DVD perils to avoid

The advent of DVD burners on many PCs and Macs used for video editing means that more and more video clips used in live events are being provided on DVD. It is a convenient, reasonable quality format with random access for clip selection and a menu system to allow multiple clips to be put on one DVD disk.

There are, however a few gotchas that can trip up the unwary. Here are some that we have encountered.

Here are three traps to catch the unwary…

1. PAL vs NTSC part 1 – buring in the wrong TV format

We have had several clients turn up with DVD-R disks with their clips, only to discover that the disks are encoded in NTSC format, and although they will play OK on the DVD player, they won’t work through our Panasonic MX50 (PAL only) video mixer.

The culprit in all cases has been the default of the DVD burning software that was used. Most software defaults to NTSC, and you need to go in and change the setting BEFORE you author your disk. Of course the reverse is true if you live in the US or elsewhere in the world. Don’t assume that because someone has a DVD it will be the right TV format.

In this particular case we were forced to abandon the MX50 and use a manual switcher box instead and run the projectors in NTSC also.

2. PAL vs NTSC part 2 – commercial DVDs in other format/region codes

We have also had clients turn up with commercial DVDs, unaware that the DVDs in question have been sourced from the USA and are NTSC format. This is trickier to deal with, as the material is often copy protected and region coded and it is not possible to (legally) transfer it into a PC or Mac for conversion to PAL.

The best solution for this is to purchase a DVD player that has built-in NTSC-PAL conversion (or PAL-NTSC in the US) and is mult-region so that you can cope with anything.

Note that most DVD players will PLAY the other format, but they won’t convert it, and are relying on ALL the downstream gear to cope with that.

3. Format wars – formats, formats and more formats!

The next hurdle is recordable DVD compatibility. There are no less than five recordable DVD formats: DVD-R (DVDdashR) DVD-RW, DVD+R (DVDplusR), DVD+RW, and DVD-RAM (which is for data use only)

The general consensus is that DVD-R is the MOST compatible with standalone DVD players and that DVD+RW is the least, but results are very variable.

The BEST bet is to try the disk in the machine you plan to use BEFORE the event. Otherwise make sure you buy a player that has explicit support for all formats. Ironically, the cheaper the machine, the more compatible they seem to be, (I guess the cheap chipsets are the newest) so the best backup would be to have your main DVD player and they buy a cheapo one as a backup.

 In all these cases, getting hold of the DVD that you plan to use BEFORE the gig is going to let you discover and work round these issues rather than having to panic at the last minute.


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