DVD (Digital Versatile Disc)

DVD (an abbreviation of digital versatile disc) is a digital optical disc storage format invented and developed in 1995. The medium can store any kind of digital data and is widely used for software and other computer files as well as video programs watched using DVD players. DVDs offer higher storage capacity than compact discs while having the same dimensions.

Prerecorded DVDs are mass-produced using molding machines that physically stamp data onto the DVD. Such discs are a form of DVD-ROM because data can only be read and not written or erased. Blank recordable DVD discs (DVD-R and DVD+R) can be recorded once using a DVD recorder and then function as a DVD-ROM. Rewritable DVDs (DVD-RW, DVD+RW, and DVD-RAM) can be recorded and erased many times.

DVDs are used in DVD-Video consumer digital video format and in DVD-Audio consumer digital audio format as well as for authoring DVD discs written in a special AVCHD format to hold high definition material (often in conjunction with AVCHD format camcorders). DVDs containing other types of information may be referred to as DVD data discs.

DVD Recordable and Rewritable

HP initially developed recordable DVD media from the need to store data for backup and transport. DVD recordables are now also used for consumer audio and video recording. Three formats were developed: DVD-R/RW, DVD+R/RW (plus), and DVD-RAM. DVD-R is available in two formats, General (650 nm) and Authoring (635 nm), where Authoring discs may be recorded with CSS encrypted video content but General discs may not.

Although most DVD writers can nowadays write the DVD+R/RW and DVD-R/RW formats (usually denoted by “DVD±RW” or the existence of both the DVD Forum logo and the DVD+RW Alliance logo), the “plus” and the “dash” formats use different writing specifications. Most DVD readers and players play both kinds of discs, though older models can have trouble with the “plus” variants.

Some first generation DVD players would cause damage to DVD±R/RW/DL when attempting to read them.

The form of the spiral groove that makes up the structure of a recordable DVD encodes unalterable identification data known as Media Identification Code (MID). The MID contains data such as the manufacturer and model, byte capacity, allowed data rates (also known as speed), etc.

Dual Layer Recording
Dual-layer recording (sometimes also known as double-layer recording) allows DVD-R and DVD+R discs to store significantly more data—up to 8.5 gigabytes per disc, compared with 4.7 gigabytes for single-layer discs. Along with this, DVD-DLs have slower write speeds as compared to ordinary DVDs. When played, a slight transition can sometimes be seen in the playback when the player changes layers. DVD-R DL was developed for the DVD Forum by Pioneer Corporation; DVD+R DL was developed for the DVD+RW Alliance by Mitsubishi Kagaku Media (MKM) and Philips.

A dual-layer disc differs from its single layered counterpart by employing a second physical layer within the disc itself. The drive with dual-layer capability accesses the second layer by shining the laser through the first semitransparent layer. In some DVD players, the layer change can exhibit a noticeable pause, up to several seconds. This caused some viewers to worry that their dual-layer discs were damaged or defective, with the end result that studios began listing a standard message explaining the dual-layer pausing effect on all dual-layer disc packaging.

DVD recordable discs supporting this technology are backward-compatible with some existing DVD players and DVD-ROM drives. Many current DVD recorders support dual-layer technology, and the price is now comparable to that of single-layer drives, although the blank media remain more expensive. The recording speeds reached by dual-layer media are still well below those of single-layer media.

Dual layer DVDs are recorded using Opposite Track Path (OTP). DVD-ROM discs mastered for computer use are produced with track 0 starting at the inside diameter (as is the case with a single layer). Track 1 then starts at the outside diameter. DVD video discs are mastered slightly differently. The video is divided between the layers such that layer 1 can be made to start at the same diameter that layer 0 finishes. This speeds up the transition as the layer changes because although the laser does have to refocus on layer 1, it does not have to skip across the disc to find it.

Storage Capacity

The basic types of DVD (12 cm diameter, single-sided or homogeneous double-sided) are referred to by a rough approximation of their capacity in gigabytes. In draft versions of the specification, DVD-5 indeed held five gigabytes, but some parameters were changed later on as explained above, so the capacity decreased. Other formats, those with 8 cm diameter and hybrid variants, acquired similar numeric names with even larger deviation.

The 12 cm type is a standard DVD, and the 8 cm variety is known as a MiniDVD. These are the same sizes as a standard CD and a mini-CD, respectively. The capacity by surface area (MiB/cm2) varies from 6.92 MiB/cm2 in the DVD-1 to 18.0 MB/cm2 in the DVD-18.

Each DVD sector contains 2,418 bytes of data, 2,048 bytes of which are user data. There is a small difference in storage space between + and – (hyphen) formats:

Capacity and nomenclature
SS = single-sided, DS = double-sided, SL = single-layer, DL = dual-layer
Designation Sides Layers
DVD-1 SS SL 1 1 8 1.46
DVD-2 SS DL 1 2 8 2.65
DVD-3 DS SL 2 2 8 2.92
DVD-4 DS DL 2 4 8 5.31
DVD-5 SS SL 1 1 12 4.70
DVD-9 SS DL 1 2 12 8.54
DVD-10 DS SL 2 2 12 9.40
DVD-14 DS SL+DL 2 3 12 13.24
DVD-18 DS DL 2 4 12 17.08

All sizes are expressed in their decimal sense (i.e. 1 Gigabyte = 1,000,000,000 bytes etc.).

Capacity and nomenclature of (re)writable discs
Designation Sides Layers
DVD-R SS SL (1.0) 1 1 12 3.95
DVD-R SS SL (2.0) 1 1 12 4.70
DVD-RW SS SL 1 1 12 4.70
DVD+R SS SL 1 1 12 4.70
DVD+RW SS SL 1 1 12 4.70
DVD-R SS DL 1 2 12 8.50
DVD-RW SS DL 1 2 12 8.54
DVD+R SS DL 1 2 12 8.54
DVD+RW SS DL 1 2 12 8.54
DVD-RAM SS SL 1 1 8 1.46*
DVD-RAM DS SL 2 1 8 2.47*
DVD-RAM SS SL (1.0) 1 1 12 2.58
DVD-RAM SS SL (2.0) 1 1 12 4.70
DVD-RAM DS SL (1.0) 2 1 12 5.15
DVD-RAM DS SL (2.0) 2 1 12 9.39*

All sizes are expressed in their decimal sense (i.e. 1 Gigabyte = 1,000,000,000 bytes etc.).

Capacity differences of writable DVD formats
Type Sectors Bytes KB MB GB
DVD-R SL 2,298,496 4,707,319,808 4,707,320 4,707 4.7
DVD+R SL 2,295,104 4,700,372,992 4,700,373 4,700 4.7
DVD-R DL 4,171,712 8,543,666,176 8,543,666 8,544 8.5
DVD+R DL 4,173,824 8,547,991,552 8,547,992 8,548 8.5

All sizes are expressed in their decimal sense (i.e. 1 Gigabyte = 1,000,000,000 bytes etc.).


Related Articles