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DVD Introduction

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DVD Player - front panel has power on/off button, disc tray open/close button, play/pause/stop buttons, skip forward/backward buttons and a display to show status information.

Even the lowest cost DVD players have amazing capabilities. Surround sound output, component video output, ability to play MP3 on a CD-R, audio CD, JPEG photo files on a CD-RW and DVD Audio are just some of the capabilities.

DVD releases typically include a variety of additional material, such as movie trailers, documentaries, behind the scenes footage, storyboards, deleted scenes, and alternate endings. Some include two copies of the film, both widescreen and standard. 

DVDs can also include additional content that can be accessed on a computer, such as more information on the movie, games, and access to material over the Web. 

Over the past years an abundance of affordable DVD players have made it to market, meaning they're now well within the price range of the average household. Also the catalog of DVD movie titles is filling up at a fantastic rate.

Stay with the name brands however, Sony, Panasonic, Toshiba, Samsung. You will be disappointed with the bargain brands. Toshiba has a DVD player for around $60, the SD5000.

Toshiba SD5000

Plays DVDs and CDs. It can upconvert a pure digital signal to 720p or 1080i, matching the resolution of your HD display.
An HDMI output transfers uncompressed digital video and multi-channel audio. The SD5000 plays lots of formats, including MP3 and WMA discs.

Video Upconversion to 720p or 1080i
Digital Cinema Progressive, Progressive Scan 3:2 Pulldown
HDMI Connection, ColorStream Component VIdeo Output
Coaxial/TosLink Optical Outputs
S-Video Output, RCA-Video, L-R Audio Connections
Fast Scan, Slow Motion
14-Bit/108MHz Video D/A
192kHz/24-Bit Audio D/A
DivX Home Theater Certified
Digital Picture Zoom
Multi-Camera Angle Select
Multi-Language Select
Multi-Subtitle Select
Dolby Digital/DTS Compatible
3D Virtual Surround Sound
Parental Lock
Screen Saver
Tray Lock
New Super Slim Black Acrylic Cabinet with Silver Trim
Front LED Display

Sony DVP-NS77H/S

Sony DVP-NS77H/S Single Disc DVD Player with HDMI - MSRP $99

Surround Modes Dolby Digital, DTS
Video Conversion to HDMI
Compatible Formats:

D/A Converter 24-bit/192kHz
Progressive Scan Yes

Coaxial (1) Rear Output
Composite Video (1) Rear Output
HDMI (1) Rear Output
Optical (1) Rear Output
Analog Audio (1) Rear Output
Component Video (1) Rear Output
S-Video (1) Rear Output

Weight (Pounds) 4.25
Depth (Inches) 8.31
Height (Inches) 1.69
Width (Inches) 17

Digital-to-Analog Converter : 24 Bit, 192 kHz

Disc Capacity : 1
Tray Type : Carousel

Coaxial Audio Digital Output(s) : 1 (Rear)
RCA Audio Output(s) : 1 (Rear)
S-Video Output(s) : 1 (Rear)
Composite Video Output(s) : 1 (Rear)
Component Video (Y/Pb/Pr) Output(s) : 1 (Rear)
Optical Audio Output(s) : 1 (Rear)
HDMI(TM) Connection Output(s) : 1 (Rear)

Service and Warranty Information
Limited Warranty : 1 Year Parts / 90 Days Labor

Digital-to-Analog Converter : 12 Bit, 108MHz

Audio Features
CD Playback : Yes (CD, CD-R, CD-RW)
dts(R) Output : Yes
MP3 Playback : Yes
Dolby(R) Digital Decoding : Yes

Convenience Features
On Screen Display : Yes
HDMI(TM) Technology : Yes (Upscaling of the Video Resolution Output to approach 720P/1080p)
Instant Replay : Yes
Instant Search : Yes
Multiple Disc Resume : Yes
Smooth Slow : Yes
Noise Reduction : Yes

General Features
Background Graphics : Yes

Video Features
DVD (VR Mode) Playback : Yes (with CPRM)
DVD Playback : Yes
Precision Cinema Progressive(TM) Technology : Yes
Screen Saver : Yes
SVCD Playback : Yes
VCD Playback : Yes
DVD+R DL Read Compatibility : Yes
DVD+R Read Compatibility : Yes
DVD+RW Read Compatibility : Yes
DVD-R Read Compatibility : Yes
DVD-RW (VR Mode) Read Compatibility : Yes (with CPRM)
DVD-RW Read Compatibility : Yes
JPEG Playback : Yes
Precision Drive 3 : Yes

Precision Drive 3 System
Past generations of Precision Drive systems were only able to compensate for warped discs by moving the entire optical block, which took more time and limited the amount of correction possible. Sony's new Precision Drive(TM) 3 system simplifies the process by moving the lens-instead of the entire optical block-for faster and more accurate error correction.


