DVD Basics / DVD Players FAQ GUIDE

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Answers to Basic Questions About DVD and DVD Players

DVD is the most successful home entertainment product in history. Ever since it was introduced in 1997, DVD has taken off like a rocket and can be found in a growing number of practical configurations. However, what is DVD what really makes it different from VHS? To find out the answers to some basic questions on DVD, check out the following DVD and DVD Player Basics FAQs.

What Do The Letters "DVD" Actually Stand For?
DVD stands for Digital Versatile Disc. DVDs can be used for storing video, audio, still image, or computer data. Many people refer to DVD as a Digital Video Disc, however, technically, this is not correct.
In case you were wondering, VHS stands for Video Home System.

What Makes DVD Different Than VHS?
DVD is differs from VHS in the following ways:
1. Audio and video information on VHS tape is imbedded on a magnetic imprint that has been recorded on video tape and is physically read by a rotating head in a VCR. Video and audio information on a DVD is imbedded in physically stamped pits that are read optically by a laser.
In an ironic twist of fate, a DVD, physically has more in common with the traditional vinyl record than video tape. Audio signals on a vinyl record are imprinted in physical grooves, which are physically read by a stylus. The difference, besides the groove vs pits disc construction, is that the signal on a vinyl record is an analog waveform and the signal on a DVD are digital bits.
2. DVD can support both standard 4x3 and anamorphic widescreen 16x9 screen aspect ratios.
3. DVD is capable of providing twice the video resolution than VHS, making for a much more detailed image and better color consistency.
4. You can access any part of the DVD in a random or very fast manner, whereas you have to fast forward or rewind a VHS tape to find a specific location on the tape.
5. DVD is capable of interactive menu access and added features, such as multiple language tracks, audio commentaries, and additional features not capable on the VHS format.
DVD also supports Closed Captioning and On/Off Subtitling in several lauguages.
6. In addition DVD supports synchronized multiple camera angle viewing, provided the filmmaker supplies the alternate camera angle footage shot during the filming process to the DVD production staff.
7. DVDs are not affected by magnetic fields. Commercial
DVDs cannot be erased.

What Is The Difference Between Movie DVDs And DVDs Made On A DVD Recorder Or PC?
The difference between commercially made DVD movies and DVDs you make at home on a DVD recorder or PC, is that the DVD movies you purchase at the video store are physically stamped, while DVDs you make at home on your DVD recorder or PC are optically burned by a laser. This makes the surface construction and reflective properties of commercial and home DVDs slightly different, but both types can be played on most DVD players, with some exceptions related to the consumer DVD recording format used.
In essence, consumer recordable DVD formats try to mimic the properties of commercial DVDs in order to maintain playback compatibility with standard DVD players.
In addition, most commercially made DVDs also contain Macrovision anti-copy protection that prevents them from being copied onto a homemade VHS tape or DVD.

What Is Region Coding? - What Is Meant By A Code-Free DVD Player?
Region coding is a controversial system enforced by the MPAA (Motion Picture Association Of America) that controls the distribution of DVDs in World Markets based on feature film release dates and other factors.
The World is divided into several DVD regions. DVD players can only play DVDs that are coded for a specific region. In other words, you cannot buy a DVD in Japan (which is in DVD Region 2) and play it on a DVD player in the U.S., which is in DVD Region 1.
However, there are DVD players available that can bypass the Region Code system, which some exceptions. This type of DVD player is referred to as a Code Free DVD player.

How Do You Access The Audio On A DVD?
One of the advantages of DVD is the ability of a DVD to hold several audio options simultaneously.
Although audio on a DVD is digital, you can access the audio in either an analog or digital form. DVD players have standard stereo analog audio outputs that can be connected to any stereo system or stereo TV with stereo audio inputs. DVD players also have digital audio outputs that can be connected to any AV receiver with digital audio inputs. You must use either digital optical or digital coaxial audio connections to access Dolby Digital or DTS 5.1 surround sound audio.

What Types Of Video Connections Do DVD Players Have?
DVD players have standard RCA composite video, S-video, and Component Video outputs. On most DVD players, the component video outputs can be set to transfer either a standard interlaced video signal or a progressive scan video signal to a television. Some DVD players also have DVI or HDMI outputs for better connection to HDTVs as well. DVD players typically do not have cable or antenna outputs. For audio, DVD players also have both analog audio and digital audio outputs.

How Do I Connect A DVD player To a TV That Only Has An Antenna Or Cable Connection?
In order to connect a DVD player to a TV that only has an antenna or cable connection, you need to convert the video signal from the DVD player to an RF signal that can be fed through an antenna or cable connection. This is done with the addition of an RF Modulator.

What Is A Universal DVD Player?
A Universal DVD player refers to a DVD player that plays SACDs (Super Audio CD) and DVD-Audio Discs as well as standard DVDs.
SACD and DVD-Audio are high-resolution audio formats that were intended to replace the standard music CD, but have not made a large market impact with consumers. Universal DVD players have a set of 6-channel analog audio outputs that allow the consumer to access SACD and DVD-Audio on an AV receiver that also a set 6-channel analog audio inputs.
Due to differences in the way SACD and DVD-Audio signals are encoded on a disc, the DVD player must convert the signal to an analog form as digital audio connections on a DVD player that are used for access Dolby Digital and DTS audio are not compatible with SACD or DVD-Audio signals.
Several manufacturers are in the process of developing a different digital audio connection protocol for the transfer of SACD and DVD-Audio signals from a DVD player to an AV receiver digitally. However, this will require the consumer to purchase a new AV receiver that would be compatible with any new connection scheme for these formats.

