Free the mouse Replay ReplayToDVD
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With the price of DVD burners and DVD-R media dropping weekly, the simple thought "can I archive my tv shows to DVD-R instead of videotape" comes to mind.

The answer is a qualified yes. It is not for the faint of heart, however, and is a tedius and time consuming undertaking.

Media and Formats

The media itself is confusing, at this time there are 7 different forms of DVD-recordable media and they are not compatible with each other. DVD-R(A), DVD-R(G), DVD-RW, DVD-RAM, DVD+R, DVD+RW and DVD+RAM.

The most compatible of these is DVD-R(G) (the 'G' means General Use, the 'A' means for Authoring). DVD-R(G) media is the cheapest at around $1.50 per disc.

DVD+RW with it's "compatiblity" setting is said to be more compatible with older set top players but this has yet to be proven in the field.

(Overall with either -R or +R you can expect roughly 80% compatibility with settop players.)

Mastering Software

DVD mastering software for Windows is currently in it's first generation. Expect tedium and some bugs. There are now a few packages for Windows: Sonic Solution's DVDit, Sonic Solution's MyDVD? (simplier cousin to DVDit), MediaChance?'s DVDLab and ULead's DVD Factory. There are a few high end packages but unless you want to spend a few thousand dollars, those three are your best options.

Replay Streams

The Replay 4000/5000 MPEG2 streams are somewhat compatible but the maximum peak bitrate for a DVD is 9.7MBps and the Replay on "High" recording quality can peak at 12Mbps. For direct burning, I'd recommend "Medium" (4MBps) which doesn't peak as high. Otherwise, it will need to be transcoded before you can import the files into the DVD mastering software.


If you don't want commercials, it becomes more complicated still, as you'll need some type of MPEG2 editor. Ideally the editor should be capable of producing a file compatible with DVD parameters which are more specific than general MPEG2 parameters. MPEG2 editing software on Windows runs from just under one hundred dollars to several thousand dollars.


Lastly, DVD recordable media can only fit 4.7 gigabytes of information. This is roughly 100 minutes of footage. If you want to squeeze more you'll likely need to transcode the file to a lower bitrate. Pegasys Software's TMPGEnc Plus is a bargain for this at $49. A demo is availible. Most transcodes will take the average machine between 12 and 24 hours to perform so make sure you have plenty of other stuff to do while your machine crunches data.


Q: 100 minutes? How can some DVDs fit nearly 3 times that?

A: Commercial DVDs can be 'dual layered' which brings the capacity up to 9 gigabytes. It will likely be a few more years before dual-layer DVD recordable media is available. For single layer you can also maximize space by using techniques such as 4-pass VBR. Good VBR transcoding does exist on PCs but it will take a long time to process (days).

-- LeeThompson - 30 May 2002

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Revision r1.5 - 29 Apr 2003 - 01:28 GMT - LeeThompson

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