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This is the December 17, 2002 revision of the
official Internet DVD FAQ for the rec.video.dvd Usenet newsgroups.
(See below for what's new.) Please send
corrections, additions, and new questions to Jim Taylor <[email protected]>.
This FAQ is
updated at least once a month. If you are looking at a version more
than a month old, it's an out-of-date copy. The most current version
is at DVD
 Where can I get the DVD FAQ?
 General DVD
[1.1] What is DVD?
[1.2] What are the features
[1.3] What's the quality of
[1.4] What are the
disadvantages of DVD?
[1.5] What DVD players and
drives are available?
[1.6] What DVD titles are
[1.7] How much do players
and drives cost?
[1.8] How much do discs
[1.9] How is DVD doing?
Where can I get statistics?
[1.10] What are "regional
codes," "country codes," or "zone locks"?
[1.11] What are the copy
[1.12] What about DVD-Audio
or Music DVD?
[1.13] Which studios are
[1.14] Can DVD record from
[1.15] What happens if I
scratch the disc? Aren't discs too fragile to be rented?
[1.16] VHS is good enough,
why should I care about DVD?
[1.17] Is the packaging
different from CD?
[1.18] What's a dual-layer
disc? Will it work in all players?
[1.19] Is DVD-Video a
worldwide standard? Does it work with NTSC, PAL, and SECAM?
[1.20] What about animation
on DVD? Doesn't it compress poorly?
[1.21] Why do some discs
require side flipping? Can't DVDs hold four hours per side?
[1.22] Why is the picture
squished, making things look too skinny?
[1.23] Do all videos use
Dolby Digital (AC-3)? Do they all have 5.1 channels?
[1.24] Can DVDs have laser
[1.25] Which titles are pan
& scan only? Why?
[1.26] How do I make the
subtitles on my Pioneer player go away?
[1.27] What is a layer
change? Where is it on specific discs?
[1.28] The disc says Dolby
Digital. Why do I get 2-channel surround audio?
[1.29] Why doesn't the
repeat A-B feature work on some discs?
[1.30] What's the
difference between first, second, and third generation DVD?
[1.31] What's a hybrid DVD?
[1.32] What's the deal with
DTS and DVD?
[1.33] Why is the picture
black and white?
[1.34] Why are both sides
fullscreen when one side is supposed to be widescreen?
[1.35] Why are the audio
and video out of sync?
[1.36] Why does the picture
alternate between light and dark?
[1.37] How do I find
"Easter eggs" and other hidden features?
[1.38] How do I get rid of
the black bars at the top and bottom?
[1.39] How should I clean
and care for DVDs?
[1.40] What's a progressive
[1.41] Why doesn't disc X
work on player Y?
[1.42] How do the parental
control and multi-ratings features work?
[1.43] Which discs include
multiple camera angles?
[1.44] Is it ok to put
labels or magnetic strips on DVDs?
[1.45] What's the
difference between Closed Captions and subtitles?
[1.46] What do the "D"
codes on region 2 DVDs mean?
[1.47] What's firmware and
why would I need to upgrade it?
[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?
 DVD's relationship to other
products and technologies
 DVD technical details
 DVD and computers
[4.1] Can I play DVD movies
on my computer?
[4.2] What are the features
and speeds of DVD-ROM drives?
[4.3] What about recordable
DVD: DVD-R, DVD-RAM, DVD-RW, DVD+RW, and DVD+R?
[4.4] Why can't I take a
screenshot of DVD video? Why do I get a pink or black square?
[4.5] Why can't I play
movies copied to my hard drive?
[4.6] Why do I have problems
playing DVDs on my computer?
[4.7] Can I stream DVD over
a network or the Internet?
[4.8] What is DeCSS?
[4.9] How do I play DVD
video in HTML, PowerPoint, Director, VB, etc.?
[4.10] What are .IFO, .VOB,
and .AOB files? How can I play them?
[4.11] How do I get the
Microsoft Windows DVD player application to run?
[4.12] I upgraded to
Windows XP, why did my DVD software stop working?
[4.13] How can I rip audio
from a DVD to play as MP3 or burn to a CD?
 DVD production
Recent changes (last
posted to newsgroups on Feb 9):
02-12-17: Updated production
02-12-17: More on aspect ratio
issues between progressive-scan players and TVs. (1.40)
02-11-18: Emphasized that
regions don't apply to DVD-Audio or recordable DVD. (1.10)
02-11-16: Explained a bit better
what a pressed disc is. (5)
02-11-14: Note about DVD-R/RW
lead-out writing time. (4.3.7)
02-11-13: Updated Nuon section
to better reflect its demise. (2.16)
02-11-07: Updated section on DVD
recorders replacing VCRs. (2.1)
02-10-29: Noted the demise of
02-10-21: New questions:
[1.51] I don't know the parental control password
for my player. What do I do?
[4.3.7] How long does DVD recording take?
02-10-19: Added HDMI info to
DTCP section and HDTV section. (1.11 and
02-10-10: Updates to recordable
DVD info and link to CustomFlix's DVD-R compatibility chart. (1.14,
4.3, and 4.3.1)
02-10-10: Got around to
including minor detail that encrypted files can be copied if disc
is authenticated. (4.5)
02-10-04: Finally, DVD-Audio can
be played on a PC. (4.1.1)
02-10-04: Updated laserdisc
section to admit that it's completely dead. (2.6)
02-10-04: More on DVD and HDTV.
02-10-04: Newer players can read
Picture CDs and Photo CDs. (2.4.7)
02-10-04: Got around to
mentioning that most new DVD burners can write CD-R/RW. (2.4.3
02-10-01: Updated links to
MSWebDVD docs. Addition of link to MSVidWebDVD. (4.9)
02-10-01: Updated section on DVD
video recorders. (1.14)
02-09-30: Updated link to Joe
Clark's DVD accessibility page. (1.45)
02-09-29: 1394 digital audio
output now available. (3.1 and
02-09-27: Additional info on
user operation control. (3.7)
02-09-16: Updated description of
DivX, moved from 4.8 to 2.10.
02-09-14: More on using zoom
feature to "home pan and scan" widescreen discs. (1.38)
02-09-12: New question:
[5.12] How can I sell DVDs that I made?
02-09-11: Panasonic Blu-ray
variation not confirmed. (6.5)
02-08-26: More candidates for
HD-DVD. More Blu-ray tech details. (6.5)
02-08-15: Links to Kodak disc
longevity info. (3.12)
02-07-26: Nuon Semiconductor
closed down. (2.16)
02-07-22: Note on copying
02-07-12: Link to The Simpsons'
DVD Q&A. (0.2)
02-07-12: New company marketing
Nuon chips. (2.16)
02-07-10: A few 2001 stats and
02-07-07: Minor revisions to
feature section. Removed Divx playback from list. (1.2)
02-07-03: Additions to hookup
02-06-27: Link to Jukka Aho's
Quick Guide to Digital Video Resolution and Aspect Ratio
02-06-22: Link to DVD-Video
Information page for format details. (6.1)
02-06-21: New 3-cm disc demo
from Philips. (6.5)
02-06-14: Updated .VOB
explanation, added .VRO info. (4.10)
02-06-09: Link to DVD Direct DVD
authoring system comparison table. (5.4)
02-06-04: Removed defunct
DVDArtist link. (5.10)
02-06-03: Hungarian translation
02-05-14: New question:
[5.9] How can I copy a DVD?
(Renumbered old 5.9 and 5.10 to make room, changed 1.11.1 to
02-05-14: More updates on making
your own DVDs. (5.8)
02-05-03: Updated DVD+RW info. (4.3.5)
02-05-01: Updated MP3 section to
reflect growing number of MP3-capable players. (2.4.12)
players can't handle anamorphic conversion. (1.22
02-04-30: Updated link to The
Widescreen Movie Center. (3.5)
02-04-29: Revamped list of DVD
databases. (1.6 and 1.6.3)
02-04-29: Improved list of
sources for price searches and coupons (1.8,
moved from 6.3)
02-04-28: Updated InterActual (PCFriendly)
02-03-31: Laserviews Web site
defunct. Link to list of anamorphic titles at Widescreen Review
02-03-18: Refined compatibility
02-03-15: VM Labs Nuon
technology sold to Genesis in bankruptcy. (2.16)
02-03-10: New question:
[6.5] What's new with DVD technology?
02-02-07: Definition of title.
More information about number of titles available. (1.6)
02-02-03: Suggestion to use zoom
feature to get rid of letterbox bars. (1.38)
02-02-02: New question:
[6.3.1] Where can I buy blank recordable DVDs?
02-01-21: New questions:
[1.6.3] How can I find DVDs with specific
features or characteristics? (modified 1.6
[1.6.4] Why do some rental stores not carry
[4.12] I upgraded to Windows XP, why did my DVD
software stop working? (renumbered old 4.12 to 4.13)
02-01-21: A bit more info on DTS
and Dolby Digital tracks. (1.23 and
02-01-14: New question:
[4.1.1] Can I play DVD-Audio discs on my
02-01-05: Updates on DVD
playback in Windows. (4.1)
02-01-02: Suggestions about
discs suspected of deteriorating. (1.24)
02-01-02: New question:
[1.50] What are Superbit, Infinifilm, and other
variations of DVD?
02-01-01: Notes about label
adhesive deterioration and disc printers. (1.44)
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
Also see 6.4.5 for DVD
info in other languages.
You betcha. Take a gander at
DVD Technology Exposition Web Page Extravaganza Supreme Deluxe <lonestar.texas.net/~bdub/earl/dvd.htm>.
Or you might prefer
Simpsons' DVD Q&A. (Although Lisa erroneously claims DVD stands
for "digital versatile disc" -- who you gonna believe, me or an
8-year old genius?)
Here are a few
on the DVD FAQ. 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.
Pointers to other DVD sites are scattered
throughout the FAQ and in section 6.4.
Since you asked, here are the stats as of Oct,
Size: 538 KB (551,169 bytes)
Number of words: 64,016
Number of external links: 2,776
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.
DVD once stood for digital video disc or
digital versatile disc, but now it just stands for DVD -- the next
generation of optical disc storage technology. DVD is essentially a
bigger, faster CD that can hold cinema-like video, better-than-CD
audio, and computer data. DVD aims to encompass home entertainment,
computers, and business information with a single digital format,
eventually replacing audio CD, videotape, laserdisc, CD-ROM, and
video game cartridges. 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 has become the most successful consumer electronics product of
all time in less than three years of its introduction.
It's important to understand the difference
between the physical formats (such as DVD-ROM or DVD-R) and
the application formats (such as DVD-Video or 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
4.1). 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-Audio (see
1.12), DVD-Audio Recording, DVD Stream
Recording, and SACD. There are also special application formats for
game consoles such as Sony PlayStation 2.
[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
suggested by some of DVD's creators)
Digital versatile disc (the meaning later
suggested by some of DVD's creators)
And the official answer is? "Nothing." The
original acronym came from "digital video disc." Some members of the
DVD Forum (see 6.1) tried to express that 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. The consensus is now that DVD,
as an international standard, is simply three letters. After all,
who cares what VHS stands for? (Guess what, no one agrees on that
Over 2 hours of high-quality digital video (a
double-sided, dual-layer disc can hold 8 hours of high-quality
video, or 30 hours of VHS quality video).
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, DVS, 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 playback).
Menus and simple interactive features (for
games, quizzes, etc.).
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
Not susceptible to magnetic fields. Resistant
Compact size (easy to handle, store, and
ship; players can be portable; replication is cheaper than tapes
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 skipping.
Most players support a standard set of
Language choice (for automatic selection of
video scenes, audio tracks, subtitle tracks, and menus).*
Special effects playback: freeze, step, slow,
fast, and scan (no reverse play or reverse step).
Parental lock (for denying playback of discs
or scenes with objectionable material).*
Programmability (playback of selected
sections in a desired sequence).
Random play and repeat play.
Digital audio output (PCM stereo and Dolby
Recognition and output of DTS Digital
Surround audio tracks.
Playback of audio CDs.
* Must be supported
by additional content on the disc.
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 picture.
Digital video output (SDI, 1394, or DVI) for
perfect digital picture.
Six-channel analog output from internal audio
Playback of Video CDs or Super Video CDs.
Playback of laserdiscs and CDVs.
Playback of MP3 CDs.
Reverse single frame stepping.
Reverse play (normal speed).
RF output (for TVs with no direct video
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
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 2.8.). However, quality depends on
many production factors. As compression experience and technology
improves we will see increasing quality, but as production costs
decrease we will also see more shoddily produced discs. A few
low-budget DVDs will 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 5 Mbps
(million bits/second), compression artifacts 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 was
not originally present 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,
etc. 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. Many demo discs were rushed
through the encoding process in order to be distributed as quickly
as possible. Contrary to common opinion, and as stupid as it may
seem, these demos were not carefully "tweaked" to show DVD at
its best. In-store demos should be viewed with a grain of salt,
since most salespeople are incapable of properly adjusting a
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 for a CD causes
it to sound harsh. Many 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. 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
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.
The final assessment of DVD quality is in the
hands of consumers. Most viewers consistently rate it better than
laserdisc, but no one can guarantee the quality of DVD, just as no
one should dismiss it based on demos or hearsay. In the end it's a
matter of individual perception and the level of quality delivered
by the playback system.
It will take years for movies, TV shows,
other video programming, and computer software to become widely
Vagueness of spec 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.
DVD recorders are still expensive. (See
1.14 and 4.3)
It has built-in copy protection and regional
lockout. (See 1.11 and 1.10)
It uses digital compression. Poorly
compressed audio or video may be blocky, fuzzy, harsh, or vague.
The audio downmix process for stereo/Dolby
Surround can reduce dynamic range. (See 3.6)
It doesn't fully support HDTV. (See
Some DVD players and drives may not be able
to read CD-Rs. (See 2.4.3)
Current DVD players and drives can't read
DVD-RAM discs. (See 4.3)
Very few players can play in reverse at
Variations and options such as DVD-Audio,
DVD-VR, and DTS audio tracks are not supported by all players.
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. Players slowly trickled in to other regions. Now,
almost four years after the initial launch, over two hundred models
of DVD players are available from dozens of electronics companies.
Prices for the first players were $1000 and up. By the end of 2000,
players were available for under $100 at discount retailers.
See section 6.2 for a list
of companies that provide DVD players.
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 to be available before May. The first upgrade kits
(combination DVD-ROM drive and decoder hardware) became available
from Creative Labs, Hi-Val, and Diamond Multimedia in April and May
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 are
available for $100 to $700 from
DynaTek, E4 (Elecede),
Margi Systems (for laptops),
Utobia, and others. For more
information about DVDs on computers, including writable DVD drives,
see section 4.
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) 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, and Yamaha. 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, and
Sharp. (See 1.12 for more information on
DVD-Audio and SACD.)
More information on players and drives:
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 what player is best for you. Unless
you have a high-end home theater setup, a player that costs under
$400 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 Demystified. 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
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?
If so, this is the wrong question to ask yourself, since all DVD
players have all of these features.
- 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 need a headphone jack?
- Do I want player setup menus in languages other than English? If
so, look for multilanguage setup feature. (Note: the multilanguage
menus on certain discs are supported by all players.)
- 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 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? If so, look
for players with picture zoom.
- 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
- Do I care about black-level adjustment?
- Do I appreciate 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
Audio Review and in online forums at
Home Theater Forum and
DVDFile. There's more advice at
DVDBuyingGuide and at
eCoustics.com, which also has a list of links to reviews on
See sections 3.1 and
3.2 for specific information on what audio/video
connections are needed to fit into your existing setup.
[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 one season of a TV series. All of these are collectively
referred to as 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
actual feature films appeared in Japan in December 20 (The
Assassin, Blade Runner, Eraser, and The Fugitive from
Warner Home Video). By April 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. Compared to other launches
(CD, LD, etc.) these are a huge numbers of titles released in a very
short time. (Note that this does not include adult titles, which
accounts for an additional 15% or so.)
See 6.3 for a list of Web
sites where you can buy or rent DVDs.
Availability of DVD hardware and software in
Europe runs about a year behind the US. A number of launches were
announced with little follow-through, but DVD began to become
established in Europe around the end of 1998.
There are many searchable DVD databases on the
Internet. 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 by 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.
See 6.2 for a list. Many initial DVD-ROM titles
are only be available as part of a hardware or software bundle until
the market grows larger. IDC expected 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 will contain the same material. But
DVD-ROMs can also take advantage of the high-quality video and
multi-channel audio capabilities being added to many
The following sites have reviews of at least
800 discs. Also see the list of
review sites at Yahoo.
