The DVD Cyber Center's Simple F.A.Q. -
Last Updated 03/01/03
Over the years many visitors have come to this site to learn more about the DVD
format. Though there are much more "in depth" articles on the web, the
follow series of questions should give you a general idea what this great format
is all about:
01. What the heck is this DVD stuff?
02. How much will it cost me?
03. Does a movie on DVD really look that much better?
04. What is with all these sound formats?
05. What are these black bars on my TV?
06. What exactly is region coding?
07. Do I need a particular TV or piece of audio equipment?
08. Are DVDs “High Definition”?
09. Can you record on a DVD?
10. In the end, why should I get a DVD player?
1: What the heck is this DVD stuff?
Digital Versatile Disc (or Digital Video Disc depending on
who you are asking) is a storage medium that can offer over four gigabytes of
storage space. You can get computer software, video games, music and movies on
DVD. The most popular content for the medium thus far has been movies. Often
computer information is also included on movie DVDs as a bonus.
DVD really can offer a ton of options (if included on the disc) like multiple
viewable camera angles, multiple audio soundtracks, multiple subtitles,
different aspect ratios and more. ALL ON THE SAME DVD!
Most DVDs have a menu, from which you can select the movie, the audio mix, or
any bonus features included on the disc. You can also track ahead or back in a
movie, like a CD. Unlike a CD, a stopped DVD will resume from the point where
you stopped it, unless you turn the machine off, or remove the disc.
Unlike VHS, a DVD does not degrade through regular use. If you handle a DVD by
the edges, and return it to its case when you are done, a DVD should work
perfectly for the rest of your life.
2: How much will it cost me?
Stand-alone DVD players start around $100 and go up to over $1,000
per unit. For the average person, a good name-brand unit will have all the
standard features you will need. DVD-ROM drives for the computer and even
DVD-RW burners are also available.
Most single DVD discs range in price between $10 and $30.
Many multi-disc titles are available as well as many box sets.
Other accessories like speakers, receivers and such range
from very reasonable to high-end. Check online and in stores for great
starter packages like "all-in-one" home theater systems that include everything
you will need.
3: Does a movie on DVD really look better?
DVD offers a considerably crisper picture than that available
from VHS tapes or Laserdiscs. With its larger storage capacity, and the fact
that it is a digital medium, DVD can offer a quality of video that surpasses
what was available before.
Other than the additional lines of resolution, twice as many
as VHS, and 20% more than Laserdisc without line multiplication, DVD also
provides greater contrast. The color black on a DVD is much deeper and truer
than blacks on Laserdiscs and VHS tapes, which tend to look dark gray. While
this might not seem important, the more accurate contrast capability of DVD
makes all colors more vibrant.
DVD is the first home video medium to take advantage of
anamorphic widescreen. A DVD "enhanced for 16x9 displays" will display a
widescreen image, on a monitor or TV that can display anamorphic images, with
even more resolution than a non-anamorphic image.
One feature available on certain DVD players is progressive
scanning. Traditionally, half of the available lines of resolution from a video
feed are displayed on a television at once. Your television alternates the lines
of resolution so quickly that your eyes cannot see the switch. A progressive
scan DVD player, on a television that accepts a progressive scan image, will
display all lines of resolution at one time. The ability to see all lines of
resolution at once makes the already superior DVD image even clearer.
What is with all these sound formats?
You might look at the quality of sound from a DVD like
comparing old cassette tapes to CDs. The main sound formats on DVD you are going
to run into are Dolby Surround, Dolby Pro-Logic (and Pro-Logic II), Dolby
Digital and DTS.
Pro-Logic encodes four channels, left, right, center
(discrete), and rears, whereas standard Dolby Surround has a phantom center
channel that is derived from the left and the right. Dolby Pro-Logic receivers
can work fine with your DVD video discs, because all players will down-mix Dolby
Digital into Pro-Logic via their stereo outputs. Pro-Logic II is an upgrade to
Pro-Logic, which does a much better job creating an immersive sound experience.
Dolby Digital is, for the most part, the de-facto sound standard of most newly
released DVDs. Dolby Digital provides 5.1-channel sound, or sound to up to five
discrete channels, and a channel for low frequency effects (LFE) for your
subwoofer. The 5.1 classification is due to the fact that the five independent
channels are capable of receiving theoretically full frequency sound (20 Hz to
20kHz), thus 5, and since the LFE channel only receives the much lower
frequencies (20 to 120 Hz) it gets the .1 label, thus 5.1.