DVD Background:

"DVD" stands for Digital Video Disc (or Digital Versatile Disc). It's a disc that's almost 5  inches in diameter, 1.2 mm thick, and can store 4.7 or 8.5 gigabytes of data on one side (or the equivalent of about 6,800 floppy disks).

In 1994, Sony and Phillips announced that they would jointly develop a technology that would replace CDs for data storage. The intention was also to develop a media format that could replace VHS tapes and LaserDiscs as a way of storing movies and delivering them to consumers. Meanwhile, Time-Warner and Toshiba were working on their own competing technology.

The two teams unveiled their products within weeks of each other, and the rush to market was on. Apple, Compaq, Fujitsu, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, and Microsoft collectively feared that another VHS-vs.-Beta war would ensue - these companies wanted to use DVD technology for their computers, and the last thing they wanted to worry about was adapting their product for two different formats. So they demanded that DVDs be made in only one format.

So Sony, Phillips, Toshiba, Time-Warner and a handful of other companies all got together and decided on a uniform standard for all DVDs. 

How DVD works

On a CD, the data is read off the disc using an infrared laser; a DVD works in the same way, but it uses a shorter wavelength laser so that it can read smaller "pits" or little pockets in which data is stored. Smaller pits mean more of them on a disc, hence more information. 

DVDs also have not one, but two layers per side that can store information. And DVDs can carry info on both sides (front and back) for a total of four data-holding layers. So while a CD can fit about 20 minutes of compressed video, a DVD can hold about 135 minutes… per layer. That means that one double-layered double-sided DVD can hold up to 9 hours of movies.

If that's not enough:

  • DVDs play with 480 lines of horizontal resolution. Compare that to a VHS tape, which plays with 250 lines.

  • DVDs sample audio at higher rates (all that means is that the sound is better).

  • DVDs can support multiple aspect ratios - that is, movies can be viewed in their original wide-screen versions (16:9 ratio) as opposed to their formatted-to-fit-the-screen ones that TVs use (4:3 ratio).

  • DVDs can hold up to 32 language tracks.

  • DVDs can support split screens, director's cuts, alternate endings, voiceovers, and more.


Q: What was the first movie put onto DVD?
A: The Beatles' A Hard Day's Night

Digital Video Discs (DVD's) are compact disc (CD) sized discs that contain a whole movie with a Dolby Digital soundtrack plus extras, such as interviews, behind the scene footage etc.

DVD players provide picture and sound quality that easily surpasses anything you can get with a video cassette recorder (VCR). This has made DVD players one of the fastest growing consumer goods ever.

What types of DVD players are available and how much do DVD players cost?

Types Of DVD Players

Single Disc DVD Players
Basic players for your DVD movies and audio CD's. Prices start at around $35.00 and up.

Multiple Disc DVD Players
These DVD players can hold anything from 2 to 300+ discs. 

Progressive Scan DVD Players
If you have a High Definition or digital television, then a progressive scan dvd player will provide you with a sharper, more stable picture. 

Portable DVD Players
Watch your DVD movies anywhere, anytime, with a portable DVD player. These models come with their own built-in LCD screens and internal batteries to provide you with hours of on-the-road viewing. 

DVD/VCR Combination Player
If you'd like to save space and have one machine do it all, then get a DVD and VCR combination player.

Sony SLV-D380P Combo DVD VHS Player

DVD Recorder
Record a television show directly to DVD disc. These models can do everything a traditional VCR can do, while providing an exceptional picture quality and sound experience. 

Some models have a built-in hard drive to record hours and hours of video and then you can copy off to a recordable DVD.

