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The following ‘white paper’ provides a detailed (albeit not exhaustive) review of current information about DVD media and players. You may wish to review the sources for this document:  http://www.americal.com (a large media dealer), and Jim Taylor’s http://www.dvddemystified.com (home of DVD FAQs), as well as Manifest Technology (100 articles by Douglas Dixon) at http://www.manifest-tech.com .
Some observations for the typical DVD user (and our clients):  1)  tape media is basically dead.   DVD is worth the small investment for it’s many advantages; 2) prices will continue to drop in 2005, as compatibility, speed, and storage improve;  and 3) you can’t go wrong buying now … and if you’ve got $400, we recommend either or both:  a DVD recorder/player for your PC, plus a set-top combination DVD/VHS recorder/player for your TV or a portable DVD player.  (Always  include it in your laptop.)

Originally, a technical label was contrived, "Digital Versatile Disc", known more often as "Digital Video Disc", or simply DVD (nobody recalls what VHS stood for either).  It is the new way of storing and laying video on a computer or a set-top TV player.   Now, with a video compression technique known as MPEG2, it is possible to put an entire movie with super sharp picture and sound onto a single side of a 4 3/4 inch disc… and even more on a dual-sided disk.   DVD video storage provides resolution far greater than that offered by CD or laser disc media, and almost twice the resolution of standard VHS videotape.  This resolution is dependent on the capabilities of the television monitor used, but you don’t need to have a new monitor to enjoy the benefits of DVD.  DVD video also provides low audio and video “noise,” it has random-access (vs serial access of tape), and stores easily. 
One more advantage over VHS tape is that a DVD disc is not physically touched while it spins in the player, so there is no wear and tear or loss of fidelity over time. In contrast, videotapes do touch a playback mechanism and eventually break down; they stretch and can degrade in  picture quality as the magnetic particles change over time.  
Here are some statistics: in 2003, six years after introduction, there were over 250 million DVD playback devices worldwide, counting DVD players, DVD PCs, and DVD game consoles. This was more than half the numbers of VCRs, setting DVD up to become the new standard for video publishing.  (In our videography business, we have produced only a few tapes in the past year, as most customers now prefer disks.)  The first DVD players appeared in Japan in November, 1996, followed by U.S. players in March, 1997, with distribution limited to only 7 major cities for the first 6 months. Players slowly trickled in to other regions around the world. Prices for the first players in 1997 were $1000 and up. By the end of 2000, players were available for under $100 at discount retailers. In 2003 players became available for under $50. In 2005 we expect DVD RECORDERS to cost $100, coming down from the current $300.   Six years after the initial launch, close to one thousand models of DVD players were available from over a hundred consumer electronics manufacturers. 
In 2003 (fall):

o 16 million DVD-Video players shipped in the U.S. (Installed base of 73,300,000.)
o Over 27,000 commercial DVD-Video titles were available in the U.S.
For comparison, there were about 700 million audio CD players and 160 million CD-ROM drives worldwide in 1997. 1.2 billion CD-ROMs were shipped worldwide in 1997 from a base of about 46,000 different titles. There were about 80 million VCRs in the U.S. (89% of households) and about 400 million worldwide. 110,000 VCRs shipped in the first two years after release. Nearly 16 million VCRs were shipped in 1998. In 2000 there were about 270 million TVs in the U.S. and 1.3 billion worldwide. When DVD came out in 1997 there were under 3 million laserdisc players in the U.S.
No single company "owns" DVD. The official specification was developed by a consortium of ten companies: Hitachi, JVC, Matsushita, Mitsubishi, Philips, Pioneer, Sony, Thomson, Time Warner, and Toshiba. Representatives from many other companies also contributed in various working groups. In May 1997, the DVD Consortium was replaced by the DVD Forum, which is open to all companies, and as of February 2000 had over 220 members. Time Warner originally trademarked the DVD logo, and has since assigned it to the DVD Format/Logo Licensing Corporation (DVD FLLC). The written term "DVD" is too common to be trademarked or owned.