Digital Theater Systems (DTS) Digital Surround is the
competing 5.1 format to Dolby Digital. DTS is very similar to Dolby Digital in
that it provides up to 5.1 surround sound like Dolby Digital and provides the
same frequency levels to each channel as Dolby Digital. The difference between
DTS and Dolby Digital is that DTS allows for higher data rates in encoding its
5.1 audio tracks, two to four times the data rate compared to Dolby Digital.
Because of this one could easily conclude that DTS is up to four times less
compressed and can therefore sound better then Dolby Digital.
Remember, to be able to take advantage of any of these sound
formats, your receiver must support it. Please check the documentation
that came with your DVD player and receiver.
are these black bars on my TV?
If you popped in a DVD lately or saw a "widescreen" VHS
release, most likely you will notice that on a regular square TV that black bars
appear on top and on the bottom of the picture.
That is because most DVDs are presented in widescreen.
Widescreen is just what you probably think it is, giving you a wider picture
then you are used to. Many people will complain about this, thinking that
since there entire screen is not filled that they must be missing what is going
on behind those black bars. Nevertheless, in fact, you are actually viewing
considerable more information of the sides.
Granted, the picture is marginally smaller on non-widescreen
TVs, but you are getting the full picture; the way the director (most at least)
wanted it to be. When was the last time you went to a movie theater and the
screen was near square like your TV?
6: What exactly is region coding?
Basically, region coding is used to control the distribution
of new DVDs in different regions of the world. Unless you have a "region free"
DVD player, DVDs encoded in Region 1 (U.S. & Canada) will not be playable in
other regions (for example Japan).
Here is a rundown of the regions:
0: Region Free (works in any player worldwide)
1: United States, US Territories, Canada
2: Japan, Europe, South Africa, Middle East (including Egypt)
3: Southeast Asia, East Asia (including Hong Kong)
4: Australia, New Zealand, Pacific Islands, Central America, Mexico, South
5: Russian Federation, India, Pakistan, Africa (except Egypt), North Korea,
Do I need a particular TV or piece of audio equipment?
Assuming your TV was made in the last 15 years or so,
probably not. Although most newer TV formats allow for superior connection
methods, like S-Video or component video, the majority of TVs at least allow for
composite connection, which is just one RCA cable (normally yellow) being
plugged into the input of your TV. If your TV does not have this kind of
connection (normally yellow/red/white on the back of your TV), then you should
consider upgrading. While it is possible to buy a special converter to connect
your DVD player to your TV in the same way as the cable signal plugs in, its not
As for audio equipment, no, you do not need anything special
(besides a TV with stereo inputs, well mono would work too). All you have to do
is run a stereo pair from your DVD player’s red/white outputs to your TV’s
red/white inputs. This of course will not give you Dolby Digital or any other
special formats, but it will give you quality sound from your TV. If you really
want experience DVD’s audio quality fully, then purchasing a Dolby Digital/DTS
receiver and a 5.1 set of speakers is highly recommended.
8: Are DVDs “High Definition”?
No, they are not. A true high-definition format is on the
horizon though. But, as HDTV has been slow to catch on just about everywhere,
its going to be quite a while until an HD-DVD format is decided on and
implemented. The fact though is that even if DVDs were in high-definition, very
few people would have the equipment to support it. On today’s TVs DVDs look
fantastic as is, especially on widescreen sets where DVD video is given the room
to expand (this is what is known as anamorphic widescreen) to fit the screen and
display more picture detail.
For more information on HD-DVD check out
http://www.dvdsite.org/ run in
part by the DVD Cyber Center.
9: Can you record on a DVD?
The short answer is yes - but a typical DVD player will not
The most economical way to currently record on a DVD is by
purchasing a DVD recorder / writer for your personal computer - though set top
boxes also exist (just a bit more expensive).
The big current problem with recordable/rewriteable DVDs is
the sheer number of formats; more specifically DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD+R, DVD+RW, and
DVD-RAM. Remember to check the formats when you purchase a writer; greater
format compatibility will help in the future.
10: In the end, why should I get a DVD player?
If you have been using VHS this long there are a number of
reasons to get a DVD player. DVD allows for exponentially greater video and
audio quality. And you cannot forget that DVDs often include "extras" in the way
of interviews, director’s commentaries, trailers, etc.
Moreover, unlike VHS in which the tape wears down after each
use, DVDs, assuming they are treated properly, will last well into the
DVD is just better all around and is here to stay.
• DVDs @ Amazon (USA)
• DVDs @ Amazon (Canada)
• DVDs @ DVD Empire
• DVDs @ Half.com
• DVDs @ Ebay
• Rent DVDs @ NetFlix
• A/V Equip @ Best Buy
• A/V Equip @ J & R
• A/V Equip @ Circuit City
• Film Posters @ All Posters