DVD Record Modes: Recording Times For DVDs

Use the DVD record mode that works best for you

A common question from owners of DVD recorders and individuals considering a DVD recorder purchase is, "How much time can you record on a DVD?" The answer depends on a few significant details about the DVD.

DVD recorders have become rare as manufacturers have dropped out of the U.S. market. It's challenging to find a new DVD recorder, and used DVD recorders from third-party sources can be expensive. The following information is valid for those that own and operate a DVD recorder.

A DVD disc in a player
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Commercial DVD Time Capacity

To find out how much time you can record on a DVD, let's start with the traditional DVD that you purchase at your local retailer or order online.

The amount of video time allocated on a commercial DVD depends on whether the DVD has one or two physical layers.

Using this structure, a commercial DVD can hold up to 133 minutes per layer, which is enough for most movie and TV content. However, to extend this capacity further (and still maintain the necessary playback quality and accommodate any extra features), most commercial DVDs have two layers. Both layers together have a capacity of 266 minutes, which is why a commercial DVD can hold more than two hours of information.

Home Recorded DVD Time Capacity

While commercial DVDs have a set time and layer relationship, following its format specifications, recordable DVDs for home use offer more flexibility in how much video time can record on the disc, but at a price (and we don't mean money).

A standard recordable blank DVD for consumer use includes a data storage capacity of 4.7 GB per layer. This translates to one (60 minutes) or two hours (120 minutes) of video recording time per layer at the highest quality record modes.

Most DVDs used for home recording are single-layer discs.

Below is a listing of DVD recording times using specific record modes. These times are for single layer, single-sided discs. For double-layer, or double-sided discs, multiply each time by two:

  • XP: 1 hour
  • SP: 2 hours
  • LP: 4 hours
  • EP: 6 hours
  • SLP: 8 hours
  • SEP: 10 hours

Some DVD recorders also feature HSP (1.5 hours), LSP (2.5 hours), and ESP (3 hours).

Specific DVD record mode labeling for each DVD recorder brand is in the published specifications (usually available online) and the user manual for that particular DVD recorder.

Video Recording Time vs. Quality

As with VHS VCR recordings, the less recording time you use to fill the disc, the better the quality will be. Also, there's a better chance of compatibility for smooth playback on other DVD players.

  • XP, HSP, and SP are the most compatible and provide standard DVD quality (depending on the quality of the source material).
  • LSP and LP would be the next best choice, which should be compatible with playback on most DVD players at an acceptable quality. Still, you may experience some minor stalls or skips.

Avoid the remaining record modes, if possible. The video compression needed to place more time on a disc results in more digital artifacts and affects playback compatibility on other DVD players.

You may find that the disc freezes, skips, or exhibits unwanted artifacts when playing, such as macroblocking and pixelation. This results in DVD playback video quality that is poor at the least and unwatchable at the worst. It's about the same or worse than the VHS EP and SLP modes.

Record Modes Not Record Speeds

When referencing how much video time can record on a DVD, we don't talk about recording speeds but recording modes.

This means that even though you can switch from mode to mode, the disc has a locked rotation speed pattern (Constant Linear Velocity) for DVD recording and playback. This is unlike videotape, in which you change the speed of the tape to get more video time.

When you increase the amount of video recording time on a DVD, you aren't changing the rotation speed of the disc but compressing the video. It results in the discarding of more and more video information as you desire to get more video time on the disc. This results in lower recording and playback quality as you move from the 2-hour to 10-hour record modes.

Another issue that confuses consumers involves disc writing speed, which has nothing to do with DVD record modes. The disc writing speed is how fast you can copy video or data onto a DVD from another disc or hard drive.