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Introduction
DVD+R/+RW recordings are always DVD-Video compatible
DVD+RW recorders can divide a recording into multiple titles afterwards
DVD+RW recorders can add chapter markers at any given point afterwards
DVD+RW recorders can hide-out chapters to "edit" your recordings afterwards
DVD+RW recordings can always be added anywhere on a disc
DVD+RW recordings do not need to be finalised
DVD+R/+RW discs always contain a picture menu that is updated automatically after each recording
DVD+R/+RW discs are interchangable between recorders
DVD+RW recordings can be edited on a PC
DVD+R/+RW recordings always use variable bit rate
DVD+R/+RW recorders always offer long recording times
Some conclusions
Comparison tables


This article compares DVD video recorders. If you want to compare the different recordable DVD systems for data storage, refer to DVD+RW vs. DVD-RW PC drives compared.


Introduction

When the DVD+RW Alliance set up the standards for the DVD+RW and DVD+R formats, they included compatibility with existing DVD-Video players and DVD-ROM drives as a key requirement into the specification. DVD+R/+RW is the only format that was build from scratch to be compatible with DVD and to act as a logical -compatible- addition to the popular DVD system.

Some people will consider compatibility of a DVD recorder with DVD players as a natural thing. After all, what benefit would one have of a DVD recorder if the discs are not playable in current DVD players, so you cannot view the discs at other people's homes, or in the DVD player in your bedroom? If the disc is only playable on the device that recorded it (and perhaps a few other modified devices), you could as well buy a harddisk-based video recorder, or another digital recording system. But you probably buy a DVD recorder because you want it to produce DVDs, and nothing else.

Strangely enough, the companies behind the competing recordable DVD systems (DVD-RW and DVD-RAM) did not follow this logical path. Due to technical limitations of the DVD-RW ("minus" RW) format, such a recorder will ask the user up front what recording format he or she wants to use. In the DVD-Video compatible mode (called "Video Mode" by these companies) a disc is created that can be played on a normal DVD-Video player, however in this mode none of the basic features of the DVD recorders are accessible, such as making chapter stops, overwriting recordings, or adding a recording once the disc has been "finalized". In an attempt to offer their users some more flexibility, they came up with the incompatible "Video Recording" mode. But as you can guess, discs recorded this way can not be played on an ordinary DVD player.

On top of this, DVD-RAM discs are incompatible with DVD due to their complete mechanical difference (the discs are normally housed in a cartridge like a floppy diskette), and physical recording technique. To offer users of a DVD-RAM recorder the possibility of creating DVD compatible discs, the recorders support the writing of the unrelated write-once DVD-R format to produce these "Video Mode" discs. Since DVD-RAM can hardly be called "DVD", we will not discuss it further in this article.

Since the DVD-R/-RW format was not designed to write compatible DVD discs, the companies had to made many compromises and limitations on features and oparatibility. Sadly enough, they don't clearly communicate about these limitations that apply to writing compatible discs. They tell you about the recorder's features, and then add that the recorder also writes "compatible" discs. Therefore, we will now compare the DVD+R/+RW format (always DVD-Video compatible) with the DVD-R/-RW format in DVD-Video compatible mode.


DVD+R/+RW recordings are always DVD-Video compatible

With a DVD+RW video recorder, you don't have to worry about the various recording modes and complex initialization options. All discs that are produced by the DVD+RW video recorder, both DVD+R and DVD+RW, regardless of their playing time or picture quaility setting, are written in a compatible mode and therefore can be played in the vast majority of standard DVD-Video players.


DVD+RW recorders can divide a recording into multiple titles afterwards

When you make a long continuous recording on a DVD+RW disc, you can always split up the title in two or more seperate titles. For example, when you make a long recording from a TV station of several show that were broadcasted in succession, you can define a point to divide the title. All newly created titles are immediately assigned a menu picture, and as such they are immediately included in the Index Picture Screen as individual recordings. You may even change the menu picture that is used to identify each recording afterwards. Of course this modified menu is also accessible on every ordinary DVD player.

With DVD-RW in "compatible mode", you cannot divide a title in multiple titles afterwards.


DVD+RW recorders can add chapter markers at any given point afterwards

You can always add a chapter marker at any desired location within a recording once the recording is finished. For example, when you have recorded a live concert, you could add a chapter marker for each song. When you apply the simple "make edits compatible" procedure, these chapter stops are even accessible on every normal DVD player.

On a DVD-RW recorder, you can not add chapter stops manually when the recording is made in "compatible mode".


DVD+RW recorders can hide-out chapters to "edit" your recordings afterwards

On a DVD+RW disc, you can add chapter markers at any given location in the recording, as described above. Once you have placed those markers, you may even assign some of those chapters as "hidden during playback". That way, you can perform simple edits or create linear play-lists. For example, this feature is ideal for editing out commercials in a movie you recorded from TV, or to cut out unwanted scenes in a home video recording. Completely in line with the DVD+RW analogy, these edited playlists are also played as intented on every ordinary DVD-Video player, once the simple "make edits compatible" feature as applied.

