.
  • Minnetonka Audio Software
    • DiscWelder Steel. Basic DVD-Audio authoring software. Windows.
    • A-Plus. Basic DVD-Audio authoring software. Windows. $2,000.
    • DiscWelder Chrome. Professional DVD-Audio authoring software.
      Windows. $3500.
  • MTC (Multimedia Technology Center)
    Note: MTC was acquired by SmartDisk in 2000.

    • StreamWeaver Express and StreamWeaver Pro. Simple and
      mid-level DVD-Video authoring, and $900 premastering on Windows. $900 and
    • DVDMotion. Authoring systems for Windows, oriented toward
      multimedia DVD-ROM production. Comes in three versions: Pro, SE
      (Standard), CE (Consumer). $1,000, $400, $95.
    • DVDMotion CE. Entry-level authoring system for Windows 98/NT4.
  • NEC
    • DV Editor. IEEE-1394 card and software, plus Sonic’s DVDit
      . Windows 98. Available in Japan only.
  • Nero (formerly Ahead)
    • Nero. Basic DVD-Video authoring software for Windows.
  • Optibase
    • DVD-Fab XPress and DVD-Fab. Turnkey DVD-Video
      authoring/encoding systems for Windows NT. Includes Optibase MPEG Fusion
      MPEG-2 encoder and Daikin Scenarist authoring software. $35,000.
  • Panasonic
    • LQ-VD2000S. Turnkey professional DVD-Video authoring system,
      including Windows NT 4.0 workstation. Uses Panasonic MPEG-2 encoder and LQ-VD3000 emulator. $120,000.
    • LQ-VDS120. Additional workstation software for networking with
      LQ-VD2000S. $22,550
    • LQ-VD3000. DVD Emulator. $15,000
  • Pegasys
    • TMPGEnc DVD Author. Basic DVD-Video authoring for Windows. $68.
  • Pinnacle
    • DVD1000. MPEG-2 video editing and DVD-Video authoring system for
      Windows. Pinnacle DVD1000 hardware with Adobe Premiere and Minerva
      Impression. $8,000.
    • Impression DVD. Mid-level DVD-Video authoring/encoding system for
      Windows. $1,000.
    • Pinnacle Pro-ONE. DVD editing/authoring package. Uses Adobe
      Premiere and Impression DVD-SE. $1,300.
    • Pinnacle Edition. Video editing with linear-play DVD/SVCD output.
  • Philips
    • DVD-Video Disc Designer and DVD-Video Authoring Toolset.
      Windows NT.
  • Pioneer
    • DVDDesigner. An off-line design tool for DVD-Video planning and
      layout. Can feed an “authoring decision list” into other authoring systems.
      Available free to qualified developers. Windows and Mac OS.
  • PixelTools
    • SimpleDVD. AVI-to-DVD converter for Windows. $1,500.
    • HDTVPlug-in. Simple encoding/authoring plug-in for Adobe Premiere.
      Generates single-program, autoplay images that can be copied to recordable
      discs. $1,000.
  • Q-Comm
    • EasyDVD.
  • Roxio
    Note: Roxio was acquired by Sonic in January 2005.
  • SADiE
    • DVD-A Direct. DVD-Audio authoring package for SADiE editing and
      mastering system. Windows.
  • Sonic Solutions
    • Scenarist SGI. DVD-Video authoring for SGI. The original
      professional system. $25,000.
    • Scenarist NT. Professional DVD-Video authoring on Windows NT.
      Comes in two versions: Advanced, $15,000; Professional,
    • DVD Creator. Professional DVD-Video authoring/encoding systems
      for corporate and industrial applications. Mac OS. Various configurations:
      DVD Creator All-in-One Workstation, $80,000; DVD Creator Encoding,
      $24,500, DVD Creator Authoring
      , $15,000.
    • DVD-Audio Creator. DVD-Audio authoring system (co-developed with
      Panasonic). Windows. DVD-Audio Complete Workgroup, $53,000; DVD-Audio Creator, $13,000;
      DVD-Audio Creator LE, $6,000.
    • OneClick DVD. Simple DVD-Audio authoring. Mac OS. $15,000.
    • DVD Fusion. Mid-level DVD-Video authoring system. Mac OS.
    • DVD Producer (formerly DVD Fusion for Windows). Mid-level
      DVD-Video authoring system. Windows. $3,000.
    • ReelDVD. Mid-level authoring for Windows. File-compatible
      with Scenarist. $250.
    • DVDit. Mid-level DVD-Video authoring for Windows. $300
      (standard), $400 (Pro).
    • MyDVD. Simple personal DVD-Video authoring for Windows. $70 (Studio),
      $100 (Studio Deluxe), $150 (Studio Deluxe Suite).
    • PrimeTime. Addition to Windows XP Media Center Edition for burning
      recorded TV shows to DVD. $80.
    • Easy Media Creator. Basic CD and DVD-Video/VCD authoring for
      Windows. $100.
    • Toast. Basic CD and DVD-Video creation for Mac OS. $100 (Titanium),
      $200 (with Jam).
  • Sony Media Software
    • Vegas+DVD. Mid-level authoring toolset (DVD Architect)
      bundled with video editing software. $1,000.
  • Sony Professional
    • DVA-1100. High-end authoring/encoding system with one to eight
      stations. Price range starts at $175,000.
  • Spruce Technologies
    Note: Spruce was acquired in July 2001 by Apple.

    • DVDMaestro. High-end authoring/encoding systems for Windows NT.
    • DVDConductor, DVDVirtuoso, DVDPerformer. Mid-level
      authoring/encoding systems for Windows NT. Also allow DVD content to be
      recorded and played from CD-R. $10,000, $1500, $?.
    • SpruceUp. Simple personal DVD-Video authoring for Windows
      (NT4/98/ME/NT/2000). $129.
    • DVDStationCX. Turnkey system using DVDConductor. $25,000.
    • DVDStationNLE. Turnkey system using DVDConductor and Heuris
      MPEG Power Professional encoding software. $10,000.
    • DVDTransfer. Turnkey automated tape-to-DVD system. $30,000.
  • Ulead
    Note: Ulead was acquired by InterVideo in April 2005.

    • MediaStudio Director’s Cut. Video editing software with built-in
      DVD authoring. $190.
    • DVD Workshop. Mid-level video editing and DVD authoring. $200
      (Express), $400 (standard).
    • DVD Movie Factory. Basic DVD-Video authoring software for
      Windows. $50 (Standard), $100 (Disc Creator).
  • Visible Light
    • Macarena and Macarena Pro. DVD-Video authoring for Power
      Mac G4. Software encoding or hardware encoding (Pro version). Uses Astarte
      DVDirector software. $10,000 and $15,000.
  • Vitech
    • DVD Toolbox. AVI to DVD-Video. Write to CD-R, DVD-R, DVD-RAM,
      etc. Windows 95/98/NT. $400.
    • DVD Cut Machine. Hardware audio/video encoder bundled with DVD
      Toolbox software. $800.

[5.5] Who can produce a DVD for me?

There are various steps to producing a DVD, but they can be split into two
major parts: 1) authoring (creating the content and formatting a disc image),
and 2) replication (cutting a master disc and stamping out hundreds or millions
of copies). See 5 for more details.

