Viewfinder: DVD is Here, or Is It?

Sales of DVD-Video players are incredibly strong this year. And while the format is still new, DVD player prices are already quite low. Many Videomaker readers are interested in DVD, but for various reasons, find it confusing.

To begin with, there is some confusion over what DVD stands for. Some say it stands for "digital video disc," but more accurately, the "V" notates "versatile." In addition to video, DVD can hold audio files, still images or any other digital files.

Adding to the confusion is the fact that all DVDs are not created equal. DVD comes in a variety of flavors (DVD-RAM, DVD-ROM, DVD+RW, DVD-RW, DVD-R and DVD-Audio, to name a few) and the various DVD types are not all cross-compatible. For instance, a DVD-ROM that plays fine on your computer will not necessarily play in the DVD-Video player in your living room.

Confusion also exists over the use of DVD as a recording medium. When initially released into the consumer market, DVD was a playback-only media. In the last several months, some great changes in the affordability of recordable DVD have taken place. Unfortunately, it is hard to keep all of the different DVD formats straight. The letters "RW," as used in DVD+RW and DVD-RW, indicate that a disc is re-writable, so the user can re-record over a previously recorded disc. DVD-RAM is also re-writeable. DVD-R (recordable), on the other hand, is a write-once medium, and cannot be re-recorded. In addition, only DVD-R, DVD+RW and DVD-RW can play in a standard DVD-Video player. Even then, they will only play in some DVD players, not in all of them. If your computer has a DVD burner, you can write video onto DVD-R, but some DVD players, especially older ones, will not play back DVD-R discs. Viewers may only be able to watch them on their desktop monitors.

Spruce Technologies and others have made it possible to record DVD onto a CD. This allows people with CD burners to record short lengths of DVD-Video on a CD, which will play back on a CD-ROM drive. Again, these discs don’t play back on most DVD-Video players.

Since DVD can store large audio files, several consumer electronics firms now utilize DVD discs for recording audio. DVD-Video players can read, not only two (stereo), but as many as six full-range audio channels. Audio can be written to DVD in one of two competing formats, DVD-Audio and Super Audio CD (SACD).

I believe that eventually most new DVD players will be able to play video written in a variety of DVD formats, and that before long, most homes will have DVD players in their living rooms. At that point, you’ll be able to use DVD as the primary distribution medium for your videos. Today, most video producers still use VHS tape. DVD will soon become the video medium of choice for videographers.

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