What is the Difference Between DVD and Video CD?

The interior of a DVD burner
The interior of a DVD burner.

 Felipe La Rotta/Wikimedia Commons/Creative Commons

The Video CD format (also know VCD) was created in 1993, a few years before DVD-video (what we now just call DVD). VCD never really caught on the way the DVD format did, however. Despite both formats playing video, there are significant technical differences between them.

Exploring the Differences

Be prepared, we're going to get a little nerdy here. VCD digital video is compressed using the MPEG-1 codec. An MPEG-1 video file can be played back in any DVD player or DVD playback software capable of decompressing MPEG-1 video. VCDs can be said to be about the quality of a VHS videotape and can hold approximately one hour of digital video.

DVD digital video is compressed using the MPEG-2 codec. MPEG-2 video compression is comparable to DVD quality video and can be played back in all DVD players or DVD playback software. DVDs can hold two hours of digital video (or more, depending on the size and type of DVD it is). Without getting too technical, MPEG-2 compression is higher quality compression than MPEG-1 and results in a much higher picture quality for DVDs than Video CDs.

Should You Use a VCD or DVD?

Generally speaking, it's no longer worth using the VCD format. Not only is the length of video shorter on VCD than other formats, but the resolution is also far below what we've all become accustomed to. How far below? High-definition resolution is over 2 million pixels whereas VCD is under 85,000 pixels.

The bottom line on DVDs vs. VCDs is that DVDs can hold at least double the amount of digital video as VCDs, and is a higher quality recording. VCDs are great when you want to make lots of copies of a particular video to share, and quality is not an issue. Overall, you'll want to stick with DVDs for most of your video recordings.

Thanks to faster connection speeds and the ubiquity of online sharing sites (i.e. Youtube or Vimeo, among others), people don't often find the need to burn VCDs or DVDs much anymore. It's far easier to make your video and upload it to a sharing site.