[A] = authoring (including encoding, DVD-R creation, and premastering).
[R] = replication (mastering, check discs, and mass production).
[D] = duplication (short-run copying onto recordable discs)
Note that almost all replicators and duplicators have in-house authoring facilities or
partnerships with authoring houses, so [R] or [D] implies [A].

Other lists are available at
DVDMadeEasy, and
. Also see 5.8 for companies specializing in
transferring home videos and slides to DVD.

[5.6] What testing/verification services and tools are

  • AudioDev (Sweden, USA, Hong Kong),
    +46 40 690 49 00.
  • CD Associates (CA). Testing
    equipment and software. (714) 733-8580.
  • ContentWise (Rehovot, Israel),
    +972-8-940-8773. Second Sight software for checking compatibility of
    DVD titles on multiple players.
  • Hitachi (Japan). Testing services and test discs. Official DVD Forum
    verification lab.
  • Intellikey Labs (Burbank ,
    CA), (818) 953-9116, fax (818) 953-9144.
  • Interra Digital Video Technologies:
    Surveyor software, $6,000. DProbe, $10,000.
  • ITRI (HsinChu, Taiwan). Testing
    services and test discs. Official DVD Verification Lab. 886-3-591-5066, fax
  • Matsushita (Japan). Testing services, test discs, and test equipment.
    Official DVD Verification Lab. +81-6-6905-4195 fax +81-6-6909-5027.
  • Matsushita/Panasonic (Japan). Panasonic LQ-VD300P emulator.
    Hardware player with Windows NT software. $15,000.

  • Philips
    (Europe), DVD-Video Verifier software, $500. Official DVD
    Verification Center.
  • Pioneer (Japan). Testing services and test discs. Official DVD
    Verification Lab. +81-3-3495-5474, fax +81-3-3495-4301.
  • PMTC (Professional Multimedia Test
    (Diepenbeek, Belgium), +32 11 303636.
  • Sonic Solutions (USA). DVD PrePlay
    software. Emulation and diagnosis tools for Windows. $5000.
  • Sony (Japan). Testing services and test discs. Official DVD Format Lab.
    +81-3-5448-2200, fax +81-3-5448-3061.
  • Testronic Labs (Burbank, CA),
    (818) 845-3223, fax (818) 845-3236.
  • Toshiba (Japan). Testing services and test discs. Official DVD
    Verification Lab. +81-3-3457-2105, fax +81-3-5444-9202.
  • Victor (Japan). Testing services and test discs. Official DVD Verification
    Lab. +81-3-3289-2813, fax +81-45-450-1639.
  • WAMO (USA). Testing services and
    test discs. Official DVD Forum verification lab. 1-570-383-3568, fax

Also see 5.3.3 for tools to analyze and verify coded
bitstreams, disc images, and DLTs.

[5.7] Can I put DVD-Video content on a CD-R or CD-RW?

[Note: This section refers to creating original DVD-Video
content, not copying from DVD to CD. The latter is impractical, since it takes 7
to 14 CDs to hold one side of a DVD. Also, most DVD movies are encrypted so that
the files can’t be copied without special software.

There are many advantages to creating a DVD-Video volume using inexpensive
recordable CD rather than expensive recordable DVD. The resulting “cDVD” (sometimes
called a “miniDVD”) is perfect for testing and for short video programs.
Unfortunately, you can put DVD-Video files on CD-R or CD-RW media, or even on
pressed CD-ROM media, but almost no set-top player can play the disc. There are
a number of reasons DVD-Video players can’t play DVD-Video content from CD
1) checking for CD media is a fallback case after DVD focus fails, at which
point the players are no longer looking for DVD-Video content
2) it’s simpler and cheaper for players to spin CDs at 1x speed rather than the
9x speed required for DVD-Video content
3) many players can’t read CD-R discs (see 2.4.3).

The only known players that can play a cDVD are the Afreey/Sampo LD2060 and
ADV2360 models, and the Aiwa XD-DW5 and XD-DW1. Some of these players use 1x or
2x readers so they can’t handle data rates over 4 Mbps. It’s possible to replace
the IDE drive mechanism in the player with a faster drive, which can then handle
higher data rates. See for
details on cDVD-capable players. (Note: there have been many reports of players
able to play DVD content from CD-R. Upon investigation it turns out that they
play Video CDs but not cDVDs. The players mentioned above have been verified to
play DVD-Video files (.VOB and .IFO) from CD media.)

Computers are more forgiving. DVD-Video files from any source with fast
enough data rates, including CD-R or CD-RW, with or without UDF formatting, will
play back on most DVD-ROM PCs as long as the drive can read the media (all but
early model DVD-ROM drives can read CD-Rs). On a Mac, you need version 2.3 or
newer of the Apple DVD

To create a cDVD, author the DVD-Video content as usual (see
) then burn it to a CD-R or CD-RW. If your authoring software doesn’t
write directly to CD-R/RW discs, use a separate utility to copy the VIDEO_TS
directory to the root directory of the disc. To be compatible with the few
settop players that read cDVDs, turn on the UDF filesystem option of the CD
burning software. To achieve longer playing times, encode the video in MPEG-2
half-D1 format (352×480 or 352×576) or in MPEG-1 format.

An alternative is to put Video CD or Super Video CD content on CD-R or CD-RW
media for playback in a DVD player. Set-top DVD players that are VCD or SVCD
capable and can read recordable media will be able to play such discs (see
2.4.5). The limitations of VCD apply (MPEG-1 video and
audio, 1.152 Mbps, 74 minutes of playing time). All DVD-ROM PCs able to read
recordable CD media can play recorded VCD discs. An MPEG-2 decoder (see
4.1) is needed to play SVCDs. See 5.8 for
more on creating Video CDs.

[5.8] How do I copy my home video/film/photos to DVD?

This used to be almost impossible, but luckily for you it’s getting cheaper
and easier all the time.

For a simple video-to-DVD transfer you can buy a DVD video recorder and connect it to your VCR, camcorder,
laserdisc player, or other video source. (See 1.14 for more
on DVD recorders.)

For transferring photos or music, or for making a customized DVD with menus and
chapters and other fun stuff, you’ll need the following:

  • A computer
  • A DVD recordable drive ($40-$150, or it might come with the computer)
  • DVD authoring software (usually comes with the drive or computer, or you
    can buy it for $30-$27,000, see 5.4).
    Note: You must use authoring software. You can’t just copy MPEG or AVI or
    files onto a disc and expect it to play in DVD players.

Then take the following steps

  • If the video and pictures are not already in digital form (AVI, WMV, DivX,
    QuickTime, JPEG, and so on) you need to transfer them to your computer. For analog
    video, such as VHS and Hi8, you need a video capture device or a computer with
    built-in analog video input; for digital video such as DV or D8 you need a
    1394/FireWire input on the computer. For film, first have it transferred to
    tape or digital video at a camera shop or video company (see a
    list at For slides or photos,
    use a scanner (you can rent scanning time at a place such as Kinkos).
  • Import the video and audio clips into the DVD-Video authoring program.
    Many DVD authoring programs will convert and encode the video and audio for
    you. If not, you have to

    • Encode the video into MPEG-2 (make sure the display frame rate is set to
      29.97 for NTSC or 25 for PAL).
    • Encode the audio into Dolby Digital (or, if your video is short enough
      that you have room on the disc, format the audio as 48kHz PCM). You can also
      use MPEG Level 2 audio, but it won’t work on all players.
  • Create some chapter points in your video tracks or let the DVD recording
    software do it for you.
  • To put photos on the disc, use the slideshow feature in the authoring
    software or make each picture a menu. Most DVD authoring software will
    directly read TIFF, JPEG, BMP, and PhotoShop files.
  • Create menus that link to your video clips and slideshows.
  • Write your finished gem out to a recordable DVD. (But see
    4.3.1 for compatibility worries.)

