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Optical Disc Types

AVS4YOU programs currently support three types of optical disc formats that are available for consumer use. This section will better explain the purpose of these formats and their place in history. With the support of other disc types and formats the corresponding information will be added.

Compact Discs

Digital Audio Compact Discs (CD-DA) were first introduced to the consumer audio market in 1980 by Philips and Sony as an alternative to vinyl records and magnetic tape cassettes. In 1984, Philips and Sony extended the technology to include data storage and retrieval and introduced a new format: the Data Compact Disc (CD-ROM).

Since then, the Compact Disc has dramatically changed the way that we listen music and handle electronic information. With a capacity of up to 700 megabytes of computer data or 80 minutes of high quality audio, the Compact Disc has revolutionized the distribution of every kind of electronic information.

In 1990, Philips and Sony extended the technology again and the Compact Disc became recordable (CD-R). Before the introduction of the CD-R technology, compact discs were produced in commercial replication plants by stamping the media with a pre-recorded master. Today, discs are produced in replication plants where large quantities are required. For small production volumes (up to 500 copies or more, depending on your location and manufacturers in your market), it can be significantly less expensive to master your own discs using commercially available Compact Disc writing drives.

Whether a Compact Disc was stamped at a replication facility or "burned" using a compact disc recorder, it can theoretically be read by any available CD-ROM drive. In reality, some inexpensive media and CD players do not work very well together. Only the physical composition of a commercially replicated disc and a CD-R disc are different. The former is coated with a reflective layer of aluminum resulting in a typical silver color. The latter is coated with a reflective layer behind a thin layer of dye (colors can range from blue, silver, green, and others).

In 1997 Compact Disc ReWritable (CD-RW) - a rewritable optical disc format - was introduced. While a prerecorded compact disc has its information permanently stamped into its polycarbonate plastic substrate, a CD-RW disc contains a phase-change alloy recording layer composed of silver, indium, antimony and tellurium. An infra-red laser beam is employed to selectively heat and melt the crystallized recording layer into an amorphous state or to anneal it at a lower temperature back to its crystalline state. The different reflectance of the resulting areas make them appear like the pits and lands of a prerecorded CD. A CD-RW recorder can rewrite 700 MB of data to a CD-RW disc roughly 1000 times.

A Compact Disc contain blocks (or sectors) of 2352 bytes each, going from the center hole to the outer diameter. The block at logical address 0 (beginning of the disc) is located near the center of the disc; the last addressable block (end of the disc) is located near the outer edge of the disc.

Blank discs are usually available in the following sizes (block sizes approximated).

  • 21 minutes = 94500 blocks
  • 63 minutes = 283500 blocks
  • 74 minutes = 333000 blocks
  • 80 minutes = 360000 blocks

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Digital Versatile Discs

In January of 1995, Sony was the first to showcase Digital Versatile Disc technology after having announced co-development six months earlier. Three weeks later, Pioneer, Time Warner, and Toshiba announced their own version of DVD, which had major differences from the format developed by Philips and Sony. Immediately disputes started over which format should be used, since each had their own advantages and disadvantages.

The disputes did not stop until May of 1995, when a major report was released by leading hardware and software manufacturers (Apple, Compaq, Fujitsu, HP, IBM, and Microsoft), stating that the two formats were not going to be supported by the industry when there were clear advantages in using one format. The result was a mix of the two formats and the formation of the DVD Forum by all companies involved in the two original formats (Matsushita, Mitsubishi, Pioneer, Philips, Hitachi, JVC, Sony, Thompson, Toshiba, and Time Warner).

In 1996, the specifications for DVD-ROM and DVD-Video were finalized and DVD players began to ship to market. One year later, the DVD Forum worked on the specifications for the first recordable (DVD-R) implementation of DVD. In November of 1997, Pioneer announced the first DVD-R drives, while Matsushita and Toshiba released the first DVD erasable (DVD-RAM) drives.

During 1998, a new coalition was formed to develop re-writable discs specifically for storage of data based on 25-year-old CD patents. This format was initially called DVD+RW and was not allowed to use the DVD logo after the DVD Forum ruled that it could not be used in the branch technology. While the technologies between the two formats are similar, licensing rules dictate differences, some of which can be witnessed in the logo branding of devices and media.

Much like Compact Discs, Digital Versatile Discs are comprised of a continuous spiral of blocks (or sectors) starting from the center hole ending at the outer rim of the disc. The blocks are only of size 2048 bytes, making the format less complicated.

There are several types of DVD discs depending on their capacity and on the medium type.

