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DVD overview title graphic

DVD Overview & Features

DVD discs offer much higher capacity than CDs for high quality video, audio and software.

DVD, the Digital Versatile Disc, is a high capacity CD-size disc for video, multimedia, games and audio applications. Capacities for the read-only disc range from 4.7GB to 17.1GB.

The high quality of video and audio has helped DVD-Video to replace VHS for pre-recorded titles and to increase the overall video market in most regions.  Statistics show that DVD is growing faster than any other consumer electronics format in the USA and Europe. PCs with DVD capability are also selling, but multimedia and games applications of DVD have been slow to start. The advent of new games consoles using DVD is also helping to stimulate further sales.  

DVD Applications

Despite the success of the compact disc there has been a clear need for a higher capacity format to meet additional application requirements.

  • DVD-Video, which was launched in 1997 in the USA, has become the most successful of all the DVD formats, as it has proved to be an ideal vehicle for distributing video content from the movie industry. It can store a full-length movie of high quality video with surround sound audio on a disc the same size as a CD.
  • DVD-ROM is beginning to replace the CD-ROM and provide a new high capacity disc format for the computer industry. New PCs are now provided with DVD drives instead of CD drives. The entertainment industry has developed new games consoles (eg Sony's PS2 and Microsoft's X-Box) which incorporate DVD-ROM drives for more sophisticated and realistic games applications.
  • DVD-Audio, which was launched in 2000, is slowly gathering momentum to become the format for very high quality, surround sound music, offering the music industry new revenue opportunities.
  • Recordable formats such as DVD-RAM, DVD-RW and DVD-R are now being extensively used in PCs for computer backup and short runs of DVDs and in standalone products such as video recorders and camcorders.

DVD technology offers an optical disc with a much larger capacity than the compact disc and is available as a family of pre-recorded, recordable and re-writable formats to meet the requirements of the industries and applications mentioned above.

DVD-Video and DVD-ROM hardware and software have been available since 1997. DVD-Audio was launched in 2000. DVD writers and DVD video recorders are now available at affordable prices.  

DVD Features

DVD started as the Digital Video Disc but now means Digital Versatile Disc or just DVD. It is a multi-application family of optical disc formats for read-only,  recordable and re-writable applications. The main features of the DVD formats are:

  • Backwards compatibility with current CD media. All DVD hardware will play audio CDs and CD-ROMs (although not all hardware will play CD-Rs or CD-RWs)..
  • Physical dimensions identical to compact disc but using two 0.6 mm thick substrates, bonded together.
  • Single-layer/dual-layer and single/double sided options.
  • Up to 4.7 GB read-only capacity per layer, 8.5 GB per side maximum.
  • Designed from the outset for video, audio and multimedia, not just audio.
  • All formats use a common file system (UDF).
  • Digital and analogue copy protection for DVD-Video and DVD-Audio built into standard.
  • Recordable and re-writable versions are part of the family.


In this page:

DVD Applications

DVD Features

See also:

DVD Introduction (PDF document)

"DVD is growing faster than any other consumer electronics format"


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