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
Laser Scans. There's also the release list at
A good source of info about unannounced titles is The Digital Bits
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
Rental chains such as Blockbuster and Hollywood
Video have decided to only carry full-screen (pan-scan) versions of
movies when both widescreen and a full-screen versions are
available. This has infuriated a certain segment of DVD fans who
could never countenance watching a non-widescreen version of a movie
on DVD. Blockbuster and Hollywood Video hide behind the claim that
directors, not the rental outlets, choose the format when releasing
a DVD. This is true to a point, but in cases where there are both
widescreen versions and full-screen versions of a title the rental
chains carry only the full-screen version. If you would like to
voice your opinion about this, sign the
See 3.5 for more about
widescreen. See 1.38 for pros and cons of
Mass-market DVD movie players currently list
for $140 to $3000. (See 1.5 for more
information.) DVD-ROM drives and upgrade kits for computers sell for
around $50 to $600. (OEM drive prices are around $60.) Prices are
expected to eventually drop to current CD-ROM drive levels.
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.
So far DVD has not followed the initial high rental-price model of
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
Search for lowest prices and online discount
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
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
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 2005.
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
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 2000.
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 2000.
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 1999.
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
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
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 end.
Screen Digest (June 2000): European installed
base of DVD-Video players (1998) 0.3m; (1999) 1.5m; (2000) 5.4m;
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
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
349,000 DVD-Video players shipped in the
U.S. (About 200,000 sold into homes.)
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
Around 330,000 DVD-ROM drives shipped
worldwide with about 1 million bundled DVD-ROM titles.
60 DVD-ROM titles (mostly bundled).
1,089,000 DVD-Video players shipped in the
U.S. (Installed base of 1,438,000.)
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.
4,019,000 DVD-Video players shipped in the
U.S. (Installed base of 5,457,000.)
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
8.5 million DVD-Video players shipped in
the U.S. (Installed base of 13,922,000.)
About 46 million DVD-ROM drives worldwide.
Over 10,000 DVD-Video titles available in
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
12.7 million DVD-Video players shipped in
the U.S. (Installed base of 26,629,000.)
Over 45 million DVD-ROM drives shipped
Over 90 million DVD-ROM drives worldwide.
UK: 3 million installed base
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 about 3 million laserdisc players in the U.S.
For latest U.S. player sales statistics, see
CEA page at The Digital Bits. Other DVD statistics and forecasts
can be found at IRMA,
Twice. Industry analyses and
forecasts can be purchased from
Adams Media Research,
Alexander & Associates,
British Video Association,
International Data Corporation
Jon Peddie Associates (JPA),
Paul Kagan Associates,
Understanding & Solutions and
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 that can be used 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 discs
bought in one country may not play on players bought in another
country. Some people believe that region codes are an illegal
restraint of trade, but there have been no legal cases to establish
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).
There are 8 regions (also called "locales").
Players and discs are often identified by the 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
8: Special international venues (airplanes, cruise ships, etc.)
(See the map at <www.unik.no/~robert/hifi/dvd/world.html>.)
Technically there is no such thing as a region
0 disc or a region 0 player. There is such thing as an all-region
disc. There are also all-region players. Some players can be
"hacked" with 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. (The only thing that requires player manufacturers
to region-code their players is the CSS license. See
1.11) On Feb. 7, 2001, NASA sent two
multiregion DVD players to the International Space Station.
Information about modifying players and buying region-free players
can be found on the Internet (see 6.4.2)
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 code-free
players that are set for all regions (FFh), but they can be played
on manual code-switchable players that allow you to change
the region using the remote control. They may not work on
auto-switching 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, then it queries the player for the region setting
and aborts 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 will set most auto-switching players to region 1 and
allow 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 modified their chips to get around it. For
every higher wall there is a taller ladder. See DVDTalk's
RCE FAQ for more info
In addition to region codes, there are also
differences in discs for NTSC and PAL TV systems (see
Region codes do not apply to DVD-Audio. In
general, region codes don't apply to recordable DVDs. A DVD that you
make on a DVD PC or a DVD video recorder will play in all regions
(but don't forget NTSC vs. PAL differences, see 1.19).
Regional codes apply to game consoles such as
PlayStation 2 and Xbox, but only for DVD-Video (movie) discs (see
DVDRegionX for region
modifications to PS2). PlayStation has a separate regional lockout
scheme for games. Regional codes also apply to DVD-ROM systems, 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 RPC2 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").
Drive Info and information about circumventing DVD-ROM region
restrictions is available from Internet sites such as
Visual Domain and
DVD Infomatrix, as well as
links listed above. After December 31, 1999, only RPC2 drives are
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
1) Analog CPS (Macrovision)
Videotape (analog) copying is prevented with a
Macrovision 7.0 or similar
circuit in every player. The general term 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
adds a rapidly modulated colorburst signal ("Colorstripe") along
with pulses in the vertical blanking signal ("AGC") to the composite
video and s-video outputs. 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 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. Macrovision was not present on analog
component video output of early players, but is required on newer
players (AGC only, since there is no burst in a component signal).
The discs 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 <www.st.com/stonline/books/>.)
There are inexpensive devices that defeat Macrovision, although only
a few work with the new Colorstripe feature. These devices go under
names such as Video Clarifier, Image Stabilizer, Color Corrector,
and CopyMaster. Or
build your own. Professional time-base correctors (TBCs) that
regenerate line 21 also remove Macrovision. APS affects only video,
Each disc also contains information specifying if the contents can
be copied. This is a "serial" copy generation management system (SCMS)
designed to prevent copies or 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 not yet finalized, but will apply to
digital connections such as IEEE
1394/FireWire. See section 6, below.
3) Content Scrambling System (CSS)
Because of the potential for perfect digital copies, paranoid movie
studios forced a deeper copy protection requirement into the DVD
standard. Content Scrambling 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 licensee is given a key from a
master set of 400 keys that are stored on every CSS-encrypted disc.
This allows 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. On the computer side, 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. Beginning
in 2000, new DVD-ROM drives are required to support regional
management in conjunction with CSS (see 1.10 and
4.1). Makers of equipment used to display
DVD-Video (drives, decoder chips, decoder software, display
adapters, etc.) must license CSS. There is no charge for a CSS
license, but it's a lengthy process, so it's recommended that
interested parties apply early. CSS is administered by the
DVD 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
CPPM is used only for DVD-Audio. It was developed to improve on CSS.
Keys are stored in the lead-in area, but unlike CSS there are no
title keys 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). If the device key is revoked, the media key block processing
step will result in an invalid key value. As with CSS, the media key
block can be updated to revoke the use of compromised player keys.
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
CPRM is a mechanism that ties a recording to the media on which it
is recorded. It is supported by all DVD recorders released after
1999. 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 for 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." DCPS in general is designed for
the next generation of digital TVs, digital receivers, and digital
video recorders. It will require new DVD players with digital
connectors (such as those on DV equipment). These new products won't
appear until 2003 at the earliest. Since the encryption is done by
the player, no changes are needed to existing discs.
7) High-Bandwidth Digital Content Protection
HDCP is similar to DTCP, but designed for digital video monitor
interfaces such as DVI. 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 a security component for DVI:
High-Bandwidth Digital Content Protection. There is now a new
connection standard called HDMI that combines DVI and HDCP. Many new
HDTV displays are likely to have both IEEE 1394 and HDMI
connections. HDCP provides authentication, encryption, and
revocation. Specialize 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
The first four forms of copy protection are
optional for the producer of a disc. Movie decryption is also
optional for hardware and software playback manufacturers: a player
or computer without decryption capability will only be able to play
unencrypted movies. CPRM is handled automatically by DVD recorders.
DCPS and HDCP will be performed by the DVD player, not by the disc
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 that they won't stop well-equipped
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
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. 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 drives.
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. There were reports that the early watermarking technique
used by Divx caused visible "raindrop" or "gunshot" patterns, but
the problem was apparently solved for later releases.
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 some early models of DVD-Audio players in Japan in
late 1999, but they don't play copy-protected discs.
Matsushita released Panasonic and Technics
brand universal DVD-Audio/DVD-Video players available 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).
Plea to producers:
Universal players won't be available for some time, but you can make
universal discs today. 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 zone.
Plea to DVD-Audio authoring system
developers: Make your software do this by default or
strongly recommend this option during authoring.
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
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 most receivers
with 6-channel audio inputs simply pass them through to the
amplifier. Until new audio systems with full bass management from
6-channel inputs are developed, any setup that doesn't have
full-range speakers for all 5 surround channels will not properly
reproduce all the bass frequencies. In the interim, you may be able
to use an outboard bass managment box, such as from
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.
For more on DVD-Audio, including lists of
titles and player models, visit
Digital Audio Guide.
All major movie studios, most major music
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.
Yes. When DVD was originally introduced in 1997
it could only play. DVD video recorders 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. DVD recorders are still
quite expensive (typically $500 to $2000 as of fall 2002), but will
eventually be as cheap as VCRs. DVD recorders are already being
added to satellite and cable receivers, hard-disk video recorders,
and similar boxes.
A DVD recorder is just 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. Note that DVD video recorders can't copy
most DVD movie discs, which are protected.
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 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
Most scratches will 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
The primary advantages of DVD are quality and
extra features (see 1.2). 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 "collectability" factor present with CDs vs.
If none of this matters to you, then VHS
probably is good enough.
Manufacturers are worried about customers
assuming DVDs will play in their CD player, so they would like the
packaging to be different. There are a number of DVD packages that
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.
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 is designed to provide continuous video across both
layers. 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 up to 4 seconds on other players. The "seamlessness"
depends as much on the way the disc is prepared as on the design of
the player. OTP is also called RSDL (reverse-spiral dual layer). 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 letterbox 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. The added cost is 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 an LD, but not a DVD. (See
2.12 for note on reading both sides
The MPEG video on 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
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 a NTSC disc to standard PAL output. Proper
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. (Sound is not affected by
Most NTSC players can't play PAL discs. 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 at
Snell and Wilcox.
Many standards-converting players can't convert
anamorphic widescreen video for 4:3 displays. See
There are three differences between discs
intended for playback on different TV systems: picture size and
pixel aspect ratio (720x480 vs. 720x576), 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 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
Because of PAL's higher resolution, the movie
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 installations worldwide. PAL
discs play on very few players outside of PAL countries. (This is
irrespective of regions -- see 1.10.)
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 occur.
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. No 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.
There is a list of "flipper" discs in the
at DVD Review. 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. Please send additions to
[email protected] (The
list has gotten too long to keep in this FAQ.)
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
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.
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 also possible for
a 625/50 (PAL) disc to contain only MPEG audio, but so far MPEG
audio is not widely used. Discs with DTS audio are required to also
include a Dolby Digital audio track (or 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 are mono movies, 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: it
means that the disc contains a two-channel Dolby Surround signal
encoded in Dolby Digital format.
See 3.6 for more audio
Laserdiscs are subject to what's commonly
called laser rot: the deterioration of the aluminum layer due to
oxidation or other chemical change. This often results from the use
of insufficiently pure aluminum 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).
Deterioration of the data layer can be caused by chemical
contaminants or gasses in the glue, or by moisture that penetrates
the acrylic substrates.
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
It's too early to know for sure, but DVDs will
probably have few laser rot problems. There have been reports of a
few discs going bad, possibly due to poor adhesive, chemical
reactions, or oxidation of the aluminum layer. See
www.mindspring.com/~yerington/. 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 then it may have deteriorated. If so,
there's nothing you can do to fix it. Request a replacement from the
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 there can be no widescreen
version. Video shot with TV cameras, such as music concerts, is
already in 4:3 format.
The list of pan & scan only titles has gotten
too big to keep here. You can get a list from the
at DVD Review, or from
Internet Movie Database (which also includes discs with both
widescreen and pan & scan versions).
On the remote control, press Subtitle, then
either Clear or 0 (zero). No need to use the menus.
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. The length of the pause
depends on the player and on the layout of the disc. The pause is
not a defect in the player or the disc. See 1.18
There is a list of layer switch points in the
at DVD Review. Please send new times to
[email protected] (The
list has gotten too long to keep in this FAQ.)
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. Since 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. (Note: Some players such as the
Sony 3000 have a feature to automatically select the first 5.1
Dolby Digital doesn't necessarily mean 5.1
channels. See 3.6.
Almost all features of DVD such as search,
pause, and scan can be disabled by the disc, which can prevent the
operation the player needs to back up and repeat a segment. If the
player uses time search to repeat a segment, then a disc with fancy
non-sequential title organization may also block the repeat feature.
In many cases the authors don't even realize they have prevented the
use of this feature.
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.
There are many conflicting variations 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
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 RPC2 explanation.
Do you really want the answer to this one? Ok,
you asked for it...
A disc that works in both DVD-Video players
and DVD-ROM PCs. (The most common use of the term hybrid, but more
accurately called an enhanced DVD)
A DVD-ROM disc that runs on Windows and Mac
OS computers. (More accurately called a cross-platform
A DVD-ROM or DVD-Video disc that also
contains Web content for connecting to the Internet. (More
accurately called a WebDVD or Web-connected DVD.)
A disc that contains both DVD-Video and
DVD-Audio content. (More accurately called a universal or
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 CD-compatible disc.)
There are at least three variations of this hybrid (none were
commercially available as of 12/99):
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.
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
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.
A disc with two layers, one containing
pressed (DVD-ROM) data and one containing rewritable (DVD-RAM,
etc.) media for recording and re-recording. (More accurately
called a DVD-PROM, mixed-media, or rewritable
A disc with two layers on one side and one
layer on the other. (More accurately called a DVD-14.)
A disc with an embedded memory chip for
storing custom usage data and access codes. (More accurately
called a chipped DVD.)
Did I miss any?
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
DTS originally did all encoding in house, but
as of October 1999 DTS encoders are available for purchase. DTS
titles are generally considered to be specialty items intended for
audio enthusiasts. Most DTS are also be available in a Dolby
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 proper 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 are 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, since 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.
You are probably trying to play an NTSC disc in
a PAL player, but your PAL TV is not able to 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) may solve the problem.
See section 1.19 for more information.
Or you may have connected one of the component
outputs (Y, R-Y, or B-Y) of your DVD player to the composite input
of your TV. See section 3.2 for hookup details.
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 seems to be 4:3 pan &
scan, 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.
There have been numerous reports of "lip sync"
problems, where the audio lags slightly behind the video, and even
reports of the audio coming before the video. Perception of a sync
problem is highly subjective--some people are bothered by it while
others can't discern it at all. 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, new 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 factors
Improper sync in audio/video encoding or
Poor sync during film production or editing
(especially post-dubbing or looping).
Loose sync tolerances in the player.
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 Sync page.
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
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
The black bars are part of the letterbox
process (see 3.5), and in many cases you can't
get rid of them. 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 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 you will get a tall,
stretched picture unless you have a widescreen 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):
Check the other side of the disc (if it's
Look for a fullscreen choice in the main menu
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 most 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-frame 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
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 "home pan
For a detailed explanation of why
most movie fans prefer letterboxing, see the
Page. For an explanation of anamorphic widescreen and links to
more information and examples on other Web sites, see
The best solution to this entire mess might be
the FlikFX Digital
Recomposition System, "the greatest advance in entertainment in
Since DVDs are read by a laser, they are
resistant—to a point—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 there are globs of nasty substances on it that
might actually hit the lens. Still, it's best to keep your discs
clean, which will also keep the inside of your player clean. Never
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 commonly use a lens cleaning disc in your CD
player, you may want to do the same with your DVD player. I
recommend only using a cleaning disc designed for DVD players, since
there are minor differences in lens positioning.
There is no need for periodic alignment of the
pickup head. 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. Do
not 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
Make certain the disc is properly seated in the
player tray before you close it.
Keep 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.
Magnetic fields have no effect on DVDs. 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%.
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.
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
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. Cleaning products labeled for use on CDs work as well
as those that say they are for DVDs.
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 ECC block. Examine the disc, 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
buy polishing compounds or toothpaste and do it yourself. The trick
is to polish out the scratch without causing new ones. A mess of
small polishing scratches can 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 discs may want 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
re-polished about half as many times.
A progressive-scan DVD player converts the
interlaced (480i) video from DVD into progressive (480p) format for
connection to a progressive 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.
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 re-interleaved 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
buy one to use 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. It's also
possible to buy an external line multiplier to convert the
output of a standard DVD player to progressive scanning. All DVD
computers are progressive players, since the video is displayed on a
progressive monitor, but quality varies. (See 4.1
Converting interlaced DVD video to progressive
video involves much more than putting film frames back together.
There are essentially two ways to convert from interlaced to
1- Re-interleaving (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- There's actually a third way, called field-adaptive
de-interlacing, which examines individual pixels across three or
more fields and selectively weaves or bobs regions of the picture as
appropriate. Most systems that do this well cost $10,000 and up, so
it will be a while before we see it in consumer DVD players.)
(4- And there's also a fourth way, called motion-adaptive
de-interlacing, 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 de-interlacing
1- Integrated. This is usually best, where the de-interlacer
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
de-interlacer 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 flag.)
3- External. Analog video from the DVD player is passed to a
separate de-interlacer (line multiplier) or to a display with a
built-in de-interlacer. 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
Genesis gmVLX1A de-interlacing chip. The Princeton PVD-5000 uses a
Sigma Designs decoder with integrated de-interlacing. The JVC
XV-D723GD uses a custom decoder with integrated de-interlacing.
