Frequently Asked Questions

What do the letters DVD stand for?

The original acronym came from “digital video disc.”

What is DVD?

DVD is the new generation of optical disc storage technology. DVD is essentially a bigger, faster CD that can hold cinema-like video, better-than-CD audio, still photos and computer data. DVD aims to encompass home entertainment, computers and business information with a single digital format. It has replaced laserdisc, is well on the way to replacing videotape and video game cartridges, and could eventually replace audio CD and CD-ROM. In 2003, six years after introduction, there were more than 250 million DVD playback devices worldwide, counting DVD players, DVD PCs, and DVD game consoles.

Useful Statistics

  • A DVD can hold more than 2 hours of high-quality digital video (a double-sided, dual-layer disc can hold about 8 hours of high-quality video, or 30 hours of VHS quality video) and up to 8 tracks of digital audio (for multiple languages, commentaries, etc.), each with as many as 8 channels.
  • By March 2003, six years after launch, more than 1.5 billion copies of DVD titles had been shipped

What are the disadvantages of DVD?

  • DVD recorders are more expensive than VCRs.
  • DVD has built-in copy protection and regional lockout limiting playback in different countries and any duplication.
  • DVD doesn’t fully support HDTV.
  • There are some compatibility issues with recordable DVD formats, such as DVD-R, DVD-RAM, DVD-RW, DVD+RW, and DVD+R.

How long do DVDs last?

DVDs are read by a laser, so they never wear out from being played since nothing touches the disc. Pressed discs (the kind that movies come on) will probably last longer than you will, anywhere from 50 to 300 years.

Will DVD replace VCRs?

Eventually. DVD player sales exceeded VCR sales in 2001. DVD recorders will hasten the death of VCRs once the price difference is small enough. DVDs have many advantages over tapes, 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.

Can DVD record from TV/VCR/etc?

Yes, if you have a DVD recorder. Note that DVD video recorders can’t copy most DVD movie discs, which are protected.

How can I sell DVDs that I made?

Amazon zShops and CustomFlix are the most commonly used venues for selling DVDs. Acutrack and Cinemagnetics are also popular venues. Auction sites such as eBay, Amazon Auctions, Yahoo Auctions, uBid and others can be used, but require more work by the mediamaker in terms of taking payments, producing, packaging and shipping discs.

DVD Production

DVD production has two basic phases: development and publishing. Development is different for DVD-ROM and DVD-Video, while publishing is essentially the same for both. Cheap, low-volume productions can be duplicated 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, Visual BASIC, Quark mTropolis, and C++. Discs, including DVD-R check discs, can be created with UDF formatting software. DVD-ROMs that take advantage of DVD-Video’s MPEG-2 video and multi-channel Dolby Digital or MPEG-2 audio require video and audio encoding.

DVD-Video content development has three basic parts: encodingauthoring (design, layout, and testing), and premastering (formatting a disc image). The entire development process is sometimes referred to as authoring.

DVD Authoring is the process of collecting various content assets such as video, audio, photographs, subtitles and menus, connecting them together and then burning them to a master DVD disc. The assets can come from several applications. The most analogous comparison for DVD authoring is building a website. Menu screens are the main way to link keys features such as chapters within the main program, additional scenes not contained in the program and other content.

There are many DVD authoring packages. All the entry level DVD authoring packages will guide you through the complete process, from capturing to editing before finally converting and burning to DVD. Many affordable programs, such as Sonic MyDVD, offer simple interfaces and off the shelf menus.

Once the edited movie is entered into the DVD authoring software, it will create all the necessary files needed to create and burn a DVD. Be aware that there might be some compatibility issues with particular video assets that are used. Too, the physical capacity of the DVD disc also needs to be kept in mind.

When producing a DVD, it is important to consider setting up chapters and picking thumbnails visual frames, each of which will help the viewer navigate when viewing the DVD. Producers need to think about where to place chapter marks — and what kind of verbal/visual list to have on the main menu. The best way to get a handle on this is to view other DVDs and see the solutions employed by other producers.


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 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. For projects requiring fewer than 50 copies, it can be cheaper to use recordable discs. Automated machines can feed recordable blanks into a recorder, and even print labels on each disc. This is called duplication, as distinguished from replication.

DVD Production Costs

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 with menus and various video clips can cost as little 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.

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 $1,000 to master and about $0.70 to replicate. Double-sided or dual-layer discs cost about $0.30 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.