DVD industry as a whole - and by that I mean computer drives,
recordable media, players, and home video releases - is flourishing
like never before. All we have to do is to take a look as the
DVD hardware, discs, and players practically flying off the shelves
at our local computer or consumer electronics retailer to realize
that DVD is now definitely the 'gold standard' for both the personal
computing and the home entertainment markets.
Recently released figures from the Consumer Electronics Association confirm
the continued exponential growth in sales of DVD – related products,
as well as their rapidly increasing consumer popularity.
That's the good news. However, the bad news is that, in spite of this overwhelming
success, recent news reports have also noted that compatibility rates for
recordable and rewritable DVDs are still, unfortunately, short of the 100%
According to the industry definitions, a recordable DVD disc is deemed
to be compatible if it is recorded on one device, and then can be played
back flawlessly on another. In addition, a recordable DVD is considered
to be compatible if its playback quality is equivalent to the playback
of pressed discs with identical content That makes sense, especially when
we consider the situation with rewritable DVDs, which are now universally
compatible with all consumer and PC playback and recording devices.
In order to properly fuel the growth of the recordable DVD market, it is
absolutely critical that we all achieve a similar level of interchange
compatibility with recordable DVDs.
While significant progress has been made in order to improve the compatibility
of newer drives and players, there is still a great deal of work to be
done in this area. In a compatibility study conducted jointly by the Optical
Storage Technology Association (OSTA), the DVD Association DVDA), and the
US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), tests indicated
that the compatibility rates are much higher for newer drives and players.
Also, interestingly, it was found that the type of media, whether writable
or rewritable, is not really a significant factor.
final, and thought-provoking, finding of the study was that
the most critical factor in all DVD disc and drive compatibility
comparisons is the quality of media, and not the format DVD-R,
DVD+R, DVD-RW or DVD+RW), or even the brand of drive. According
to the test data, when high-quality DVD recordable discs (discs
with Max Inner Parity Error of less than 280) are used, the
compatibility rate today stands at 95%.
Nevertheless, the industry still has quite a bit of work to do in order
to achieve the desired complete compatibility between DVD drives and media.
OSTA has been an instrumental force in these efforts by closely collaborating
with various manufacturers around the globe so that we can all keep pushing
the agenda on the DVD compatibility issue. The association formed a standing
DVD Compatibility Committee exclusively for this purpose.
This committee has been working directly with the leading media and drive
companies in order to develop an industry-wide solution based on a regular
series of compatibility and physical tests. The results of which are provided
to manufacturers for analysis and feedback. The group constantly examines
a wide variety of media types, recordable DVD drives, DVD ROM drives, and
consumer DVD players, and it defines objective testing methodologies and
parameters aimed at assisting manufacturers in identifying and fixing possible
problems between specific brand media and drive models.
As a next step in these tests, OSTA is continuing its work with both the
DVDA and the NIST to assist manufacturers in the ultimate goal of achieving
universal compatibility. A second phase of compatibility testing, which
is now under way, will analyze the performance of the top DVD recordable
drives and players now widely available to consumers, as well as the latest
high-speed media. OSTA plans to release the results of this testing phase
in the second quarter of 2004.
The compatibility testing underway by OSTA, DVDA and NIST is a positive
step forward in resolving the compatibility issues, but these organizations
cannot go at it without assistance from within the industry.
is a serious need to have greater involvement from a much wider
representation of companies throughout the entire DVD industry.
Participation from all drive and media manufacturers will facilitate
the testing of additional DVD products against industry benchmarks.
Through this process. which is conducted entirely confidentially,
specific models of drives and specific media that may have compatibility
issues can be identified, and the relevant information provided
to the manufacturers. This will then enable them to further fine-tune
their processes, sewing to improve industry-wide compatibility.
So, how do we all get there? For starters, let this commentary serve as
a worldwide invitation to all DVD drive and media manufacturers, who are
not currently involved, to join in the compatibility efforts as soon as
possible. Secondly, it is imperative that OSTA, DVDA. and NIST aggressively
move forward with its additional testing, while still continuing to solicit
the participation of other drive and media manufacturers. Again, by having
more companies and more products included in the benchmapping process,
the better off the industry -and allofus-willbe.
To ensure the highest possible level of satisfaction for the consumer,
the whole industry must work closely together to achieve the highest possible
level of compatibility between recordable and rewritable DVD discs, along
with a diverse range of players and DVD drives. Fine-tuning the manufacturing
processes to achieve universal compatibility can only be a win-win situation
for consumers and the companies involved, and everyone can only benefit
as a result.
As Benjamin Franklin once said, "We must indeed all hang together,
or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately." this is particularly
pertinent in the DVD sector. Drive and media manufacturers need each
other now, more than ever, in order to solve the remaining compatibility
ONE TO ONE • 02-2004