DVD Burning and Standards

DVD Standards are Important when Burning a DVD

by Ye Olde Techy

This Christmas, Santa left Adobe Premiere Elements 2.0 under the tree. I had been playing around making home moves with Windows Movie Maker, but, now, with Adobe I could take the next step in home movie making. Soooo, being a normal “kid” I promptly spent the next few days working on my first enhanced home movie and also planning to burn my first DVD of that movie. Cool stuff.

A year ago, we updated our very old (but still working) DELL computer with a new powerful DELL with a DVD burner included. At that time, I did not have a need for the DVD burner but I knew someday, I would need it. Like someday I know a million dollars would surely come in handy….

So here I sit, I have spent the better part of three days making the movie, testing it on the computer, making changes, burning it to a Quicktime movie (the quality ended up kinda crummy) and overall feeling just like George Lucas minus Jar-Jar. Now I was ready to burn the DVD.

I took one of the DVD-R discs I had purchased at Best Buy, opened my DVD burner put in the disc………and……..nothing. Arrrggghh. What is going on?

I restarted the computer, put a DVD movie in the burner, and sure enuf the drive was working fine. I put the DVD-R disc back in and, again, nothing. I looked at the Control Panel to see what Windows XP thought of this situation and, as expected, XP tells me the drive is working. I spent the next hour or so going through everything I could think of to narrow down the problem, with no success. The drive was working fine, but, it was not working, or at least not burning the DVD.

I decided to chat with DELL support (yes, I purchased hardware support as I do for these big ticket items, and lucky I did that since I have needed it now for the second time). After waiting a few minutes while my turn came up in the queue, I was finally connected to “Adnan” who was very helpful. He took me through the same steps I went though in the previous paragraph and sure enough he decided (like I did) that I did not have a hardware problem, but that it was a software problem, and I needed to call the software people at DELL. That news went over really well in the deep recesses of my brain, but, I took the phone number and thanked him for his help.

Before I called the software people, I decided to do a bit of searching on the Internet for #1: My DVD burner and any possible updates and #2: Any information on this particular problem with DELL’s. I could find nothing on my DVD burner. Not even the manufacturer had it listed on their web site. Hmmm, I assume now that I have an obsolete piece of equipment. Since it appears to be a dead item, there were also no updates to be found. Gotta love it. For #2, I found a little nugget of information from a dissatisfied DELL customer. That nugget was that DELL only supports DVD+R technology since it did not want to pay the fees associated with supporting the DVD-R technology. I’m not sure how true that is (about the not wanting to pay the fees) but it is a verrrry interesting piece of information that-possibly-only one type of DVD can be burned on the DELL.

Armed with that information, and deviating from my normal course of careful action (I have ocean front property in Arizona to sell if you believe that). I called the software help desk at DELL. There they informed me that I purchased a hardware protection plan, and to get this issue resolved I needed to purchase a software protection plan. I promptly informed them calmly (again Arizona if you believe me) that the next time I purchase a computer it will not be a DELL.

Then I hoped the Internet person was right. I normally would have tested it first then called….but. Oh you know. I went with my wife to Best Buy again and bought a set of DVD+R discs. And bent the ear of a salesperson who listened very politely.

When I got home I put the DVD+R disc in my DVD burner and it recognized it! Wow! The Internet guy was right….whew.

I am now happily burning DVD’s, but with DVD+R discs.

DVD Standards

There are two DVD standards currently available. DVD-R/RW and DVD+R/RW (where “R” means you can only burn it once, and “RW” means you can burn it, then change your mind, and burn it again many times over).

The DVD-R/RW web site is http://www.dvdforum.com/forum.shtml and this is the “DVD Forum”. The DVD Forum’s goal is to promote DVD standards and usage. They have ten founding members and about 230 other members. A pretty large organization with plenty of heavy hitters in the membership list. If you look at a DVD you have in your house and see a logo that has the letters DVD over a stylized disc….that means the disc conforms to the DVD Forum’s technical guidelines. Searching the Internet, I found information stating that about 93% of the stand-alone DVD players support playback of DVD-R discs and around 80% support playback of DVD-RW (I believe everything on the Internet, don’t you?).

The DVD+R/RW web site is http://www.dvdrw.com/ and is called the “DVD+RW Alliance”. This Alliance consists of eight founding members and a host of companies that support DVD+R/RW technology. Funny how the same members seem to be in both the DVD Forum and DVD Alliance….except for one. Yup….DELL! Other Internet sources say playback of DVD+R discs is in the high 80% range and playback for +RW is in the low 80% range. Slightly lower than the -R/RW standard.

Another trip to Best Buy to look at DVD burners. I find that indeed most, if not all, of the burners offered for sale offer support for both DVD-R/RW and DVD+R/RW. They are marked DVD+ – R/RW…with the + and – included to show dual compatibility. On the bright side, there appears to be no cost difference between DVD+R only and DVD-R only discs.

Ye Olde Techy Thoughts

1.I have seen this many times in the technical world where two competing technologies are introduced and the public decides the winner. For example, the Beta and VHS market (you older folks may remember this). Beta was clearly the better quality option, but, VHS won the hearts of the people. Goodbye Beta. Another battle is brewing with High Definition DVD’s. Two competing technologies are about to be introduced in 2006. HD-DVD and Blu-Ray. Blu-Ray seems to have the technological edge and possibly (due to Sony owning the rights to several movie houses) the content edge as well. BUT….HD-DVD will be the first out the door with Toshiba presumably introducing it in March 2006. Ye Olde Techy will wait awhile to see how the wind blows before buying one (even though High Definition TV is the most awesome thing next to chocolate..)

2.If there is no clear winner in the race to the standards, companies who build products, or build systems using these products, should support both. Period.

3.I will replace my internal DVD burner with one that supports both standards. Maybe Santa will bring me that next Christmas.

4.DELL support needs to add one question to their list of questions, and make it numero uno on the list. “Are you using a DVD+R disc?”

5.I looked at the DELL site again and put together a system to “purchase” and now I see that they do, in very small letters, make the disclaimer that you must use only DVD+R discs to burn a DVD. Teach me for not reading the fine print!

Next Up

Next time I will talk about my experiences buying a High Definition TV and getting it working on Comcast. It was yet another learning experience in the world of high techy-ness.

Math Tip

If you were asked to find the product of x and x+1 make sure you use parenthesis correctly. For example, this is the right way to start solving this problem: x(x+1).


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