The Difference Between Commercial and Home-Recorded DVDs

Here's the difference between commercial and home DVDs

Inserting DVD into DVD Player

Robert Silva

DVD movies bought from the store have different characteristics than those you burn or make at home on a PC or DVD recorder. Home DVDs are "burned," but commercial DVDs are "stamped." Most people don't need to worry about the difference, but it may pose compatibility issues depending on your system and location.

Stamping vs. Burning

The recordable DVD formats available to consumers are similar to but not the same as the formats used for the movies. That format, the kind you can buy at the store, is referred to as DVD-Video. The main difference lies in the way the DVDs are made.

All DVDs (both homemade and commercial) utilize "pits" and "bumps," which are physical peaks and troughs on the discs meant for storing digital video and audio information. But there is a difference in the way pits and bumps are created on commercial DVDs compared with the way they are made on home-recorded DVDs.

Commercial DVDs are manufactured with a stamping process. This process is similar to how vinyl records are made, although the technology is much different. Vinyl records are stamped with grooves, while DVDs are stamped with pits and bumps.

It would be impractical for consumers to have to use commercial stamping equipment, so home DVDs are made via a process of "burning."

In the burning process, a red laser is used to create the bumps on the readable side of the disc, which automatically creates a pit on the unreadable side. The difference between the stamping and burning processes makes for variations in the discs' reflective properties, as well as the way the discs are read.

Disc Reflective Properties

Since the reflective properties are different, in order for DVD players to be compatible with commercial DVDs, the player has to have the proper hardware and firmware to detect the differences. Also, DVD recorders need to be able to change between recording and playback modes.

Recordable DVD Formats

Owner's manuals will usually list which DVD recording formats devices can play. Almost all DVD players can also play DVDs recorded in the DVD-R format, except for some models made before 2000, while most DVD players can play DVDs recorded in the DVD+RW and DVD-RW formats.

The Bottom Line

Although commercial DVD movies and home recorded DVDs look the same, there are differences in their structure and the formats used to record content to them. Other factors that may affect playback compatibility include Region Coding and video system format.

However, although DVD region coding is not a factor with home DVDs, the video system that your DVD recorder or PC uses can affect compatibility in other parts of the world.

You should also pay attention to how much video time is recorded on a disc, which is determined by a selected record mode. If you encounter any issues with DVD format recording or playback compatibility, check the owner's manual, contact tech support, or consult reputable online sources for additional assistance on DVD players and recordable DVD discs.