This is the June 27, 2013 revision of the official Internet DVD FAQ for the rec.video.dvd Usenet newsgroups.
(See below for what’s new.) Send corrections, additions, and new questions to
Jim Taylor <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
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you are looking at a version more than a few months old, it’s probably an out-of-date copy.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.
-  Where can I get the DVD FAQ?
-  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?
- [1.48] Are there discs to help me test, optimize, or
show off my audio/video system?
- [1.49] What do Sensormatic and Checkpoint mean?
- [1.50] What are Superbit, Infinifilm, and other
variations of DVD?
- [1.51] I don’t know the parental control password for my
player. What do I do?
- [1.52] Can my DVD player get a virus?
- [1.53] Will x-rays hurt DVDs?
- [1.54] Why does a little camera sometimes pop up on the
-  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.
- 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.
- GEAR Pro DVD. DVD formatting software for Windows 95/98/NT4.
- JVC Professional Computer Products
- DVD RomMaker. DVD formatting systems with RAID hardware. $60,000
to $100,000. (Seems to be discontinued.)
- DVD RomMaker. DVD formatting systems with RAID hardware. $60,000
- The Digital Bits <www.thedigitalbits.com>
(top DVD news site)
- DVDFile <www.dvdfile.com> (another
good DVD news site)
- DVD’mension <dvd.wp.pl> (Polish)
- DVDSpecial <www.dvdspecial.ru>
- Audio Video Cine en Casa <club.idecnet.com/~modegar/>
DVD Demystified, by Jim Taylor
(the author of this FAQ)
Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About DVD, by Jim Taylor (a
book version of this FAQ)
DVD Authoring and Production, by Ralph LaBarge
Desktop DVD Production, by Douglas Dixon
From VHS to DVD, by Mark-Steffen Goewecke
CD-R/DVD Disc Recording Demystified, by Lee Purcell
DVD Production, by Phil De Lancie and Mark Ely
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.
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
Amazon CreateSpace will introduce
products and services using CSS recording for burning DVDs on demand.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
There are at least 5 candidates for high-definition DVD. (See
3.13 for details).
- HD DVD-9 (aka HD-9).
- Advanced Optical Disc (AOD).
- Blu-ray Disc (BD).
- Advanced Optical Storage Research Alliance (AOSRA), Blue-HD DVD-1.
- AOSRA Blue-DVD-DVD-2.
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).
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
None at the moment.
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.
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
Robert Lundemo Aas
Robert “Obi” George
Henrik “Leopold” Herranen
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.