Sony RDR-GXD455 - MSRP $249.99

Sony DVD Recorder with Digital TV Tuner

* DVD Recorder with HD Tuner
* Built-in ATSC/NTSC/QAM Tuner
* Multi-Format DVD Compatible: DVD-RW/DVD-R/+RW/+R/+R DL, including DVD RAM Playback
* HDMI Output with 720p/1080i Upscaling
* DVD+R Double Layer Recording and Playback (8.5GB)
* Component. S-Video, and Composite video output for either DVD and/or VCR
* MP3 and JPEG playback on CD-R/-RW and DVD Discs

The RDR-GXD455 DVD recorder captures near-HD image quality and features an HD tuner for watching HD television programs. Even standard DVDs benefit from an improved picture with upscaling technology that enhances 480p video up to 1080p output for your compatible TV.

Dolby Digital Decoding
Records to DVD-RW, DVD-R, DVD+RW, DVD+R, DVD+R DL, Also Plays DVD-RAM
HDMI Output with 1080i Upscaling of DVD Media, Component Video Output
Optical and Coaxial Digital Audio Outputs, 2 RCA Audio Inputs/2 Outputs
S-Video Input/Output, 2 Composite Video Outputs/1 Input, i.LINK for DV/Digital8 Video Input
On-Screen Display
10-Bit, 54MHz Video Digital-to-Analog Converter
16-Bit, 96kHz Audio Digital-to-Analog Converter
Remote Control Included
Built-In HDTV Tuner (ATSC/NTSC/QAM Tuner)
One Touch Dubbing from DV/D8 via i.LINK Port
8 Recording Modes: HQ (1H), HSP (1.5H), SP (2H), LSP (2.5H), ESP (3H), LP (4H), EP (6H), SLP (8H)
CD, CD-R, CD-RW Playback, MP3 and JPEG Playback
dts Output
Noise Reduction
Background Graphics
Screen Saver
Power Requirements: AC 120V, 60Hz
Dimensions: 17" W x 2.75" H x 11.19" D
Weight: 6.81 lbs.

Compatible DVD and CD Media (discs)

Audio CD
A normal compact disc that you would purchase from a music store. All DVD players can play music CDs.

Compact discs that can be written on only one time.

Compact discs that are rewritable.

A super high resolution audio only format featuring 6-channel surround sound.

Super Audio CD (SACD)
A super high resolution audio only format featuring 2-channel stereo or 6-channel surround sound. Some players such as "universal" players can play a SACD.

High Definition Compatible Digital (HDCD)
An enhanced regular audio CD providing better quality sound.

DVD Video Features

Video Digital Analog Converter (DAC)
Used to convert the digital information on the DVD to the analog information displayed by your television. Expressed as the number of bits of information and it's sampling frequency (bits/kHz).

Picture Zoom
The ability to study a scene in detail, often using multiple magnification levels.

Progressive Scan
The ability to generate a picture in one pass (compared to interlace scanning which requires two passes). This provides a sharper and more film like picture. This can only be viewed on a digital or High Definition television.

2:3 Pulldown
The ability to convert from an interlaced to a progressive scan image, effectively compensating for a films slower refresh rate.

Component Video Output
Provides the best picture quality and most accurate color reproduction from your DVD player.

S Video Output
Provides excellent picture quality, however its color reproduction is not as good as a component video output.

Composite Output
Provides a picture quality better than a VCR but not nearly as good as either an S video or Component video output.

Audio Features

Audio Digital to Analog Converter (DAC)
Expressed as a number of bits of information and its corresponding sampling frequency (bits/kHz). Most DVD players use 24bits/96kHz and this provides a good audio reproduction.

Dolby Digital (DD) Surround Sound
This is standard on all DVD players.

DTS Surround Sound
Only of use if you have a DTS receiver or pre-amplifier in your home theater.

DVD Players:
You can get a good DVD player at a budget price. Even a budget player will provide a picture clarity that VHS tape could never achieve, with sound quality that is measurably superior. 

DVD players don’t just play DVDs, but other formats as well.

When DVD players first appeared in 1997/98, they were designed to play DVD-Videos, Video CDs and CDs only. But since then manufacturers have added more features to DVD players allowing them to play many formats.

For example MP3 audio playback is available. A more recent feature is the ability to play digital photos in JPEG format from a CD-R as slideshows. Also most players will play CD-Rs, CD-RWs and DVD-Rs, but not other DVD recordable formats.

What features should you look for when buying a DVD player? The answer depends on what disc formats you want to play. 