Note: Most DVD authoring software gives you a choice of making an NTSC
or PAL DVD. For best compatibility choose NTSC. (See 1.19.)

John Beale has written a
page about
his experiences making DVDs.

Another option is to use a service that does all the work for you at a
reasonable fee. Here are a few choices.

  • American Digital Media
    (Hoover, AL). Up to 2 hours for $99.
  • Digital Video Dynamics (Orlando,
    FL). Up to 2 hours for $40 (chapters at 5-minute intervals).
  • DV4U
    (Sacramento, CA). Up to 2 hours for $150.
  • DVD ELF (Miami, FL). Up to 1 hour for
    $60. 2 hours for $95.
  • DVD Wedding Productions (South
    Pasadena, CA). One tape for $150 (+ VHS dubbing charge).
  • StashSpace Video Transfer (Everett, WA). Up to
    2 hours for $50 (chapters included).
  • ImageStation (Sony/Vingage;
    Reston, VA). Up to 90 minutes for $40.
  • Latale Productions (Flushing,
    NY). 1 tape for $99 (chapters extra).
  • Memories on Disc (Princess Anne,
    MD). $0.50 per minute of video, $1.00 per slide.
  • save2dvd (Pleasant Hill,
    CA). Up to 2 hours for $140. Also film and slide transfer.
  • ScreamDVD (New York, NY). Up to 1
    hour for $40, up to 2 hours for $70 (chapters at 3-minute intervals).
  • VHS-to-DVD (Pembroke Pines, FL).
    Up to 1 hour for $18-$25, up to 2 hours for $28-$35.
  • VT.TV (Bristol, UK).
  • WadeSound (Phoenix, AZ).
  • (Wedding DVD no longer offers the
  • YesVideo (Santa Clara, CA; service
    available at Walgreens, Ritz Camera, CVS and elsewhere). $25 for up to 2
    hours (chapters and automatic “highlights video” included). Also transfer service from movie film reels, 35mm
    slides, and photo prints starting at $50.

Or, if near-VHS quality is sufficient, make a Video CD. Get MPEG-1 video
encoding software and a CD-R/RW formatting application that supports Video CD
such as Creator or Toast from
Roxio, InstantCD
from Pinnacle (formerly from VOB),
from Query,
MPEG Maker-2
or RecordNow Max from Sonic, Nero
Burning ROM
from Ahead, NTI CD-Maker
from NTI, or WinOnCD from
Cequadrat. Quality is not as good as DVD,
and playing time is not as long, but hardware and blank CDs are cheaper. Just
make sure that any players you intend to play the disc in can read CD-Rs (see
2.4.3) and can play Video CDs (see 2.4.5).
See for more on making Video
CDs. A variation on this strategy is to make Super Video CDs (see
2.4.6), which have better quality but shorter playing time.
A few of the authoring/formatting tools listed above can make SVCDs, but few DVD
players can play SVCDs.

Another option is a home Video CD recorder, such as the
Terapin CD Audio/Video Recorder or
the TV One MPEG-2@disk, which record
video from analog inputs to CD-R or CD-RW.

[5.8.1] How do I put other data files on a DVD I make?

DVDs can store any type of data file (PowerPoint, PDF, text, JPEG, etc.) in
addition to video. The files can be viewed by putting the disc in a computer and
opening the disc. They can be put pretty much anywhere on the disc other than in
the VIDEO_TS folder. However, the software you’re using to create the DVD (see
5.4) has to support adding data files. Check the feature list
for the software to see if it can add extra files. Sometimes this is referred to
as putting files in the “ROM Zone.” If your DVD creation software doesn’t
directly support adding data files, but it does have the ability to write a
VIDEO_TS folder on the hard drive, then you can use DVD formatting software (see
5.2) to copy the VIDEO_TS folder plus your data files to a
DVD. The ROM formatting software needs to recognize VIDEO_TS and properly
arrange it on the disc, otherwise it won’t play in many DVD players.

[5.9] How can I copy or rip a DVD?

This section is about copying disc-to-disc or from disc to hard drive. See 2.11
for copying to tape. See 4.13 for copying audio.

First, please understand that copying a commercial DVD may be illegal,
depending on what country you live in and what you do with the copy. Copying video for your own personal use
may be legal, but making copies of copyrighted discs for friends is clearly not.

Second, be aware that almost all DVD movies are protected from casual
copying. See 1.11 for details. However, any protection
measure is usually broken, see 4.8.

Third, realize that many movies come on dual-layer discs (DVD-9s), which can
only be directly copied to dual-layer recordable discs on a dual-layer
drive. Some copying software can recompress the
video to fit on a single-layer recordable DVD, but the picture quality will

There is a subtle difference between DVD copying and DVD ripping. Ripping
often refers to extracting the video and audio from the disc to a hard drive,
optionally skipping menus and interactivity. Ripping usually implies that the
CSS copy protection system is circumvented. Copying usually refers to
making a complete copy to a recordable DVD with menus and extras intact.
, used for copying dual-layer discs to single-layer discs, leaves
out parts of the disc such as extras and audio tracks, and recompresses the
video at a lower data rate if there still isn’t enough room.

If you have a legitimate need to copy a DVD, such as a disc you made
yourself, there are a number of options. A variety of free, shareware, and
commercial computer programs can copy entire discs using a single recordable DVD
drive (try a Web search for “copy
“) or can extract video and audio from a disc, which you can then use to
make a new disc (try a Web search for “rip
“). Alternatively you can hook a DVD
player to a set-top DVD video recorder, although in many cases the recorder will
detect the Macrovision or CGMS signal from the player and refuse to record.
Some DVD authoring software (see 5.4) can import video from
an unprotected disc. See
5.8 for how to make your own DVDs.

Beware of e-mail and ads touting DVD copying software for sale. See
5.9.1 below.

Note that that simply copying the computer files from a DVD to a recordable DVD
often produces a disc that won’t play in a set-top DVD player, since the files
have to go in specific order and specific places on the disc. Some DVD writing
software recognizes the files and places them correctly, but other software
doesn’t. In other words, you can’t just copy the .IFO and .VOB files (see

[5.9.1] What’s with those “Copy any DVD” e-mails?

It’s possible, but in many cases illegal, to copy any DVD movie. However the people selling DVD copying
software neglect to mention the many free alternatives, nor do
some of
them mention that their applications only copy to CD-R/RW in Video CD format,
which means the video quality is crummy and the copies don’t play in about half
the DVD players out there (see 2.4.3 and

[5.10] How do I get a job making DVDs?

Read this FAQ through a few times. For extra credit read my book,
DVD Demystified, and visit some of the
DVD information sources listed in section 6.4. Attend a
conference (see 5.11) to learn more and to make contacts in
the DVD industry. Take a few training courses (see 5.11).
Consider joining the DVDA. If you can,
volunteer to be an intern at a DVD production house (see 5.5).