Toshiba's "Super Digital Progressive" players and the Panasonic
HD-1000 use 4:4:4 chroma oversampling, which provides a slight
quality boost from DVD's native 4:2:0 format. Add-on internal de-interlacers
such as the Cinematrix and MSB
Progressive Plus are available to convert existing players to
progressive-scan output. Faroudja,
Silicon Image (DVDO), and
Videon (Omega) line
multipliers are examples of external de-interlacers.
A progressive DVD player has to determine
whether the video should be line-doubled or re-interleaved. When
re-interleaving film-source video, the 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
resolution 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 re-interleaver 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 Lebowski
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 may reduce 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 generation 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 and
player ratings in the excellent
DVD Benchmark series at Secrets of Home Theater and High
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
re-author 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
Check the list below to see if it's a
reported problem. Also check the list of problem discs in DVD
Film Vault and at
InterActual's tech support page. Try a newsgroup search at
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).
Try the disc in a different player. (Visit a
friend or a nearby store that sells players.) The problem is
usually the player, not the disc. If the disc plays properly in a
different player, 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.
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, then it may be a misauthored
disc. Contact the distributor or the studio about getting a
For other DVD and home theater problems, try
Doc DVD, or DVD Digest's
Zone. If you have a Samsung 709, see the
Samsung 709 FAQ.
For troubleshooting DVD on computers, see 4.6.
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
various Polygram titles
early Toshiba and Magnavox models
won't load or freezes
upgrade available from Toshiba service
various Central Park Media (anime) titles
similar problems as The Matrix
any all-region title
many JVC models
RCE titles (see 1.10)
Fisher DVDS-1000, Sanyo Model DVD5100
world map and "only plays on non-modified
contact tech Sanyo/Fisher support for
The Abyss, SE
early Toshiba models
disc 2 won't load or freezes
upgrade available from Toshiba service
many cheap players
player doesn't properly handle seamless
branching, get upgrade from manufacturer
scenes play twice
check with Apex for upgrade
AI (PAL region 2)
Pioneer DV-37, DV-737, DV-525
freezes in several places
fast forward to skip trouble spots
Aliens 20th Anniversary Edition
picture degrades after layer change
American Beauty (Awards Edition)
Toshiba SD-3108, Philips DVD805
upgrade from manufacturer service center
(Toshiba firmware 3.30 or newer)
freezes at layer change (1:17:09)
Any Given Sunday
Pioneer Elite DVL90
upgrade from Pioneer service center
see Cruel Intentions
Panasonic A115-U and A120-U
unplug player with disc inserted, plug in,
Avenger's TV series (A&E)
locks up player
upgrade available from Toshiba service
Philips 930, 935
check with Philips for firmware upgrade
Back to the Future Trilogy (region 4)
"anecdote" subpictures don't play properly
Apex AD 600A
check with Apex for upgrade
Big Trouble in Little China Special Edition
unplug player with disc inserted, plug in,
The Blair Witch Project
some Toshiba players
doesn't play properly
upgrade available from Toshiba service
some JVC and Yamaha
error in first release messes up parental
controls, causing other discs to not play
player or get the corrected version of the disc or set
parental country code to AD with password of 8888
Deep Blue Sea
similar problems as The Matrix
many 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 Kid
many players (Apex 600AD, Philips 711,
Pioneer DV-737, RCA, and others)
skips, ejects disc, freezes, blue lines on
authoring 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)
Toshiba SD-2109/3109 (before mid 1999)
upgrade available from Toshiba service
most Samsung, Aiwa
check with Samsung (800-726-7864) or Aiwa
for firmware upgrade
JVC, Sony 850
JVC for firmware
Sigma Hollywood Plus
see The World Is Not Enough
Everything, Everything (Underworld)
Toshiba SD3108 and SD3109
upgrade available from Toshiba service
Many computer DVD software players
contact studio for new version of disc
most Samsung players
freezes at chapter 7
check with Samsung (800-726-7864) for
Apex AD-600A, Shinco 2120, Smart DVDMP3000,
jumps to Features menu, won't play movie
press Resume on remote control; upgrade
available for Smart
Toshiba SD3108/SD3109, Wharfedale DVD 750,
contact studio for new version of disc
The Godfather Collection, bonus disc
A few players
upgrade your player or get new disc from
Paramount (replacement disc works around player
Good Will Hunting
won't play audio commentary
see Cruel Intentions
In the Heat of the Night
Pioneer Elite DVL-90
Toshiba SD3108 and SD3109
upgrade available from Toshiba service
Philips DVD805 and DVD855
check for upgrade from Philips
many cheap players
player doesn't properly handle seamless
branching, get upgrade from manufacturer
The Last Broadcast
The Last Of the Mohicans
see The World Is Not Enough
Lord Peter Wimsey: The Nine Taylors
disc 2 won't load or freezes in menu
Lost In Space
freezes, audio out of sync
The Man With The Golden Gun
a few first-generation players, many
garbled video after layer change
might be a disc authoring error
(for GE 1105-P, serial number beginning with 940
or lower, get upgrade from GE; see
Samsung 709 FAQ)
Mission Impossible II
get upgrade from manufacturer service
Mission to Mars
get upgrade from manufacturer service
locks up near end of movie
seems to be player flaws -- check for
player upgrade; Disney may re-author disc with a workaround
Philips 930, 935
The Mummy Returns
Zenith DVD 2200
Video skewed left or right on bonus
Apex AD 600A
wont' play movie
check with Apex for upgrade (pressing
Resume may work)
check with JVC for upgrade
The Perfect Storm
get upgrade from manufacturer service
Planet of the Apes
PIP feature activates and locks up when the
two ape generals fight.
The Princess Bride Special Edition
freezes during first sword fight scene
Saving Private Ryan
distortion (smearing, flares) in beach
scene at end of ch. 4
This is a deliberate camera effect in the
film. Stop returning discs.
Creative Encore 12x, GE 1105P
crashes in FBI warning
try to skip past FBI warning; check for bug
fix from Creative
The Simpsons; The Complete Second Season
some special features on disc 4 cause
player to crash
The Sixth Sense
Sigma Hollywood Plus
wait for a software update from Sigma
some Toshiba players
doesn't play properly
upgrade available from Toshiba service
Windows 2000 and Windows XP
doesn't play movie
fix available from Microsoft
see Dragon's Lair
freezes in director's commentary
see Girl Interrupted
The Three Kings
won't play extras
Thomas the Tank Engine
see Girl Interrupted
Tomorrow Never Dies
locks up player
picture breakup after ch. 30
might be a problem with the disc
Wild Wild West
Samsung DVD 709; Philips 930, 935; GE
check with Samsung (800-726-7864), Philips,
or GE for firmware upgrade
The World Is Not Enough
Sigma Hollywood Plus
Wait for a software update from Sigma.
Might be related to trying to play in wrong region.
The World Is Not Enough (region 2)
stutters and freezes
presumably a flaw in the player; plays
region 1 version ok
You've Got Mail
DVD includes parental management features for
blocking playback and for 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
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
and there's a Studio and Manufacturer Feedback area at
Home Theater Forum.
You might also want to visit the
Viewer Freedom site.
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
Another option is to use a software player on a
computer that can read a "play list" telling it where to skip scenes
or mute the audio. Play lists can be created for the thousands of
DVD movies that have been produced without parental control
features. There was a shareware Cine-bit DVD Player that 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 development.
Yet another option is
Curse Free TV, 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.)
There's actually a euphemism in the DVD
industry, where "multi-angle titles" --spoken with the right
inflection-- means adult titles. However, apart from hundreds of
X-rated discs, not very many 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
Ultimate DVD (Gold or Platinum) is another sample disc with
examples of angles.
King 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 Mirrorball. 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 button locked out).
You can get an incomplete list of multi-angle
discs by doing an
extended search at DVD File or a
power search at DVD Express. To weed out the adult titles at DVD
Express, select all entries in the category list (click top entry,
Shift-click bottom entry) then deselect Adult (Ctrl-click).
Labels and adhesive strips are a bad idea since
they can unbalance the disc and cause errors, or even damage a
player, especially if they peel off while the disc is spinning.
Pressure-sensitive adhesives break down over time, so it's possible
for labels to come loose after a few years. Libraries and DVD rental
outlets often want to label discs or attach magnetic strips for
security, but it's best not to use them at all. If you must, use 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. 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. Write only in the area inside a
44-mm diameter. Writing anywhere else on the disc is risky, since
the ink could possibly eat away the protective coating and damage
the data layer underneath.
In most cases a better alternative is a
security 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.
Full-size round labels designed to go on
recordable DVDs may work, but have been known to cause problems. A
better (but more expensive) solution is to use an inkjet disc
Trace Affex) 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
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 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
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 do not reproduce Closed Captions
See DVD File's
A Guide to
DVD Subtitles and Captioning, Gary Robson's
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
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).
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, 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
There are a few DVDs designed specifically for
testing and optimizing video and audio playback. There are also some
that 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
The Eagles: Hell Freezes Over -
outstanding 5.1-channel music (DTS only, Dolby Digital tracks are
The Fifth Element - excellent video,
especially in beginning desert scenes; stellar audio as well
Gladiator - stunning surround audio
with brilliantly mixed orchestration
O Brother, Where Art Thou - Beautiful
color and incredible detail (check out facial stubble);
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (Ultimate
Edition) - great video for shadows and reds; highly
Toy Story 2 - Perfect all-digital
transfer results in sharp, rich images; sound effects are nicely
U-571 - earthshaking bass, great
Films on Disc has a list of
ISF DVD citations -- examples of the best of the craft.
Sensormatic and Checkpoint are two
point-of-sale security systems. They refer to the little metal tags
that are 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.
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 work. 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
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 infinifilm.com for more
Most DVD players allow you to lock out discs
above a certain rating. 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. 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
kid trying to hack his parents' player.
Eventually. DVD recorders are available (see
1.14), but it will take a while before the size
of the market drives costs down to VCR levels. DVD has many
advantages over VCRs, 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 or so, VHS may be as dead as
vinyl records are today.
Yes. Some CD-ROM drive manufacturers plan to
cease CD-ROM drive production after a few years in favor of DVD-ROM
drives. Because DVD-ROM drives can read CD-ROMs, there is a
compatible forward migration path.
No. DVD uses a smaller wavelength of laser to
allow smaller pits in tracks that are closer together. The DVD laser
must also focus more tightly and at a different level. In fact, a
disc made on a current CD-R writer may not be readable by a DVD-ROM
drive (see 2.4.3). It's unlikely there will be
"upgrades" to convert CD-R drives to DVD-R, since this would
probably cost more than purchasing a new DVD-R drive.
This is actually many questions with many
answers, covered in the following sections.
[Note the differentiation between DVD (general
case) and DVD-ROM (computer data).]
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.)
Yes. All DVD-ROM drives will read CD-ROMs
(Yellow Book). Software on a CD-ROM will run fine in a DVD-ROM
However, DVD-ROMs are not readable by CD-ROM
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 blank 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, Sony's dual-wavelength laser
(to be initially deployed on 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" 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. There are a few combination DVD-ROM/CD-RW drives that
can write to CD-R and CD-RW. Most newer recordable DVD drives (see
4.3) can also record on CD-R or CD-RW.
CD-R burners can't read or write DVD discs of
Usually. CD-Rewritable (Orange Book Part III)
has a smaller reflectivity difference, requiring new
automatic-gain-control (AGC) circuitry in CD-ROM drives and CD
players. CD-RW discs can't be read by most existing CD-ROM drives
and CD players. The "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 2.4.3).
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
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. 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 352x288 for PAL and 352x240
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. The 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 achieve 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
Video CD FAQ.
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 480x480 (NSTC) or 480x576 (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
CD Overview and
Super Video CD FAQ
for more info.
Sometimes. Since 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.
In general, no. Current 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 has yet to appear. Some
people expect 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 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.
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.
Only the Pioneer DVL-9 player and Pioneer
karaoke DVD models DV-K800 and DVK-1000 are known to support CD+G.
Most other DVD players don't support this mostly obsolete format.
All DVD-ROM drives are able to read the CD+G information, but
special software is required to make use of it.
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.)
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 can be played any computer with a DVD-ROM drive, and many DVD
players (particularly those manufactured in Asia) can play MP3 CDs.
However, oddly enough, most of the players that can play MP3s from a
CD can't play MP3s from a 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
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 used to produce combo players that
played laserdiscs and DVDs (and also CDVs and audio CDs), but these
models have been discontinued.
When this question was first entered in the FAQ
in 1996, before DVD was even available, people wondered if DVD would
replace laserdisc. Some argued it never would -- that DVD would fail
and it's 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 it 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).
Laserdisc still fills niches in education and
training, but is fading even there. Existing players and discs will
be around for a long time, and a few new discs are still being
produced. There were once over 9,000 laserdisc titles in the US and
a total of over 35,000 titles worldwide that could be played on over
7 million laserdisc players. 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
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. 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 (720x480), which is 1.3 times LD's approximately
272,160 pixels (567x480). 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 while 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: There are some movies on
laserdisc that will probably never appear on DVD.
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
For more laserdisc info, see Leopold's FAQ at <www.cs.tut.fi/~leopold/Ld/FAQ/index.html>,
and Bob Niland's FAQs and overview at <www.frii.com/~rjn/laser/>
(overview reprinted from Widescreen Review magazine).
It's not likely. 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 probably be more expensive
than buying a DVD player to put next to the laserdisc player.
Short answers: Partially. No.
First, some quick definitions: HDTV
(high-definition TV) encompasses both analog and digital televisions
that have a 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 very
expensive and won't become widespread for many years. DVDs are not
HD, but they look great on HDTVs. Over half 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 US 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 (640x480 and 704x480 at 24p, 30p,
60p, 60i) and HD (1280x720 at 24p, 20p, and 60p; 1920x1080 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 (1920x1035/30) (same as SMPTE 240M,
similar to Japan's analog MUSE HDTV) and 1250/50 (1920x1152/25)
which may be used in Europe. The latter is 5.3 times the resolution
of DVD's 720x576/25 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. HDTV became available in late 1998 at very high prices (about
$5000 and up). 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 finished. Digital connections for audio and video provide the
best possible reproduction of DVDs, especially in widescreen mode.
DVD players will soon have digital outputs, since the DVD Forum
finalized specifications for supporting 1394 and HDMI in 2002. 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 is happening soonest, fastest, and cheapest 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 for product examples. Video projectors are
available from Barco,
Vidikron, and others.)
Eventually the DVD-Video format will be
upgraded to an "HD-DVD" format. See 2.12 and
There are two Divxes. The first was a
pay-per-view version of DVD. The second (spelled DivX), is a video
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
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. There's also an open-source variation
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 (three 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
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
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
For more information see the
Divx Owner's Association.
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
The disc is new; no damage from previous
The "rental" market was opened up to other
retailers, including mail order.
Studios got more control over the use of
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
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 convenient.
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 monopoly.
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 commentaries.
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
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
Divx players included a "mailbox" for
companies to send you unsolicited offers (i.e., spam).
Those who didn't lock out their Divx player
could receive unexpected bills when their kids or visitors played
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
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 are unplayable after June 2001.
Divx players were never available outside the
U.S. and Canada.
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
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.
Not for a long time. HD-DVD "technology
demonstrations" being made by various companies do not mean that
HD-DVD is around the corner (the demonstrations mean only that
companies are busy jockeying for technology and patent positions in
developing the future DVD format). Consider that U.S. HDTV was
anticipated to be available in 1989, yet was not finalized until
1996, and did not appear until 1998. And has it made your current TV
HD-DVD (HD stands for both high-density and
high-definition) may be available in 2003 at the very earliest,
though 2006 is more likely. It will use blue or violet lasers to
read smaller pits, increasing data capacity to around 20 GB per
layer. MPEG-2 Progressive Profile--or perhaps another format such as
H.263--will probably be used to encode the video. All ATSC and DVB
formats will be supported, possibly with the addition of 1080p24.
HD-DVD players will play current DVD discs and will make them look
even better (with progressive-scan video and picture processing),
but new HD-DVD discs won't be playable in older DVD players (unless
one side is HD and the other standard DVD).
See 6.5 for more on the
future of DVD.
Ironically, computers will support HDTV before
settop players do, since 2x DVD-ROM drives coupled with appropriate
playback and display hardware meet the 19 Mbps data rate needed for
HDTV. This has led to various "720p DVD" projects, which use the
existing DVD format to store video in 1280x720 resolution at 24
progressive frames per second. It's possible that 720p DVDs can be
made compatible with existing players (which would only play the
480-line line data).
Note: The term
HDVD has already been taken for "high-density volumetric
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
See 2.9 for more information
about HDTV and DVD.
Very little, as predicted 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.
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 objects, but most
implementations only support simple video (Simple Visual Profile).
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 will be used in a
future, high-definition version of DVD. It's also possible that a
similar format such as H.263 will be used for the next generation of
DVD. In any case, it will probably not appear before 2004 at the
For more about MPEG, see Tristan's
MPEG.org site and the
MPEG home page.
WebDVD is the simple 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 and links,
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 players. Almost all WebDVD
implementations are currently for PCs, but new players such as Nuon-based
models are adding WebDVD features.