On a DVD-RW recorder, you can not perform any editing features on a recording made in "compatible mode".


DVD+RW recordings can always be added anywhere on a disc

You can only add new video material to a "compatible mode" DVD-RW disc as long as it is unfinalized. Remeber: a non-finalized disc is not compatible with existing DVD-Video players. When the disc has been made "compatible" by applying the time-consuming finalisation process to it, changes can no longer be made to the disc, nor can any new recordings be added to it. Some models (Pioneer's late 2003 models) offer a complex "un-finalize" option, but even then you can only erase the last tile title recorded, and only the full title! With other recorders that do not offer such an "un-finalize" option, the only way to re-use the disc is by completely erasing it! Finalization is not needed for DVD+RW, discs are always immediately compatible.

You can always add new recordings to a DVD+RW disc that already contains video, or you may partially overwrite video sequences that you no longer need, since you can select any point on the disc, even half-way a previous recording, to start recording (or overwiting). A DVD+RW recorder works similar to a VCR, where you can also start recording at any point on the tape. With DVD-RW you can only erase the last recorded title on a disc (only the complete title, not just a part of it!), or record after it, since you cannot overwrite earlier parts of the disc.


DVD+RW recordings do not need to be finalised

When you record something on a DVD+RW disc, you can at any point stop the recording, take the disc out of the recorder and play it back on a DVD-Video player. If needed you can add recordings, erase some, divide titles, etc. afterwards. There's no need for a process to make the discs compatible with exisiting equipment.

DVD-R/-RW discs recorded in "compatible" mode need to be finalised before they can be used in a standard DVD-Video player. Depending on the lenght of the recording on the disc, this process may take from 5 up to 15 minutes. The disc is then "closed" and cannot be changed anymore unless finalization is undone (only possible on Pioneer's late 2003 models, on other brand recorders you need to erase the full disc).

Even in the non-compatible mode, a DVD-RW disc needs to be finalised in order to meet the "video recording mode" specifications, otherwise, the disc won't be recognized in other VR compliant players or recorders. This finalizing may take from 5 up to 60 minutes, because the entire disc needs to be re-formatted.


DVD+R/+RW discs always contain a picture menu that is updated automatically after each recording

A DVD+RW video recorder automatically creates nice menu screens on a DVD+R or DVD+RW disc, with small thumbnail pictures representing the recording. This happens automatically right after each recording is stopped. This makes it very easy to find a particular recording on a disc by simply navigating trough the menu screens as you would with a pre-recorded DVD-Video disc. Besides the index pictures, the name of a program can be entered. The menu will also automatically contain the recording date, playing time and picture quality. If needed, you can manually change the picture that was automatically chosen by the recorder to represent the recording by selecting any frame from the recording, also on a DVD+R disc. With DVD+RW discs, you can even divide a title into two or more seperate titles and add additional index pictures to the menu.

In "compatible mode", a DVD-R/-RW recorder only adds a very basic textual menu to the disc. You can not divide a recording into multiple titles, so no need to update the menu :-). The Pioneer late 2003 models create a menu screen with pictures only after the disc is finalized, so there is no menu in between your various recording sessions. There's no way to access the menu on a DVD player right after a new recording was made to a disc (but then again: an unfinalized disc can not be played on a DVD-Video player anyway).


DVD+R/+RW discs are interchangable between recorders

With DVD+R/+RW discs, it is possible to add new recordings to a DVD+RW or unfinalized DV+R disc on any DVD+R/+RW video recorder, even if it was made by a different manufacturer. This allows you for example to make a recording on a disc, give it to a friend and let him add a recording to the same disc. Similar as a VCR.

With DVD-R, the way data is supposed to be stored on a disc in "compatible mode" is not universally defined, and therefore it is interpreted differently by various manufacturers. You can not add a recording using a Panasonic recorder on an unfinalized disc that was recorded on a Pioneer recorder, or vice versa. DVD-RW discs recorded in "compatible mode" are not even interchangable between all Pioneer recorder models, as they use for example different methods of creating text menus on the disc.


DVD+RW recordings can be edited on a PC

Only DVD+RW offers the unique possibility to edit recordings made with a DVD+RW video recorder on a PC directly on that same disc without the need of re-writing its entire contents. If you have a DVD+RW drive in your PC, and a software package on the PC conforms to the DVD+VR format, you can for example change the look of the menu screens that are created by the recorder on the disc into something that completely suites your taste. All this by just updating the menu information in a few seconds. Furthermore, you could replace parts of the recordings on the disc, similar as you would on the recorder itself. And remember: all of these edits and modifications, regardless if they were made on the recorder or on a PC, are still compatible with any DVD player!

DVD-RW does not allow any modifications to be made on a DVD-RW disc that was made on a -RW video recorder by using a -RW drive in a PC. You cannot make any changes to the disc, unless you erase the disc and completely rewrite its (modified) contents.