Once you have a little experience, you’ll be in great demand!

[5.11] Where can I get DVD training?

A variety of workshops and seminars on various DVD topics are presented at
conferences such as DVD Pro,
DVD Summit (Europe) or
DVD Production.

Training companies offer DVD courses and “boot camps”:

There are a few schools with full-term courses:

The major DVD authoring software companies offer training classes around the
world, sometimes for free:

[5.12] How can I sell DVDs that I made?

  • Amazon zShops
    . Sales referrals. Your disc is listed on Amazon site, Amazon
    processes orders, you are responsible for producing, packaging, and shipping
  • CustomFlix. Duplication and
    e-commerce consignment. You give them a disc (or tape that they turn into a
    disc), they handle order processing, copying onto DVD-Rs, labeling, packaging,
    and shipment. No minimum.
  • Auction sites such as eBay,

    Amazon Auctions
    , Yahoo Auctions,
    uBid, and

    many others
    .  Site runs auction, you are responsible for taking
    payment, producing, packaging, and shipping discs.

If you are looking for someone to deliver your titles to retailers, see
6.2.2 for distributors.

[5.13] How do I put a PowerPoint presentation on DVD?

There’s not yet a feature in PowerPoint to export directly to video on DVD,
but you can convert a PowerPoint presentation to stills or video for import into
a DVD authoring program (see 5.8). Recent versions of
PowerPoint allow you to save your slides as graphic images (JPEG or PNG files)
that can be imported into a DVD authoring program that supports slideshows. The
advantage of using the slideshow feature is that you can have the DVD player
pause indefinitely on each still until you press the Enter or Play key on the
remote control. (Note: make sure the authoring software supports true slideshows
with “infinite stills,” since many programs just render slides as video.) The
disadvantage of using stills is that you won’t get animations and other fancy
PowerPoint effects. Alternatively you can record the PowerPoint presentation as
a video file (use a PowerPoint add-in or a motion screen capture program) and
import the video file into the DVD authoring program. This preserves the full
visual effect but locks you into the timing you used when recording the
presentation. Another alternative is 321
DVD X Point, which directly converts PowerPoint
presentations (version
2002 only) to DVD slideshows.

[6] Miscellaneous

[6.1] Who invented DVD and who owns it? Whom to contact for
specifications and licensing?

DVD is the work of many companies and many people. DVD evolved from CD and
related technologies. Some of the early proposals for “high-density CD” were
made in 1993, and these efforts gradually coalesced into two
competing proposed formats. The MMCD format was backed by Sony, Philips, and others.
The SD format was backed by Toshiba, Matsushita, Time Warner, and others. A
group of computer companies led by IBM insisted that the factions agree on a
single standard. The combined DVD format was announced in September of 1995,
avoiding a confusing and costly repeat of the VHS vs. Betamax videotape battle
or the quadraphonic sound battle of the 1970s.

No single company “owns” DVD. The official specification was
originally developed by a
consortium of ten companies: Hitachi, JVC, Matsushita, Mitsubishi, Philips,
Pioneer, Sony, Thomson, Time Warner, and Toshiba. Representatives from many
other companies also contributed in various working groups. In May 1997, the DVD
Consortium was replaced by the DVD Forum,
which is open to all companies, and as of 2005 had over 250 members.
Time Warner originally

the DVD logo and later assigned it to the DVD Format/Logo
Licensing Corporation (DVD FLLC). The written term “DVD” is too common to be
trademarked or owned. See section 6.2 and visit Robert’s
DVD Info page for links to
Web sites of companies working with DVD.

The official DVD specification books are available after signing a
nondisclosure agreement and paying a $5,000 fee. One book is included in the
initial fee; additional books are $500 each. Manufacture of DVD products and use
of the DVD logo requires additional format and logo
licenses, for a one-time fee of $10,000 per format, minus $5,000 if you have
already paid for the specification. (E.g., a DVD-Video player manufacturer must
license DVD-ROM and DVD-Video for $20,000, or $15,000 if they have the spec.)
Allowances are made for production houses and content providers to use the logo
in conjunction with a licensed replicator, and for non-licensees to use the DVD
logo in publications or presentations (with an option to
request logo art).
For more spec and logo information contact DVD Format/Logo Licensing Corporation
(DVD FLLC), Shiba Shimizu Building 5F, Shiba-daimon 2-3-11, Minato-ku, Tokyo
105-0012, tel: +81-3-5777-2881, fax: +81-3-5777-2882. Before April 14, 2000,
logo/format licensing was administered by Toshiba.

ECMA has developed international standards for DVD-ROM (part 1, the smallest
part of the DVD spec), available for free download as
ECMA-267 and
ECMA-268 from ECMA has also standardized DVD-R
in ECMA-279, DVD-RAM
in ECMA-272 and
ECMA-273, and DVD+RW
as ECMA-274 (see
4.3). Unfortunately, ECMA has the annoying habit of spelling
“disc” wrong. Also confusing, if you’re not from Europe, is ECMA’s use of a
comma instead of a period for the decimal point.

The specification for the UDF file system used by DVD is available from

Many technical details of the DVD-Video format are available at the
DVD-Video Information page.

Any company making DVD products must license essential technology patents
from the “3C
pool (LG,
Philips, Pioneer, Sony: 3.5% per player/drive, minimum $3.50; additional $0.75
for Video CD compatibility; 3.75 cents per disc) and the “6C
pool (Hitachi, Matsushita (Panasonic), Mitsubishi, Samsung, Sanyo, Sharp, Toshiba, Victor
(JVC), Warner: 4% per
player/drive, minimum $3, maximum $8; 4% per “DVD Video decoder”, minimum $1;
4.5 cents per ROM/Video/Audio disc; 4.5 cents for DVD-R disc; 6.5 cents for RW/RAM disc). Thomson
—jokingly referred to as the “1C pool”— requests ~$1 per player/drive. Patent royalties of a few cents per disc are also owed to Discovision Associates, which once owned
about 1300 optical disc patents, but many of them have expired. Per disc costs are paid by the replicator.

Note: IBM originally held about 250 DVD patents, but sold them to
Mitsubishi in August 2005.

The licensor of CSS encryption technology is
DVD CCA (Copy Control Association), a
non-profit trade association with offices at 225 B Cochrane Circle, Morgan Hill,
CA. There is a $15,000 annual licensing fee, but no per-product royalties. Send
license requests to,
technical info requests to
. Before December 15, 1999, CSS licensing was administered
on an interim basis by Matsushita.

Macrovision licenses its analog
anti-recording technology to hardware makers. There is a $30,000 initial charge,
with a $15,000 yearly renewal fee. The fees support certification of players to
ensure widest compatibility with televisions. There are no royalty charges for
player manufacturers. Macrovision charges a royalty to content publishers
(approximately 4 to 10 cents per disc, compared to 2 to 5 cents for a VHS tape).

Dolby licenses 2-channel Dolby Digital decoders
or encoders for
$0.66. The fee for a system with both a 2-channel decoder and 2-channel encoder
is $0.71. Multichannel decoders are approximately $1.50. Philips, on behalf of CCETT and IRT,
also charges $0.20 per channel (maximum of $0.60 per player) for Dolby Digital
patents, along with $0.003 per disc. Dolby also licenses MLP decoders for DVD-Audio

DTS licenses optional DTS decoders.