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The main types of DVDs that differ as to their capacity are:

DVD disc types First side Second side Total capacity
First layer capacity Second layer capacity First layer capacity Second layer capacity
DVD-5 4.7 Gb - - - 4.7 Gb
DVD-9 4.3 Gb 4.3 Gb - - 8.6 Gb
DVD-10 4.7 Gb - 4.7 Gb - 9.4 Gb
DVD-14 4.3 Gb 4.3 Gb 4.7 Gb - 13.3 Gb
DVD-18 4.3 Gb 4.3 Gb 4.3 Gb 4.3 Gb 17.2 Gb

DVD-5 - single sided, single layer (disc capacity about 4.7 Gb, the working surface of such a disc is situated on one side of it and consists of one layer only);

DVD-9 - single sided, double layer (disc capacity about 8.6 Gb, the working surface of such a disc is situated on one side of it and consists of two layers about 4.3 Gb each);

DVD-10 - double sided, single layer on both sides (disc capacity about 9.4 Gb, the working surfaces of such a disc are situated on both its sides and either consists of one layer about 4.7 Gb);

DVD-14 - double sided, double layer on one side and single layer on the other side (disc capacity about 13.3 Gb, the working surfaces of such a disc are situated on both its sides and consist of two layers about 4.3 Gb each on one side and one layer about 4.7 Gb on the other side);

DVD-18 - double sided, double layer on both sides (disc capacity about 17.2 Gb, the working surfaces of such a disc are situated on both its sides and either consists of two layers about 4.3 Gb each).

Note!Note: the DVD capacity is measured in the so called decimal gigabytes (one gigabyte is equal to 1000 megabytes). The real size of the DVDs is smaller when measured in the so called computer gigabytes or gibibytes (one gigabyte is equal to 1024 megabytes).

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The disc medium can be:

DVD-ROM (read only, industrially manufactured)

A factory-made DVD that is manufactured by a press. The DVD specification Version 1.0 was announced in 1995 and finalized in September 1996. "DVD" was originally an acronym for "digital video disc"; some members of the DVD Forum believe that it should stand for "digital versatile disc", to indicate its potential for non-video applications. Toshiba adheres to the interpretation of "digital versatile disc". The DVD Forum never reached a consensus on the matter, however, and so today the official name of the format is simply "DVD"; the letters do not "officially" stand for anything.

DVD-R (R = Recordable once)

A DVD-Recordable or DVD-R is an optical disc with a larger storage capacity than a CD-R, typically 4.7 GB instead of 700 Mb, although the capacity of the original standard was 3.95 Gb. The DVD-R format was developed by Pioneer in autumn of 1997. It is supported by most DVD players, and is approved by the DVD Forum. A DVD-R can be written to only once.

DVD-RW (RW = ReWritable)

A DVD-RW is a rewritable optical disc with equal storage capacity to a DVD-R, typically 4.7 GB. The format was developed by Pioneer in November 1999 and has been approved by the DVD Forum. Unlike DVD-RAM, it is playable in about 75% of conventional DVD players. The primary advantage of DVD-RW over DVD-R is the ability to erase and rewrite to a DVD-RW disc. According to Pioneer, DVD-RW discs may be written to about 1,000 times before needing replacement, making them comparable with the CD-RW standard. DVD-RW discs are commonly used for volatile data, such as backups or collections of files. They are also increasingly used for home DVD video recorders.

DVD-R DL (double layer)

DVD-R DL (Dual Layer) (Also Known as DVD-R9) is a derivative of the DVD-R format standard. DVD-R DL discs employ two recordable dye layers, each capable of storing nearly the 4.7 GB of a single-layer disc, almost doubling the total disc capacity to 8.54 GB. Discs can be read in many DVD devices (older units are less compatible) and can only be written using DVD±RW DL burners.

DVD+R (R = Recordable once)

A DVD+R is a writable optical disc with 4.7 GB of storage capacity. The format was developed by a coalition of corporations, known as the DVD+RW Alliance, in mid 2002. Since the DVD+R format is a competing format to the DVD-R format, which is developed by the DVD Forum, it has not been approved by the DVD Forum, which claims that the DVD+R format is not an official DVD format. The DVD+R format is divergent from the DVD-R format. Hybrid drives that can handle both, often labeled "DVD±RW", are very popular since there is not yet a single standard for recordable DVDs. There are a number of significant technical differences between the dash and plus formats, and although most consumers would not notice the difference, the plus format is considered by some to be better engineered.