  • DVD-Video: all DVD players play DVD-Video discs, but usually only in one region. Europe is region 2 and USA region 1, but many players are available as multi-region players. In some cases the region can be changed via the remote control.
  • DVD-Audio: an increasing number of DVD players now play DVD-Audio discs. However, unless you have high quality amplifier and speakers, you may not notice any loss in quality using a normal DVD-Video player as most DVD-Audio discs include DVD-Video content (ie Dolby Digital audio).
  • SACD: SACD is not a DVD format, but some DVD players include this capability, particularly from Philips and Sony.
  • CD audio: all DVD players play audio CDs.
  • Video CD and SVCD: Most players will play Video CDs but not all play SVCDs. The latter offer near-DVD quality video but actual discs are difficult to obtain except in Asia.
  • DVD-R, DVD-RAM & DVD-RW: Most modern players will play DVD-R discs without any problems, allowing, for example, home movies to be played back. Some, but not all, will play DVD-RW and a few will play DVD-RAM discs. DVD+R and DVD+RW are playable only in some players.
  • CD-R & CD-RW: Most if not all modern DVD players will play recordable CDs. To do so requires the addition of a CD laser to the DVD laser pickup, as the dye used in CD-Rs prevents the discs being read by the DVD red laser. Note that such players will also read audio and Video CDs on CD-R.
  • MP3: Many players also play MP3 compressed audio files on a CD-ROM or CD-R. In the future other formats such as Microsoft’s WMA may be supported.
  • JPEG: Some DVD players play digital photos in JPEG format stored on a CD-R. This is particularly useful for those with a digital camera or for conventional photos that are stored on a CD-R when the film is processed, for example using the Kodak Picture CD format.
  • DVD-VR: A few players will play recordable discs with video recorded according to the Video Recording (VR) format.

All DVD players can play DVD-Video discs and the multi-channel Dolby Digital tracks on them. They can also play CD audio discs. Plus, most budget models can play CD-R and CD-RW discs, and some can play MP3 CDs as well. (However, a few very low-end players might have trouble playing CD-R or CD-RW discs, so make a note to check that. It's a very important consideration if you burn CDs on your home computer.) When it comes to DVD-Audio, SACD, and recordable DVD, things get trickier. Most budget models cannot decode the high-resolution audio tracks on DVD-Audio discs (however, they can play the Dolby Digital tracks found on most DVD-Audio discs). Similarly, budget models cannot decode the DSD (Direct Stream Digital) tracks on SACD discs (however, they can play the CD tracks found on some hybrid SACD discs). And recordable DVD playback on inexpensive DVD-Video players is still relatively rare with most brands.

The player's front-panel display will be pretty basic — a simple dot matrix, in a single color. But make sure it is bright and legible even from across the room where you will be sitting. The disc tray should be of reasonable quality; there might be some 'give' to it, but it should never feel like it's about to fall off. A budget player might have a remote, but most likely, that remote will only control the player itself; it will not be a universal remote that can control other components. Another feature that is hard to describe has to do with the overall feel of the player. Occasionally, a cheap player feels flimsy. There is no heft to it, as if there aren't any substantial parts inside. While many players in many price categories are compact models, they should have some weight to them and impart a sense of solidity. Unless, of course, they're portable DVD players.

Almost all players will play CD discs holding MP3 files and some will play WMA files as well. A few DVD players can play back one of the high-resolution audio formats: SACD or DVD-Audio. These are both incredible multichannel audio formats that offer pristine sound quality. You should consider buying a player that is compatible with DVD-Audio or SACD. Although there is not an abundance of titles currently available, compatibility really does not add too much to the cost of a player. A number of these players will also play some recordable DVD formats.

Some mid-price players have built-in Dolby Digital and/or DTS decoders. These decoders can be used when connecting to an A/V receiver that has no built-in decoders, but does offer six analog inputs for home theater. If your DVD player does not have decoding, that is not necessarily bad; if your receiver has a decoder, then the redundancy wastes money.

Nearly all players that have DVD-Audio or SACD capabilities include the decoders and six analog outputs for the high-res audio signal. The discrete outputs for front left, front right, center, surround left, surround right and subwoofer connect directly to an A/V receiver.

When buying a player with six analog outputs, first check to make sure that your A/V receiver has the appropriate six-channel analog audio inputs. These SACD or DVD-Audio players might also offer bass management, which lets you choose whether low frequencies are output to the satellite speakers. Without this, the same amount of bass is directed to your speakers, whether they be floorstanding towers or palm-sized satellites.

