What is the Difference Between DVD and Video CD?

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 technical differences between them.

Exploring the Differences

Be prepared, we're going to get a littler nerdy here. VCD digital video is compressed using the MPEG-1 codec. MPEG-1 video 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, see the article, DVD Sizes, What is DVD-5, DVD-10, DVD-9, DVD-18 and Double Layer DVDs? for more info). 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.

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.

Should You Still Use VCD?

Generally speaking, it's no longer worth using the VCD format. Not only is the length of video shorter on VCD than other formats, the resolution is 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.

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