DVDs are read by a laser, so they never wear out from being played since nothing touches the disc. Pressed discs (the kind that movies come on) will probably last longer than you will, anywhere from 50 to 300 years.  Expected longevity of dye-based DVD-R and DVD+R discs is anywhere from 20 to 250 years, about as long as CD-R discs. Some dye formulations (such as phthalocyanine and azo) are more stable and last longer, 100 years or more, compared to 20 or 30 years for less stable dyes. The phase-change erasable formats (DVD-RAM, DVD-RW, and DVD+RW) have an expected lifetime of 25 to 100 years. In all cases, longevity can be reduced by poor quality. Poor quality pressed DVDs may deteriorate within a few years, and cheap recordable DVDs may produce errors when recording or may become unreadable after a while.

For a document of current FAQs go to: http://www.dvddemystified.com/dvdfaq.html#4.4
DVD video is usually encoded from digital camera master tapes to MPEG-2 format. The encoding process uses lossy compression that removes redundant information (such as areas of the picture that don't change) and information that's not readily perceptible by the human eye. The resulting video, especially when it is complex or changing quickly, may sometimes contain visual flaws, depending on the processing quality and amount of compression. At average video data rates of 3.5 to 6 Mbps (million bits/second), compression artifacts may be occasionally noticeable. Higher data rates can result in higher quality, with almost no perceptible difference from the master at rates above 6 Mbps… at the expense of time on a disk – ie one hour vs two hours… and in some cases, these higher quality disks fail to play on some units.   As MPEG compression technology improves, better quality is being achieved at lower rates.
From here it gets a little more involved … as we consider the lingo of disks, the standards (or lack of), the care and usage of disks.  First, the types of disks – at Radford Video Creations we use exclusively name brand DVD-R type, and the re-writeable RW to review and test our work.
1)  DVD-R and DVD-RW: Both DVD-R and DVD-RW types generally come in the single-sided, single layer 4.7 GB capacity, which is roughly equal to 60 to 120-minutes of standard playing time, depending on our compression scheme.   You can also now find 9.4 GB double-sided discs entering the market, although there are no players which will automatically play both sides of the disc without ejecting it and turning it over.   Eventually, there will be DVD-R discs available that will hold around 20 GB of data, recorded into two layers on each side of the disc. At this time, these 20gb discs are not yet available. The most common DVD-R is a write-once 4.7gb disc that comes in two sub-types -- "general purpose" and "authoring". The general purpose discs are part of the industry's copy-protection scheme, which employ CES scrambling to protect movies and music and game discs from being copied. These discs can only be burned by general purpose type DVD writers and  cannot copy the playback descrambling codes on DVD movies or game discs, so they cannot be easily copied.
By contrast to the write-once DVD-R types, the DVD-RW is fully re-writable or eraseable up to 1,000 times. However, unlike the older DVD-RAM format, these particular erasables are NOT "random access", meaning that you cannot erase bits and pieces of them. Instead, you have to completely erase the whole disc to reuse it. The DVD-RW can be played on many DVD players, but not quite as many as the DVD-Rs. (Of course, DVD-RAM discs are playable on only a few types of DVD players.)  DVD-R is the most popular format for most Windows users, and is almost universally accepted by Mac users as their standard DVD recordable format.
2) DVD+R and DVD+RW:  The oldest "plus type" DVD is the DVD+RW. Like DVD-RW, it is a rewriteable 4.7 GB DVD kind of disc. DVD+RW, does have a couple of technical advantages -- (1) lossless linking (which enables some editing after recording without a full erasure that DVD-RW requires), (2) up to 2.4X recording speeds on some burners, and (3) a special drag-and-drop file support on the desktop (otherwise known as DVD+MRW). Unfortunately, the DVD+R disc type does NOT even begin to compare with DVD-R as far as DVD playback compatibility. However, the actual level of DVD workability on players of DVD+RW is claimed to be about equal to DVD-RW. Even so, neither the DVD+R nor the older DVD+RW discs are as popular as DVD-R and DVD-RW are. The newer DVD+R write-once type disc is aimed at becoming more compatible with DVD players. However, the fact is that so far it is only about as compatible as DVD-R discs are. Also, the DVD+R discs are more expensive in today's market, and not burnable by "1st generation" plus-type burners, which were designed only for the DVD+RW rewritable discs.
