CD-RW, more on HD DVD vs. Blu-ray

Week of July 23, 2006

Q: I’ve been copying some of my old audio cassette tapes to audio CDs. I’ve had perfect success using CD-R’s, but poor success using CD-RW discs. On playback the CD-RWs will usually give errors (dropouts) and sometimes the CD will actually lock-up a player. In doing some research I found that the problems I’ve encountered are not uncommon with CD-RWs. If they are that unreliable, of what use are they?

-Bob Wolfe
A: CD-RW (and its DVD cousins, DVD-RW and DVD+RW) discs are used mostly for data applications with computers- i.e. storing documents, photographs, etc. They do not run into the same problems there, and being rewritable is useful for lots of folks. Kind of (but not exactly) like having a really big floppy disc!

If you are using discs with entertainment devices such as DVD players and CD players it is best to simply stick with CD-R.

Media compatibility with DVD players comes up quite often, as well. I often receive emails saying something such as, “I burned DVDs of my child for all her aunts and uncles, and some can play the DVD and others can’t, why is this?” With the plethora of DVD types available, one relative may have a player that can play all of them, others may have a player that cannot play recordable DVDs at all. To improve your chances when making DVDs of home movies, buy name brand blank media and stick to the DVD-R format. Of all the types of recordable DVD, the DVD-R (DVD dash R, not DVD minus R) tends to be the most compatible with home DVD players.

Additional comments on Blu-ray/HD-DVD: I received a few emails regarding the video encoding used on HD-DVDs and Blu-ray discs and felt it was necessary to expand on the subject. In the column I stated that HD-DVDs are encoded with VC-1, and Blu-ray discs are encoded with MPEG-2. The emails expressed that Blu-ray supports VC-1 and it is possible that future Blu-ray discs will use it, potentially providing better image quality. I am aware that Blu-ray supports VC-1, but as of now no movies have been released on Blu-ray using this coding and there are no actual release dates for any Blu-ray VC-1 discs either. The fact that future movies MAY be released on Blu-ray with the new encoding does not make the current performance of the system acceptable. I am following the format war closely and when better looking Blu-ray movies are released, I will report it right away. It may not be much of a “war” anyway and both formats may exist into the foreseeable future.   According to hdbeat.com, ” Netflix CEO Reed Hastings stated that they now view the format war as an unwinnable one. In their view, the best thing that can happen now would be for all studios currently declared exclusive on either side to release films on both formats starting early next year, ending the war and restoring consumer confidence in both camps. That is certainly a better alternative than going the way of DVD Audio and SACD, which all sides risk with the situation as it is. It’s also interesting to see the sudden boost of confidence in HD DVD, Blu-ray’s shaky, slow launch may be costing them some of their most important allies in getting discs and players to consumers.”

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