Can DVD Players Also Play Standard Music CDs?
Yes, all DVD players can play standard music CDs. If you insert a CD in a DVD player, it will automatically recognize the disc as a CD and let you access CD playback functions.
In addition, many DVD players can also play CD-R/RWs, MP3-CDs and JPEG PhotoCDs. Also, some DVD players can also play SACD (Super Audio CDs) and DVD-Audio Discs.
If a DVD Player Can Play CDs, Then Which is Better For Playing CDs - A DVD Player or a CD-only Player?
CDs and DVDs, although sharing some basic similarities, such as the size of the discs, and the the fact that they are both digitally encoded formats - they are very different. CDs have different focusing requirements than DVDs, so, in order for a DVD player to play CDs they need one of two things: A laser that has the ability change its focusing accurately based on DVD or CD detection or, more commonly, a DVD player will have two lasers, one for reading DVDs and one for reading CDs.
This is often referred to a Twin-Laser Assembly as is usually listed in the spec sheet for DVD players that have them.
The reason that DVD players can also play CDs is not so much technical, but is a conscious marketing strategy. When DVD was first introduced to the market in 1996-1997, it was decided that one of the best ways to increase sales of DVD players and make them more appealing to consumers was to also include the ability for DVD players to also be able to play CDs. As a result, the DVD player actually became two units in one, a DVD player and a CD player. Although some audio processing circuitry is shared, the basic requirements of both CD and DVD compatibility are accommodated separately within the same chassis.
Now, as to whether ALL DVD players are better CD players, not all are. You have to compare them unit-by-unit. However, a great many of them are, especially DVD/SACD/DVD-Audio Universal Players, due their higher-end audio processing. Also, as a result of the popularity of DVD and CD, it is becoming harder to find CD-only players. In fact, most CD-only players available these days are either the Jukebox type that hold 50 or more CDs, or very high-end single tray units.

What Are DualDiscs And Can DVD Players Play Them?
DualDisc is a controversial new format that is a disc with a DVD layer on one side and a CD-type layer on the other. Since the disc has a slightly different thickness than either a standard DVD or standard CD, it may not have complete playback compatibility on some DVD players. DualDiscs are not officially recognized as meeting CD specifications. As a result, Philips, developers of the CD and holders of most CD patents, do not authorize the use of the official CD label on DualDiscs.
For more information on DualDisc, check out the DualDisc Website. For information on compatibility issues of DualDisc with your own DVD player, contact tech support or the webpage of the manufacturer of your DVD player

What About True High Definition DVD?
For the past several years, high definition DVD player and recorder prototypes have been displayed at consumer electronics trade shows. Finally, HD-DVD and Blu-ray players are now available in the U.S., with units including recording capability expected to become available at a later date.
However, there is a catch with regards to the introduction of high definition DVD recording and playback. You guessed it; there are two competing formats that are incompatible with each other.

The competing formats are Blu-ray and HD-DVD:

Blu-ray Support
Blu-ray is supported on the hardware side by Hitachi, LG, Matsushita (Panasonic), Pioneer, Philips, Samsung, Sharp, Sony, HP, Dell, Apple, TDK, and Thomson (Note: Thomson also supports HD-DVD). On the software side, Blu-ray is supported by Twentieth Century Fox and Walt Disney Studios.

HD-DVD Support
HD-DVD is supported on the hardware side by Toshiba, NEC, Sanyo, Thomson (Note: Thomson also supports Blu-ray). On the software side, HD-DVD is supported by Warner Bros. and New Line Cinema, Paramount Pictures, and Universal Pictures.

What Are All The types of DVD Players Currently Available?
DVD is popping up in all types of configurations. Here is a listing of several types of DVD player and recorder components that are available for the consumer:
1. Standard DVD Player (both single tray and changer)
2. Universal DVD Player (SACD/DVD-Audio Compatible Player)
3. DVD Player/VHS VCR combination
4. DVD Recorder/VHS VCR combination
5. DVD player/AV Receiver Combination
6. DVD Recorder/Hard Drive Combination
7. DVD Player/TIVO Combination
8. DVD Recorder/TIVO Combination
9. DVD Player/Video Projector Combination
10. Portable DVD Player
11. DVD Player/Video Game Console Combination
12. Home Theater-In-A-Box System with built-in DVD Player
13. TV/DVD Player or TV/DVD player/VCR Combination
14. DVD Camcorder
16. Standalone Video Editing System With A Built-in DVD Burner
15. DVD-ROM and DVD-Writer Drives for PCs and Laptop Computers
16. HD-DVD Player (HD-DVD and DVD compatible)
17. Blu-ray Disc Player (Blu-ray Disc and DVD compatible)

Keep in mind, as with all consumer electronics technology, that things are constantly changing.

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