Most major 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
article. Good examples of WebDVD sites are
Mars: The Red Planet,
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
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 prospects 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 there were four Nuon-enhanced DVD movies:
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.
Most DVD players have the following video
output connections, which can carry an NTSC, PAL, or SECAM signal.
Composite video (CVBS). Standard yellow RCA
video plug. Combines all three video signals into one.
S-video (Y/C). 4-pin round plug. Separates
brightness signal (Y) from two color signals (C).
European players combine both of these
signals, and others, into a 21-pin rectangular SCART connector.
Some players may have additional video
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 connectors.
Component progressive analog video. Keeps all
three video signals separate.
- Y'PbPr format: 3 RCA connectors.
- RGB (or RGBS or RGBHV) format: SCART connector or 3, 4, or 5 RCA
or BNC connectors.
RF video. For connecting the TV antenna input
on channel 3 or 4.
- Screw-on, 75-ohm, F-type connector. May require an adapter for
TVs that have 300-ohm, two-screw, antenna wire connectors.
Most of the DVD players with component video
outputs use YUV (Y'PbPr), which is incompatible with RGB equipment.
European players with SCART connectors have RGBS outputs. 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 (Markertek Video
Note: The correct term for analog
color-difference output is Y'Pb'Pr', not Y'Cb'Cr' (which is
digital, not analog). To simplify things, this FAQ sometimes uses
the term YUV in the generic sense to refer to analog color
No consumer DVD players have yet been announced
with digital video outputs, but digital output will soon be
available using HDMI or
IEEE 1394 (FireWire)
connectors. There are specialty players from
Theta Digital, and
Vigatec with SDI (serial
digital interface) output, but they connect only to high-end or
Most DVD players have the following audio
Analog stereo audio. May have Dolby Surround
encoding, depending on the disc.
- Two RCA connectors, red and white.
Digital audio. 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/P DIF coax format: RCA connector. (IEC-958 Type II)
- Toslink format: square optical connector. (EIAJ CP-340 and EIAJ
Some players may have additional audio
Multichannel analog audio. Requires a
multichannel-ready or "Dolby Digital ready" amplifier/receiver
with 6 inputs.
- Six RCA connectors or one DB-25 connectors.
AC-3 RF audio. Only on combination LD/DVD
players. Only carries audio from AC-3 laserdiscs.
- One RCA connector.
High-resolution digital audio.
- 1394 (FireWire): rectangular connector. Requires a receiver with
1394 audio input.
Some players and receivers support only S/P DIF
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 POF.
Some players can output 96/24 PCM audio using a
non-standard variation of IEC-958 running at 6.2 MHz (6.144 Mbps)
instead of the normal limit of 3.1 MHz. Note:
The CSS license does not allow digital PCM output of CSS-protected
material at 96 kHz. The player must downsample to 48 kHz. The
Pioneer Elite DV-47Ai is the only DVD player (as of Sep 2002)
with DTCP-protected 1394 output for full, multichannel 96/24 and
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 work.
If you want to hook multiple devices (DVD
player, VCR, cable/satellite box, WebTV, etc.) 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 (very good quality): Almost
all 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.
Composite video (ok quality): All DVD
players have standard RCA (Cinch) baseband video connectors. Hook
a standard video cable from the player to the display (or to an
A/V receiver ). The connectors are usually yellow and may be
labeled video, CVBS, composite, or baseband.
Component video (best quality): Some
U.S. and Japanese players have interlaced component YUV (Y'Pb'Pr')
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 21-pin 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 on 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
Progressive video (very best quality):
A few players have progressive-scan YUV (Y'Pb'Pr') 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. Toshiba's version is called 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.
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). (See 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 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 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.
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 3.2.1.
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 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
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 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.
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),
MLP audio (from DVD-Audio discs), DTS, and MPEG-2 audio (PAL/SECAM
players only). 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), however, all DVD players can play DTS CDs if a DTS
decoder is connected to the digital output (PCM 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/processor. (You might need a
converter, see 3.1.)
Some players provide separate connectors for Dolby
Digital/DTS/MPEG and 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 will not
work unless your receiver/decoder 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
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
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 s-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 only solution is to get a box to strip Macrovision (see
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
To Adjust a TV.
If you get audio hum or noisy video, it's
probably caused by interference or a ground loop. Try a shorter
cable. Make sure the cable is adequately shielded. Try turning off
all equipment except the pieces you are testing. Try moving things
farther apart. Try plugging into a different circuit. Wrap your
entire house in tinfoil. Make sure all equipment is plugged into the
same outlet. For more on ground loops, see <www.hut.fi/Misc/Electronics/docs/groundloop/>.
More information for repair technicians is available at
There are many variations on the DVD theme.
There are 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 4.7 Mbps (3.5 Mbps
for video, 1.2 Mbps for three 5.1-channel soundtracks), a
single-layer DVD can hold a little over two hours. A two-hour movie
with two soundtracks can average 5.2 Mbps (with 4 Mbps for video). 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
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-/double-sided, SL/DL/ML means
single-/dual-/mixed-layer (mixed means single layer on one side,
double layer on the other side), gig means gigabytes (2^30), BB
means billions of bytes (10^9). See note about giga vs. billion in
DVD-5 (12 cm, SS/SL)
4.37 gig (4.70 BB) of data, over 2 hours of
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); 8.75 gig for rare DS
DVD-RW 2.0 (12 cm, SS/SL)
4.37 gig (4.70 BB); 8.75 gig for rare DS
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)
0.635 gig (0.650 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)
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 <www.mpeg.org/MPEG/DVD/General/Gain.html>.
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 layer.
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
Technicolor, and other disc replicator sites.
The first commercial DVD-18 title, The Stand,
was released in October 1999. It will still take a while for these
super-size discs to become common. 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. Even after new equipment is developed and
installed in production lines, the yield (number of usable discs
compared to bad discs) will be quite low until the process is fine
WAMO and others continue to announce progress
with DVD-18 processes, but given how long it took for production of
dual-layer, single-sided discs to become practical, it will take
even longer before the yields of DS/DL discs can meet the
replication demands of mainstream movie distribution, especially
since low yields mean higher replication costs. In the interim we'll
see DVD-14s (two layers on one side, one layer on the other side),
since they're a little easier to produce.
(My prediction in this FAQ, as of 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.)
DVD-Video is an application of DVD-ROM.
DVD-Video is also an application of MPEG-2. This means the DVD
format defines subsets of these standards to be applied in practice
as DVD-Video. DVD-ROM can contain any desired digital information,
but DVD-Video is limited to certain data types designed for
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 ([email protected]) is used. [email protected] is also supported. MPEG-1 CBR and VBR
video is also allowed. 525/60 (NTSC, 29.97 interlaced frames/sec)
and 625/50 (PAL, 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 (59.94)
displays or 2-2 pulldown (with resulting 4% speedup) for 50Hz
displays. In other words, the player doesn't really "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.
(Very few players convert from PAL to NTSC or NTSC to PAL. See
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. Raw increase
before encoding is 20% (576/480), but the final result is closer to
15%, depending on encoder efficiency. This translates to a loss of
600 to 700 megabytes on PAL discs compared to NTSC discs.
It's interesting to note that even interlaced
source video is often encoded as progressive-structured MPEG
pictures, with interlaced field-encoded macroblocks used only when
needed for motion. A computer can mostly ignore the
repeat_first_field flags and re-interleave (weave) the video
fields back into full-resolution progressive frames, which works
especially well at 72 Hz refresh rate (3x24). Computers can improve
the quality of interlaced source by doubling the lines in fields (bobbing)
and displaying them as progressive frames at twice the normal rate.
Most film source is encoded progressive (the inverse telecine
process in the encoder removes duplicate 2-3 pulldown fields from
videotape source); most video sources are encoded interlaced. These
may be mixed on the same disc, such as an interlaced logo followed
by a progressive movie.
See 3.8 for an explanation
of progressive and interlaced scanning. See 1.40
for progressive-scan players. See the MPEG page <www.mpeg.org>
for more information on MPEG-2 video.
Picture dimensions are max 720x480 (for 525/60
NTSC display) or 720x576 (for 625/50 PAL/SECAM display). Pictures
are subsampled from 4:2:2 ITU-R BT.601 down to 4:2:0, 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. The uncompressed source is 124.416 Mbps for video source
(720x480x12x30 or 720x576x12x25), or either 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): 720x480, 704x480, 352x480
MPEG-2, 625/50 (PAL): 720x576, 704x576, 352x576
MPEG-1, 525/60 (NTSC): 352x240
MPEG-1, 625/50 (PAL): 352x288
Different players use different numbers of bits
for the video digital-to-analog converter. Current best-quality
players use 10 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 3.5 but depends entirely on the length,
quality, amount of audio, etc. This is a 36:1 reduction from
uncompressed 124 Mbps video source (or a 28:1 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-2 I-frames) are
supported and can be displayed for a specific amount of time or
indefinitely. These are generally used for menus. 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. 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 1.45
for more about Closed Captions.
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, it's inconsistently
measured and reported by manufacturers, but we're stuck with it
until all video is digital and we can just report resolution in
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 (for a 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 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 are black. They
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 (VHS, LD, broadcast, etc.) 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
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
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 anamorphic 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"). Since 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 (or 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 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
Film Is Transferred to Video page. A list of movie aspect ratios
is at The Widescreen Movie
Once the video is formatted to full-frame 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
full frame (4:3 video for 4:3 display)
auto letterbox (16:9 anamorphic video for 4:3
auto pan & scan (16:9 anamorphic video for
widescreen (16:9 anamorphic video for 16:9
Video stored in 4:3 format is not changed by
the player. It will appear normally on a standard 4:3 display.
Widescreen systems will 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 (854x480 pixels or bigger for NTSC; 1024x576 or bigger
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
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. (If the video was already letterboxed to fit the 1.78
aspect, then the mattes generated by the player will 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 that's encoded in the
video stream according to the preferences of the people 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 a few 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 anamorphic.
Playback of widescreen material can be
restricted by the producer of the disc. Programs can be marked for
the following display modes:
- 4:3 full frame
- 4:3 LB (for sending letterbox expand signal to widescreen TV)
- 16:9 LB only (player not allowed to pan & scan on 4:3 TV)
- 16:9 PS only (player not allowed to letterbox on 4:3 TV)
- 16:9 LB or PS (viewer can select pan & scan or letterbox on 4:3
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
Anamorphic DVD? page, Bill Hunt's
Ultimate Guide to Anamorphic Widescreen DVD, David Lockwood's
What Shape Image?, and Dan Ramer's
What the Heck Is Anamorphic?. More information can be found at
Anamorphic Widescreen Support Page and the
Page. You might also be interested in Guy Wright's
The Widescreen Scam. See 1.38 for further
discussion of letterboxing.
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).
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.
There are two home-entertainment flavors of
DVD: DVD-Video and DVD-Audio. Each supports high-definition
multichannel audio. DVD-Audio includes higher-quality PCM audio.
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 WG4 decided to include lossless compression
(it's about time!), and on August 5, 1998 approved
(Meridian Lossless Packing) scheme, already 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 (required in all DVD-Audio players). MLP allows
playing times of about 74 to 135 minutes of 6-channel 96kHz/24-bit
audio on a single layer (compared to 45 minutes without packing).
Two-channel 192kHz/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. It's expected
that shortly after DVD-Audio players appear, new universal DVD
players will also support all DVD-Audio features.
DVD-Audio includes specialized downmixing
features for PCM channels. Unlike DVD-Video, where the decoder
controls mixing from 6 channels down to 2, DVD-Audio includes
coefficent 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
DVD-Audio allows 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 with DVD-Video, the
user can move at will through the slides without interrupting the
audio as it plays. 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 up to 100 kHz. 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 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. 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 new
watermarking circuitry, SACD discs are not playable in existing
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.
The following details are for audio tracks on
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 video still frames.
A DVD-Video disc can have up to 8 audio tracks
(streams) associated with a video track (an angle). Each audio track
can be in one of three formats:
Two additional optional formats are provided:
DTS and SDDS. Both require external 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 some
of them may 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 original PCM
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.) 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
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 will probably be 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 (aka NBC or
unmatrix) are not supported by the DVD-Video standard.
DTS (Digital Theater Systems)
Digital Surround is an optional multi-channel (5.1) 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 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 <www.dtstech.com>
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: crossover
sends bass from front channels to subwoofer; re-equalization on
front channels (compensates for high-frequency boost in theater mix
designed for speakers behind the screen); timbre matching on rear
channels; decorrelation of rear channels; bass curve that emphasizes
low frequencies. THX-certified "5.1" amplifiers enhance Dolby
Digital and improve on 4.0: rear speakers are now full range, so
crossover sends bass from both front and rear to 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 video (NTSC) must use
PCM or Dolby Digital on at least one track. Discs containing 625/50
video (PAL/SECAM) 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 spec required either MPEG audio or
PCM on 625/50 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 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. Unless the
audio is digitally processed to shift the pitch back to normal it
will be slightly high (about one half of 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 (i.e., 5 channels are phase matrixed into 2 channels
to be decoded to 4 by an external Dolby Pro Logic processor). PAL
players also have an MPEG or MPEG-2 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 -- but only 1 or 2 channels. Sony 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 (DD-SEX?)
format, which adds a rear center channel, is compatible with DVD
discs and players, and with existing Dolby Digital decoders. The new
DTS Digital Surround ES (DTS-ES) format, which likewise adds a rear
center channel, works fine with existing DTS decoders and with
DTS-compatible DVD players. However, for full use of both new
formats 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.
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 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. 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, but that a
separate track is not usually necessary.
Dolby Digital also includes a feature called
dialog normalization, which could 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.
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 can 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.
For more information about multichannel
surround sound, see Bobby Owsinski's FAQ at <www.surroundassociates.com/fqmain.html>.
Almost every DVD contains audio in Dolby
Digital 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
Every DVD player in the world has an internal
Dolby Digital decoder. The built-in 2-channel decoder turns Dolby
Digital into standard analog stereo audio, which can be fed to
almost any type of audio equipment (receiver, TV, boombox, etc.)
using a pair of stereo audio cables. See 3.2 for
There's a standard audio mixing technique,
called Dolby Surround, that "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. Then there's a brand new decoding technology, Dolby Pro
Logic II, that 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 1.32).
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
DVD-Video players (and software DVD-Video
navigators) 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-frame graphic and up to 36 highlightable,
rectangular "buttons" (only 12 if widescreen, letterbox, and pan &
scan modes are used). Remote control units have four arrow keys for
selecting onscreen buttons, plus numeric keys, select key, menu key,
and 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. This 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
DVD-V content is broken into "titles" (movies
or albums), and "parts of titles" (chapters or songs). Titles are
made up of "cells" 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 material.
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, and Stargate SE.
There are basically two ways to display video:
interlaced scan or progressive scan. Progressive scan,
used in computer monitors and digital television, 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 time 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 horizontal 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 shoots
24 frames per second, while a video camera alternately scans fields
of odd and even lines in 1/60 of a second intervals. (Unlike
projected film, which shows the entire frame 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 covers 99.9% 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, while 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% speedup,
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-D represent film frames; A1, A2, B1, etc.
represent the separation of each film frame into two video fields;
and 1-5 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 apparently inverted order of
C2-C1 and D2-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
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 judder, or jerkiness,
that shows up especially in smooth pans; and 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 1.40 for information
about progressive DVD players.
For more on progressive video and DVD, see
part 5 and
player ratings in the excellent
DVD Benchmark series at Secrets of Home Theater and High
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
Note that ringing can also be caused by the
player and by the TV. Scan velocity modulation (SVM), for example,
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 discs. 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, Pioneer
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
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 YAG laser. Since barcode cutting is independent of the
stamping process, each disc can have unique data recorded on it,
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.
Pressed discs (the kind that movies come on)
last longer than you will, anywhere from 50 to 300 years.
Expected longevity of DVD-R and DVD+R discs is
anywhere from 40 to 250 years, about as long as CD-R discs.
The erasable formats (DVD-RAM, DVD-RW, and
DVD+RW) have an expected lifetime of 25 to 100 years.
There's a good
discussion of CD-R longevity and
at Kodak. Also see <www.ee.washington.edu/conselec/CE/kuhn/otherformats/95x9.htm>
for more info.
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.
Yes, if your computer has the right stuff. 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 extra hardware to decode MPEG-2 video and Dolby Digital or
MPEG-2 audio, or your computer must be fast enough to handle
software decoding. 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,
since it's now possible on even the cheapest new models. Hardware
upgrade kits can be purchased for existing computers (usually
minimum 133 MHz Pentium or G3), starting at $150. See <www.brouhaha.com/~eric/video/dvd>
for a list of drives and upgrade kits.
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
CNET.) Support for DVD playback was added to version 10.1
If you're having problems playing movies on
your computer, see section 4.6.
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 additional 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
Microsoft Windows 98, 2000, Me, and XP include
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
Player enables scriptable DVD playback in an HTML page. 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. Adaptec provides a
free filesystem driver, UDF Reader, for Windows 95/98/NT.
Software Architects sells
Read DVD for Windows 95.
QuickTime 5 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.
