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Home > Essays > Optical Storage

Tuesday, February 19, 2002
VideoCD Format

1. Formats

In mid-1993, Philips and JVC agreed to the Video CD specifications as later defined in the 'White Book'. The current version of the Video CD standard is 2.0 and has been published not only by Philips & JVC, but also by Sony and Matsushita (with Technics, National, Pioneer, Panasonic and others).

Video CD is a Compact Disc format which can store video sequences and high quality stereo sound in up to 98 A/V tracks. An A/V track contains play items which can be video, audio, or (up to 2,000) still images with or without audio. You can read the whole specifications over here.

What is MPEG?

A Video CD is designed to store digital video sequences in the MPEG-1 format. MPEG stands for Motion Picture Expert Group, which has defined the current compression method for digital video. Due to the high compression of the video data, it is possible to record up to 70 minutes of full-screen video and high-quality audio on a CD.

What is the difference between MPEG1 and MPEG2?

MPEG2 is a superset of MPEG1. Generally, MPEG1 is used for CD-ROM or VideoCD and MPEG2 is used for broadcast or DVD. One current difference between MPEG1 and MPEG2 is that MPEG2 has implemented variable bit rate. MPEG1 variable bitrate is not excluded in the specification, and it's coming...

If I have an MPEG1 file, can I record it to CD-ROM and have it work in a VideoCD player?

No. Formatting software for CD-Recorders record prepared files to VideoCD tracks. Even if the file is in the correct bitrate and aspect ratio, it has to be authored to the VideoCD format using VideoCD 2.0 authoring software.

What is VideoCD 2.0?

AudioCDs and CD-ROMs are very different. The binary data on each type of CD is fundamentally distinct (music vs data). Now, VideoCD 2.0, a third type of CD, designed for interactive multi-media and more is here! VideoCD 2.0 is as different from CD-ROM as CD-ROM is unlike CD-Audio.VideoCD is more structurally advanced than CD-ROM or CD-Audio. It provides full-screen and full-motion video. VideoCD works in CD-ROM drives.VideoCD 2.0 also works using both TVs and computers. PAL and NTSC TV systems are also both supported using inexpensive, stand-alone players. 'Interactivity' lets you jump from anywhere to anywhere, like CD-ROM. 'Still' photos and sound in varying quality resolutions are another part of VideoCD 2.0. CD-Audio, CD-ROM and VideoCD 2.0 'tracks' can all be used together on one CD and recorded together using many existing CD-Recorders! Use VideoCD 2.0 on CD-Recordable as a new, practical, communications tool.

What is the main difference with VideoCD 1.1?

A VideoCD 1.1 CD starts and runs to the end. Or, there are selectable 'tracks'. A 'linear play' VideoCD without 'stills' is a version 1.1 VideoCD. They only work on PAL or NTSC TVs, not both. A two disc VideoCD set can contain 2 hours and 24 minutes of full-motion, full-screen video AND 144 minutes of AudioCD quality sound. Version 1.1 VideoCDs work in version 2.0 players. Software like Toast, or Adaptec CD-Creator or many others write CDs in Version 1.1, not 2.0.

Is VideoCD video full-motion and full-screen?

Yes, VideoCD plays back in full-motion, full-screen S-VHS resolution on a television. (On a computer, the motion video resolution is 352 x240, the still resolution is 704 x 480 in NTSC). It is also possible to combine 352 x 240 video, with 704 x 480 'stills' and a common audio back ground to make very effective presentations. You can time the stills so they're on the screen for only an instant, or hours.

Can you put MPEG-2, like on DVD on a CD?

Yes, it's called SuperVCD.

How many minutes of video fit on a VideoCD?

In a two disc set, you can have 2 hours and 24 minutes of video, (74 min. per disc on each CD-R) including 16 bit stereo audio. 2 minutes per disc are required for the overhead for interactive control.

How do I make a VideoCD?

First, you have to capture video and/or audio to a computer hard drive using an MPEG1 encoder board. Or convert digital assets to MPEG1. Second, convert any still images to the mpeg 'still format'. Then, you combine the audio, video and still formats (assets) you have as required. Then you register how the assets are linked (to items or timecodes within items) and assign keypad functions to the assets and/or links. Finally, you write (record) the video, stills and control data to a CD-Recordable disc.

What is the video quality like?

A genuine VCD has very good quality and when played through a TV (rather than a PC moniter) the quality is very good. It is basically the same quality picture as a VHS tape (many would argue about that, but it is). The sound quality is much better than a VHS tape as it is CD quality. There is however a huge market for bootlegged VCDs in the east, these VCDs contain the latest movies that are still playing in cinemas and are highly illegal. There are a range of quality with these and these terms are used:

CAM - This type of VCD was recorded by someone in a cinema with a camcorder and the audience can be heard! The picture quality is usually OK but the sound is mostly very bad and hard to make out speech.

Telesync - These are also recorded in a cinema but usually on an expensive camera and they should have a seperate audio source (so the audience cannot be heard), these are generally very good quality and highly watchable.

Screener - A Screener is usually recorded form a promotional video tape which is sent to censors and film critics etc.. The quality is usually as good as a commercial VCD, some times a copyright message appears on the screen.

Work-Print - Each fram of the film is copied from celluloid (or another source), these are sometimes incomplete movies. The sound is usually perfect and the visual quality can vary.

LD/DVD - VCDs with this on the cover are taken (ripped)from DVD or Laserdisc versions of the film and the quality is as good as genuine VCDs.

All bootlegged VCDs fall under one of those catergories

How Does Video CD Work?

Video CD uses an international standard for video compression-MPEG-1 (ISO standard - IEC 11172). This compression technology allows you to store over 70 minutes of VHS-quality video material on a standard compact disc. The audio, although also compressed, is near the quality of Compact Disc-Digital Audio.

Where I can play VCD?

Target platforms for VideoCD discs are dedicated Video CD players, computer systems configured to support Video CD, CD-i players with Digital Video cartridges, Playstation (with an adapter), a N64 (with a Doctor V64).

Tell me more about VideoCD Players..

A dedicated Video CD player is designed to play only Video CDs and is not a general purpose multimedia machine. This kind of player might be likened to a VCR for compact discs. The play-back application for Video CD is contained in the player hardware and allows play back of the linear video material on the disc.

When you buy a VCD player, make sure it supports VCD 2.0 since some VCDs are enhanced version 2.0 and can deliver Special Playback Effect, photo quality still pictures, extra soundtracks, interactive games, as well as additional menus.

Enough..Tell me about my PC!

A computer system that features a CD-ROM/XA drive, an MPEG-1 decoder, and a host play-back application can also be used to play Video CD discs. The application can be included in the hardware (for instance, on a special board) or as a software application on the compact disc or on the host computer system's hard disk. This platform can provide more functionality than a dedicated Video CD player.

Ahh..CD-i can play VCD's ?             (More info about CD-i at :

Video CD discs can also be played on any CD-i player that has the Digital Video extension. Philips players currently offer this extension via a plug-in cartridge, but this capability may be built into future CD-i players.

(In Help of Adaptec Video Cd  there's "SEGMENT with a file name of ITEMxxxx.DAT where xxxx is a number. Items in this area cannot be played in a CD-I player". I have read thath Cd-i is no more supported by Philips, a Cd-i with Mpeg module can read ONLY VideoCd 1.0 standard.)

Like computer systems, CD-i players can allow the user to have more interactive control of play-back behavior through the use of features like on-screen, graphical tables of contents and supplemental material, such as behind-the-scenes interviews, commentaries, discographies, etc.versus analog factor.

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