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DVD Formats Explained

DVD which in the past has been called Digital Video Disc, but is more commonly referred to as Digital Versatile Disc is one of the fastest growing consumer electronic products in history.  With that are a number of competing formats looking to become the de-facto standard, the way that CD-R/W has become in the computer industry. 

In due time, as formats are standardized, inexpensive DVD burners will become as common as CD burners and along with that will be the availability of affordable DVD software and DVD blank media.

The method of using your DVD burner on your computer will be no different than what you are currently used to with your CD-R/W burners and CD burning software. It's just a matter of patience and time before the industry sorts things out because DVD burners are set to take off the same way as CD burners did a few years ago.  Let's now take a look at the various DVD formats available today.



DVD Audio

DVD Audio provides higher-quality audio than available from current CDs. DVD Audio offers higher quality audio including Dolby Digital AC-3 and surround sound, and a wide range of options for coding audio at high fidelity, with 24 bits per sample and 96 KHz sampling frequency and beyond.

In addition, look for features such as still pictures, text information, menus and navigation, and even video sequences. The format provides for longer playing times; a dual layer DVD Audio disc will hold at least 2 hours of full surround sound audio. For the recording industry, DVD Audio  includes copy protection and anti-piracy measures. Consumer response has been slow and DVD Audio shouldn't displace CD audio as the standard any time soon.

DVD Video

This is the format used by Hollywood and by consumers for viewing movies and other visual entertainment. The total capacity is 17 gigabytes if two layers on both sides of the disk are used.


Its basic technology is the same as DVD Video, but it also includes computer friendly file formats which be used to store data. This product should replace conventional CD-ROMs over time.


Think of a DVD-RAM as a virtual hard disk, with a random read-write access. Originally a 2.6GB drive, its capacity has increased to 4.7GB per side. Double sided DVD-RAM media is now available with a 9.4GB capacity and can be re-written more than 100,000 times and does not need to be reformatted when you want to re-write. You can drag and drop files to a DVD-RAM drive as if it were a regular hard drive. However, DVD-RAM disks can not be played in existing DVD players and DVD-ROM drives. You will require a DVD-RAM drive to playback DVD-RAMs.


Developed by Pioneer, DVD-R, with a capacity of 4.7GB per side is similar to a DVD-ROM but allows users to write only once. Originally designed for professional authoring DVD-R(A), a version for general consumer use is now available DVD-R(G). The major difference between professional and general authoring is that professional supports Mastering and Copy Protection.  DVD-R disks can be played in most DVD players and DVD-ROM drives


DVD-RW is an extension of the DVD-R format with a read-write capacity of 4.7GB per side. It can be re-written up to about 1,000 times.  Like DVD-R, DVD-RW disks can be played back in most  DVD players and DVD-ROM drives


Developed in co-operation by Hewlett-Packard, Mitsubishi Chemical, Philips, Ricoh, Sony, Dell, Compaq and Yamaha, DVD+RW is the only re-writable format that provides full compatibility with existing DVD-Video players and DVD-ROM drives. Does not read or write DVD-RAM discs but will continue to write CD-Rs and CD-RWs.

This technology is based on the CD-R/RW format and has a read-write capacity of 4.7GB per side which can be re-written up to 1,000 times.  A single write version of this technology called DVD+R is expected in 2002.

Confused? Don't worry about it because even the most seasoned professional is trying to get their heads around this. In due time, a standard will evolve and it will be easier to understand and use the technology. If you are interested in learning more, visit the DVD+R/W Alliance or DVD Forum to stay informed about the latest industry news.



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