MiniDVD, also called cDVD, is a kind of DVD-Video burned onto a CD-ROM. MiniDVD appeared in the year 2000, promoted by software editors to boost DVD authoring software sales, but it wasn't a real success because MiniDVDs aren't readable on standalone DVD players. There have been some success reported on Asian models.

In early 2001, manufacturers like Pioneer started to ship DVD-R drives at consumer prices so we think one has to consider the DVD format and whether to burn on a DVD-R or a CD-ROM (CD-R/CD-RW).

  1. What is DVD ?
  2. About DVD features
  3. What is MiniDVD ?
  4. DVD ripping and DVD/MiniDVD authoring

1. What is DVD ?

DVD stands for Digital Versatile Disc. It's bigger and faster than CD and can hold cinema-like video, better-than-CD audio, and computer data. DVD invaded home entertainment, computers, and business information with a single digital format sometimes replacing audio CD, videotape, laserdisc, CD-ROM, and video game cartridges.

The best known form of DVD is DVD-Video. It is usually called simply DVD and is the one we play movies from in our standalone DVD players. DVD-Video and DVD-Audio are application formats to support video and audio. DVD-ROM, DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD+RW, DVD-RAM are physical formats and aren't compatible with each other. The usual file system for DVD-ROM is UDF (different from ISO-9660).

2. About DVD features

In  ladDV.com , we call DVD-Video simply DVD like everyone, here is the feature table : 
Features DVD-Video (or simply DVD)
bit rate
resolution NTSC
resolution PAL 
camera angles
variable up to 9.8 Mbps
720x480 interlaced, 29.97Hz
720x576 interlaced, 25Hz
up to 9 angles selected during playback
bit rate
audio tracks
audio channels
surround sound
16, 20 or 24 bits at 48 or 96 KHz
typical of 768 Kbps for AC-3
up to 8 tracks
up to 8 channels per track
Dolby Digital (AC-3) with 5.1, DTS
Subtitles up to 32 subtitles/karaoke tracks

Single-layer, single-sided DVD (DVD-5) can hold a movie up to 135 minutes long, or 4.7GB ; dual-layer, single-sided DVD (DVD-9) has 8.5GB capacity ; single-layer, dual-sided DVD (DVD10) can store 9.5GB ; dual-layer, dual-sided DVD (DVD18) can store 17GB, or 8 hours of film: 
Type Layer  Side Movie Data
DVD-5 single single 2:15 hours 4.7GB
DVD-9 dual single 4 hours 8.5GB
DVD-10 single dual 4:30 hours 9.5GB
DVD-18 dual dual 8 hours 17GB

Regional code is a mechanism whereby movie studios can control the release of home video titles in different parts of the world. To support this industry standard, the DVD specification provides codes used to prevent playback of discs in various geographical regions. Each player is given a code for the region in which it's sold. A player coded for one region will not play discs that are not allowed in that region. Regional codes are optional. Discs can be made with multiple codes or no code-discs without codes will play on all players, regardless of country. Regional codes also apply to DVD-ROM systems, but only apply to DVD-Video discs, which also play back on CD-ROM drives. There are 6 regions with codes: 
Region code Zone
1 Canada, U.S. and the U.S. Territories
2 Japan, Europe, South Africa and the Middle East 
3 Southeast Asia, East Asia (including Hong Kong) 
4 Australia, New Zealand, Pacific Islands, Central America, Mexico, South America and the Caribbean 
5 former Soviet Union, Indian subcontinent, Africa, North Korea and Mongolia 
6 China

There are two widely used copy protection technologies currently available for DVD-Video. The first is Macrovision, a software technology which prevents analog duplication of DVD to videotape. Macrovision adds a rapidly modulated colorburst signal along with pulses in the vertical blanking signal. An unauthorized copy of a DVD protected with Macrovision will playback showing stripes of color, distortion, rolling, black & white picture and dark/light cycling. The use of Macrovision protection is optional and licensing fees for use of the technology apply on a per disc basis. 

The second is Contents Scramble System (CSS). CSS encryption prevents digital copying of files directly from disc. DVD-Video players have a decryption capability that decodes the data before display. In computers, many DVD-ROM drives and MPEG2 video decoding boards have extra hardware to deal with movie copy protection. Since 1999, all DVD-ROM drives are required to support regional coding in conjunction with CSS.

About the physical formats:
Format Leaders Capacity Standalone DVD
DVD-ROM drive 
PC playback
DVD   4.7 to 17GB Yes Yes
DVD-ROM   4.7 to 17GB Yes Yes
DVD-RAM Panasonic, Sony 2.6 and 5.2GB No No
DVD-R   4.7GB (Yes) (Yes)
DVD-RW   4.7GB (Most) (Most)
DVD+RW HP, Philips, Sony 4.7GB (Yes) (Yes)

Please note that even when we say (Yes) from vendor documentation, it sounds that it's too optimistic and only 50% of DVD players will read Recordable or ReWritable DVD if we consider the compatibility list published by Apple (fitted with Pioneer DVD-R drives).

DVD+RW sounds to be the most promising format to encompass the Optical Disc Market. The first drives are expected by fall of 2001 (from HP, Philips, Ricoh, Sony, Thales, Yamaha, Mitsubishi). Here's what DVD+RW Alliance claims: "DVD+RW drives intended for personal computing use will be designed to work with a personal computer and will be controlled by software running under popular operating systems like Windows and Macintosh. Consumer Electronics focused DVD+RW products are designed for use similar to the current video cassette recorder. The DVD+RW products will provide recording and play back functionality for video programs from a variety of different sources for enjoyment on television or home theater systems. In addition, they will play the tens of thousands of DVD videos currently available."

3. What is MiniDVD ?

MiniDVD (also called cDVD) is a DVD-Video content (VIDEO_TS, IFO and VOB files) burned onto a CD-R or CD-RW. MiniDVD helps one create one's own homemade DVD, which will play movies with DVD quality on a PC. Unfortunately standalone DVD players don't read MiniDVD.

Where can we play MiniDVD:
Player MiniDVD playback
Standalone DVD player No
PC with DVD-ROM drive Yes
PC with CD-ROM drive Yes

4. DVD ripping and DVD/MiniDVD authoring

Because movies are scrambled to prevent them to be illegally copied, to extract a clip from a DVD-Video you have to de-scramble the VOB file (DeCSS). This process is performed by ripping software during transfer of the VOB file to the hard drive. After being ripped, you can convert the VOB file to the AVI format. This process is called DVD ripping.

At this stage we have to remind you that copying right-protected movies from DVD is illegal and done at your own risk.

DVD authoring is the process of transforming MPEG-2 movies into VOB files, creating interactive menus, chapter entries, arranging all in a DVD content compliant (VIDEO_TS folder, etc) and then burning them onto a DVD-R, DVD-RW or DVD+RW media.

MiniDVD authoring is exactly the same as DVD authoring process but burned onto a CD-R or CD-RW.

Philips DVD950/955/956 Instructions for use manual

Forums dedicated to DVD only:

  • DVD-R/RW on labDV
  • DVDplusRW moderated by Jorg Kennis
Relevant links: Author: Jim & Stan (April 8, 2001)

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