Adaptec 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
QuickTime MPEG Extension for Mac OS is for MPEG-1 only and does
not play MPEG-2 DVD-Video.
Some DVD-ROM discs and a few DVD-Video discs
use video encoded using MPEG-1 instead of MPEG-2. Most recent
computers have MPEG-1 hardware built in or are able to decode MPEG-1
DVD player applications (using either software
or hardware decoding) are virtual DVD players. They support most
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. Decoders for Windows XP are called DVD Power Packs.
Software decoders and DVD player applications
for Microsoft Windows PCs:
special version of CineMaster software for certain ATI graphics
ASUSDVD (custom version of InterVideo WinDVD software or
CyberLink PowerDVD software)
CoolDVD (DirectShow [Windows 98/Me/2000/XP])
Creative Technology: SoftPC-DVD
CyberLink: PowerDVD (DirectShow [Windows
98/Me/2000/XP]; NT 4.0; available for
ELSAMovie, German only
InterVideo: WinDVD (DirectShow [Windows 98/Me/2000/XP];
NT 4.0; available for
special version of CineMaster software for certain Matrox graphics
Semiconductor: DVD Express (DirectShow [Windows
98/Me/2000/XP]; OEM only)
SoftDVD MAX (DirectShow [Windows 98/Me/2000]; available for
(formerly from Zoran)
NEC (NEC PCs only)
Odyssey DVD Player (available for
Studios: DirectDVD (DirectShow, downloadable shareware)
Ravisent (formerly Quadrant International): Software
CineMaster (DirectShow [Windows 98/Me/2000/XP]; available for
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:
PC-DVD Encore Dxr3, Sigma EM8300 chip (no DirectShow yet)
PC-DVD Encore Dxr2, C-Cube chip (DirectShow, Win2000)
Digital Connection: 3DFusion, Mpact2 chip (DirectShow)
D1 Desktop 64, Digital Voodoo chip (professional,
Cool DVD, C-Cube chip (E4 has gone
out of business)
IBM: ThinkPad laptops, IBM chip (DirectShow)
WinFast 3D S800, Mpact2 chip (DirectShow)
Luxsonor: decoders in Dell PCs, C-Cube chip
DVD-to-Go, ZV PC card for laptops (DirectShow, Win2000)
Hardware Cinemaster, C-Cube chip (DirectShow)
Electronics: PCDV632, PCVD104 (K series come
with Sigma Hollywood card, R series come with
software decoder) (DirectShow)
Samsung: Revolution, Samsung SD 606 6x, Sigma
Hollywood Plus card (DirectShow)
Designs: Hollywood series, Sigma EM8300 chip (no
Theater, Mpact2 chip ((DirectShow)
Stradis Professional MPEG-2 Decoder, IBM chip
(professional, no DirectShow)
Tecra laptops, C-Cube chip (DirectShow)
CineView Pro (professional, no DirectShow)
All but the Sigma Designs decoder (including
Creative Dxr3) have WDM drivers for DirectShow. The Sigma Designs
decoder card is used in hardware upgrade kits from Hitachi,
HiVal, Panasonic, Phillips, Sony,
Toshiba, and VideoLogic. The advantage of hardware decoders is that
they don't eat up CPU processing power, and they often produce
better quality video than software decoders. The Chromatic Mpact2
chip does 3-field analysis to produce exceptional progressive-scan
video from DVDs (unfortunately, Chromatic was bought by ATI and the
chip is no longer supported, although some of the technology is now
in ATI's Radeon). 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 are made by E4 (Elecede)
(Cool DVD, C-Cube chip) [E4 has gone out of business],
EZQuest (BOA Mac DVD),
Fantom Drives (DVD Home
Theater 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 has been acquired by
Media100). There's a beta version of a shareware DVD
that can play unencrypted movies.
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:
Computers have the potential to produce better
video than settop DVD-Video players by using progressive display and
higher scan rates, but many current 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 Technologies, AITech,
Key Digital Systems,
RGB Products, and others. Make sure
the scan converter can handle the display resolution you have
chosen: 640x480, 800x600, etc., although keep in mind that even
800x600 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,
but will usually be a little inferior to a good consumer DVD player.
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
Studio Miro MediaRemote,
Packard Bell RemoteMedia,
Remote Control, and X10
MouseRemote. Many remotes are supported by
Visual Domain's Remote
Usually not. DVD-ROM drives can read DVD-Audio
discs, but as of mid 2002 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.
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. 1x DVD-ROM drives provide 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" spins a DVD at 16 times normal, or a CD at 40
times normal. DVD-ROM drives are available in 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.
DVD drive speed
Equivalent CD rate
Actual CD speed
11.08 Mbps (1.32 MB/s)
22.16 Mbps (2.64 MB/s)
44.32 Mbps (5.28 MB/s)
55.40 Mbps (6.60 MB/s)
66.48 Mbps (7.93 MB/s)
88.64 Mbps (10.57 MB/s)
110.80 Mbps (13.21 MB/s)
177.28 Mbps (21.13 MB/s)
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 drives.
In order to maintain constant linear density,
typical CD-ROM and DVD-ROM drives spin the disc more slowly when
reading near the outside where there is more physical surface in
each track. (This is CLV, constant linear velocity.) Some faster
drives keep the rotational speed constant and use a buffer to deal
with the differences in data readout speed. (This is CAV, constant
angular velocity.) In CAV drives, the data is read fastest at the
outside of the disc, which is why specifications often list "max
Note: When playing movies, a fast DVD-ROM 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
Connectivity is similar to that of CD-ROM
drives: EIDE (ATAPI), SCSI-2, etc. All DVD-ROM drives have audio
connections for playing audio CDs. No DVD-ROM drives have been
announced with DVD audio or video outputs (which would require
internal audio/video decoding hardware). In order to hook a DVD-ROM
PC to a television and a stereo receiver, the decoder card or the
video card must have a TV video output and an audio output. Some
cards have SP/DIF outputs to connect to digital audio receivers. If
there's no video output, a TV scan converter can be connected to the
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.
There are six recordable versions of DVD-ROM:
DVD-R for General, DVD-R for Authoring, DVD-RAM, DVD-RW, DVD+RW, and
DVD+R. All DVD recorders can read DVD-ROM discs, but each uses a
different type of disc for recording. DVD-R and DVD+R can record
data once, like CD-R, while 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" and
"video recorder" to distinguish between recordable computer drives
and 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.
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 article at
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.
If you're interested in writable DVD for data storage, visit Steve
DVD-DATA page for FAQ and mailing list info.
Yes. A big problem is that 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
knows 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 Multi" drives can write to DVD-R,
DVD-RW, DVD+R, and DVD+RW, but not 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
and Apple that
indicate player compatibility with DVD-R and DVD-RW discs.
DVDplusRW.org maintains a list of DVD+RW compatible
drives. (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.) 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 65%. The situation is
steadily improving. In another few years compatibility problems will
mostly be behind us, just as with CD-R (did you even know that early
CD-Rs had all kinds of compatibility problems?).
Here is a summary of recordable DVD
compatibility (for simplicity, "doesn't write" is implied if not
reads, may write
DVD-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 fall 2002 DVD-RW drives are selling for under $200. Most DVD-RAM
drives also write DVD-R discs, some also write DVD-RW discs. A few
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.
Price for blank DVD-R(A) discs is $10 to $25
(down from the original $50), although cheaper discs seem to have
more compatibility problems. Price for blank DVD-R(G) discs is $5 to
$15. Blank media is 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
Andy Parsons at Pioneer has written a
white paper that explains the differences between DVD-R(G) and
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 most authoring software and replicators support CMF.
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
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 records on DVD-R(G) discs and can use
DVD-Video format for better compatibility with existing players.
Pioneer released a third generation of its DVD-RW recorder in Japan
in June 2001 for about 198,000 yen (about $1,500). The new model may
be released in the U.S. and elsewhere around the end of 2001 or
sometime in 2002. Sharp announced a $2,200 DVD-RW recorder, and
Zenith (LG) announced a $2,000 DVD-RW recorder, but neither appeared
at the end of 2000 as expected. Sharp expects to have a DVD-RW video
recorder that costs less than $1,000 by March 2002.
TV One announced a DVD-RW video
recorder for July 2001 at $3,500 that can also create Video CD
discs. Sony will ship a DVD-RW video recorder in Japan in September
2001 for 220,000 yen (about $2,000).
DVD-R(G) drives released in early 2001 by
Pioneer (DVR-103 and DVR-A03, priced below $1000) are combination
DVD-R/RW drives. The drives also write CD-R and CD-RW discs. DVD-RW
disc prices are around $15-$20 (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.)
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.
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 two types of
cartridges: type 1 is sealed, type 2 allows the disc to be removed.
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. Disc prices were under $20 by
August 1998, and retail drive prices were under $250 by November
1999. 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. 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 appearing in
October 2001 for $1,500 also writes to DVD-R discs.
The DVD-RAM 1.0 format is standardized in
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
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.
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 mode 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 players, 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 will play in many existing players. HP announced a $600 DVD+RW
drive and $16 DVD+RW discs to be available in 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. Sony announced a $600 DVD+RW/CD-RW
drive in October 2001.
DVD+RW media is being produced by CMC Magnetics,
Hewlett-Packard, MCC/Verbatim, Memorex, Mitsubishi, Optodisc,
Philips, Ricoh, Ritek, and Sony.
More DVD+RW information is at
obsolete DVD+RW 1.0 format is standardized in
Other potential competitors to recordable DVD
include AS-MO (formerly MO7), which holds 5 to 6 billion bytes, and
NEC's Multimedia Video Disc (MVDisc, formerly MMVF, Multimedia Video
File), which holds 5.2 billion bytes and is targeted at home
recording. ASMO drives are expected to read DVD-ROM and compatible
writable formats, but not DVD-RAM. MVDisc is 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 won't be able to read DVD-ROM or compatible
There's also FMD. See 2.13.
And Blu-ray. See 6.5.
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 less 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 write the same in about 15
Note that the -R/RW format 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.
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 colorkey 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
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
Almost all movies are encrypted with CSS copy
protection (see 1.11). 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. Although 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".
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 drivers. 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 decoder drivers as well as the latest drivers for your
graphics adapter and DVD decoder.
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 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
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 backup.
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 the it's the first or last device in the SCSI chain. If
it's the last device, make sure it's terminated.
Reinstall the Windows bus mastering drivers.
(Delete them from the device manager and let Windows ask for
Bad video when connecting to a TV could be
from too long a cable or from interference or a ground loop. See
More information on specific graphics cards and
Short answer: Not if the disc is copy
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
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 discs.
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: 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.]
CSS (Content Scrambling System) is an
encryption and authentication scheme intended to prevent DVD movies
from being digitally copied. See 1.11 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
www.emediapro.net/news99/news111.html), 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
OpenDVD.org and 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
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 a
T-shirt and was made publicly available by the DVD CCA itself in
Fire, Work With Me for a facetious look at the broad
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
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 Xtras.
HTML (IE only)
ActiveX host (VB, etc.)
MSVidWebDVD (see MSDN
Media Player (docs in
Windows Media SDK)
$2000 and up
PE: $120, Web: $1200 and up
$500 and up
ActiveDVD (InterActual engine)
$400 and up
DVD Presenter (InterActual engine)
MPEG-2/VOB files, but not DVD-Video volumes
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.
The DVD-Video and DVD-Audio specifications (see
6.1) define how audio and video data are stored
in specialized files. The .IFO (and backup .BUP) files contain menus
and other information about the video and audio. The .VOB files (for
DVD-Video) and .AOB files (for DVD-Audio) are MPEG-2 program streams
with additional packets containing navigation and search
Since a .VOB file is just a specialized MPEG-2
file, most MPEG-2 decoders and 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
You may also run into .VRO files created by DVD
video recorders using the -VR format. In some cases you can treat
the files just like .VOB files, but in other cases they are
fragmented and unplayable. You'll need a utility such as
Heuris Extractor to copy them to
a hard disk in usable format.
Windows 98 and Windows 2000 include 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 driver17.cab (on the original Windows
disc). This is the only file you need, but you can also extract the
help file from driver11.cab, and you can extract dvdrgn.exe from
driver17.cab 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 Microsoft's
DVD playback 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.
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
Keep in mind that unless you are copying audio
for your own personal use from a DVD that you own, it's illegal.
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.
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 published 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,
Asymetrix Toolbook, HyperCard, 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, authoring (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
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
Panasonic Disc Services and
For projects requiring less than 50 copies, it
can be cheaper 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 duplication,
as distinguished from replication.
Videotape, laserdisc, and CD-ROM can't be
compared to DVD in a straightforward manner. There are basically
three stages of costs: 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 the extra features of
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 $50/min for video, $20/min for audio, $6/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 $20,000. 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 $50 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 $0.50 to replicate. Laserdiscs cost about $3,000 to
master and about $8 to replicate. As of 2003, DVDs cost about $1000
to master and about $0.75 to replicate. Double-sided or dual-layer
discs cost about $0.40 more to replicate, since all that's required
is stamping data on the second substrate (and using transparent glue
for dual layers). Double-sided, dual-layer discs (DVD-18s) are more
difficult and more expensive. (See 3.3.1.)
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.
(acquired Daikin and Veritas DMD)
(retail distributor for certain Sonic products)
RecordNow and MaxRecordNow MAX
Platinum. CD and DVD burning software for music, photos, and
video. Windows. $50 and $80.
Backup MyPC and Simple Backup.
Windows file backup software for recordable DVD and CD.
Veritas (acquired Prassi)
Note: Veritas Desktop and Mobile Division
was acquired by Sonic in November 2002. Veritas products such as
RecordNow and Drive Letter Access are now from Sonic, distributed
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. $70.
InstantBackup. Data backup to
CD-R/W, DVD-RAM and DVD-R/W in Windows. $40.
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
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
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
Ability to create a bootable disc using the
specification in the ISO-9660 sectors.
Alcohol 52%. Emulate CDs and DVDs
without physical disc. Windows. $28.
Alcohol 68%. Copy CDs and DVDs.
Alcohol 120%. Combination of
Alcohol 52% and Alcohol 68%. Windows. $50.
Prompting & Captioning Co.
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 images.
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
EclipseSuite. DVD and CD
premastering tools to copy and verify images, copy tapes, etc.
ImageEncoder. LBR mastering
interface for CD and DVD mastering. Windows NT.
DVD DLT utilities: copy DLTs, extract
images, inspect ISO/UDF/DDP info, checksums, etc.
MPEGRepair. Software to analyze,
repair, insert Closed Captions, add panscan vectors, and do
other handy things to MPEG files. Windows.
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.
Also see 5.6 for DVD
emulation, verification, and analysis tools.
Captions, Inc. (Burbank, CA), 818-729-9501. Captioning and
European Captioning Institute (ECI) (London,
UK). +44-171-323-4657. Captioning and subtitle services.
Captioneering (Burbank, CA), 888-418-4782. Captioning and
Captioning Institute (NCI) (LA 818-238-4201; NY 212-557-7011;
VA 703-917-7619). Captioning and subtitle services.
Group (worldwide), +44 (0)20 7349. Subtitle services.
(Los Angeles, CA). Subtitle services.
Tele-Cine (London, UK), +44 (0) 171 208 2200. Film-to-video
TelecineMojo (Los Angeles, CA), 323-697-0695. Film-to-video
(Canonsburg, PA) 888-528-4822. Captioning services.
For more detail on the systems listed below,
follow the links or see the comparison table of selected DVD
authoring systems at
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.
DVDMaestro. Windows. See Spruce,
Note: Astarte was acquired April 2000
by Apple, so their products are generally no longer available.
They resurfaced in March 2001 as iDVD and DVD Studio Pro from
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
Bundle turnkey workstation includes DVDirector Pro,
Mac G4, and more. $5,400, $10,00, $15,000.
DVDelight. Simple, drag-and-drop
DVD-Video authoring for Mac OS. $1,000.
DVDExport. Software to convert
Macromedia Director presentations to DVD-Video format. Mac OS.
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.
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.
(Daikin US Comtec Laboratories)
Note: Daikin's DVD business was acquired
by Sonic in February 2001. Scenarist, ReelDVD, and ROM Formatter
are now carried by Sonic.
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
Digital Audio (HDA)
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.
DVDAuthorQuick. Mid-level and
low-level DVD-Video authoring software line for Windows NT.
Comes in three versions: Pro, Desktop, and LE.
$8,000, $2,500, and $400.
DVD AuthorSuite. DVD-Video
authoring/encoding for Windows NT. Uses Intec DVDAuthorQuick
software, Zapex encoders, and Sigma Designs decoder. $25,000.
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.
authoring/encoding system for Windows. $10,000.
Minnetonka Audio Software
DiscWelder Steel. Basic DVD-Audio
authoring software. Windows. $500.
A-Plus. Basic DVD-Audio authoring
software. Windows. $2,000.
DiscWelder Chrome. Professional
DVD-Audio authoring software. Windows. $3500.
(Multimedia Technology Center)
Note: MTC was acquired by SmartDisk in
StreamWeaver Express and
StreamWeaver Pro. Simple and mid-level DVD-Video authoring,
and $900 premastering on Windows. $900 and $3,000.