(MPEG Licensing Administrator) licenses patents underlying MPEG-2
encoding and decoding on behalf of several companies. Cost is $2.50 for a DVD player
PC software and $0.04 for each DVD disc. In 2010 the fees drop to $2.00 per
product and $0.0176 per disc. Per-disc fees drop to $0.016 in 2011.

Many DVD players are also Video CD (VCD) players.
Philips licenses the Video CD
format and patents on behalf of themselves, Sony, JVC, Matsushita, CNETT, and
IRT for $25,000 initial payment plus royalties of 2.5% per player or $2.50

Nissim claims $0.25 per player and
$0.0078 per disc for parental management and other DVD-Video-related patents.

Royalties for DVD+R patents are charged by Philips (approximately $0.06 per
disc) and Sony (1.5 to 3.5% of disc price).

Various essential licensing fees add up to over $14 per player about $0.20 per disc.
Player royalties are paid by the player/drive/computer manufacturer or the
manufacturer of a component such as a decoder chip. Disc royalties are paid by the replicator.

[6.2] Who is making or supporting DVD products?

[6.2.1] Consumer electronics

  • Afreey: DVD-Video players
  • Aiwa: DVD-Audio and DVD-Video players
  • Akai: DVD-Video players
  • Alba: DVD-Video players
  • Alpine: DVD car
  • Altec Lansing: DVD audio
  • Amitech: DVD-Video players
  • Amoisonic: DVD-Video players
  • Apex Digital: DVD-Video
    players (made by VDDV; info at <>)
  • Arcam: DVD-Video players (UK)
  • Ariston: DVD-Video players
  • Atlantis Land: DVD-Video players
  • A-trend: DVD-Video players
  • Atta: DVD-Video players
  • Audiologic: DVD-Video players
  • Audiosonic: DVD-Video players
  • Audiovox: Car DVD players
  • Axion: DVD-Video players
  • AV Phile (Raite): DVD-Video Players
  • Bluesky: DVD-Video players
  • BUSH: DVD-Video players
  • California Audio Labs: DVD-Video
  • CAT: DVD-Video players
  • Camelot: DVD-Video players
  • Casio: DVD-Video players
  • CCE: DVD-Video players
  • CD Playright: protective film for
  • Centrum: DVD-Video players
  • Chunlan: DVD-Video players
  • Clairtone: DVD-Video players
  • Clarion: DVD car
  • Comjet: DVD-Video players with Web
  • Compro: DVD-Video players
  • Conia: DVD-Video players (Australia, made by
  • Cougar: DVD-Video players
  • Cyberhome (Yamakawa/Raite):
    DVD-Video players
  • Daewoo Electronics: DVD-Video
  • Dantax: DVD-Video players
  • Denon: DVD-Audio and DVD-Video players
  • Denver: DVD-Video players
  • Digitor: DVD-Video players
  • Digitron: DVD-Video players
  • DiViDo: DVD-Video players
  • Dual: DVD-Video players
  • DVDO: video deinterlacing processors
  • Dynamic: DVD-Video players
  • Eagle Wireless International: DVD
    Internet appliances
  • Eclipse: DVD-Video players
  • Electrohome: DVD-Video players
  • Elta: DVD-Video players
  • Eltax: DVD-Video players
  • Emerson (Funai):
    DVD-Video players
  • Encore: DVD-Video players
  • Enzer: DVD-Video players
  • Esonic: DVD-Video players
  • ESS Technology: DVD-Video players and
    WebDVD players
  • Euro Asia Technologies:
    DVD-Video players (UK)
  • Faroudja: DVD-Video players
  • Finlux: DVD-Video players
  • Fisher (Sanyo): DVD-Video players
  • Funai
    (Emerson/Orion/Sylvania/Symphonic): DVD-Video players
  • GE (Thomson): DVD-Video
  • Genica: DVD-Video players
  • Goodmans: DVD-Video players
  • GPX/Yorx: DVD-Video players
  • Gradiente: DVD-Video players
  • Grandin: DVD-Video players
  • Great Wall: DVD-Video players
    (Hong Kong)
  • Grundig: DVD-Video players
  • Guangdong Jinzheng Digital: DVD-Video
  • Gynco: DVD-Video players
  • Haier: DVD-Video players
  • Harman Kardon: DVD-Video
  • Himage: DVD-Video players
  • Hitachi: DVD-Video players and
  • Hiteker: DVD-Video players (made by VDDV)
  • Homemighty: DVD-Video players
  • Hoyo (Raite): DVD-Video Players
  • Hyundai: DVD-Video players
  • iDVDBox: Enhanced DVD-Video Players
  • I-Jam: DVD-Video players
  • Innovacom: PC/TV with DVD
  • Irradio: DVD-Video players
  • Jasmine: DVD-Video players
  • Jeutech: DVD-Video players
  • JNL: DVD-Video players
  • Jocel: DVD-Video players
  • JVC (Victor): DVD-Video players
    and recorders
  • Kendo: DVD-Video players
  • Kennex: DVD-Video players
  • Kenwood: DVD-Video players
  • Keymat: DVD-Video players
  • KiSS (Raite): DVD-Video
  • Kioto: DVD-Video players
  • KLH: DVD-Video players
  • Kones: DVD-Video players
  • Konka: DVD-Video players
  • Labway: DVD-Video players
  • Lafayette: DVD-Video and
    DVD-Audio players
  • Lasonic (Yung
    ): DVD-Video players
  • Lawson: DVD-Video players
  • Lecson: DVD-Video players
  • Lector: DVD-Video players
  • Legend: DVD-Video players
  • Lenco: DVD-Video players
  • Lenoxx: DVD-Video players
  • LG Electronics (GoldStar): DVD-Video
  • Lifetec: DVD-Video players
  • Limit: DVD-Video players
  • Loewe: DVD-Video players
  • Logix: DVD-Video players
  • Lumatron: DVD-Video players
  • Luxman: DVD-Video players
  • Madrigal (Mark Levinson): DVD-Audio
    and DVD-Video players
  • Magnavox (Philips): DVD-Video players
  • Magnex: DVD-Video players
  • Majestic: DVD-Video players
  • Malata: DVD-Video players
  • Manhattan: DVD-Video players
  • Marantz (Philips): DVD-Audio,
    SACD, and DVD-Video players
  • Mark: DVD-Video players
  • Matsushita (Panasonic/National/Technics/Quasar):
    DVD-Video players and recorders, DVD-Audio players, DVD car
  • Matsui: DVD-Video players
  • Medion: DVD-Video players
  • Memorex: DVD-Video players
  • Meridian: DVD-Video players
  • Metz: DVD-Video players
  • MiCO: DVD-Video players
  • Microboss: DVD-Video players
  • Micromega: DVD-Video players
  • Minato: DVD-Video players
  • Mintek: DVD-Video players
  • Mishine: DVD-Video players
  • Mitsubishi: DVD-Video players
  • Mitsui: DVD-Video players
  • Monica/Monyka (Raite): DVD-Video players
  • Mossimo: DVD-Video players (China)
  • Mustek: DVD-Video players
  • NAD: DVD-Video players
  • Nakamichi: DVD-Audio and
    DVD-Video players
  • Napa: DVD-Video players
  • NEC: DVD-RAM video
  • Neufunk: DVD-Video players
  • Nintaus (Guangdong Jinzheng):
    DVD-Video players
  • Noriko: DVD-Video players
  • Odyssey: DVD-Video players
  • Olidata: DVD-Video players (Italy)
  • Omni: DVD-Video players
  • Onkyo: DVD-Video and DVD-Audio
  • Optics-Storage: DVD-RW
    video recorders (supplier)
  • Optim: DVD-Video players
  • Orava: DVD-Video players
  • Orion: DVD-Video players
  • Oritron: DVD-Video players
  • Palsonic (Australia): DVD-Video players
  • Panasonic (Matsushita): DVD-Video
    players and recorders, DVD-Audio players
  • Philco: DVD-Video players
  • Philips (Magnavox/Marantz/Norelco):
    DVD-Video players and recorders
  • Phoenix: DVD-Video players
  • Phonotrend: DVD-Video players
  • Pioneer: DVD-Video players
    and recorders, DVD-Audio players, DVD car navigation/entertainment
  • Primare: DVD-Video players
  • Proceed: DVD-Video players
  • Proline: DVD-Video players
  • Proscan (Thomson):
    DVD-Video players
  • Proson: DVD-Video players
  • Proton: DVD-Video players
  • Quadro: DVD-Video players
  • Raite: DVD-video players (Taiwan)
  • Rankarena: DVD-Video players
  • RCA (Thomson): DVD-video players
  • RCR: DVD-Video players (China)
  • REC: DVD-Video players (UK, made by VDDV,
    same as APEX)
  • Redstar: DVD-Video players
  • Revoy (Netherlands): DVD-video players
  • Roadstar: DVD-Video players
  • Rotel: DVD-video players
  • Rowa: DVD-Video players
  • Runco: DVD-video players and changers
  • Saivod: DVD-Video players
  • Sampo (Afreey): DVD-Video players
  • Samsung: DVD-Video
  • Samwin: DVD-Video players
  • Sanyo:
    DVD-Video players
  • SAST: DVD-Video players
  • Schaub Lorenz: DVD-Video players
  • Schneider: DVD-Video players
  • Scott: DVD-Video players
  • SEG (Yamakawa/Raite): DVD-Video players
  • Sharp: DVD-Video players
  • Shinco: DVD-Video players (Hong
  • Shinsonic: DVD-Video players
  • Singer: DVD-Video players
  • Skyworth: DVD-Video players
  • SMC: DVD-Video players
  • Sonic Blue: DVD-Video players and
    combo DVD-VHS players (formerly Sensory Science and Go-Video)
  • Sony: DVD-Video players and changers
  • Soyea: DVD-Video players
  • Spatializer Audio Laboratories:
    3D audio processing
  • Sublime: DVD-Video players
  • Sylvania (Funai):
    DVD-Video players
  • Symphonic (Funai):
    DVD-Video players
  • Tatung: DVD-Video players
  • Teac: DVD-Video players

