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you are looking at a version more than a few months old, it’s probably an out-of-date copy.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.


  • [0] Where can I get the DVD FAQ?
  • [1] General DVD
    • [1.1] What is DVD?
    • [1.2] What are the features of DVD-Video?
    • [1.3] What’s the quality of DVD-Video?
    • [1.4] What are the disadvantages of DVD?
    • [1.5] What DVD players and drives are available?
    • [1.6] What DVD titles are available?
    • [2] DVD’s Relationship to Other Products and Technologies
      • [2.1] Will DVD replace VCRs?
      • [2.2] Will DVD replace CD?
      • [2.3] How does DVD compare with Blu-ray Disc (BD)?
      • [2.4] Is CD compatible with DVD?
        • [2.4.1] Is CD audio (CD-DA) compatible with DVD?
        • [2.4.2] Is CD-ROM compatible with DVD-ROM?
        • [2.4.3] Is CD-R compatible with DVD?
        • [2.4.4] Is CD-RW compatible with DVD?
        • [2.4.5] Is Video CD compatible with DVD?
        • [2.4.6] Is Super Video CD compatible with DVD?
        • [2.4.7] Is Picture CD or Photo CD compatible with
        • 6.5 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.

          [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.)

          [6.4] Where can I get more information about DVD?

          [6.4.1] A few of the top DVD info sites

          [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
          . This document may be redistributed only in its entirety with
          version date, authorship notice, and acknowledgements intact. No part of it may
          be sold for profit or incorporated in a commercial document without the
          permission of the copyright holder. Permission will be granted for complete
          electronic copies to be made available as an archive or mirror service on the
          condition that the author be notified and that the copy be kept up to date. This
          document is provided as is without any express or implied warranty.


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