3)  DVD-RAM is used for data backups and storage, and for editing of video or audio content prior to the production of a final distribution DVD.
The DVD-RAM disc type is made to act a lot like a hard drive, where the disc can be formatted for HFS+ Macintosh or Windows type computers, and so on. It can handle 100,000 or more erasures, and should last for many years. Of course it is not playable on many DVD players. Type 2.0 DVD-RAM discs can be removed from their cases to enable playback on the few players in which they are compatible (ie Panasonic). The newer DVD-RAM drives can handle any sized such disc, including 2.6, 5.2, 4.7 or 9.4 GB discs. The RAM in DVD-RAM stands for random access memory.   DVD-RAM discs read and write much the same way as your hard disks. This is an important aspect of this format and differs from the other read/write DVD formats (-RW and +RW), which are optimized for sequential recording.  In other words, DVD-RAM is a data storage format that is perfectly happy scattering thousands of tiny files (and parts of files) here and there across the entire disc. This allows for faster access times and yields a more robust rewriting and erasing format. DVD-RW and DVD+RW, in contrast, do not offer random access in the same way, are not as robust as rewriters and are not designed to act like a hard disk. They are, however, optimized for long, sequential reads/writes and occasional rewrites of large chunks of data, which is exactly what videographers need.
The capacity of the DVD disk is approximately 120 minutes of MPEG compressed video, by computer standards it works out to 4.7 gigabytes, roughly 7 times the amount of a standard CD which can hold 700 MB (megabytes).  Remember that a DVD disc can also be dual-layered and dual-sided, taking this into account would give the DVD disc the potential of holding 28 times the capacity of a standard CD.
Menus are probably the most interesting features of DVD discs, as they act as your doorway to the many exciting features of DVD.  (NOTE: Radford Video Creations will produce DVD’s with or without graphical menus for our clients.  Non-graphical menus have simple text-menu titles, or may just have one program, and launch that automatically.)
From the menu (depending on the disc), you are able to access such features as: multiple languages and subtitles, alternative audio tracks (such as music only and commentaries), as well as extras such as movie trailers, deleted scenes, behind the scenes, interviews, photo galleries, cast and crew biographies, and the list goes on of endless possibilities.
The menu on a disc can be accessed anytime the DVD disc is in by pressing the menu button on the player or remote. You can return to the same point in the movie you just left, by once again pressing the menu button.   The menu background can match the ‘branding’ or look and feel of the program content, and the buttons may be still photos, symbols, or animated images.   These are often choices we or our clients make in the design stage of a DVD.

The DVD-Video and DVD-Audio specifications define how audio and video data are stored in specialized files. The .IFO files contain menus and other information about the video and audio. The .BUP files are backup copies of the .IFO files. The .VOB files (for DVD-Video) and .AOB files (for DVD-Audio) are MPEG-2 program streams with additional packets containing navigation and search information.
Since a .VOB file is just a specialized MPEG-2 file, most MPEG-2 decoders and players can play them. You could change the name to .MPG, however, any special features such as angles or branching will cause strange effects. The best way to play a .VOB file is to use a DVD player application to play the entire volume (or to open the VIDEO_TS.IFO file), since this will make sure all the DVD-Video features are used properly.
Many DVDs are encrypted, which means the .VOB files won't play when copied to your hard drive. If you try to copy the .IFO and .VOB files to a recordable DVD it may not play. You may also run into .VRO files created by DVD video recorders using the -VR format. In some cases you can treat the files just like .VOB files, but in other cases they are fragmented and unplayable. You'll need a utility such as Heuris Extractor to copy them to a hard disk in usable format.
None of the writable formats are fully compatible with each other or even with existing drives and players. In other words, a DVD+R/RW drive can't write a DVD-R or DVD-RW disc, and vice versa (unless it's a combo drive that writes both formats).   Within time,  the different formats will become more compatible and more intermixed. A player with the DVD Forum's DVD Multi is guaranteed to read DVD-R, DVD-RW, and DVD-RAM discs, and a DVD Multi recorder can record using all three formats. Some new "super combo" drives can record in both plus and dash format, and a few "super multi" drives can record all 5 disc types (DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD+R, DVD+RW, and DVD-RAM).