Some mid-price DVD-Video players have built-in Dolby Digital and/or DTS decoders. (Virtually all players with DVD-Audio or SACD capabilities have built-in Dolby Digital and DTS decoders.) These decoders can be used when connecting to an A/V receiver that has no built-in decoders, but does offer six analog inputs for home theater. If your DVD player does not have decoding, that is not necessarily bad; if your receiver has a decoder, then the redundancy wastes money that could be used constructively elsewhere.

In this price range, you'll also start seeing more options on the rear panel: for example, both optical and coaxial digital audio outputs instead of one or the other, for connection flexibility down the road. You'll also begin seeing a progressive-scan video output, which provides the best signal (480p) to a digital television. Another feature is 3-2 pulldown processing, which gives a smoother look to movies that were transferred from film to DVD.

Other features that you might see in a player are zoom, for getting a closer look at a specific section of the picture, and bookmarking, so you can quickly locate a particular scene.

DVD Player FAQ

Q: My new widescreen TV displays the correct cinematic aspect ratio. Why am I still getting those black bars with widescreen movies?

A: The widescreen television aspect ratio is 16:9, which is not a cinematic aspect ratio, but a video standard. Films come in a variety of aspect ratios. Some of the most popular widescreen cinema formats are close to 16:9 (1.78:1), which is one reason this was chosen for televisions. Any film that is not in 16:9 aspect ratio (almost all) will display with bars. For historic reasons, nearly all films are in one of the following aspect ratios: 1.33:1 (will have side bars), 1.66:1 (small side bars), 1.85:1 (very small top/bottom bars, possibly hidden by overscan) and 2.35:1 (larger top and bottom bars). The 1.85:1 is the closest fit to your widescreen television. Please see for details and examples. 

Using your dvd player with an older stereo system.

Q: I have an older receiver that I want to use with my just purchased DVD player. This receiver has a digital audio input (optical) for connecting to CD players. I expect to listen to DVD's on my stereo system. If I use this connection will I get digital surround sound? Or should I hook the DVD player to the analog stereo audio inputs on the receiver instead? I tried the hook-up to the "CD" optical receptor on the receiver from the DVD Optical output but got nothing but static.


1. Unless your receiver is capable of decoding digital surround sound (Dolby Digital "5.1" or DTS) you will not obtain surround sound playback. Your older receiver is only capable at most of decoding Dolby Pro Logic. This is the older analog "matrix" type of surround sound, which many films offer. So yes, you can listen to the analog surround sound when available should your receiver have a decoder for it.

2. If you use the "CD digital audio" connection to a receiver with no DD/DTS capabilities you must set the DVD player output to "PCM" rather than "bitstream". Otherwise you will be sending raw digital data to your speakers (that "static" you hear), which can at loud volumes damage a speaker. You may find using the analog stereo cable more convenient to use.

You should be aware that Dolby Digital "5.1" audio may not playback with the best sound quality on a stereo system. For improved stereo sound, you may have to go to the audio options menu on the disc in order to select an alternative audio track. These are provided for improved stereo playback. Choose either "PCM" or Dolby Digital 2.0 track.

Q: I have an older DVD player with Dolby Digital capabilities, but not DTS. I can play a DTS audio CD through my DTS capable receiver, but when I play a DTS DVD I hear only white noise.

A: Your DVD player does not support DTS. It does not pass the bitstream from the DVD. Be aware that supporting DTS and decoding DTS are entirely different matters. A DVD player that supports DTS (it will display the DTS logo) passes the digital audio from the DVD through to your receiver, which decodes it (unless of course you DVD player contains a DTS decoder). The DTS CD's play because your player does not need to support DTS in order to pass the bitstream, which is why DTS CD's will work with any ordinary CD player that has a digital output. To hear DTS DVD audio, you need to upgrade to a player that supports DTS.

Q: I have a DVD that states Dolby Digital 5.1 audio on the package but turned out to be 2 channel with no 5.1 option. Is this a mislabeling problem?

A: Sometimes there is no menu option for alternate sound tracks. To access them you must press the audio button on your remote to change to the 5.1 track. Occasionally there is a menu option to select which audio track you want to hear, but the audio button is locked out so it appears as if there's only one track. 

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