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. $75.
LQ-VD2000S. Turnkey professional
DVD-Video authoring system, including Windows NT 4.0
workstation. Uses Panasonic MPEG-2 encoder and LQ-VD3000
LQ-VDS120. Additional workstation
software for networking with LQ-VD2000S. $22,550
LQ-VD3000. DVD Emulator. $15,000
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. $700.
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, $22,000.
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.
ReelDVD. Low-end authoring for NT
and Windows 2000. $1,500.
DVDit LE (limited), SE
(standard), and PE (professional). Simple, drag-and-drop
DVD-Video authoring for Windows. $500 (SE), $3,000 (PE). LE
version is designed to be bundled with other hardware and
MyDVD. Simple personal DVD-Video
authoring for Windows. $79. Generally bundled with DVD
Note: Spruce was acquired in July 2001 by
Apple. DVDMaestro and Spruce encoding hardware will continue to be
sold. Apple intends to migrate the software and current users to
Mac OS X. Other Spruce products apparently will no longer be
authoring/encoding systems for Windows NT. $25,000.
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
DVDStationNLE. Turnkey system using
DVDConductor and Heuris MPEG Power Professional encoding
DVDTransfer. Turnkey automated
tape-to-DVD system. $30,000.
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.
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 duplication, and premastering).
[R] = replication (mastering, check discs, and mass production).
Note that almost all replicators also have in-house authoring
facilities or partnerships with authoring houses.
Other lists are available at
Post Magazine. Also see 5.8 for companies
specializing in video-to-DVD-R transfers.
Multimedia (Mountain View, CA, 650-564-9000; Santa Clara, CA
24-7DVD (Mogger Hanger, UK), +44 (0) 7764 187388.
(London, UK), +44 171 878 7884. [Acquired Post Box, Stream, and
TVP; became Liberty Livewire]
Abbey Road Interactive (London, UK), +44 171 266 7000.
Accelerated Post (Chicago, IL, 312-595-9100; Minneapolis, IN,
Acutrack (Pleasanton, CA), 888-234-3472.
Media Post (Burbank, CA), 818-973-1668.
Visual Communications (AVCOM Video) (Tampa, FL), 813-875-0888.
Alchemey Digital Video (Portland, OR), 503.735.1222.
[A] All Post (CA), 818-556-5756.
(Ontario, Canada), 888-552-5837.
Americ Disc [also see MPO], Salida, CA, 888-545-7350; Miami,
FL, 800-364-0759; Drummonville, Quebec, Canada, 800 263-0419.
Communication Center (Chicago, IL), 312-829-8100.
multimedia (Mengen, Germany), +49 (0) 7572-78361.
Atelier Digital (Birmingham, AL), 205-263-7678.
[A] Audio Plus
Video International Northvale, NJ, 201-767-3800; Burbank, CA,
(Austin, TX), 512 472-4995.
Dialog AB (Goteborg, Sweden).
[A] B1 Media
(Sherman Oaks, CA), 818-905-9902.
Associates (Oklahoma City, OK), 405-843-4574.
Blackcat Interactive (Cheltenham, UK), +44 1926-614675.
Blink Digital (New York, NY), 212-661-6900.
[A] Blue City
Digital (North Kansas City, MO), 816-300-0441.
interactive AB (Boras, Sweden), +46 33 290700.
California DVD (San Francisco, CA), 1-800-864-1957.
Cambridge Multimedia (Cambridge, UK), +44 (0) 1954 262030.
CAT Technologies (London, UK), +44 (0)20 8332 6548.
Interactive (Los Angeles, CA), 323-468-9580.
[A] CDA (Albrechts,
Germany), +49 (0) 36 81 / 3 87 - 1 53.
Digital Card (Rancho Cucamonga, CA), 800-268-1256 [specialize
in shaped discs].
[R] CD Press
(Bergdietikon, Switzerland), +41 (0)1 745 90 60.
CD-ROM-Works (Portland, OR), 503-219-9331.
[A] Chicago Recording Company (Chicago, IL),
Cine Magnetics (Armonk, NY, 914-273-7500; Studio City, CA,
DVD Center (Santa Monica, CA).
(Huntsville, AL, 256-859-9042; Anaheim, CA, 714-630-6700;
Richmond, IN, 800-865-2200; Scarborough, Ontario, Canada,
CKS|Pictures (CA & NY), 408-342-5009.
(Gardena, CA), 877-633-4241.
Complete Post (Hollywood, CA), 323-860-7622.
Concord Disc Manufacturing (Anaheim, CA), 714-666-2266.
(Stockholm, Sweden), +46 8 54568780.
(Cortland, NY) 607-756-4780.
& DIALOGOS (Moedling, Austria), +43(0)2236-48311.
Crest National (Hollywood, CA), 323-860-1300.
Digital Video (NY), 212-989-6500.
CruSh Interactive, (Houston, TX), 713-972-1133.
Cubist Post & Effects (Philadelphia, PA), 215-627-1292.
CustomFlix (San Luis Obispo, CA), (978) 626-1110.
Cut & Copy (Vienna, Austria), +43 1 523 98 24.
(Los Angeles, CA), 818-972-0200. (Time Warner California Video
Productions (CA), 818-576-8113.
Transfer (Dallas, TX), 214336-6292.
[R] Davenport (Van Nuys, CA).
(Aprilia, Italy), 39-6-92704597.
Deluxe Video Services (Carson City, CA), 310-518-0710.
(Formerly Pioneer Video Manufacturing)
[R] Denon Digital (now MD Digital)
Designlab Systems, (London, UK), +44 (0) 207 437 5621.
Digidisc (Atlanta, GA), 770-925-1839.
Digisonics DVD (Northridge, CA), 818-882-3444.
Digital Farm (Seattle, WA), 206-634-2677.
[A] Digital Group (London, UK)
images (Halle, Germany), +49 (0)345/2175-101.
[A] Digital Media
Group (Amsterdam, The Netherlands), +31-20-422-6317.
(Denver, CO), 303-292-4692.
Outpost (CA), 800-464-6434.
Digital Safari (UK), +44 (0)7092 144 480.
Video Compression Corporation (CA), 818-777-5185.
[A] Digital Video Dynamix (Seaford, NY),
[A] Digital Video Mastering (Sydney,
Video Technology 3000 (DVT) (El Segundo, CA).
Digitonium (Los Angeles, CA), 818-889-2215.
Digiverse (London, UK), +44 (0) 20 7287 3141.
[R] DISC (Orem, UT).
Makers (Pennsauken, NJ; Fremont, CA), 800-468-9353.
[R] Disc Manufacturing Inc. (now part of
DiscBurn.Com (St. Paul, MN), 612-782-8200.
Disctronics (Southwater, UK; Plano, TX; Saint Mande, France;
Press International (Erembodegem, Belgium), +32 53 78 48 14.
Directorsite (Manhattan Beach, CA), 310-727-2770.
(London, UK), +44 0 207 734 4501.
(Tilburg, The Netherlands, +31 13 544 6444; Berlin, Germany, +49
30 467 0840; Sanford, ME, USA, 207-324-1124; Canoga Park, CA, USA
DownStream Digital (Portland, OR), 503-226-1944.
Austin (Round Rock, TX), 800-831-3774.
[A] DVD Labs
(Princeton, NJ), 888-DVD-LABS.
Master (Fountain Valley, CA), 714-962-4098.
Power (Auckland, New Zealand), +64 (9) 415 5639.
[A] DVD Power
(Singapore), +65 7796155.
DVD Recording Center (Acton, MA), 800-321-8141.
Technologies (Sydney, Australia), 1-300-FOR-DVD.
Transfer.com (Minneapolis, MN), 612-676-1165.
DVD Scandinavia (Copenhagen, Denmark), +45 3581-7585.
(Philadelphia, PA), 215-238-9679.
DVData (Carson, CA) 310-513-0757.
Dynamic Media (Ellicott City, MD), 410-203-2553.
Line (Seoul, Korea), 82-2-3462-0331.
[A] DVM -
Digital Video Mastering (Sydney, Australia), +61 2 9571 6767.
EagleVision (Stamford, CT), 800-EAGLE73.
(Milan, Italy), +39 024816121.
[A] EDS Digital Studios (CA), 213-850-1165.
Electric Switch (London), +44-0-131-555-6055.
Operations Italy (Caronno Pertusella (VA), Italy), +39 02
(Dortmund, Germany), 0231 442411-0.
Productions (Buffalo, NY), 716-692-0064.
lab (Brussels, Belgium) +32 2 644 99 62.
Euro Digital Disc (Görlitz, Germany), +49 (0) 35 81 - 85 32 0.
(Seattle, WA), 425-837-1791.
[A] Film- und Videotechnik B. Gurtler (Munchen,
[A] Firefly (Ireland).
(Santa Monica, CA) 310-315-9160.
Forest Post Productions (Farmington Hills, MI), 248-855-4333.
Full Circle Studios
(Buffalo, NY), 716-875-7740.
FULLSTREAM DVD (Dallas, TX), 214-969-1820.
Media Productions (Valencia, CA), 661-294-5575.
Future Disc Systems
(West Hollywood, CA), 323-876-8733.
[A] G9 Interactive (Monrovia, CA),
Gateway Mastering Studios (Portland, ME), 207-828-9400.
[R] Gema OD (Madrid, Spain), +34 91 643 42
Gnome Digital Media (Burbank, CA), 818-563-6539.
GoldenROM (Canonsburg, PA), 888-757-3472.
(Oak Park, MI), 248-548-2500.
(Washington, DC), 202-293-4488.
(Hudson, NY), 518-828-2000.
(Minneapolis, MN), 952-943-1711.
Studios [DVD-Audio only] (CEDEX, Suresnes, France).
[A] Hecker & Schneider GmbH (Dortmund,
Henninger Interactive Media (Arlington, VA), 703-243-3444.
Video/DVD Production (Chicago, IL), 847-338-6560.
[A] Hoek &
Sonépouse (Diemen, The Netherlands), +31 020 - 69 09 141.
Run Software Services (Huntington Beach, CA), 714-375-5454.
Ibis Multimedia (Suffolk, UK), +44 01473 288865.
IBM InteractiveMedia (GA), 770-835-7193.
Media (Merriam, KS), 913-677-6655.
[R] Imation (formerly 3M) (WI), 612-704-4898.
Impact (UK), +44 01322 553 505.
Infodisc (Taipei, Taiwan, 886-2-22266616; El Paso, TX).
Instinct Video & Film Productions (Orlando, FL), 407-647-9555.
International Digital Centre (IDC) (New York, NY),
Intermedia (IL), 773-871-6033.
Communication Services (Foothill Ranch, CA), 949-588-7765.
(Nashville, TN), 615-320-5050.
Digital Video (Atlanta, GA), 704-795-7712.
Disc America (Sacramento, CA), 310-274-2221.
Infosystems (Fremont, CA), 800-525-6575.
[R] Kao (Ontario, Canada), 800-871-MPEG.
mediatech (Elbigenalp, Austria, +43 (0) 5634-500; Parc
d'Activités, France, +33 (0) 3 29 58 40 70).
kommunikations (Hamburg, Germany), +49-40-850-9021.
Lawrence Company (Santa Monica, CA), 310-452-9657.
LaserPacific (CA), 213-462-6266.
Optical Disc (Hong Kong), 852-2556-8198
Liberty Livewire (Santa Monica, CA, 818-840-7235; Northvale,
NJ, 201-784-2129). (Merger of companies including 4MC, ToddAO,
and Feel New Media (Kansas City, MO), 816-472-7878.
The Machine Room (London, UK), +44 171 734 3433.
Mares Multimedia (Nashville, TN), 615-356-3905.
Marin Digital (San Rafael, CA), 415-507-0470.
Point Interactive (Oley, PA), 610-987-9320.
(Pittsburgh, PA), 800-284-6277.
Mastering Studio München (Munich, Germany), +49-89-286692-0.
[R] MD Digital Manufacturing (Madison, GA),
[R] Maxell Multimedia (now MD Digital).
[R] Maxwell Productions (Scottsdale, AZ).
Media Group (Fremont, CA), 815-356-9484.
Tech (Denver, CO), 303-741-6878.
[R] Memory-Tech Corporation (Tokyo, Japan).
Medienhaus (Frankfurt, Germany), +49 (0)69 78960202.
Mercury Entertainment (Selangor Darul Ehsan, Malaysia).
(Dublin, OH, 614-761-2000; Milpitas, CA, 408-519-5000;
Breda, Netherlands, +31 76
Metcom Video (London, UK), +44 (0)207 836 2772.
(London, UK), +44-20-8742-1111.
Microsoft Studios Digital Video Services (Redmond, WA).
Microvision Services (Huddersfield, UK), +44 1484 644852.
(Milwaukee, WI), 414-963-4469.
Mills/James Productions (Columbus, OH), 614-777-9933.
Mirage Video Productions (Boulder, CO), 303-786-7800.
MPEG Production (Stockholm, Sweden), +46-8-324030.
(Europe, North America, and Asia), +33 01 41 10 51 51.
Technology [Ritek partner] (City of Industry, CA),
Multimedia Info-Tech [Ritek partner] (Belfast, Ireland), +44
(0) 2890 300883.
Multi Media Replication (Andover, UK) +44 (0)1264 336 330.
CD International (see Technicolor).
Interactive (Netherlands), +31 (0)35-677-5413.
Video & Multimedia (Sundbyberg, Sweden), +46 8764 66 90.
(Rjukan, Norway), +47 35 08 01 00.
Oasis Post (Kent Town, South Australia), +61 8 8362 2888.
Television (London, UK), +44 (0) 20 7534 1808.
(Charlotte, NC), 704-504-1877.
Optical Disc Corporation, 310-946-3050. (LaserWave DirectCut
DVD recorder for creating single copies.)
[R] Optical Disc Media (CA).
(L’aquila, Italy), +39-0862-3311.
Facilities (Mechelen, Belgium), +32/15/28 73 00.
Other Side [nee TwoPlusOne] (London, UK), +44 (0) 207 494
(Charlotte, NC), 704-344-3577.
[A] Pacific Coast Sound Works (CA),
[R] Pacific Mirror Image (Melbourne,
[A] Pacific Ocean Post (CA), 310-458-9192.
(Now part of Liberty Livewire)
Video Resources (CA), 415-864-5679.
Panasonic Disc Services Corp (Torrance, CA; Pinckneyville, IL;
Guadalajara, Mexico; Youghal, Ireland), 310-783-4800.
[A] Paris Media System (Paris, France).
Paul Stubblebine Mastering and DVD (San Francisco, CA),
Pavement (London, UK), +44 (0) 207 426 5190.
Labs (San Diego, CA), 800-253-3085.
Phaebus (Manchester, UK), +44 (0) 161 950 8105.
(Professional Interactive Media Centre) (Diepenbeek, Belgium),
+32 11 303690.
[A] Pioneer France (Nanterre, France), 33 1
47 60 79 30.
Pioneer Optical Disc
(Barcelona, Spain), +34-93-739-99-00.
Video (Kofu, Japan).
Positive Charge Ltd.
(Warszawa, Poland), +48 22 632 97 32.
Pozzoli (Milan Italy) +39 02 954341.
Digital Media (Jacksonville, FL), 904-354-5353.
Disc [Ritek partner] (Wiesbaden, Germany), +49-611-9628644.
Provac Disc Media (Toronto, Ontario), 800-876-9013.
Avdio Video Studio (Ljubljana, Slovenia), +386 1 5819 201.
[A] Rage DVD
& Multimedia (Dallas , TX), 214-358-2588.
Rainmaker New Media (Burbank, CA), 818-526-1500.
Riccelli Creative (Fort Worth, TX), 817-332-7777.
Richard Diercks Company (Minneapolis, MN), 612-334-5900.
Int'l. Inc. (Fort Worth, TX), 800-990-2348.
(HsinChu, Taiwan, ROC, +886-3-598 5696; Taipei, Taiwan, ROC,
+886-2-8521-5555). [Also see MRT U.S.), Multimedia Info-Tech
(Ireland), Prime Disc (Germany), and Ritek Australia.]
Australia (Alexandria, Australia), +61-2-9669-3311).
(Provo, UT), 801.818.2222.
Saturn Solutions (Markham, Ontario, 905-470-0844; St. Laurent,
Quebec, 514-856-5656; Provo, Utah, 801-370-9090; Dublin, Ireland,
ScreamDVD (New York, NY), 212-951-7171.
Group (Brabrand, Denmark), + 45 87 45 45 45.
Sharpline Arts (Glendale, CA), 818-500-3958.
[R] SKC (Chonan,
SNA (Tourouvre, France), +33 (0) 2 33 85 15 15.
Sonopress (Gütersloh, Germany, +49-5241-80 5200; Weaverville,
NC, USA, 828-658-2000; Dublin, Ireland, +353 1 840 9000; Madrid,
Spain, +34-91-6 71 22 00; Forbach, France, +33-1-53 43 82 32).
DADC (Niederalm, Austria), +43 624 688 0555.