In addition, not all players and drives can read recorded discs. The basic problem is that recordable discs have different reflectivity than pressed discs (the pre-recorded kind you buy in a store), and not all players have been correctly designed to read them. There are compatibility lists at CustomFlix, DVDMadeEasy, DVDRHelp, HomeMovie.com, Apple, YesVideo.com, and elsewhere that indicate player compatibility with DVD-R and DVD-RW discs.   DVDplusRW.org maintains a list of  DVD+RW compatible players and drives. (Note: test results vary depending on media quality, handling, writing conditions, player tolerances, and so on. The indications of compatibility in these lists are often anecdotal in nature and are only general guidelines.) There is insignificant compatibility difference between the "dash" and "plus" formats.   There are much bigger compatibility differences between brands, so be careful about buying cheap discs.
Very roughly, DVD-R and DVD+R discs work in about 85% of existing drives and players, while DVD-RW and DVD+RW discs work in around 80%. The situation is steadily improving. In another few years compatibility problems will mostly be behind us, just as with CD-R (did you know that early CD-Rs had all kinds of compatibility problems).

The majority of DVD players now in the market appear to play at least one type of DVDR 4.7gb "general purpose" type discs well. It has been our practice to use DVD-R disks, produced by the major disk manufacturers -- however, we cannot absolutely guarantee that your recordings will play on each player.
According to the wholesaler Americal.com, “In practice, about 53% of today's DVD players don't work with either DVD+R or +RW discs, a number which is substantially more than the ‘minority’ they admit to on the page above.  And, the number for DVD-R and DVD-RW discs is only a bit better, with as many as 40% of today's DVD players not working with the "general" or "minus" type of blank DVD recordable.    This is a bit confusing, but the percentages are improving. More and more of today's current DVD player models actually support playing most DVD-R and most DVD+R discs. The number of DVD players actually on the shelves in stores that play recordable DVDs is around 90%. Only a few models don't play at least some brands and kinds of blank, recordable -R or +R discs.”
Thousands of their customers do in fact report greater DVD player compatibility of the DVD-R and DVD-RW "minus" or "general" type discs, compared to the "plus" type +R or +RW discs. Some sources report similar findings of about 60% player compatibility for DVD-R, and only 47% or so for the DVD+R. As always, your own compatibility may vary. Furthermore, the actual performance of any particular BRAND of disc can vary within a type, due to variations in proprietary (patented) design issues relating to differing bottom dyes used, dye laser light absorption factors and silver reflectivity values. As a result, any particular brand may not perform with a particular model of DVD player, even though the player is designed to theoretically handle some brands of "plus" or "minus" type of blank DVD.
As you may know, the store-bought DVD Movies and Games were pressed mechanically, like old-fashioned vinyl LP records. By contrast, your recordable DVD-R discs are "burned" with a laser in home computers, and have a slightly different format than the retail DVDs you buy or rent. Playing your burned DVD-Rs requires an extra feature or two that MOST but not all players have.  There are subtle differences between the dye formulas and top reflectors used among DVD-R manufacturers, as each company struggles to find a "middle ground" that straddles the wide variations in laser types and logic circuitry used by DVD players and burners. Even though two general purpose type DVD-Rs may be well made, they may have been made to slightly different standards by their makers; each deciding to be more or less compatible with certain brands of players and burners.
While the DVD Movie and Game discs you buy or rent in the stores appear to be "silver" or "gold" on the play surface, they are usually made from aluminum coatings, over a clear layer that has been mechanically pressed with pits or holes to encode the data that the lasers in the DVD players decode into music and video signals. DVD Video discs that are made this way do not require the light sensitive dye layer used in DVD-R discs, and so they appear clear on the bottom, or nearly so. They never have to be "burned".
By contrast, the recordable DVD-R discs use a dark dye layer to absorb the higher powered laser in DVD burners to create the tiny pits or holes that encode the disc's data. This dye layer causes problems for some cheaper and older DVD players, but it is none-the-less required to "burn" the DVD-R. Most of today's DVD Players now are able to read both the clear bottomed DVD movie and game discs, and also the colored dye bottomed DVD-R discs. Approximately 97% of today's DVD players actually being sold at the moment, according to Americal.com, can play DVD-R type discs, while about 86% will play DVD+R discs. When you count ALL THE PLAYERS still in use, then the numbers drop down to 47-60% compatibility ... but the older machines are being replaced by newer more compatible machines pretty fast. 