  • Technics
    (Matsushita): DVD-Video and DVD-Audio players
  • Teknema (Ravisent): Web-connected
    DVD-Video players
  • Telestar: DVD-Video players
  • Tevion: DVD-Video players
  • Thakral: DVD-Video players
    (China, Hong Kong)
  • Theta: DVD-Video players
  • Thomson (RCA/G.E./Proscan/Ferguson/Nordmende/Telefunken/Saba/Brandt):
    DVD-Video players
  • Tokai (Raite): DVD-Video Players
  • Toshiba: DVD-Video players
    and recorders, DVD-Audio players
  • Tredex: DVD-Video players
  • Umax: DVD-Video players
  • United: DVD-Video players
  • Unity Motion: DVD-Video players
  • Universum: DVD-Video players
  • Venturer: DVD-Video players
  • Vialta (ESS): WebDVD players
  • Victor (JVC): DVD-Video players
  • Vieta: DVD-Video players
  • Visual Disc and Digital Video: DVD-Video
    players (China)
  • Waitec: DVD-Video players
  • Walkvision: DVD-Video players
  • Wharfedale: DVD-Video players
  • Wintel: DVD-Video players
  • XMS: DVD-Video players
  • Xwave: DVD-Video players
  • Yamaha: DVD-Audio and DVD-Video
  • Yamakawa (Raite): DVD-Video players
  • Yami (Raite): DVD-Video players
  • Yelo: DVD-Video players
  • Yukai: DVD-Video players
  • Zenith (becoming a subsidiary of
    LG): DVD-Video players

[6.2.2] Studios, video publishers, and distributors

DVD File maintains a list of
studio addresses, as
well as DVD
producer and distributor

[6.2.3] Hardware and computer components

  • Acer Laboratories: DVD decoder/controller chips
  • Advent: DVD-ROM-equipped computers
  • Alliance Semiconductor: display adapters with hardware acceleration for
    DVD playback
  • Allion: DVD mirroring servers
  • AMLogic: DVD player chipset
  • Analog Devices: 192-kHz/24-bit audio DAC
  • Apple: DVD-ROM- and DVD-RAM-equipped
    computers, playback hardware and software (QuickTime)
  • ASACA: DVD-RAM towers
  • AST: DVD-ROM-equipped computers (with MMX-based playback software)
  • ASM: DVD jukeboxes
  • ATI Technologies: display adapters with
    hardware acceleration for DVD playback
  • Avid Electronics: DVD decoder/controller chips
  • Axis Communications: DVD-ROM storage
  • Bridge Technology: optical pickup
  • Canopus: DVD-RAM video archiving.
  • CD Associates: Software and
    hardware for production and testing.
  • CEI: DVD playback hardware and software
  • Cirrus Logic: MPEG-2 encoder/decoder
  • CMC Magnetics: recordable
  • Compaq: DVD-ROM-equipped computers
  • Creative Technology: DVD-ROM and DVD-RAM upgrade kits, DVD decoder
  • Cygnet: DVD-RAM jukeboxes
  • DIC (Dainippon Ink and Chemicals): ink,
    organic pigments, thermosetting resin
  • Dave Jones Design: controllers for
    industrial DVD players
  • Diamond Multimedia: DVD upgrade kit (Toshiba drive)
  • Digimarc: watermarking technology
  • Digital: DVD software playback (for Alpha workstations), DVD encoder chips
  • Digital Stream: optical
    pickup assemblie
  • Digital Video Systems: DVD-ROM drives
  • Disc, Inc.: DVD-RAM jukeboxes.
  • DSM: DVD jukeboxes
  • DVDO: video deinterlacing chips
  • DynaTek: DVD upgrade kit
  • EPO Technology: DVD-ROM drives
  • Escient: DVD-ROM changer
  • ESS Technology: playback chipset, player reference design
  • Fantom Drives: DVD-RAM and
    DVD-ROM kits
  • Fujitsu: DVD-ROM-equipped computers
  • Gateway: DVD-ROM-equipped computers
  • Genesis Microchip: video
    chips (progressive-scan, scaling)
  • Granite Microsystems:
    IEEE-1394 DVD-ROM drives
  • Harman Int.: DVD jukebox
  • Hitachi: DVD-ROM drives, DVD-RAM drives, decoder chips
  • Hi-Val: DVD playback hardware (upgrade kit)

