Can You Put High-Def Video on a DVD Disc?

By · Monday, November 8th, 2010

Blu-ray Laser on DiscYesterday’s blog article about the Blu-ray authoring process brought up a question that I had overlooked. The question is: can you put high-definition video on to a regular DVD disc? To answer that, we need to look at what defines a regular DVD.

The name “DVD video” refers to more than just a motion picture on a disc – it is also a set of standards for video encoding quality. In North America, all retail DVD discs adhere to a strict set of standards. The video on the disc is encoded in MPEG2 format using a specific video size, quality (bit rate), frame rate, and one of two aspect ratios.

A standard DVD Video has a resolution (or size) of 720 x 480 pixels and a framerate of 29.97 frames per second. The bitrate varies throughout the duration of the video, typically between 4 and 8 megabytes per second. At the bare minimum, all DVD players bearing the “DVD” logo should be able to play a disc with these settings.

With video editing software on a personal computer, it is possible to encode an MPEG2 movie at settings above the standards outlined above. For example, you might create a high-definition video file with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels and a bitrate that is much higher than normal. Depending on the software used, you may be able to burn the video as a “non-standard” DVD disc.

The catch is that the majority of DVD players (especially older ones) will not play discs that are burned outside of the DVD specification. Some players may be able to play back HD video on a DVD, but these are rare and not widely supported by most manufacturers.

When recording high-definition video on to standard DVD-R discs, another drawback is that the runtime is dramatically reduced. When video is encoded using default Blu-ray settings, the maximum length you could fit on a single layer blank DVD-R would be about 45 minutes. In comparison, a BD-R disc can hold 2 hours of high-definition audio and video.

To answer the original question: can you record high definition video on to a standard DVD? The answer is yes, you can. Does that mean you should? Probably not. Your total runtime will be reduced by more than half, and you run the risk of creating a disc that most people cannot play back.

An alternative solution to burning HD video onto a DVD would be to recompress (shrink down) the video to DVD size. Many programs are available to convert the higher quality video into standard-definition for use with regular DVD-R discs.

The bottom line is this: if you want your DVD disc to be as compatible as possible with the greatest number of players, make sure to export and burn your DVD disc using standard NTSC settings.


By Learn how to trade emini S&P on November 8th, 2010 at 6:56 am

This looks nice, I have not tried it yet and have no knowledge about HD video but I heard that the quality is much better and this would be very useful for my presentations. I would like to know, what is the format of the hd video ? the dvd format is .avi which is use. Is it the same for HD video ?

What if you had less than 45 min of high-def footage you wanted blu-ray player owners to see, but you didn’t want to pay the up charge of going to a blu-ray disc? It’s more expensive and would have wasted space! Would blu-ray players be capable of playing high-def from a DVD?

S&P – Use mpeg-2 for HD and burn with a high bitrate.