As far as the "quality" of the DVD-R discs themselves, Radford Video Creations purchases only ‘Pro Grade’ name-brand disks from dealers and manufacturers who constantly test DVD-R disks to ensure their high-quality, low-errors, and consistent workability with popular players and burners. Americal.com claims to get far less than 1% of them returned.
Handle only at the hub or outer edge. Don't touch the shiny surface with your popcorn-greasy fingers.  Store in a protective case when not in use. Don't bend the disc when taking it out of the case, and be careful not to scratch the disc when placing it in the case or in the player tray.  Make certain the disc is properly seated in the player tray before you close it.   Keep discs away from radiators, heaters, hot equipment surfaces, direct sunlight (near a window or in a car during hot weather), pets, small children, and other destructive forces. The DVD specification recommends that discs be stored at a temperature between -20 to 50 C (-4 to 122 F) with less than 15 C (27 F) variation per hour, at relative humidity of 5 to 90 percent. Artificial light and indirect sunlight have no effect on replicated DVDs since they are are made of polycarbonate, polymer adhesives, and metal (usually aluminum or gold), none of which are significantly affected by exposure to light. Exposure to bright sunlight may affect recordable DVDs, specifically write-once DVDs (DVD-R and DVD+R) that use light-sensitive dyes. Magnetic fields have no effect on DVDs, so it's ok to leave them sitting on your speakers.
Coloring the outside edge of a DVD with a green marker (or any other color) makes no difference in video or audio quality. Data is read based on pit interference at 1/4 of the laser wavelength, a distance of less than 165 nanometers. A bit of dye that on average is more than 3 million times farther away is not going to affect anything.

Sometimes a disc won’t play because it has become dirty, with smudges and oil from fingerprints.  Fingerprints can be especially problematic because they cover a relatively large area .. they block the laser on the way down to strike the reflective surface, and then on the return trip as the information read by the laser is bounced back for decoding by the player.
If you notice problems when playing a disc, you may be able to correct them with a simple cleaning.
* Do not use strong cleaners, abrasives, solvents, or acids.
* With a soft, lint-free cloth, wipe gently in only a radial direction (a straight line between the hub and the rim). Since the data is arranged circularly on the disc, the micro scratches you create when cleaning the disc (or the nasty gouge you make with the dirt you didn't see on your cleaning cloth) will cross more error correction blocks and be less likely to cause unrecoverable errors.
* Don't use canned or compressed air, which can be very cold and may thermally stress the disc.
* For stubborn dirt or gummy adhesive, use water, water with mild soap, or isopropyl alcohol. As a last resort, try peanut oil. Let it sit for about a minute before wiping it off.
* There are commercial products that clean discs and provide some protection from dust, fingerprints, and scratches. CD cleaning products work as well as DVD cleaning products.
* Wipe the disc with a stroke from top to bottom or in straight lines, not in a circular path, which can inflict scratches. 
* Make or purchase several copies of your most valued DVD’s in the event of irrepairable damage … especially for weddings and family archives.

According to Douglas Stevenson, who writes in the Nov. issue of Camcorder and ComputerVideo magazine, “Cheaper discs can delaminate .. the individual layers physically separating, allowing oxygen to enter.  When this happens, the disc will simply cease to function, with the encoded data becoming unreadable.  This is more a problem of mass-produced or ‘stamped’ discs than wiuth DVD-Rs.   When you see those super cvheap DVD movies in the bargain bin at the discount store, there is a good chance they were made from the cheapest discs available.  You get what you pay for.   
Scratches may cause minor data errors that are easily corrected. That is, data is stored on DVDs using powerful error correction techniques that can recover from even large scratches with no loss of data. A common misperception is that a scratch will be worse on a DVD than on a CD because of higher storage density and because video is heavily compressed. DVD data density (say that fast ten times!) is physically four times that of CD-ROM, so it's true that a scratch will affect more data. But DVD error correction is at least ten times better than CD-ROM error correction and more than makes up for the density increase. It's also important to realize that MPEG-2 and Dolby Digital compression are partly based on removal or reduction of imperceptible information, so decompression doesn't expand the data as much as might be assumed. Major scratches may cause uncorrectable errors that will produce an I/O error on a computer or show up as a momentary glitch in DVD-Video picture. Paradoxically, sometimes the smallest scratches can cause the worst errors (because of the particular orientation and refraction of the scratch). There are many schemes for concealing errors in MPEG video, which may be used in future players.