  • HP
    : DVD and BD drives
  • Hyundai: DVD decoder chips
  • IBM: DVD-ROM-equipped computers, decoder chips
  • I-Jam: DVD-ROM drives
  • Imation: DVD-RAM media.
  • Inaka: DVD jukebox software
  • Infineon: DVD reader circuitry
  • Innovacom: DVD encoder and decoder systems
  • Intel: DVD playback hardware (MMX) and software
  • Interactive Seating: Battle Chair
  • I/OMagic: IEEE-1394 DVD-ROM drives
  • JVC: DVD-ROM drives, DVD-RAM jukebox
  • Kasan: decoder hardware
  • KOM: DVD-RAM changer
  • LaCie: DVD-RAM drives
  • Leitch: DVD-RAM video recording
  • LG Electronics: DVD-ROM drives
  • LSI: DVD encoder and decoder chips
    (acquired C-Cube)
  • Luminex: Unix software for DVD-based
    archiving and duplication
  • LuxSonor: DVD playback chips
  • Margi: DVD decoder card for notebook PCs
  • Matrox: display adapters with hardware acceleration for DVD playback
  • Matsushita (Panasonic): DVD-ROM drives, DVD-RAM drives, upgrade kits,
    DVD/Web integration, DVD-RAM still-image recorder
  • Media100: DVD authoring tools, DVD
    playback hardware and software
  • Mediamatics: DVD playback software and hardware
  • Medianix: Dolby Digital decoder hardware with Spatializer 3D audio
  • Memorex: DVD-ROM drives
  • Microboards: DVD drive (VAR)
  • Microsoft: DVD playback support
    (DirectShow) and player applications
  • Microtest: DVD-ROM jukeboxes
  • Mitsubishi: DVD players, DVD-ROM drives
  • Motorola: DVD decoder chips
  • National Semiconductor: DVD playback and reference designs
  • Number 9: display adapters with hardware acceleration for DVD playback
  • Nuon Semiconductor: DVD playback
    reference platform (Nuon)
  • NEC: DVD-ROM drives
  • Net TV: DVD-ROM PC for home
  • NSM: DVD-ROM jukebox, DVD-RAM jukebox
  • Oak Technology: DVD playback hardware and software
  • OTG Software: DVD jukebox software
  • Packard Bell: DVD-ROM-equipped computers
  • Philips: DVD-ROM drives, DVD+RW drives, decoder chips
  • Pioneer: DVD-ROM drives, DVD-R drives, DVD-RW video recorders
  • Plasmon Data: DVD-RAM jukebox
  • ProAction Media: DVD
    duplication equipment
  • Procom: DVD-ROM jukebox
  • Ricoh: DVD-ROM/CD-RW drives
  • Rimage: DVD duplication and printing
  • S3: display adapters with hardware acceleration for DVD playback
  • Samsung: DVD-ROM drives and DVD-ROM-equipped computers
  • Spectradisc: limit-play
  • STMicroelectronics (formerly SGS-Thomson):
    DVD decoder chips
  • SICAN: DVD decoder chips
  • Sigma Designs: DVD playback
  • Software Architects: DVD-recordable
    utilities for UDF and Mt. Rainier writing
  • Sonic Solutions: DVD-Video playack and
    software (acquired portion of Ravisent, formerly Quadrant International;
    acquired InterActual; acquired Roxio)
  • Sony: DVD-ROM drives,
    DVD-ROM-equipped computers
  • ST Microelectronics: DVD decoder chips
    (acquired portion of Ravisent, formerly Quadrant International)
  • STB Systems: DVD playback hardware (upgrade kit)
  • Summation Technology:
    CD/DVD Duplication Equipment and Supplies
  • Technovision: Controllers and
    synchronizers for consumer and industrial DVD players
  • TDK: blank DVD-RAM discs
  • Toshiba: DVD-ROM drives, DVD-ROM-equipped computers, DVD-RAM drives
  • Tracer Technologies: DVD jukebox
    software and DVD recording software (Unix)
  • TribeWorks: custom player software
  • Trident Microsystems: DVD decoder chips, DVD-accelerated video controller
  • Truevision: DVD playback software (Microsoft Active Movie 2.0)
  • Verbatim Australia (ActiveMedia): DVD playback hardware (upgrade kit)
  • VisionTech: MPEG-2 encoder/mulitplexer
  • Wired: DVD playback hardware and
    software (acquired by Media 100)
  • (wireless DVD transmitter)
  • Xing: DVD playback software
  • Yamaha: AC-3 decoder chips
  • Zen: multi-beam DVD reading technology
  • Zoran/CompCore: DVD software and hardware playback, DVD decoder chips

[6.2.4] Computer software titles on DVD-ROM

[6.3] Where can I buy (or rent) DVDs and players?

(See 1.8 for price comparisons and coupons.)

(Disclosure: Some of the links above include affiliate program
information that may result in a commission to Jim.)

[6.3.1] Where can I buy blank recordable DVDs?

Important note: With blank DVDs the adage “you get what
you pay for” is usually true. Cheaper discs are more likely to produce errors
when burning and are less compatible with players.

[6.4] Where can I get more information about DVD?

[6.4.1] A few of the top DVD info sites

[6.4.2] DVD utilities and region-free information

(See 1.10 for more information about regions.)

[6.4.3] Information and discussion groups

[6.4.4] DVD info for specific regions

[6.4.5] DVD info in languages other than English

[6.4.6] Books about DVD

[6.5] What’s new with DVD technology?

September 2007

The DVD CCA, the licensing body for CSS (see 1.11),
approved the effective date (July 1, 2007)  for CSS Managed Recording.
Companies such as Sonic Solutions (with their
Qflix program),
CinemaNow, and
Amazon CreateSpace will introduce
products and services using CSS recording for burning DVDs on demand.

February 2007

The DVD Forum approved a new specification for DVD Download Disc for CSS
Managed Recording. This is a variation of DVD-R designed to allow legal download
and burn of movies and other video content.

June 2005

BD/HD DVD format unification talks are continuing, despite tough public
stances from both sides that they will not give up key features of their format.
The CE groups seem to be having problems reaching any sort of compromise, so the
battlefield has now shifted to the studios, with each format camp trying to get
all the studios on their side. If both formats go to market, the one with the
most content will win.

Dolby has decided that Dolby TrueHD will be the new marketing name for
the MLP lossless audio format. This is similar to Dolby Digital being the
marketing name for the AC-3 audio format.

April 2005

Members of both
camps continue to talk about players and discs being available by the end of the
year, although it’s extremely unlikely (other than perhaps limited releases in
Japan), since the specifications are not final and copy protection is still
being worked out.

November 2004

New Medium Enterprises announced yet another contender for next-generation
DVD: VMD (Versatile Multilayer Disc), to be launched in fall 2005, which adds
additional layers to standard 1- or 2-layer DVDs to store 15, 20, 25, and 30 GB
on a disc. I’ll say what I said about FMD (an intriguing technology that
failed): dozens of high-powered companies defined the DVD standard. Small
startups with great ambitions but limited resources will never succeed in
creating a mass-market successor.