[R] Sony Disc
Manufacturing (Terre Haute, Indiana), 800-358-7316.
Sound Chamber Mastering (North Hollywood, CA), 818-752-7581.
SOUNDnVISION (Milano, Italy), +39 02 55 18 02 45.
Multi Media (Deeside, UK), +44 (0) 1244 280602.
Squash DVD (London, UK) +44 (0) 20 7292 0222.
Video Duplicating (Phoenix, AZ), 602-437-0646.
Tuned (Brussels, Belgium), +32 2 7611100.
[A] Stimulus (Calgary, Alberta).
Sté EXILOG (Vendoeuvres FRANCE), 33 02 54 38 30 95.
Stonehenge Filmworks (Toronto and Ontario, Canada),
Stream AV (Melbourne, Australia), +61 3 9376 6444.
Reload (Boise, ID), 208-344-4321.
Sunset Post (CA), 818-956-7912.
Digital Media (Santa Clara, CA), 408-727-5091.
Supersonic Media Productions (Vancouver, BC), 604-683-0250.
[A] Sync Sound (NY), 212-246-5580 (5.1
music & media GmbH (Hamburg, Germany), +49-40-63709230.
(Rome, Italy), +39-06-508141.
Tape House Broadband
(New York, NY), 212-557-4949.
(Warsaw, Poland), +48 22 874 35 75.
TC Video (Middlesex, UK), +44 (0)208 904 6271.
Technicolor (Camarillo, CA, 805-445-1122; Charlottesville, VA,
804-985-1100; Cwmbran, Wales, UK, 44-1163-465-000), 800-732-4555).
(Merthyr Tydfil, UK), + 44 (0)1685 354700.
(Smoerum, Denmark), +45 44666200.
Universal Manufacturing & Logistics
(Blackburn, UK, +44 (0) 1254 505300; Langenhagen, Germany, +49 (0)
US DVD (San Jose, CA),
Valkieser Solutions (Hilversum, Netherlands), +31-35-6714-300.
VDI Multimedia (Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York, San
Group (Wembley, UK), +44 (0)208 903 3345.
Media One (VM1) (Montreal, PQ), (514) 876-0102.
[R] Japan Victor (Kanagawa, Japan),
Video Movie Magic (Laguna Hills, CA), 949-582-8596.
Video Transfer (Boston,
[A] Visible Light Digital (Orlando,
[A] Visom Digital
(Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), +55 21 539-7313.
[A] The Vision Factory (St.
Louis, MO), 314-963-7887.
[A] Vision Wise (Irving,
Warner Advanced Media Operations (WAMO), 717-383-3291.
Zak Studio (Paris, France), +33 1 49823773.
(Plymouth, MN, 612-577-3515; Fremont, CA, 510-492-5191;
Indianapolis, IN, 510-492-5191; Dublin, Ireland, 353-1-405-6222;
Langen, Germany, 49-6103-9702-23).
[A] Zuma Digital. Now part of
Tape House Broadband.
(Sweden, USA, Hong Kong), +46 40 690 49 00.
Associates (CA). Testing equipment and software. (714)
ContentWise (Rehovot, Israel), +972-8-940-8773. Second
Sight software for checking compatibility of DVD titles on
Hitachi (Japan). Testing services and test
discs. Official DVD Forum verification lab.
Intellikey Labs (Burbank , CA), (818) 953-9116, fax (818)
Interra Digital Video Technologies: Surveyor software,
$6,000. DProbe, $10,000.
(HsinChu, Taiwan). Testing services and test discs. Official DVD
Verification Lab. 886-3-591-5066, fax 886-3-591-7531.
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.
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
(Professional Multimedia Test Centre) (Diepenbeek, Belgium),
+32 11 303636.
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
Testronic Labs (Burbank, CA), (818) 845-3223, fax (818)
Toshiba (Japan). Testing services and test
discs. Official DVD Verification Lab. +81-3-3457-2105, fax
Victor (Japan). Testing services and test
discs. Official DVD Verification Lab. +81-3-3289-2813, fax
(USA). Testing services and test discs. Official DVD Forum
verification lab. 1-570-383-3568, fax 1-570-383-7487.
Also see 5.3.3 for tools
to analyze and verify coded bitstreams, disc images, and DLTs.
[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" (also 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 as yet almost no settop player can play
the disc. There are a number of reasons DVD-Video players can't play
DVD-Video content from CD media:
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
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
robshot.com 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
To create a cDVD, author the DVD-Video content
as usual (see 5.4) 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 VIDEO_TS directory to the root
directory of the disc. To be compatible with future settop players
that might 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 (352x480 or 352x576) 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. Settop 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
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 recorder ($800 to $3,000) and connect it to your VCR or
camcorder. It works just like a VCR but it records onto a disc
instead of tape.
For transferring photos, or for making a
customized DVD with menus and chapters and other fun stuff you'll
need the following:
A DVD recordable drive ($300-$5,000)
DVD authoring software ($50-$20,000, see
5.4, or it might come bundled with the
You might want to buy one of the new all-in-one
computer packages from Apple,
Compaq, Dell, and many others that include a DVD burner and
Then take the following steps
Transfer the video and pictures to your
computer. For analog video, such as VHS and Hi8, you'll need a
video capture device or a computer with built-in analog video
input; for digital video such as DV or D8 you'll 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. For slides or photos, use a scanner (or 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'll
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 II
audio, but it won't work on all players.
If you're ambitious, create some chapter
points in your video tracks.
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 pictures as TIFF,
JPEG, or PhotoShop files.
Create menus that link to your video clips
Write your finished gem out to a recordable
DVD ($3-$10). (But see 4.3.1 for
John Beale has written a
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.
3-Lib (Reading, UK). Up to 2 hours for £25. PAL format.
Media (Hoover, AL). Up to 2 hours for $99.
Video Dynamics (Orlando, FL). Up to 2 hours for $40 (chapters
at 5-minute intervals).
Online.com (Sacramento, CA). Up to 2 hours for $150.
(Miami, FL). Up to 1 hour for $60. 2 hours for $95.
Wedding Productions (South Pasadena, CA). One tape for $150 (+
VHS dubbing charge).
HomeMovie.com (Everett, WA). Up to 2 hours for $50 (chapters
Reston, VA). Up to 90 minutes for $40.
Productions (Flushing, NY). 1 tape for $99 (chapters extra).
LifeClips (Acton, MA). Up to 2 hours for $30.
[LifeClips is no longer in business.]
save2dvd (Pleasant Hill, CA). Up to 2 hours for $140. Also
film and slide transfer.
(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.
Systems (Preston, UK). Up to 1 hour for £35. Up to 2 hours for
£40. VCD for £20.
DVD no longer offers the service.)
YesVideo.com (San Jose, CA; kiosks at Target, Walgreens, and
elsewhere). $37 for 1 hour, $60 for 2 hours (chapters included).
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 Easy CD
Creator or Toast from
Roxio (formerly Adaptec), InstantCD from
from Query, MPEG Maker-2
from VITEC, MyDVD or
RecordNow Max from Sonic,
Nero Burning ROM from Ahead,
NTI CD-Maker from NTI, or
WinOnCD from Cequadrat.
Quality won't be as good, and playing time won't be as long, but
hardware, and blank CDs will be cheaper. Just make sure that any
players you intend to play the disc on can read CD-Rs (see
2.4.3) and can play Video CDs (see
VCDhelp.com 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. SVCD support is
being added to a few of the authoring/formatting tools listed above.
However, 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 [email protected], which record video from analog inputs to
CD-R or CD-RW.
This section is about copying disc-to-disc.
See 2.11 for information about copying to tape.
First, please understand that copying a
commercial DVD may be illegal, depending on what you do with the
copy. Copying video for your own personal use is legal, but making
copies of copyrighted discs for friends is 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
Third, realize that many movies come on
dual-layer discs (DVD-9s), which can't be directly copied to
recordable DVD since there are no dual-layer recordable discs.
Although you may be able to break up the content from on DVD-9 onto
two recordable discs.
If you have a legitimate need to copy a DVD,
such as a disc you made yourself, there are a number of options. You
can hook a DVD player to a set-top DVD video recorder. Some DVD
authoring software (see 5.4) can import video
from an unprotected disc. There are computer software utilities you
can use to extract video and audio from a disc, which you can then
use to make a new disc. There are also software tools for copying
entire discs. See 6.4.2 and
5.3.3 for tools, see 5.8 for how to make your
Beware of e-mail and ads touting DVD copying
software for sale. See 5.9.1 below.
It’s true you can copy any DVD movie. However
the people selling DVD copying software conveniently don’t mention
the many free alternatives, nor do they 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
2.4.5). They also neglect to mention that
copying movies from rental stores or from friends is illegal.
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. Then attend a conference
(see 5.10) to learn more and to make contacts in
the DVD industry. Take a few training courses (see
5.10). Consider joining the DVDA.
If you can, volunteer to be an intern at a DVD production house (see
Once you have a little experience, you'll be in
A variety of workshops and seminars on various
DVD topics are presented at conferences such as
DVD Summit (Europe) or
Training companies offer DVD courses and "boot
(Costa Mesa, CA)
Ex'pression Center for New Media (Emeryville, CA)
Digital Media (Burbank, CA), maker of the DVD 101
I.N.C. Technologies (Glendale, CA), oriented towards amateur
(), DVD Studio Pro training
(San Francisco, CA)
State Technical College (Waco, TX)
Symphony (Burbank, CA)
There are a few schools with full-term courses:
The major DVD authoring software companies
offer training classes around the world, sometimes for free:
Amazon zShops. Sales referrals. Your disc is listed on Amazon
site, Amazon processes orders, you are responsible for producing,
packaging, and shipping discs.
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
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
DVD is the work of many companies and many
people. There were originally two competing proposals. 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
No single company "owns" DVD. The official
specification was 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 February 2000 had over 220 members. Time
trademarked the DVD logo, and has since assigned it to the DVD
Format/Logo Licensing Corporation. The 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 for non-promotional purposes requires additional format and
logo licenses, for a one-time fee of $10,000 per format, minus
$5,000 if they 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.) 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
from www.ecma.ch. ECMA has also
standardized DVD-R in
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 www.osta.org.
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 a
Philips/Pioneer/Sony pool (3.5% per player, minimum $5;
additional $2.50 for Video CD compatibility; 5 cents per disc), a
Hitachi/Matsushita/Mitsubishi/Time Warner/Toshiba/Victor pool (4%
per player or drive, minimum $4; 4% per DVD decoder, minimum $1; 7.5
cents per disc) and from Thomson. Patent royalties may also be owed
to Discovision Associates,
which owns about 1300 optical disc patents (usually paid by the
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 $10,000 initial
licensing fee, but no per-product royalties. Send license requests
to [email protected],
technical info requests to
[email protected] 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).
licenses Dolby Digital decoders for $0.26 per channel. 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
An MPEG-2 patent license may also be required,
from MPEG LA (MPEG Licensing
Adminstrator). Cost is about $4 for a DVD player or decoder card and
4 cents for each DVD disc, although there seems to be disagreement
on whether content producers owe royalties for discs.
claims 25 cents per player and 78/100ths of a cent for parental
management and other DVD-related patents.
Various licensing fees add up to over $30 in
royalties for a $300 DVD player, and about $0.20 per disc. Disc
royalties are paid by the replicator.
DVD-Audio and DVD-Video players
Alba: DVD-Video players
DVD car navigation/entertainment
Lansing: DVD audio technology
Amitech: DVD-Video players
Digital: DVD-Video players (made by
VDDV; info at <www.nerd-out.com/apex>
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
Car DVD players
Axion: DVD-Video players
AV Phile (Raite): DVD-Video Players
Bluesky: DVD-Video players
BUSH: DVD-Video players
Audio Labs: DVD-Video players
CAT: DVD-Video players
CCE: DVD-Video players
Playright: protective film for discs
Centrum: DVD-Video players
Chunlan: DVD-Video players
Clairtone: DVD-Video players
Clarion: DVD car navigation/entertainment
DVD-Video players with Web connection
Conia: DVD-Video players (Australia, made by
Cougar: DVD-Video players
(Yamakawa/Raite): DVD-Video players
Electronics: DVD-Video players
Dantax: DVD-Video players
DVD-Audio and DVD-Video players
Denver: DVD-Video players
Digitor: DVD-Video players
Digitron: DVD-Video players
DVD-Video players (Netherlands)
Dual: DVD-Video players
Dynamic: DVD-Video players
International: DVD Internet appliances
Eclipse: DVD-Video players
Electrohome: DVD-Video players
Elta: DVD-Video players
Eltax: DVD-Video players
Encore: DVD-Video players
Technology: DVD-Video players and WebDVD players
Asia Technologies: DVD-Video players (UK)
Finlux: DVD-Video players
(Sanyo): DVD-Video players
(Emerson/Orion/Sylvania/Symphonic): DVD-Video players
(Thomson): DVD-Video players
Genica: DVD-Video players
Goodmans: DVD-Video players
GPX/Yorx: DVD-Video players
Gradiente: DVD-Video players
Grandin: DVD-Video players
Wall: DVD-Video players (Hong Kong)
Jinzheng Digital: DVD-Video players
Gynco: DVD-Video players
Haier: DVD-Video players
Kardon: DVD-Video players
DVD-Video players and recorders
Hiteker: DVD-Video players (made by VDDV)
Homemighty: DVD-Video players
Hoyo (Raite): DVD-Video Players
Enhanced DVD-Video Players
Innovacom: PC/TV with DVD support
Irradio: DVD-Video players
Jasmine: DVD-Video players
Jeutech: DVD-Video players
JNL: DVD-Video players
Jocel: DVD-Video players
(Victor): DVD-Video players and recorders
Kendo: DVD-Video players
Kennex: DVD-Video players
Keymat: DVD-Video players
(Raite): DVD-Video players
Kioto: DVD-Video players
Kones: DVD-Video players
DVD-Video and DV-Audio players
(Yung Fu): DVD-Video
Lawson: DVD-Video players
Lecson: DVD-Video players
Lector: DVD-Video players
Legend: DVD-Video players
Lenco: DVD-Video players
Lenoxx: DVD-Video players
(GoldStar): DVD-Video players
Lifetec: DVD-Video players
Limit: DVD-Video players
Loewe: DVD-Video players
Logix: DVD-Video players
Lumatron: DVD-Video players
Luxman: DVD-Video players
(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
(Panasonic/National/Technics/Quasar): DVD-Video players and
recorders, DVD-Audio players, DVD car navigation/entertainment
Matsui: DVD-Video players
Medion: DVD-Video players
Memorex: DVD-Video players
Meridian: DVD-Video players
Metz: DVD-Video players
MiCO: 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
DVD-RAM video camera
Neufunk: DVD-Video players
(Guangdong Jinzheng): DVD-Video players
Noriko: DVD-Video players
Odyssey: DVD-Video players
DVD-Video players (Italy)
Omni: DVD-Video players
DVD-Video and DVD-Audio players
Optics-Storage: DVD-RW video recorders (supplier)
Optim: DVD-Video players
Orava: DVD-Video players
Orion: DVD-Video players
Palsonic (Australia): DVD-Video players
(Matsushita): DVD-Video players and recorders, DVD-Audio players
Philco: DVD-Video players
(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
(Thomson): DVD-Video players
Proson: DVD-Video players
Proton: DVD-Video players
Quadro: DVD-Video players
DVD-video players (Taiwan)
Rankarena: DVD-Video players
(Thomson): DVD-video players
RCR: DVD-Video players (China)
REC: DVD-Video players (UK, made by
VDDV, same as APEX)
Redstar: DVD-Video players
(Netherlands): DVD-video players
Roadstar: DVD-Video players
Rotel: DVD-video players
Rowa: DVD-Video players
DVD-video players and changers
Saivod: DVD-Video players
Sampo (Afreey): DVD-Video players
Samsung: DVD-Video players
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
DVD-Video players (Hong Kong)
Shinsonic: DVD-Video players
Singer: DVD-Video players
Skyworth: DVD-Video players
DVD-Video players and combo DVD-VHS players (formerly Sensory
Science and Go-Video)
DVD-Video players and changers
Soyea: DVD-Video players
Spatializer Audio Laboratories: 3D audio processing
Technics (Matsushita): DVD-Video and DVD-Audio players
(Ravisent): Web-connected DVD-Video players
Telestar: DVD-Video players
Tevion: DVD-Video players
DVD-Video players (China, Hong Kong)
Theta: 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
Motion: DVD-Video players
Universum: DVD-Video players
Venturer: DVD-Video players
(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
DVD-Audio and DVD-Video players
Yamakawa (Raite): DVD-Video players
Yami (Raite): DVD-Video players
Yelo: DVD-Video players
Yukai: DVD-Video players
(becoming a subsidiary of LG):
maintains a list of
addresses, as well as
producer and distributor information.