The following paragraphs compare DVD+RW with specific implementations of the DVD-RW format on some recorders:

DVD+R/+RW recordings always use variable bit rate

A DVD+RW video recorder always uses VBR (Variable Bit Rate) encoding when converting the video signal into a digital format for writing on a DVD disc. As with pre-recorded DVD-Video discs, this means that scenes with a lot of detail or activity can take up more "bits" on the discs, and relatively quite scenes may take up less. This results in perfect quality pictures, and eliminates the appearance of "macro blocking" (the digitizing effect that occures when encoding "difficult" scenes in a low bitrate, which is for example very common with Video-CDs).

Pioneer's DVR2000,3000 and 7000 DVD-R/-RW video recorders only support for encoding in CBR (Constant Bit Rate) in the "compatible mode" on either DVD-R or DVD-RW discs. Because of this, the system can not allocate extra bits for fast moving scenes which as such result in macro blocking or fuzzy image quality. They added VBR support in their late 2003 recorders.


DVD+R/+RW recorders always offer long recording times

With DVD+RW video recorders, you have the choice of up to 6 image quaility settings for both DVD+R and DVD+RW discs, which result in a recording time of 1, 2, 2.5, 4 or 6 hours per side of a disc (depending on recorder model). All of these modes are compatible with DVD-Video players, and all of them make use of VBR encoding to produce high quaility images.

Since Pioneer's original implementation of DVD-RW in the DVR2000, 3000 and 7000 is limited to CBR encoding, it cannot produce a decent picture quaility when it would be used at a lower bitrate, so the recording time of a DVD-R/-RW disc in "compatible" mode is limited to 1 or 2 hours per disc side. They added longer recording times in their late 2003 recorders.


Some conclusions

If you want to produce a "compatible" disc using a DVD-R/-RW recorder...

  • ...you have to decide up front if you want to make a DVD-Video compatible disc, there's no way to convert a standard recording into DVD-Video format afterwards
  • ...you cannot divide a recording into multiple titles afterwards
  • ...you cannot add chapter stops at any give point afterwards
  • ...you cannot hide-out chapters to perform simple editing on your recordings on the disc
  • ...you can only start a new recording at the end of the disc, you cannot overwrite recordings
  • ...you have to wait for a time consuming finalization process to complete before the disc is compatible, even on rewritable DVD-RW discs
  • ...you cannot always have a nice menu screen with index pictures to be enclosed on the disc that is updated automatically after each recording is finished
  • ...you cannot record additional material on a disc that was recorded in a different brand of recorder, or even some models of the same brand
  • ...you cannot edit your recordings using a PC on the same disc
  • ...you sometimes have a lesser picture quaility due to the absence of intelligent Variable Bit Rate encoding (some models)
  • ...you sometimes have a recording time that is limited to 2 hours per disc side on DVD-RW discs (some models)

    As you can see, the DVD-R/-RW is not very suitable for the application of recording DVD discs that can be played in any DVD-Video player. From this summary, it will become clear that there is not a single advantage of choosing a DVD-R/-RW video recorder over a DVD+R/+RW video recorder if you want to make DVD-Video compatible discs.


    Comparison tables

    Feature DVD+RW


    DVD-RW
    Compatible mode

    DVD-RW
    Non-compatible mode

           
    Divide title afterwards (manual making of titles) Yes No No
    Manually add chapters afterwards Yes No Yes
    Hide chapters / create playlist Yes No Yes
    Partial overwrite old recordings Yes No No
    Add new recordings to a (compatible!) disc Yes - always No (only on unfinalized
    incompatible discs)
    Yes
    Erase old recordings Yes - any title Only last title (on unfina- lized incompatible discs) Yes
    Finalising time Not needed, always
    immediately compatible
    5 - 15 minutes 5 - 60 minutes 5)
    Automatically updated picture menus Yes - Updated after each recording No n/a
    Edit recordings on same disc using PC Yes No n/a
    Picture quality Variable Bit Rate - always Constant Bit Rate
    (VBR on some models 6))
    Variable Bit Rate
    Recording time (per side) 1 - 4 or 1 - 6 hours 1)  1 and 2 hours only (1 -6 on some models 6)) 1 - 6 hours
    Time needed to change
    recording mode, or re-
    use finalized disc
    Not required 1 minute 1 minute
    1) Recording modes vary between DVD+RW video recorder models.
    5) In order to meet Video Recording Mode specifications.
    6) As implemented in Pioneer's 2003 models.


    Feature DVD+R


    DVD-R


         
    Picture quality Variable Bit Rate - always Constant Bit Rate 2) or
    Variable Bit Rate 3)
    Finalising time 1 minute 5 - 15 minutes
    Manually add chapter
    stops during recording
    Yes - DVD-Video
    compatible
    No
    Manually add chapter
    stops after recording
    Yes - proprietary 4) No
    Editing (define playlist
    of chapters)
    Yes - proprietary 4) No
    Index picture menu on DVD player Yes No (Yes - on some models 6))
    Unfinalized discs are
    interchangable
    between recorders
    Yes No
    2) As implemented in Pioneer's model DVR-7000.
    3) As implemented by Panasonic and on Pioneer's 2003 models.
    4) Only accessable on DVD+RW video recorder, ignored by DVD player.
    6) As implemented in Pioneer's 2003 models.