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VIDEO MEDIA GUIDES -> Blank media quality guide & FAQ
>>>>> Blank DVD formats and sizes FAQ

Every time I go to a computer or electronics store to buy blank discs, I see confused faces staring at the media
racks, as if the media were doing some sort of odd dance. The people just stare, shaking their head in confusion at
the pretty round things on the shelves in front of them. More fun can be had browsing by the aisle where the drives
are kept. It's always the same questions: Which is better? Is "plus" better than "minus" format? What's a RAM, isn't
that memory? Here's the lowdown...

DVD-R / DVD-RW format


The DVD-R format was developed by Pioneer and first surfaced as the Pioneer S-101 DVD-R Authoring drive in 1997.
The drive was specifically written as a write-once media for video applications, and writing data with the drive was
not a priority. Yes, there are two DVD-R formats: the DVD-R Authoring and the DVD-R General format.

The DVD-R Authoring format is a professional drive writing at either 1x or 2x (max) speeds. It is extremely
expensive, costing several thousand dollars, and is geared towards professional use only, incorporating the
allowance for CMF to replace DLT for replication. Pioneer S-101 and Panasonic makes some of the only DVD- R(A)
drives, some for 3.95GB discs, others for the more modern 4.7GB discs. The DVD-Authoring drives use different
media and the laser uses a different writing frequency than DVD-R(G).

The DVD-R General format, normally referred to as just DVD-R, was created for the consumer in early 2001. This
also added the DVD-RW format and it is official known as a re-recordable disc, not a re- writable disc. Many Compaq,
Packard Bell, Apple and Sony computers shipped DVD-R General drives in 2001 and early 2002, as the DVD+R
format was not yet available and the DVD-R format thrived without any kind of competition.

The dash in DVD-R is a DASH MARK or HYPHEN! It is absolutely not a MINUS sign! It is no more a "DVD
minus R" than a CD-R is a "CD minus R". The entire "minus" mentality is a result of deceptive marketing by the
DVD+RW Alliance.

DVD-Video information recorded onto a DVD-R General tends to have a playback compatibility of about 90 to 95
percent with all players that exist. This is the highest compatibility among all burned DVD formats.

The DVD-R format is the official format of the DVD Forum, the group that controls the specifications and licensing
for the DVD logo. This quote was taken from their page on September 13th 2003: "Please note that the '+RW'
format, also known as DVD+RW was neither developed nor approved by the DVD Forum. The approved recordable
formats are DVD-R, DVD-RW and DVD-RAM." You have probably seen the DVD logo:

DVD+R / DVD+RW format


Although fans of the DVD+R format hate to hear this, the DVD+R format is a rogue format, invented by greedy
companies that were unwilling to pay royalties to the DVD Forum in order to use and develop the DVD-R format
and/or use the DVD logo. The DVD+R format does not carry the DVD logo because it is not an official DVD format.
Does this make it a bad format? No.

The DVD-R General and DVD+R formats have almost no differences.

The DVD+RW format was created with data usage in mind, as was claimed by the DVD+RW Alliance in 1997 while
working on a 2.8GB disc that was scrapped in late 1999 in favor of producing true DVD-5 sizes. By the time the
DVD+RW was released in late 2001, everybody that wanted a DVD writer already had one. Plus the DVD+RW were
expensive like the DVD-RW discs, often costing $15 each, whereas the DVD-R discs went for as little as $5 each.

The DVD+R format did not surface until summer 2002, a year behind the DVD-R format, and still at twice the price
of many DVD-R discs. With the popularity of DVD-Video as the primary usage, the DVD+RW Alliance quickly dropped
it's data-only attitude and went for the video market too, though initial media and drives had lousy compatibility
ratings in the 50-60 percent range. To this day, the compatibility with DVD players is behind DVD-R.

DVD-Video information recorded onto a DVD+R tends to have a playback compatibility of about 85 to 90
percent with all players that exist. This is the second-highest compatibility among all burned DVD formats.

In order to assure higher compatibility with DVD-Video players, DVD+R format has bit-setting abilities, allowing the
book type to be changed from DVD+R to DVD-ROM. While this does help the compatibility, it still does not allow the
DVD+R format to exceed the DVD-R in video compatibility. This function is also not available on all DVD+R/RW
drives.

DVD±R format
This is not a format! This is merely a drive that incorporates both DVD-R/RW and DVD+R/RW burning abilities into
the same piece of hardware. These are often called dual-format burners.

DVD-RAM format
This drive is normally more expensive than other format burners, as are the media. It was developed as a data drive
and remain so to this day, having a DVD-Video compatibility percentage that can be counted on fingers and
toes. It was created by Panasonic is 1998 and is still mostly used for data and editing-only uses.

