Key facts about DVDs

DVDs have been around for over two decades and largely made VHS videotapes obsolete once they become widely available. These optical discs originally had a capacity of 3.95GB before they became capable of holding at least 4.38GB of data. There are two main types of DVDs, which are DVD-Rs that can only be written to once and DVD-RWs, which can be written to multiple times. DVDs were first developed by Pioneer in the 1990s. DVD is short for digital versatile disc or digital video disc, and these discs can be used to store movies as well as other data. Single-sided, double-layer discs are able to hold up to 8.7GB and double-sided, single-layer discs can hold 9.4GB, though most DVDs come in the form of single-sided, single-layer discs which can hold 4.7GB. The biggest-selling DVD of all time is 2003’s Finding Nemo, which sold 38 million copies. A single-sided DVD disc can hold 133 minutes of high-quality video, whilst dual-layer discs offer up to four hours of playback.

What are the main differences between CDs and DVDs?

DVDs and compact discs may look similar, but the former can hold much more data. DVDs can store at least 13 times more data than DVDs. One of the reasons why the Blu-Ray became so popular in the 2000s was that it could hold up to 50GB of data. DVDs are able to hold more data than CDs because they are written with red lasers that have a short wavelength of 650 nanometers. However, Blu-Ray discs are written with blue lasers that have an even shorter wavelength. The first movie to be put on a DVD was 1996’s Twister.

DVD versus VHS

Two big advantages of DVDs over VHS is that they don’t deteriorate over time and are unaffected by magnetic fields. Another reason for the rising popularity of DVDs in the late 1990s was that there was no need to rewind them before they were returned to rental outlets. By the early 2000s, the DVD had almost completely replaced the VHS tape. DVDs have become less popular over time as more people have purchased Blu-ray players and embraced the world of video streaming. However, the DVD market is still bigger than you might expect. In 2021, 1.2 billion physical video transactions were made, with a considerable portion of these being DVDs.

Was similar technology available before the DVD?

The laser disc technology that DVDs were built around was actually invented way back in 1958, almost 40 years before the format became available to the public. However, the optical disc predecessor of the DVD, LaserDisc, was first made available in the late 1970s. However, these discs were almost three times the size of DVDs and only offered a fraction of the storage space. Viewers also needed to turn these discs over halfway through movies to see the remainder of them. Two groups of companies were involved in developing what became the DVD. However, these companies eventually joined forces in order to avoid another format war. One of the most high-profile format wars in the 1980s was the battle between the VHS tape and the Betamax, which was won by the former.

How popular are DVDs today?

DVDs are still frequently used for data storage purposes today. One reason why DVDs are referred to as ‘digital versatile discs’ as well as ‘digital video discs’ is that they can be used for much more than just watching movies. Another reason why DVDs remain reasonably popular is that many movies are unavailable to stream or download. This means seeking DVDs can be the only way to view certain titles. One of the reasons why the PlayStation 2 became so popular in the early 2000s was that the console could be used to play DVDs as well as for gaming, reducing the need to purchase standalone DVD players. Examples of non-visual content which can be stored on DVDs include games, software, documents and pictures.  DVDs can come in read-only form as well as read-write versions which enable you to write your own data onto them. Some discs can only be written to once, though it’s also possible to purchase DVDs to which you can write data several times.

DVD manufacturing

Pre-recorded DVDs are produced via the use of moulding machines which physically stamp data onto them. DVDs are composed of multiple layers of plastic and have a thickness of around 1.2mm. Each layer is manufactured by injection moulding polycarbonate plastic.

Do today’s laptops and desktops accept DVDs?

In the past, most desktop and laptop computers came with drives that accepted DVDs, but this is rarely the case today. If you do have a laptop or desktop computer that doesn’t have a DVD drive, you can attach an external one to it. Nonetheless, standalone DVD players are still widely available.

Although the DVD isn’t as popular as it was in its heyday, it still serves a wide range of purposes, from enabling you to view rare movies and TV shows to helping you back up essential data including home videos and photographs. It seems unlikely that DVDs will ever be fully obsolete.

DVD Categories

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