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Home > Essays > Optical Storage

Monday, July 14, 2003
DVD Media Format Compatibility Tests

5. Description Of The Tests

Description of the Tests

PC DVD recorders

A basic concept during our tests was to absolutely minimize all impacting factors that would introduce distractive frictions. The logical format of the discs had to be the same with only one prototype. We thus captured a video file with a Sony DCR-TRV230E Digital handycam and used it as an input for recording using ArcSoft ShowBiz, version 1.2.3.20. The conversion to mpeg2 was done only once and the program settings were saved so that we were sure that the same exact video track was written onto each media and PC DVD recorder, using all possible combinations.

Stand-alone recorders

In the case of the stand-alone recorders (Pioneer and Philips) we used the digital (IEEE1394 interface: firewire) in order to have lossless video transmission between the camera and the recorder. Recording took place in real time, with the DV camera successively connected to each recorder and used as the playback device for each particular disc. The recording mode was set to SP, and the video format was PAL (default of camera). The duration of the produced video was 1 hour in best quality. The resulting menu was the absolutely minimum for allowing simple playback. We thus minimized incompatibilities due to unnecessary features.

PC DVD recording in more details

The same video used above was also used for writing using the PC recorders: the Pioneer DVR-A05, Sony DRX-500UL and HP 300i. The video was captured to the hard disk of our test PC directly from the DV camera through the IEEE1394 DV output. Once it was captured, it was stored onto the hard disk and used for burning all the discs. Subsequently, in order to speed-up the whole writing procedure, the initial AVI file was encoded once in MPG (Mpeg 2) and the same source was used through out the following steps.

The software we used for capturing, encoding and burning the MPG file was the ShowBiz by ArcSoft. The main reason we chose this software is that it is very easy to use and allows controlling of the essential settings only. In addition, the same software could be used for all capturing/encoding to DVD (burning). This would protect the validness of the tests from possible incompatibilities in case we used different applications for each task.

In order to capture the source video to the hard disk we launched the ShowBiz and simply started capturing, as you can see in the picture below:

The next step is to create the DVD file and burn it to the DVD recordable/rewritable media. The ShowBiz includes these tasks in one step, by selecting the "make DVD" option. Below are the settings for the DVD file to be produced:

As you can see the frame size was kept at 720 x 576 for the PAL format, and the quality bar was set to the maximum value. The audio settings were 16 Bits, Stereo, and the sampling rate was 48Khz. The specific settings match to the type of output the DV camera offers.

According to the writer we used, each time we made the following settings. The writing speed is automatically decided by the software. In our tests, all drives recorded in the maximum allowed speed by the inserted media. (4x DVD-R, DVD+R, 2.4x DVD+RW and 2x DVD-RW). Nevertheless, we also used our clocks for checking the actual recording time in case the drive itself had decided to drop recording speed for whatever reason.

The procedure was repeated for all the recorders/media combinations. In most cases, we burned more than one disc of each type with the same writer (backup disc). This was done since we had to switch the testing disc after every 5 players we had tested it, to make sure the disc we test is in perfect physical condition.

The produced discs were carefully stored in their cases and handled with care during testing.

Pioneer DVR7000

There are two recording modes available with Pioneer DVR7000: VR and Video Mode. When recording to a DVD-R disc, recordings are always in Video Mode. On the other hand, the default setting when using a DVD-RW is the VR mode. DVD-RW discs can be formatted for VR mode recording or Video mode recording.

VR Recording offers extensive editing features and the user is able to select among different picture quality settings. However, such discs are only playable on "RW compatible players", so we chose to use the Video Mode recording for both DVD-R and DVD-RW tests.

Video Mode recording can be done in either V1 or V2 picture quality/recording time settings. Under the V1 mode (high quality), 60min of video file can fit onto a disc. We burned both DVD-R and DVD-RW discs under the V1 recording mode. In order to write under Video Mode onto a DVD-RW disc, we had to format (initialize) it first. This was easily done through the Disc Setup Menu of the Pioneer DVR7000. The process took about 40 seconds and our DVD-RW disc was ready for writing. Some additional settings required were the Screen Size Settings, which were set to auto in order to record in the aspect ratio of the original input (DV camera).

After connecting the camera to the recorder and making the appropriate settings as mentioned above, we inserted the blank DVD-R/RW discs to the recorder tray. The Input Select was set to DV input to connect the camera with the recorder. On the Top Menu of Pioneer DVR7000 we selected the "DV Record" option. With the connected DV camera fully recognized by the recorder, we started recording.

After recording we had to finalize both DVD-R and DVD-RW discs, in order to "fix" the recording in place so that the discs could be played on regular DVD players or PC DVD-ROM drives. Finalization takes about 4 minutes to finish.

Finalizing a Video Mode disc creates a menu screen for navigating the disc. This menu contains two windows, one is the main movie window and the other is empty. No additional menus were done in our test discs.

Philips DVDR890

We used Philips DVDR890 as the main stand alone writer for the DVD+R and DVD+RW format. The procedure is almost the same as the one we described previously, regarding the camera/ recorder connections. Philips DVDR890 supports the following recording modes:

  • High Quality (HQ, best quality, 60min),
  • Standard Play (SP, pre-recorded DVD quality, 120min),
  • SP+ (Standard Play, quality better than S-VHS, 150min),
  • Long Play (LP, S-VHS quality, 180min),
  • Extended Play (EP, better than VHS quality, 240min),
  • and EP+ (Extended Play, VHS picture quality, 360min).

We used the High Quality recording mode for all the discs we created. This offered the best picture quality and a 60min recording time on DVD+R and DVD+RW discs.

With the DV camera connected to through the IEEE1394 cable we set the recorder to the "CAM2" channel in order to receive the input signal from the camera.

After recording was finished, we finalized the DVD+R discs, to make them compatible with other DVD players. Note that we did not make any chapters in the produced DVD+R/+RW discs. In addition, playback of finalized DVD+R discs start automatically after pressing the "play" button of a DVD player.




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