Tips for Burning DVDs

The DVD burning process can be really easy. Included are some of the most frequently asked questions. We hope they will help you solve your DVD burning and playback problems.

Technically there is no such thing as a region 0 disc or a region 0 player. There is such thing as an all-region disc. There are also all-region players. Some players can be "hacked" with special command sequences from the remote control to switch regions or play all regions. Some players can be physically modified ("chipped") to play discs regardless of the regional codes on the disc. This usually voids the warranty, but is not illegal in most countries. (The only thing that requires player manufacturers to region-code their players is the CSS license.) On Feb. 7, 2001, NASA sent two multi region DVD players to the International Space Station.

What are the basic rules of DVD handling and storage?

Since DVDs are read by a laser, they are resistant to fingerprints, dust, smudges, and scratches. However, dusty surfaces and scratches can cause data reading/writing errors. On a video player, the effect of data errors ranges from minor video artifacts, to frame skipping, to complete unplayability. So it's a good idea to take care of your discs, which means that you need treat them the same way as you would a CD.Your player can't be harmed by scratched or dirty DVD-Rs unless there are globs of nasty substances on it that might actually hit the lens. Still, it's best to keep your discs clean because it will also keep the inside of your player clean. Never attempt to play a cracked disc, as it could shatter and damage the player. It doesn't hurt to leave the disc in the player (even if it's paused and still spinning), but letting it run unattended for days on end might not be a good idea. In general, there's no need to clean the lens on your player, since the air moved by the rotating disc keeps it clean. However, if you commonly use a lens cleaning disc in your CD player, you may want to do the same with your DVD player. We recommend only using a cleaning disc designed for DVD players, since there are minor differences in lens positioning.

There is no need for periodic alignment of the pickup head. Sometimes the laser can drift out of alignment, especially after rough handling of the player, but this is not a regular maintenance item.

What are regional codes, country codes, or zone locks?

Motion picture studios want to control the home release of movies in different countries because theater releases aren't simultaneous (a movie may come out on video in the U.S. when it's just hitting screens in Europe). Also, studios sell distribution rights to different foreign distributors and would like to guarantee an exclusive market. Therefore they required that the DVD standard include codes that can be used to prevent playback of certain discs in certain geographical regions. Each player is given a code for the region in which it's sold. The player will refuse to play discs that are not coded for its region. This means that discs bought in one country may not play on players bought in another country. Some people believe that region codes are an illegal restraint of trade, but there have been no legal cases to establish this.

Regional codes are entirely optional for the maker of a disc. Discs without region locks will play on any player in any country. It's not an encryption system, it's just one byte of information on the disc that the player checks. Some studios originally announced that only their new releases would have regional codes, but so far almost all Hollywood releases play in only one region. Region codes are a permanent part of the disc, they won't "unlock" after a period of time. Region codes do not apply to DVD Audio.

There are 8 regions (also called "locales"). Players and discs are often identified by the region number superimposed on a world globe. If a disc plays in more than one region it will have more than one number on the globe.

  • U.S., Canada, U.S. Territories
  • Japan, Europe, South Africa, and Middle East (including Egypt)
  • Southeast Asia and East Asia (including Hong Kong)
  • Australia, New Zealand, Pacific Islands, Central America, Mexico, South America, and the Caribbean
  • Eastern Europe (Former Soviet Union), Indian subcontinent, Africa, North Korea, and Mongolia
  • China
  • Reserved
  • Special international venues (airplanes, cruise ships, etc.)

Is playback of recorded 4.7 GB DVD-R media possible on all DVD-players and ROM drives?

It should be possible to achieve playback on many DVD players and DVD-ROM drives, barring some exceptions. Formats released by the DVD Forum are specifications for the MEDIA only. Although a recorded DVD-R disc falls within the same specifications as DVD-ROM (DVD VIDEO), because the formats are media-related ONLY, support will be entirely up to the hardware maker.According to a study conducted by media makers, DVD-R media is capable of playback on many players with some exceptions. Examples where playback may not be possible:

Since the DVD-R Book was released AFTER the DVD VIDEO Book, 1st generation DVD-VIDEO players may have problems reading DVD-R media. Also, some SLIM DVD-ROM drives and portable DVD players have been known to have problems reading DVD-R media. It is recommended that when the size of data is such that it will fit on a 3.95GB DVD-R then 3.95 blank media should be used. This will ensure the widest compatibility with various brands and models of DVD Players and DVD-ROM drives.

VHS is good enough, why should I care about DVD?

The primary advantages of DVD are video quality, surround sound, and extra features. In addition, DVD will not degrade with age or after many playings like videotape will (which is an advantage for parents with kids who watch Disney videos twice a week!). This is the same thing that makes CDs more collectable than cassette tapes. Did I mention video quality? The better your TV, the bigger the difference in picture quality between VHS and DVD. If none of this matters to you, then VHS probably is good enough.

How fast can I burn my discs?

The fastest desktop burners (as of September 2003) are 8X for DVD+/-R and 4X for DVD+/-RW. Laptop DVD burners usually have a 2X maximum DVD burn speed.

What is the difference between DVD-R(W), DVD+R(W), and DVD-RAM? Which technology should I buy into?

First off, the W stands for REWRITABLE; which means you can erase the DVD and record on it again (number of times you can do this varies by media quality). You will find these are more expensive, and LESS compatible than their write-once counterparts. RW media is only about 73% compatible with DVD players. So, what is -R (minus R) and +R (plus R)? These are two different DVD formats that are NOT compatible between them. If you have a DVD-R writer, you cannot write to DVD+R blanks and vice-versa. SOME more expensive drives (like the new Sony ones) can write to BOTH formats. DVD-ROM drives, however, can READ both DVD-R and DVD+R formatted discs. The difference between the formats are compatibility amongst DVD players. Some DVD players will play one, but not the other. DVD-R has the greatest OVERALL compatibility - upwards of 90% of DVD players out there will play these. DVD+R is only about 85% compatible.

The word on the street is that if you are backing up video games instead of movies, that DVD-R is more often more compatible. The DVD-RAM basically only plays back on DVD-ROM drives on the PC.

In conclusion: Go with DVD-R if you're doing movies. Consider DVD+R if you are doing other formats. If you can afford it, you can cover both bases. DVD-R discs are also cheaper than DVD+R discs.