DVD+RW (RW = ReWritable)

A DVD+RW is a rewritable optical disc with equal storage capacity to a DVD+R, typically 4.7 GB (interpreted as 4.7 · 109, actually 2295104 sectors of 2048 bytes each). The format was developed by a coalition of corporations, known as the DVD+RW Alliance, in late 1997, although the standard was abandoned until 2001, when it was heavily revised and the capacity increased from 2.8 GB to 4.7 GB. Credit for developing the standard is often attributed unilaterally to Philips, one of the members of the DVD+RW Alliance. Although DVD+RW has not yet been approved by the DVD Forum, the format is too popular for manufacturers to ignore, and as such, DVD+RW discs are playable in 3/4 of today's DVD players. Unlike the DVD-RW format, DVD+RW was made a standard earlier than DVD+R.

DVD+R DL (double layer)

DVD+R DL (Double Layer), also known as DVD+R9, is a derivative of the DVD+R format created by the DVD+RW Alliance. Its use was first demonstrated in October 2003. DVD+R DL discs employ two recordable dye layers, each capable of storing nearly the 4.7 GB of a single-layer disc, almost doubling the total disc capacity to 8.55 GB. Discs can be read in many DVD devices (older units are less compatible) and can only be created using DVD+RW DL and Super Multi drives. The latest DL drives write double layer discs slower (2.4x to 8x) than single-layer media (8x-16x). A double layer rewritable version called DVD+RW DL is also in development but is expected to be incompatible with existing DVD devices.

DVD-RAM (random access rewritable)

DVD-RAM (DVD–Random Access Memory) is a disc specification presented in 1996 by the DVD Forum, which specifies rewritable DVD-RAM media and the appropriate DVD writers. DVD-RAM media are used in computers as well as camcorders and personal video recorders since 1998. You can identify a DVD-RAM disc due to lots of little rectangles distributed on the surface of the data carrier. Compared with other writeable DVDs, DVD-RAM is more closely related to hard disk technology, as it has concentric tracks instead of one long spiral track. Unlike the competing formats DVD+R, DVD-R, DVD+RW and DVD-RW, you do not need special DVD burning software to write or read DVD-RAMs on a computer. DVD-RAMs can be accessed like a usual floppy disk or hard drive. DVD-RAM is more suited to data backups and use in camcorders than DVD±RW. The advantages of DVD-RAM discs are the following: long durability of minimum 30 years and they can be rewritten more than 100,000 times, and also the fact that no DVD burning software required in computers as the discs can be used and accessed like a removable hard disk.

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Blu-Ray Discs

Blu-ray Disc (bd) is a next-generation optical disc format meant for storage of high-definition video and high-density data. The Blu-ray standard was jointly developed by a group of leading consumer electronics and PC companies called the Blu-ray Disc Association (bdA), led by Sony and Philips. Blu-ray has information capacity per layer of 25 gigabytes.

Blu-ray gets its name from the shorter wavelength (405 nm) of a "blue" (technically blue-violet) laser that allows it to store substantially more data than a DVD, which has the same physical dimensions but uses a longer wavelength (650 nm) red laser.

bd-R (R = Recordable once)

A single-layer Blu-ray disc (bd) can fit 23.3, 25, or 27 GB; this is enough for approximately four hours of high-definition video with audio. A dual-layer bd can fit 46.6, 50, or 54 GB, enough for approximately eight hours of HD video. Capacities of 100 GB and 200 GB, using four and eight layers respectively, are currently being researched; TDK has already announced a four-layer 100 GB disc.

bd-RE (RE = REwritable)

The bd-RE (rewritable) standard is available, along with the bd-R (recordable) and bd-ROM formats, which became available in mid-2004, as part of version 2.0 of the Blu-ray specifications. bd-ROM pre-recorded media are to be available by early 2006.

In addition to 12 cm discs, an 8 cm variation for use with camcorders is planned that will have a capacity of 15 GB.

To ensure that the Blu-ray Disc format is easily extendable (future-proof) it also includes support for multi-layer discs, which should allow the storage capacity to be increased to 100GB/200GB (25GB per layer) in the future simply by adding more layers to the discs.

Blu-ray drives currently in production can transfer approximately 36 Mbit/s (54 Mbit/s for bd-ROM), but 2x speed prototypes with a 72 Mbit/s transfer rate are in development. Rates of 8x or more are planned for the future.

Because the Blu-ray standard places data so close to the surface of the disc, early discs were susceptible to dust and scratches and had to be enclosed in plastic caddies for protection. The solution to this problem arrived in January 2004 with the introduction of a clear polymer that gives Blu-ray discs unprecedented scratch resistance. The coating, developed by TDK Corporation under the name "Durabis," allows bds to be cleaned safely with only a tissue - a procedure that can damage CDs, DVDs. Bare bds with the coating are reportedly able to withstand attack by a screwdriver.

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Please note that AVS4YOU programs do not allow you to copy protected material. You may use this software in copying material in which you own the copyright or have obtained permission to copy from the copyright owner.

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