A.D. Vision (anime)
Aftermath Media (Tender Loving Care, interactive movie)
All Day Entertainment
Alphaville Pictures (distributed by
Amblin Entertainment (distributed by
Artisan Home Entertainment (formerly LIVE Entertainment)
Arts & Entertainment DVD
Einstein (infant development)
Baker & Taylor (distributor)
Beyond Music (distributor)
Chair Productions (independent films)
Entertainment Television (BET)
Brilliant Digital Entertainment (multipath
Vista Home Video (Disney)
Music Pictures (music performance)
Castle Home Video
Central Park Media
Concert @ Home (Platinum Entertainment)
Concorde Video (12 Monkeys, German)
Corinth Films (Wade Williams Collection)
Creative Design Art
Delos International (mostly audio)
Deluxe (distributor and replicator)
DG Distributors (distributor)
Digital Disc Entertainment
Digital Leisure (formerly ReadySoft) (Dragon's Lair,
Dimension Films (Miramax)
Direct Video Distribution (distributor, UK)
(Buena Vista Home Video, Dimension Films, Hollywood Pictures,
E Real Biz
Full Moon Pictures
General Media Communications (Penthouse)
Goldhil Home Media
Gramercy Pictures (distributed by Universal)
Hallmark Home Entertainment (Artisan)
(multimedia recording label)
Pictures (Disney, folded into Touchstone)
Hot Body International (adult)
Ice Storm Entertainment (distributor,
Image Entertainment (distributor)
(publisher; alliance of independent filmmakers)
King's Road (distributed by Trimark)
Laserdisc Entertainment (adult)
Lee & Lee Films
Living Arts (health)
LucasFilm (distributed by Twentieth Century
Fox or Paramount)
Lumivision (distributed by SlingShot)
Digital (Your Yoga Practice)
Metro Global Media (adult)
Mill Reef (Earthlight)
Monarch Home Video
Music Video Distributors (distributor)
New Horizons Home Video
New Video Group
New York Entertainment
NuTech Digital (adult)
October Films (Universal)
Orion Pictures (MGM, some older DVD titles
distributed by Image and Criterion)
Filmgroup (distributor, partner with Image)
Panasonic Interactive Media (defunct)
Paramount Home Video (owned by Viacom)
Picture This Home Video
Playboy Home Video
Polygram (Philips partner)
Pony Canyon (Japan)
Pro7 Home Entertainment (Germany)
Red Distribution (distributor)
Republic Pictures (defunct, distributed by
Roadshow Entertainment (Australia)
Samsung Entertainment Group
Sierra Vista Entertainment (Innovacom)
SlingShot (acquired Lumivision titles)
Sony Pictures (Columbia, Epic, Sony Music,
Sony Wonder, TriStar)
Sterling Home Entertainment
Super Digital Media
SyCoNet.com (distributor, anime)
Technicolor (distributor and replicator)
(distributor; Hong Kong, China)
Turner Home Entertainment
Century Fox Home Entertainment
United Artists (MGM)
Home Video (owned by Seagram)
Interactive (VCA Pictures, VCA Labs; adult)
Victor Entertainment (JVC)
Video One Canada (distributor)
Warner Bros. Records/Warner Music (Toshiba
Video (Toshiba partner)
WWF Home Video
Acer Laboratories: DVD decoder/controller
Advent: DVD-ROM-equipped computers
Alliance Semiconductor: display adapters with
hardware acceleration for DVD playback
DVD mirroring servers
DVD player chipset
Analog Devices: 192-kHz/24-bit audio DAC
DVD-ROM- and DVD-RAM-equipped computers, playback hardware and
AST: DVD-ROM-equipped computers (with
MMX-based playback software)
ASM: DVD jukeboxes
display adapters with hardware acceleration for DVD playback
Avid Electronics: DVD decoder/controller
Communications: DVD-ROM storage servers
Technology: optical pickup assemblies
Canopus: DVD-RAM video archiving.
Associates: Software and hardware for production and testing.
CEI: DVD playback hardware and software
MPEG-2 encoder/decoder chips
CMC Magnetics: recordable
Compaq: DVD-ROM-equipped computers
Creative Technology: DVD-ROM and DVD-RAM
upgrade kits, DVD decoder software
Ink and Chemicals): ink, organic pigments, thermosetting resin
Design: controllers for industrial DVD players
Diamond Multimedia: DVD upgrade kit (Toshiba
Digital: DVD software playback (for Alpha
workstations), DVD encoder chips
Digital Stream: optical pickup assemblie
Digital Video Systems: DVD-ROM drives
DSM: DVD jukeboxes
DynaTek: DVD upgrade kit
Technology: DVD-ROM drives
ESS Technology: playback chipset, player
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,
Hi-Val: DVD playback hardware (upgrade kit)
Hyundai: DVD decoder chips
IBM: DVD-ROM-equipped computers, decoder
Inaka: DVD jukebox software
Infineon: DVD reader circuitry
Innovacom: DVD encoder and decoder systems
Intel: DVD playback hardware (MMX) and
Interactive Seating: Battle Chair
IEEE-1394 DVD-ROM drives
JVC: DVD-ROM drives, DVD-RAM jukebox
Kasan: decoder hardware
DVD-RAM video recording
LG Electronics: DVD-ROM drives
DVD encoder and decoder chips (acquired C-Cube)
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
DVD authoring tools, DVD playback hardware and software
Mediamatics: DVD playback software and
Medianix: Dolby Digital decoder hardware with
Spatializer 3D audio
Memorex: DVD-ROM drives
Microboards: DVD drive (VAR)
DVD playback support (DirectShow) and player applications
Mitsubishi: DVD players, DVD-ROM drives
Motorola: DVD decoder chips
National Semiconductor: DVD playback and
Number 9: display adapters with hardware
acceleration for DVD playback
Semiconductor: DVD playback reference platform (Nuon)
NEC: DVD-ROM drives
DVD-ROM PC for home entertainment
NSM: DVD-ROM jukebox, DVD-RAM jukebox
Oak Technology: DVD playback hardware and
DVD jukebox software
Packard Bell: DVD-ROM-equipped computers
Philips: DVD-ROM drives, DVD+RW drives,
Pioneer: DVD-ROM drives, DVD-R drives, DVD-RW
Plasmon Data: DVD-RAM jukebox
Procom: DVD-ROM jukebox
S3: display adapters with hardware
acceleration for DVD playback
Samsung: DVD-ROM drives and DVD-ROM-equipped
Spectradisc: limit-play technology
STMicroelectronics (formerly SGS-Thomson): DVD decoder chips
SICAN: DVD decoder chips
Designs: DVD playback hardware
Architects: DVD-recordable utilities for UDF and Mt. Rainier
Solutions: DVD-Video decoding software (acquired portion of
Ravisent, formerly Quadrant International)
DVD-ROM drives, DVD-ROM-equipped computers
Microelectronics: DVD decoder chips (acquired portion of
Ravisent, formerly Quadrant International)
STB Systems: DVD playback hardware (upgrade
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
Technologies: DVD jukebox software and DVD recording software
TribeWorks: custom player software
Trident Microsystems: DVD decoder chips,
DVD-accelerated video controller chips
Truevision: DVD playback software (Microsoft
Active Movie 2.0)
Verbatim Australia (ActiveMedia): DVD
playback hardware (upgrade kit)
VisionTech: MPEG-2 encoder/mulitplexer
DVD playback hardware and software (acquired by Media 100)
(wireless DVD transmitter)
DVD playback software
Yamaha: AC-3 decoder chips
Zen: multi-beam DVD reading technology
Zoran/CompCore: DVD software and hardware
playback, DVD decoder chips
2 Way Media: Launch
Access Software: Overseer, Tex Murphy
Accolade: Jack Nicklaus 4, Family Spectacular
Action Zone: games
Activision (Quicksilver): Muppet Treasure
Island, Spycraft: The Great Game, Zork: The Grand Inquisitor
Aftermath Media: Tender Loving Care
ALLDATA: automotive information databases
Beat 2000 DVD, Language Tutor DVD, Virtual Makeover DVD
Computer: Mac OS Anthology (available to developers only)
Studios (Interplay): Baldur's Gate
Broderbund: Riven, PrintMaster Platinum, ClickArt 300,000.
Preiss/Simon & Schuster: The Timetables of Technology
Marketing, sales, and training
Creative Multimedia: Billboard Music Guide, Blockbuster
Entertainment Guide to Movies and Video
Creative Wonders (The Learning Company): Schoolhouse Rock,
Sesame Street, Wide World of Animals
AAA Map'n'Go DVD Deluxe
Data Becker: Clipart Collection, Sound
Directory Assistance: PhoneDisc PowerFinder USA One
Digital Leisure: Dragon's Lair, Hologram Time Traveler, Space
Channel: Leopard Son/Animal Planet, Connections
Wing Commander IV
Electronic Publishing Association: LANGMaster
Collins COBUILD Student Dictionary
EuroTalk Interactive: Language Learning
Firebrand: Lost in Crazy Town
Software: Dead Moon Junction
Global Star Software: 100 Great Action Arcade Games, Excessive
Speed, Gubble, 303 Professional Legal Forms
Grolier: Multimedia Encyclopedia
GT Entertainment: Forrest Gump, Reah
Hachette Multimedia: Hachette Encyclopedia
IBM Interactive Media: The Pistol: The Birth
of a Legend
Dracula Resurrection, Dracula the Last Sanctuary, Louvre the Final
Interactual Technologies: Star Trek VideoSaver
Baldur's Gate, Starfleet Academy
Networks: PlayNow (unlockable games)
IVS: The Union Catalogue of Belgian Research
Japan Travel Bureau: DVD-Web product
Kunskapsforlaget (Sweden): Focus Encylopedia
The Learning Company (SoftKey): Battles of
the World, Clickart, Digital Library, The Genius of Edison,
National Geographic, Printmaster 7.
Liris (Havas) Interactive: Découvertes
Mechadeus: The Daedalus Encounter
MediaGalleries: Multimedia Bach
Encarta, MSDN/TechNet, Works Suite
Earthlight, Coral Sea Dreaming
Mitchell Repair Information Company: ON-DEMAND
Montparnasse Multimedia: Microcomsos, Voyage to the land of
(aka M-2K, formerly Multicom): Birds of the World; Bubblegum
Crisis; HomeDepot's Home Improvement 1-2-3; Warren Miller's Ski
World '97; Exploring National Parks; Great Chefs, Great Cities;
Better Homes and Gardens Cool Crafts
Not A Number:
Pour Oeil: Death Dealer
The Book of Lulu
Two Interactive: Reah (distributed by GT in U.S., Acclaim in
UK and Ireland)
Red Orb Entertainment:
game/instruction titles to be released in early 1997
Vanishing Wonders of the Sea, Wild Africa
SuperZero: adult DVD-Video
TerraGlyph Interactive Studios: Buster and the Beanstalk (Tiny
Tsunami: Crazy 8's, Silent Steel, Silent
(Interplay): Virtual Pool
Warner Advanced Media
Westwood Studios: Command & Conquer
Zombie VR Studios: Liberty
(See 1.8 for price
comparisons and coupons.)
999Central (DVDs for shipping and handling cost only)
(UK, region 1)
DVD (Hong Kong/anime)
(Japan, region 2)
AllCheapMusic.com (DVDs for $10 or less)
Amazon.com (players and DVDs)
Amazon.co.uk (UK; players and DVDs)
Xpress (Hong Kong films)
(players and DVDs)
Movie (Germany; DVDs)
Bensons World (UK; players)
(players and DVDs)
BigWheelOnline.com (DVDs; $1 shipping worldwide)
(UK, region 2 DVDs; free shipping worldwide)
Blockbuster (rental and sales of DVDs)
Buy.com (players and DVDs)
Club (Canada; DVDs)
(Japan, region 2)
Columbia House (DVD mailorder club)
Critics' Choice Video (DVDs)
(Australia, region 4 DVDs)
Digibuster Media (online rental)
Digital Entertainment (Indian films)
Playtime (Australia, region 4)
Digitallageret.com (Asian imports)
Digital Shop (Greece)
Disc and Picture Company (Australia)
(UK, region 1 and 2)
Overnight (online rental)
(formerly Ken Crane's, now a division of Image Entertaiment)
Rent (Australia, sales and online rental)
DVDshoppingCenter (region 2)
Movie Store (Australia, offline rentals)
DVDstreet (region 2)
DVD Supercenter.com (adult)
DVD titlewaves (discs and players)
VideoPlanet (New Zealand, regions 1 and 4)
(UK, region 2)
(New Zealand, regions 1 and 4)
DVD Zone 2
eBay (buy and sell new and used DVDs)
Audio & Video
Fantastic Movies (Switzerland)
Gamestech.com (multi-region players)
Music Express (Germany)
Watch It (regions 1 and 2)
Karaoke - Show
Universal (regions 1 and 2, new and used)
Laserdisc DVD Outlet
Discovery (online rental, Hong Kong movies)
The LaserDisc Division
(UK, regions 1 and 2)
LearningStore.co.uk (educational and non-violent DVDs)
(UK, regions 1 and 2)
(used discs and players)
Entertainment (buy or rent DVDs)
(free disc subscription)
Hollywood Video (rental)
(discount video rentals)
MovieGallery.com (new and used movies and games)
(online rental, monthly fee)
North American DVD (retail and wholesale)
Warehouse (region 4)
(no longer sells discs)
DVD (online rental, Switzerland)
(Netherlands, regions 1 and 2)
Matrix (South Africa, region 2)
Sony Music Direct
Stardust DVD (Puerto Rico)
SublimeDigital.com (players and drives)
Swinging Planet (UK, cult video; region 2)
Xchangecity (trade DVDs with other members)
(Disclosure: Some of the links
above include affiliate program information that may result in a
commission to Jim.)
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.
(See 1.10 for more
information about regions.)
There are now several candidates for
HD-DVD-9 (aka HD-9). High-definition video on
existing dual-layer DVD-9 discs. Will require new players to
handle the new video encoding format (probably MPEG-4) and the
higher data rate. Primarily backed by Warner. Would be a
transition format to future HD-DVD. See below for more details.
Blu-ray. A new high-density physical format
that will hold 23 to 27 GB per layer. Initially intended for home
recording only, not mass market distribution of pre-recorded
movies. Blue-ray backers are LG, Panasonic, Philips, Pioneer,
Hitachi, Samsung, Sharp, Sony, and Thomson. See below for more
Toshiba "next-generation" DVD. Modification
of existing DVD physical format to allow about 15 GB per layer
using blue laser. Designed to improve data capacity while
theoretically being able to use existing replication equipment (Blu-ray
will require significant changes to production equipment). NEC
also backs this proposal.
Blu-ray variations. Matsushita (Panasonic) is
rumored to be pulling out of the Blu-ray group to push for its own
version. There are conflicting reports on this. However, it will
be no surprise if the Blu-ray group splinters into multiple
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. 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 should be possible to
get high-definition quality of at least 720p24 at these data rates
(720 lines of progressive video at 24 frames/second). MPEG-2 and
MPEG-4 are the likely candidates. The format is being called "HD-9."
There are some important details and
ramifications of these announcements:
Blu-ray is a recordable format only, intended
for home video recording. It is not currently intended for
mass-distribution of movies. In fact, it's not even planned to be
used for PC data recording, although it's inevitable that Blu-ray
drives will appear for PCs.
Blu-ray discs will not play in current DVD
players or drives. Because of the smaller pits and requirement for
a blue laser, a new player or drive is required to read a Blu-ray
disc. Also, the discs will be encased in protective cartridges.
High-def discs will not play on existing
players. Even though the player can physically read the disc, it
doesn't have the circuitry needed to decode and display the
high-def video. High-def discs may play on DVD PCs with the right
Contrary to some reports, the Forum will
support both technology directions, since they are complimentary.
Blu-ray will be used for recording, while HD on existing DVDs will
be used for commercial sales of Hollywood movies.
Neither of these technologies will appear
soon. Probably not before 2004 at the earliest.
Blu-ray technical details:
Up to 27 GB per layer using 0.1-mm recording
depth (to reduce aberration from disc tilt), 405-nm blue-violet
semiconductor with 0.85 NA 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
and 25 GB capacity with 0.149-µm minimum pit length). The physical
discs will use 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) . Cartridge size is 129 x 131 x 7 mm. Plans are
to produce dual-layer recordable discs, holding about 50 GB per
side, but such discs will take a few additional years to appear. Blu-ray
will probably use MPEG-2 transport stream for video encoding, since
it's used by most HD broadcasts.
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
"kilo," "mega," and "giga" normally represent multiples of 1000
(10^3, 10^6, and 10^9), but when used in the computer world to
measure bytes they generally represent multiples of 1024 (2^10,
2^20, and 2^30). 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 10^9. 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
NIST.) 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 a bit silly.
This FAQ is written and maintained by
The following people have contributed to the FAQ (either directly,
by posting to alt.video.dvd, or by me borrowing from their writing
:-). Their contributions are deeply appreciated. Information has
also been taken from material distributed at the April 1996 DVD
Forum, May 1997 DVD-R/DVD-RAM Conference, and October 1998 DVD Forum
Robert Lundemo Aas
Robert "Obi" George
Henrik "Leopold" Herranen
hosting this FAQ for the first two and a half years.
Copyright 1996-2002 by
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