August 2004

Both the DVD-Forum and the Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA) have chosen VC-1
(Microsoft’s WMV9) and H.264 as advanced video codecs.

November 2003

On November 19th the DVD Forum steering committee finally approved the
blue-laser HD DVD standard for continued work.

The Chinese government announced that EVD (enhanced versatile disc) would be
launched for Christmas 2003. EVD is a “homegrown” alternative to DVD
technologies developed by the DVD Forum and CE companies in Japan. EVD uses its
own optical disc format and a proprietary video compression technology (VP5 and
VP6, developed by On2 in the U.S.). EVD supports HD resolutions up to 1920×1080.
EVDs will not play in standard DVD players, and it’s possible that many EVD
players will not play DVDs since part of the reason for developing the format
was to get away from paying royalties on DVD technologies. EVD players in China
will cost about $250, compared to about $80 for a DVD player. It remains to be
seen if EVD will succeed in China and if it will appear in any other countries.

September 2003

The DVD Forum steering committee once again failed to approve the AOD format
(now being called HD DVD by proponents in the DVD Forum). Some people in the
industry, including Warren Lieberfarb, formerly at Warner and responsible for
much of the success of DVD, began talking about sticking with existing red-laser
DVD for high-definition video, using advanced codecs such as H.264 or Microsoft
WM9. A number of press articles incorrectly reported that the DVD Forum was
abandoning blue-laser HD technology.

June 2003

There are rumors that there’s a 6th HD format in the works based on the +RW

In the June meeting of the DVD Forum Steering Committee, the vote to
officially approve work on the next-generation DVD format (AOD, see below) did
not pass. This does not mean that the format was voted down, as reported
elsewhere, only that the proposal as currently defined was not approved. There
was clear bias in the voting, since the members that voted no or abstained were
all participants in the competing Blu-ray group. There will be another vote on a
modified proposal in mid September. In the meantime, work continues inside and
outside the DVD Forum on next-generation DVD.

March 2003

There are at least 5 candidates for high-definition DVD. (See
3.13 for details).

  1. HD DVD-9 (aka HD-9).
  2. Advanced Optical Disc (AOD).
  3. Blu-ray Disc (BD).
  4. Advanced Optical Storage Research Alliance (AOSRA), Blue-HD DVD-1.
  5. AOSRA Blue-DVD-DVD-2.

June 2002

Philips demonstrated a blue-laser miniature pre-recorded optical disc. The
3-cm (1.2-inch) disc holds 1 Gbyte of data. The prototype drive to read the disc
measured 5.6 x 3.4 x 0.75 cm (2.2 x 1.3 x 0.3 inches).

February-March 2002

A group of 9 companies announced February 19th a new high-density recordable
DVD standard, known as Blu-ray. At the DVD Forum general meeting in March, the
Forum announced that it will investigate next-generation standards to choose the
best one. Since the 9 companies are all members of the DVD Forum, it’s likely
that Blu-ray will eventually be approved by the Forum.

Also at the March meeting the Forum announced that according to AOL Time
Warner’s request it will work on a standard for putting high-definition video on
existing DVDs. The format is being called “HD DVD-9.” See

[7] Leftovers

[7.1] Unanswered questions

None at the moment.

[7.2] Notation and units

There’s an unfortunate confusion of units of measurement in the DVD world.
For example, a single-layer DVD holds 4.7 billion bytes (G bytes), not 4.7
gigabytes (GB). It only holds 4.37 gigabytes. Likewise, a double-sided,
dual-layer DVD holds only 15.90 gigabytes, which is 17 billion bytes.

The problem is that the SI
prefixes “kilo,” “mega,” and “giga” normally represent multiples of 1000 (103,
106, and 109), but when used in the computer world to measure bytes they
generally represent multiples of 1024 (210, 220, and 230). Both Windows and
Mac OS list volume capacities in “true” megabytes and gigabytes, not millions
and billions of bytes

Most DVD figures are based on multiples of 1000, in spite of using notation
such as GB and KB that traditionally have been based on 1024. The “G bytes”
notation does seem to consistently refer to billions (109) of bytes. The closest I have been able
to get to an unambiguous notation is to use “kilobytes” for 1024 bytes,
“megabytes” for 1,048,576 bytes, “gigabytes” for 1,073,741,824 bytes, and “BB”
for 1,000,000,000 bytes.

This may seem like a meaningless distinction, but it’s not trivial to someone
who prepares 4.7 gigabytes of data (according to the OS) and then wastes a DVD-R
or two learning that the disc really holds only 4.3 gigabytes! (See
3.3 for a table of capacities.)

Here’s an analogy that might help. A standard mile is 5,280 feet, whereas a
nautical mile is roughly 6,076 feet. If you measure the distance between two
cities you will get a smaller number in nautical miles, since nautical miles are
longer. For example, the distance from Seattle to San Francisco is about
4,213,968 feet, which is 798 standard miles but only 693 nautical miles. DVD
capacities have similarly confusing units of measurement: a billion bytes
(1,000,000,000 bytes) or a gigabyte (1,073,741,824 bytes). DVD capacities are
usually given in billions of bytes, such as 4.7 billion bytes for a recordable
disc. Computer files are measured in gigabytes. Unfortunately, both types of
measurements are often labeled as “GB.” So a 4.5-GB file (4.5 gigabytes) from a
computer will not fit on a 4.7-GB disc (4.7 billion bytes), since the file
contains 4.8 billion bytes.

To make things worse, data transfer rates when measured in bits per second
are almost always multiples of 1000, but when measured in bytes per second are
sometimes multiples of 1024. For example, a 1x DVD drive transfers data at 11.08
million bits per second (Mbps), which is 1.385 million bytes per second, but
only 1.321 megabytes per second. The 150 KB/s 1x data rate commonly listed for
CD-ROM drives is “true” kilobytes per second, since the data rate is actually
153.6 thousand bytes per second. This FAQ uses “kbps” for thousands of bits/sec,
“Mbps” for millions of bits/sec (note the small “k” and big “M”).

In December 1998, the IEC produced new
prefixes for binary multiples: kibibytes (KiB), mebibytes (MiB), gibibytes (GiB),
tebibytes (TiB), and so on. (More details at
also released as IEEE Std 1541-2002)
These prefixes may never catch on, or they may cause even more confusion, but
they are a valiant effort to solve the problem. The big strike against them is
that they sound rather silly.

[7.3] Acknowledgments

This FAQ is written and maintained by
Jim Taylor. The
following people contributed to early versions of the DVD FAQ. Their
contributions are deeply appreciated. Some information was taken from material
distributed at the April 1996 DVD Forum, May 1997 DVD-R/DVD-RAM Conference, and
October 1998 DVD Forum Conference, as well as many other conferences and
presentations since.

Robert Lundemo Aas
Adam Barratt
David Boulet
Espen Braathen
Wayne Bundrick
Irek Defee
Roger Dressler
Chad Fogg
Dwayne Fujima
Robert “Obi” George
Henrik “Leopold” Herranen
Kilroy Hughes
Mark Johnson
Ralph LaBarge
Martin Leese
Dana Parker
Eric Smith
Steve Tannehill
Geoffrey Tully

Thanks to Videodiscovery for
hosting this FAQ for the first two and a half years.


Copyright 1996-2013 by
Jim Taylor
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