If you continue to have problems after cleaning the disc, you may need to attempt to repair one or more scratches. Sometimes even hairline scratches can cause errors if they just happen to cover an entire error correction (ECC) block. Examine the disc to find scratches, keeping in mind that the laser reads from the bottom. There are essentially two methods of repairing scratches: 1) fill or coat the scratch with an optical material; 2) polish down the scratch. There are many commercial products that do one or both of these, or you may wish to do it yourself with polishing compounds or toothpaste. The trick is to polish out the scratch without causing new ones. A mess of small polishing scratches may cause more damage than a big scratch. As with cleaning, polish only in the radial direction.
Remember, a home-made or dye-based DVD are much more sensitive than commercial pressed DVD Video or Game discs, and that even a small scratch can make them unplayable.   A scratched DVD-R can be destroyed in seconds, and one exposed to high temperatures, humidity or strong UV light sources can become unplayable within anything from a few hours to a few days. One study of average DVD-R discs stored at 80 degrees and high humidity showed that many of them became unplayable in only a few hundred hours. Imagine what storage in a sun-heated car interior's "oven" at about 200 degrees would do!  Treat your recorded DVD-Rs with care. Handle them by their edges, gently. Again, avoid harsh chemicals in marking pens, ink and label adhesives. Avoid touching the top or bottom surfaces. Don't slide them across tables, players or computer cases. Return them to their DVD cases immediately after playing. Don't stack DVD-Rs one on top of each other and shuffle them like a deck of cards. With proper handling and protection during storage, a DVD-R disc can last longer than you will probably want to re-play them. One company claims that its DVD-R discs can last up to 100-years or more. Store your own DVD recorded discs carefully in a cool, dark, dry place and they should last for many years.

At Radford Video Creations, we don’t use paper labels. Period.  For many years, CD-R manufacturers recommended that users NOT apply paper labels to their newly recorded CDs. They felt that the labels' adhesive would harm the sensitive silver reflector by tarnishing it, or that off-center labels might cause the disc to wobble, making it unreadable. These factors are much more important today for DVD recordable discs than they ever were for CD-Rs. On DVD-Rs, the tiny data bubbles that encode the video and audio data are 8-times closer together than on CDs. Even the slightest degradation of the edges of the bubbles due to UV or heat exposure can ruin a DVD-R. Also, even the slightest wobbling during playback can make video tracks unreadable, or produce "jitters" or blinking, horizontal lines, and so on. In some cases, the discs can become completely unplayable.  Heat can loosen an adhesive label, which can come off in the machine in pieces at it spins at high speed, again throwing it off balance or damaging internal parts. 
NOTE: the disks produced by Radford Video Creations are all printed with an ink-jet printer, using special inks on specially-prepared white or silver-surface disks.
Check the center tab of your disc .. if the tab is too large, inserting and removing the DVD can place undo stress on the center of the disc, cracking the laminate and initiating the beginning of layer separation.  Try this test … a center tab of the proper size will allow the DVD to spin freely after the disc is locked into position.  When the disc movement is stiff or the disc is locked in position and immovable, it would be wise to consider replacing the disc.   Also, the typical jewel case for music CD’s will hafe a slightly larger center tab and therefore not appropriate for storing DVD’s.  Inserting or removing the DVD can put an excessive amount of pressure on the disc, causing it to bend or warp as you attempt to remove it and possibly damage the disc’s integrity, especially right around the center hub.   Some people use cardboard sleeves … a low cost alternative to jewel boxes, but the rougher surface of cardboard can introduce minute scratches in the disc surface.

