DVD Record Modes - Recording Times For DVDs

Inserting DVD into DVD Player.

A very common question from owners of DVD recorders, as well as persons considering a DVD recorder purchase, is: &uot; two-physicalHow much time can I record on a DVD?

For this answer, let's start with the traditional DVD that you would purchase at your local retailer or order from online.

Commercial DVD Time Capacity

The amount of video time that is allocated on a commercial DVD depends on whether the DVD is made two physicallayers.

Using this structure, a commercial DVD can hold up to 133min per layer, which is enough for the vast majority of movie or TV content. However, to extend this capacity further (and still maintain the necessary playback quality and also accommodate any extra features), most commercial DVDs have two layers which means that both layers together have a capacity of 260 min, which is why it seems that the DVD is holding a lot more than two hours of information.

Home Recorded DVD Time Capacity

While commercial DVDs have a set time/layer relationship - in accordance to its own format specifications, recordable DVDs for home use offer more flexibility in how much video time can be recorded onto the disc, but at a price (and I don't mean money).

For those that make, or want make, DVDs at home, here is an overview of the recording times available on the standard recordable blank DVD and how these recording times are labeled.

A standard recordable DVD for consumer use has a data storage capacity of 4.7GB per layer, which translates in to 1 (60 min) or 2 hours (120 min) of video recording time per layer at the highest quality record modes.

Below is a listing of DVD recording times at 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

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

NOTE: Specific DVD record mode labeling for each DVD recorder brand is explained in both the published specifications (which are usually available online) and the user manual for that specific DVD recorder.

Video Recording Time vs Quality

It is important to keep in mind, just as with VHS VCR recordings, the less recording time you use to fill the disc the better the quality will be, and a better chance of compatibility for smooth playback on other DVD players.

XP, HSP, SP are the most compatible and provide what is considered standard DVD quality (depending on the quality of the source material)

LSP and LP would be the next best choice - which should still be compatible with playback on most DVD players at fair quality - you may experience some minor stalls or skips.

The remaining record modes should be avoided, if possible, as the video compression needed to place this much time on a disc will cause many more digital artifacts and will affect play compatibility on other DVD players.

You may find that the disc will freeze, skip, or when playing, exhibit unwanted artifacts, such as Macroblocking and Pixelation. Of course, all this results in, the DVD playback video quality that would would be very poor at the least, and unwatchable at the worst - about the same or worse than the VHS EP/SLP modes.

Record Modes Not Record Speeds

It is important to note that when reference is made about how much video time can be recorded on a DVD, we are not talking about recording speeds, but recording modes. What this means is that even though you can switch from mode to mode - the disc already has a locked rotation speed pattern (Constant Linear Velocity) for DVD recording and playback (unlike video tape in which you change the speed of the tape get more video time).

What happens when you increase the amount of video recording time on a DVD, you are not not changing the rotation speed of the disc, but, instead, compressing the video. This results in the discarding of more and more video information as you desire to get more video time on the disc - which, as mentioned above, results in poorer recording/playback quality as you move down the from 2hr to 10hr record modes.

However, another issue that confuses consumers regarding how much you time you can fit on a DVD, involves the term "Disk Writing Speed", which has noting to do with how much time you can fit on a recordable DVD. For a detailed explanation of the difference between DVD Recording Modes and Disc Writing Speed, refer to our companion article DVD Recording Times and Disc Writing Speed - Important Facts.

More Info

For more complete information on DVD recorders and DVD recording, check out our DVD Recorder FAQs

Also, since 2010, DVD recorders recorders have been becoming more scarce on store shelves. For the reasons why, check out my article: Why DVD Recorders Are Getting Harder To Find.

However, if you still want to purchase a DVD Recorder, check out what might still be available, either new or used on via my DVD Recorder and DVD Recorder/VHS VCR Combination product lists.

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