RAM discs were originally written inside cartridges. The first generation was sealed and had to be broken apart to
extract the disc (if needed). The second generation had an open/close switch on the cart. With the advent of
standalone DVD recorders, RAM discs came without cartridges. The drive has advanced packet writing functions that
allow if to be used much like an optical hard drive. Very efficient for data. But not recommended for normal video
usage. Video on a DVD-RAM is written in the VR format (and it creates VRO files). VR format is not compatible with
normal DVD players due to the data format and reflectivity, and it often uses odd-sized resolutions. DVD-RAM video
is simply a poor choice.

Dual Layer / Double Layer Formats


Dual layer means that much like commercially pressed DVD-ROMs, these recordable discs have two layer of dye,
almost doubling the size of older DVD5 format. This is a recordable DVD9 format.

DVD-R DL is mostly only available in Asian markets, and mostly sold in the USA or Europe at specialized online blank
media stores.

The DVD+R DL (called "Double Layer" by the RW Alliance) drive is already available, and media is scarce. Early tests
of the compatibility with existing DVD players and existing software is not good. It is the opinion of this author that
once again the RW Alliance has rushed something out the door, only to fall flat on promises of "superior"
technology. The DVD Forum does not make these same mistakes.

DVD format myths


As time has gone on, the "format war" between DVD-R and DVD+R has pretty much died off, as both media have
strong sales and almost all drives support both types of discs. This myth list used to be twice as long, and it was
nice to be able to remove some of them, as they died with the format war. At any rate, there are still a few myths
that people might hear or read:

Myth: "Newer players can play all formats."


Truth: While it is more common now for new player to support both DVD-R and DVD+R media than players of the
past, the issue is present even on the newest of players.

Myth: "My (insert format here) disc didn't work in the player. I tried the other format and it worked. That
compatibility percentage is wrong."
Truth: The issue was more likely to be a media issue, not a format issue. Too many users buy the cheapest media
around, or otherwise do not know what they have. For example, a RITEK DVD-R (low reflective, 2nd class quality)
compared to a YUDEN DVD+R (high reflective, 1st class quality) is no contest on which disc will perform better, the
YUDEN would win in most all tests.
Myth: "I saw that www.somesite.com did a 'scientific' test and came to the conclusion that (insert format here) is
better than (other format here)."
Truth: Remember that statistics can be corrupted to prove anything you want, even if common sense dictates
otherwise. At the moment, common sense and common sense tests dictate that the DVD-R currently has the highest
compatibility with several percentage points. The quality of the media is pretty much identical.

Myth: "A DVD burner is just a CD burner with different firmware."


Truth: The only thing DVD and CD have in common is the round shape. Beyond that, the media and hardware is
entirely different. The CD and DVD burners use different hardware as well as different laser types and frequencies.

Myth: "The DVD+R and DVD-R drives and discs are the same. Why not just develop firmware and media that makes
them all the same?"
Truth: This would be similar to saying that a cat and a dog are the same. While they do both have four legs and a
tail, as well as rub and lick to show affection, they are definitely NOT the same. The hardware and media materials
are completely different.

Myth: "HD-DVD and Blu-Ray is coming and will kill off DVD."
Truth: Uh-huh, sure, just like FMD was going to kill DVD. Leave the future to the future. At this point in time, the
prospects of a format overturning DVD anytime in the next 5-10 years is unlikely. There is little advantage to
consumer to make the switch. More than anything, it appears that the "winner" of the BD vs HD-DVD battle will be
relegated to a niche similar to Laserdisc in the 1990s.

Disc sizes
Often DVDs are referred to in different size increments: DVD5, DVD9, DVD18, 4.7GB, 4.38GB, etc. This section
should clear up the various dimensions and sizes of DVDs. Also includes information layers and sides.

Size name Marketed sizes Sides Layers Data storage size

DVD5 4.7GB, 120min single single up to 4.38GB

DVD9 8.5GB, 240min single dual or double up to 7.95GB

DVD10 9.4GB, 240min double single up to 8.75GB total

DVD15 N/A double one single, one dual up to 12.33GB total

DVD18 N/A double dual up to 15.9GB total

Dual vs. Double. These are two words that represent the same concept. The DVD Forum presses and creates
recordable "dual layer" media. The RW Alliance creates recordable "double layer" media. Just synonyms for two
layers of data surface.

The marketed sizes for blank DVDs are essentially meaningless:


- Minutes. The amount of minutes of video stored on a DVD-Video disc has nothing to do with the media itself. The
true limit of the amount of information that can fit on a disc is determined by the data storage size, up to so many
gigabytes of data. The data storage size of a video is determined by the bit-rate. It is no problem to store 3 or 4
hours of high quality video on a "120min" disc.
- GB size. Many people wonder why their 4.7GB discs are "defective" and "only" write 4.38 GB at maximum capacity.
The marketed GB sizes are calculated by 1000 bytes increments alone, and not in the 1024 byte clusters used in
computer terminology. This kind of inconsistency is found in many other areas of consumer life. For example, the
120GB hard drive will format to about 112GB, requiring 8GB for file system and other settings. A 6-hour video tape
is about 6:05 in length. And let's not forget the most famous one: hot dogs come in packs of 10 while buns come in
packs of 8.

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