The Difference Between Commercial and Home-recorded DVDs

What Makes Home Recorded DVDs Different Than Commercial DVDs

Inserting DVD into DVD Player.

You probably never gave it second thought, but did you know that the commercial DVDs you buy or rent actually have different characteristics than the DVDs you make at home on your PC or DVD recorder?

Stamping vs Burning

DVD Recording formats for consumer use are similar to, but not the same as, the format used in commercial DVDs you buy at the local video store, which is referred to as DVD-Video. The main difference lies in the way the DVDs are made.

Although all DVDs (both homemade and commercial) utilize "pits" and "bumps" physically created (the pits on the unreadable side, and the bumps are on the readable side) on the discs to store the video and audio information, there is a difference on how the "pits" and "bumps" are created on commercial DVDs vs the way they are made on a home recorded DVD.

DVD movies you buy at the local video outlet are manufactured with a stamping process. This process is sort of like the way vinyl records are made - although the technology is obviously different (vinyl records are stamped with grooves versus DVD being stamped with pits and bumps).

On the other hand, since it would be impractical for consumers to have to use commercial stamping equipment (plus go through all the preliminary recording onto film, tape, or hard drive, then feed a DVD stamping machine), DVDs that are made using a PC, or standalone DVD recorder, are "burned".

In the burning process, a red laser in a PC recordable DVD drive or DVD recorder generates the necessary heat to create the appropriate size bumps on the readable side (which automatically creates a pit on the unreadable side) of the physical disc and store the data ir video/audio information. The difference between the stamping and burning processes makes the actual physical reflective properties, and the way the actual disc reading instructions are recorded on commercial DVD-Video and home recorded DVD formats different.

Reflective Properties

So if the reflective properties of a stamped disc and recorded disc are different, in order for DVD players to be playback compatible with both commercial DVD-Video and one or more of the home recorded DVD formats, the player has to have both the proper hardware (red laser tuned to read both types in the case of DVD) and firmware that is able to detect the differences between the various disc formats. Also, DVD recorders have to have the capability of changing the function of the laser from record to playback mode.

Recordable DVD Formats

With reference to the compatibility of the various DVD recording formats with standard DVD players, the owner's manual of the DVD player usually lists which DVD recording formats it can play. Almost all DVD players can play DVD recorded in the DVD-R format (except for some models made before the year 2000), while most DVD players can play DVD recorded in the DVD+RW and DVD-RW (video mode) format discs. For more details on the various recordable DVD formats (and why a user would need to use one vs another), check out my more complete DVD Recorder FAQs

For more on the physical structure of DVDs, read the article DVD Discs Explained (Info Cellular)

Additional Factors Regarding DVD Playback

The only playback restrictions with commercial DVD-Video are Region Code and Video System factors. Video System factors affect VCRs as well.

For additional details on this factors, check out two of my reference articles:

DVD Region Codes

Who's Your PAL?