Always store your disks in a vertical or upright position, not flat on top of each other, horizontally… Over time gravity will bear down on them, warping their shape.  This will cause them to spin unevenly and present an irregular distance for the laser.  Because the data is physically small in u put too many size, the consistency of the disc surface is critical.  Dual-layer DVD’s rely on the loaser beaming down to the disc at one distance for the top information layer and an ever-so slightly longer beam to strike the deeper layer.  Any variation in this caused by a warped shape will throw off the disc’s readability. 
Many people choose to store their disks in binders on a shelf … do so only with disc pages loose and uncompressed.  In addition, always be sure your storage pages are clean, with no contaminents like excessive dust, bits of paper or hair. 
Some people who burn their own disks use a felt-tip Magic Marker to identify it, rather than professional printing… it’s quick and cheap.  But this can create problems too.  Many types of markers are alchohol-based … alcohol and other chemicals used in the ink can actually penetrate through the outer plastic coating of the disk surface and reach the dye and reflectife material underneath.  The chemicals can adversely affrect the inner material, damagikng it’s integraity and eventually destroying the disc.  To remedy this situation, use special pens designed and sold for writing on CD and DVD disks.  The chemical formulation is safe and will not move beyond the outer layer, according to Douglas Stevenson, author of “Handle with Care” in the November issue of Camcorder Magazine.

* Do I want selectable sound tracks and subtitles, multiangle viewing, aspect ratio control, parental/multirating features, fast and slow playback, great digital video, multichannel digital audio, compatibility with Dolby Pro Logic receivers, on-screen menus, dual-layer playback, and ability to play audio CDs? This is a trick question, since all DVD players have all of these features.
* Do I want DTS audio? If so, look for a player with the "DTS Digital Out" logo.
* Do I want to play Video CDs? If so, check the specs for Video CD compatibility.
* Do I want to play recordable DVDs? If so, check the specs or compatibility reports for ability to read -R, -RW, +R, and +RW formats .
* Do I need a headphone jack?
* Do I want player setup menus in languages other than English? If so, look for a multilanguage setup feature. (Note: all players support on-disc multilanguage menus.)
* Do I want to play homemade CD-R audio discs? If so look for the "dual laser" feature.
* Do I want to replace my CD player? If so, you might want a changer that can hold 3, 5, or even hundreds of discs.
* Do I want to play discs from other countries? If so, beware of regions and TV formats
* Do I want to control all my entertainment devices with one remote control? If so, look for a player with a programmable universal remote, or make sure your existing universal remote is compatible with the DVD player.
* Do I want to zoom in to check details of the picture or get rid of the black letterbox bars? If so, look for players with picture zoom.
* Do I have a DTV or progressive-scan display? If so, get a progressive-scan player.
* Do I want to play HDCDs? If so, check for the HDCD logo.
* Does my receiver have only optical or only coax digital audio inputs? If so, make sure the player has outputs to match.
* Do I care about black-level adjustment?
* Do I value special deals? If so, look for free DVD coupons and free DVD rentals that are available with many players.
Mass-market DVD movie players list for $40 to $3,000.  DVD-ROM computer drives and upgrade kits for computers sell for around $30 to $400.
There are thousands of answers to this question, but here are some basic troubleshooting steps to help you track down problems such as jerky playback, pauses, error messages, and so on. Also, we have reports that most compatiblity problems exist with certain player brands, ie Toshiba and Samsung.  Some low-end disks can also cause playback errors or compabibility problems, or might be scratched and damaged. 
NOTE: at Radford Video, we test each disk before delivery to our customers, in at least two different machines … obviously, this does not guarantee universal compatiblity.  We urge our customers to first ask for a ‘test disk’ before the job is produced, to check compatibility with their DVD players of choice. 
* Get updated software. Driver bugs are the biggest cause of playback problems, ranging from freezes to bogus error messages about regions. Go to the support section on the Web sites of your equipment manufacturers and make sure you have the latest drivers for your graphics adapter, audio card, and DVD decoder (if you have a hardware decoder). Also make sure you have the latest update of the player program.
Apple has released numerous updates for audio drivers and the DVD player application. Make sure you have the latest versions. Go to the downloads page and search for DVD.
* If you have multiple DVD players installed, especially trial versions that have expired, uninstall all but one of them. (You may then have to reinstall your preferred player.)
