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Homemade DVDs

Computer-based DVD recorders are now available that will write DVDs playable in some set top DVD players. These recorders operate much like CD recorders (often called burners), though instead of writing data onto 650MB CD-Rs you can write data onto 4.7GB DVD-R/RWs or DVD+R/RWs (two competing formats). While you will be able to write regular data on these discs as you can with a CD writer, you will also be able to write video files that will play back in your set top DVD player. Now, you can write video files to CD as well, but you are limited to less than 15 minutes at DVD quality (and most DVD players won't play them back). Recordable DVD allows you to record up to two hours of high quality video. Software packages are already available that allow you to create your own DVDs complete with menu interfaces and multiple video and audio tracks.

The proliferation of consumer DVD recording will make it much easier for people to distribute their family videos to friends and family as well as archive their own library of home movies (especially as the media costs go down). Independent and hobby filmmakers will also benefit from having such a high performance delivery format for their creations.

Right now only a few recordable DVD drives are on the market, but far more models are expected to hit the market in the spring of 2002 if current timelines are maintained.

The holdup at least on the surface is due to competing formats. DVD-R/RW and DVD+R/RW are two different DVD formats, each supported by their own stable of manufacturers. While they both will play back on many DVD players, they are based on different underlying technology. It is still too early to predict which format will prevail (maybe both will).

Common sense also dictates that piracy concerns might have also been a factor in the delay of this technology's rollout. Nonetheless, due to built-in piracy protection called Macrovision (built in to the DVD format) you are unlikely to see any set top DVD recorders that would be capable of recording commercial DVD movies.


DVD+R/RW, at least initially, had the most industry firepower behind it (HP, Sony, Mitsubishi, Yamaha, Philips, Ricoh, and others). As the name suggests, DVD+R/RW supports both writing and rewriting. DVD+R/RW currently sports up to 4.7GB disc capacity. Keep in mind DVD+R/RW disks are not compatible with all DVD players, so check the drive manufacturer to be sure your DVD player is compatible. Also, VCDhelp ( maintains a very useful database of set top DVD players, which lists recordable DVD format compatibility.


Developed by Pioneer, DVD-R/RW beat DVD+R/RW to the consumer market by six months. While DVD-R/RW had far less industry support initially, its speed to the marketplace may prove decisive in the long run.

DVD-R/RW drives allow write once (DVD-R) and rewritable (DVD-RW) DVD burning. 4.7GB DVD-R media cost $10 ($25 for the DVD-RW rewritable media) when it was introduced, but that price has already fallen to $5 and should continue to drop. Since the engineering behind DVD media is pretty much the same as CD media, you can expect to see sub one-dollar media prices eventually.

The first consumer DVD-R writer, the Pioneer DVR-A03 (rebadged as the SuperDrive in Macs), can write to DVD-R disks at 2x speed or 2.76MBps and rewrite to DVD-RW disks at 1x or 1.38MBps (see Figure 3.4). This is slightly faster than a 16x CD burner, which can write data at 2.4MBps; writing a full DVD takes around 30 minutes.

Figure 3.4 The Pioneer DVR-A03 is the first recordable DVD drive that can write consumer playable DVD discs.

Early reports suggest that DVD-R/RW is slightly more compatible with set top DVD players than DVD+R/RW. As with DVD+RW, check compatibility with your DVD player before buying.


DVD-RAM is another DVD format, one that has been on the market for close to two years but is not compatible with current DVD players. As a result DVD-RAM is really just a large rewritable storage format. With the plummeting cost of fast hard drives and cheap CD-RW, DVD-RAM has little appeal as a storage medium.

Recently a few disc-based camcorders have been released which record onto small DVD-RAM disks, and a few under-$100 DVD-ROM drives that will read (but not write) DVD-RAM have also been released (see Figure 3.5). However it is hard to see how DVD-RAM has a chance against DVD+RW and DVD-R, which offer consumer DVD player compatibility, allowing consumers to just pop their recorded DVDs right into their set top DVD players. Furthermore, future computers are infinitely more likely to have DVD+RW or DVD-R drives, which will further isolate the DVD-RAM format.

Figure 3.5 The Panasonic VDR-M10 camcorder records up to two hours of video onto 2.5-inch DVD-RAM

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