* If you have problems loading a DVD on a Mac, hold down the Command, Option, and I keys when inserting the disk. (This mounts the disc using ISO 9660 instead of UDF.)
* Make sure DMA or SDT is turned on. In Windows, go into the System Properties Device Manager, choose CD-ROM, open the CD/DVD driver properties, choose the Settings tab, and make sure the DMA box (for IDE drives) or the Sync Data Transfer box (for SCSI drives) is checked. Download CD Speed to check the performance of your drive (if it's below 1x, you have problems). 
Caution: You may run into problems turning DMA on, especially with an AMD K6 CPU or VIA chipset. Check for a BIOS upgrade, a drive controller upgrade, a bus mastering driver upgrade, and a CD/DVD-ROM driver upgrade from your system manufacturer before turning DMA on. If the drive disappears, reboot in safe mode, uncheck DMA, and reboot again. You may have to tell Windows to restore the registry settings from its last registry backup.
* If you get an error about unavailable overlay surface, reduce the display resolution or number of colors (right-click desktop, choose Settings tab).
* Try turning off programs that are running in the background. (In Windows, close or exit applets in the system tray -- the icons in the lower right corner. In Mac OS, turn off AppleTalk, file sharing, and virtual memory.)
* Allocate more memory to the Apple DVD Player.
* If you are using a SCSI DVD-ROM drive, make sure that it's the first or last device in the SCSI chain. If it's the last device, make sure it's terminated.
* Reinstall the Windows bus mastering drivers. (Delete them from the device manager and let Windows ask for original disc.)
* Bad video when connecting to a TV could be from too long a cable or from interference or a ground loop.
There's not yet a feature in PowerPoint to export directly to video on DVD, but you can convert a PowerPoint presentation to stills without animations, or video for import into a DVD authoring program. Recent versions of PowerPoint allow you to save your slides as graphic images (JPEG or PNG files) that can be imported into a DVD authoring program that supports slideshows. The advantage of using the slideshow feature is that you can have the DVD player pause indefinitely on each still until you press the Enter or Play key on the remote control. (Note: make sure the authoring software supports true slideshows with "infinite stills," since many programs just render slides as video.) The disadvantage of using stills is that you won't get animations and other fancy PowerPoint effects. Alternatively you can record the PowerPoint presentation as a video file (use a PowerPoint add-in or a motion screen capture program) and import the video file into the DVD authoring program. This preserves the full visual effect but locks you into the timing you used when recording the presentation.
NOTE: A DVD played on a TV set has a small percentage of border loss, depending on the set.  This is not the case with most computer monitors.  In producing a Powerpoint slide, it is important to provide a ‘safe zone’ with no text or image (apx. 15%) near the edges, so the text can be seen on a monitor AS WELL AS on a TV set.  If text or picture is too near the edge, it will appear outside the screen area, or will need to be reduced in the authoring/editing stage. 
We do not make copies of any commercial disks, movies or games.  (Recent USA court decisions have backed up the arguments made by the Recording Industry Association of America, and various other trade associations, that all movie and music disc copying is unlawful.)  We do not support nor encourage unethical or illegal copying of DVDs or CDs or tapes, and we will not assist people in those efforts.  In fact, many of our own disks and programs have trademarks and may not be copied without permission.  For programs that we have produced for clients, we reserve the right to produce duplicate copes -- unless your agreement with us permits duplication, or ‘buy-out’ of all footage and the rights to the edited program.  Please acknowledge the copyright and notice of “All Rights Reserved” which limits your replication of these disks.  (Note: in some cases we have paid royalties for the use of music or graphics, but cannot transfer that right of duplication to others.)  Therefore, copies of programs produced by Radford Video Creations are normally made by us for our customers.  This also guarantees the correct technical standards are met, that labels are printed identically, and packaging is provided.
NOTE: Radford Video Creations provides up to 200 copies of disks that we have originally produced.  Beyond that quantity we recommend our customers use volume disk duplicators, or we will sub-contract this work at the best price/value rates available.   Our duplication pricing is on our web site. 

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SITE EMAIL CONTACT: Jim@RadfordVideo.com
Cellphone: (612) 819-4386 -- Minnesota
Office Phone and FAX: (651) 483-3593 
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