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Frequently Asked Questions

Our experts are here to help!

About Digital Video
Viewing and Storing your Digital Video files
What format for your Digital video files?
What are DVD Region Codes?
What's a dual-layer disc? Will it work in all players?
What's widescreen? How do the aspect ratios work?
How long do DVDs last?
What happens if I scratch the disc?
How should I clean and care for DVDs?
Repairing DVDs

About Digital Video

More and more customers are asking us about having their tapes converted to digital files for use on their computers. Video tape is now a dying technology. Your tapes will probably last for another 10 years before the magnetically recorded data starts to disintegrate, but there may be no video recorders to play them in at that stage.

Viewing and Storing your Digital Video files

At DVD Centre we have facilities to convert your video tapes to digital format. This means you can store them on your computer and view them at the click of a mouse. You can also store your digital videos files on a hard drive, a memory stick or in "The Cloud". You can even upload them to Facebook, YouTube or your favourite video sharing website.

What format for your Digital video files?

If you have a Mac, we recommend you convert the files to Quicktime movies, which are standard on Macs. If you have a Windows PC we recommend you convert the files to Mpeg-2 or Windows Media files, which are suitable for this type of system.

What are DVD Region Codes?

Film studios want to control the home release of movies in different countries because releases aren't simultaneous. A movie may come out on video in the U.S. when it's just hitting screens in Europe. Therefore they require that DVDs are coded to prevent playback of certain discs in certain geographical regions. Each player is given a code for the region in which it's sold. The player will refuse to play discs that are not coded for its region. This means that a disc bought in one country may not play on a player bought in another country.

Seven regions have been defined, and each one is assigned a number. Players and discs are identified by their region number.

Region 1 U.S., Canada, U.S. Territories
Region 2 Europe, Japan, South Africa, and Middle East
Region 3 Southeast Asia, East Asia, Hong Kong
Region 4 Australia, New Zealand, Pacific Islands, Central and South America, Mexico and the Caribbean
Region 5 Eastern Europe (Former Soviet Union), Indian subcontinent, Africa, North Korea.
Region 6 China
Region 7 Reserved
Region 8 Special international venues (airplanes, cruise ships, etc.)

Technically there is no such thing as a region zero disc or a region zero player. There is such thing as an all-region disc. There are also all-region players. Some players can be physically modified ("chipped") to play discs regardless of the regional codes on the disc. Many retailers sell players that have already been modified for multiple regions.

What's a dual-layer disc? Will it work in all players?

A dual-layer disc has two layers of data, one of them semi-transparent so that the laser can focus through it and read the second layer. Since both layers are read from the same side, a dual-layer disc can hold almost twice as much as a single-layer disc, typically 4 hours of video. The second layer can use either a PTP (parallel track path) layout where both tracks run in parallel (for independent data or special switching effects), or an OTP (opposite track path) layout where the second track runs in an opposite spiral; that is, the pickup head reads out from the center on the first track then in from the outside on the second track. When the laser pickup head reaches the end of the first layer it changes focus to the second layer and starts moving back toward the center of the disc. The advantage of two layers is that long movies can use higher data rates for better quality than with a single layer.

What's widescreen? How do the aspect ratios work?

Video can be stored on a DVD in 4:3 format (the older TV shape) or 16:9 (widescreen). The width-to-height ratio of older televisions is 4 to 3. New widescreen televisions, specifically those designed for HDTV, have a ratio of 16 to 9.

DVD is specially designed to support widescreen displays. Widescreen 16:9 video, such as from a 16:9 video camera, can be stored on the disc in anamorphic form, meaning the picture is squeezed horizontally to fit the standard 4:3 rectangle, then unsqueezed during playback.

Letterbox (often abbreviated to LBX) means the video is presented in its cinema aspect ratio, which is wider than standard or widescreen TV. Black bars, called mattes, are used to cover the gaps at the top and bottom.

How long do DVDs last?

DVDs are read by a laser, so they never wear out from being played since nothing touches the disc. Commercially pressed discs (the kind that movies come on) will probably last longer, anywhere from 50 to 100 years.

Expected longevity of dye-based DVD-R and DVD+R discs is anywhere from 20 to 250 years. The phase-change erasable formats (DVD-RAM, DVD-RW, and DVD+RW) have an expected lifetime of 25 to 100 years.

In all cases, longevity can be reduced by poor quality material or manufacturing. Poor quality pressed DVDs may deteriorate within a few years, and cheap recordable DVDs may produce errors when recording or may become unreadable after a while. In other words, you get what you pay for. If longevity is important, invest in high-quality media.

For comparison, magnetic media (tapes and disks) last 10 to 30 years; high-quality, acid-neutral paper can last 100 years or longer; and archival-quality microfilm is projected to last 300 years or more. Note that computer storage media often becomes technically obsolete within 20 to 30 years, long before it physically deteriorates. In other words, before the media becomes unviable it may become difficult or impossible to find equipment that can read it.

What happens if I scratch the disc?

Scratches may cause minor data errors that are easily corrected. Data is stored on DVDs using powerful error correction techniques that can recover from even large scratches with no loss of data. Major scratches may cause uncorrectable errors that will produce an I/O error on a computer or show up as a momentary glitch in DVD-Video picture. Paradoxically, sometimes the smallest scratches can cause the worst errors (because of the particular orientation and refraction of the scratch).

How should I clean and care for DVDs?

Since DVDs are read by a laser, they are resistant to fingerprints, dust, smudges, and scratches. However, surface contaminants and scratches can cause data errors, so it's a good idea to take care of your discs. In general treat them the same way as you would a CD. Don't attempt to play a cracked disc, as it could shatter and damage the player. It doesn't hurt to leave the disc in the player, even if it's paused and still spinning, but leaving it running unattended for days on end might not be a good idea. Handle discs only at the hub or outer edge. Don't touch the shiny surface with your greasy fingers.

Store in a protective case when not in use. Don't bend the disc when taking it out of the case, and be careful not to scratch the disc when placing it in the case or in the player tray. Make certain the disc is properly seated in the player tray before you close it.

Keep discs away from radiators, heaters, hot equipment surfaces, direct sunlight, pets, small children, and other destructive forces. Magnetic fields have no effect on DVDs, so it's ok to leave them sitting on your speakers.

Repairing DVDs

If you notice problems when playing a disc, you may be able to correct them with a simple cleaning. Do not use strong cleaners, abrasives, solvents, or acids.

With a soft, lint-free cloth, wipe gently in only a radial direction (a straight line between the hub and the rim). Since the data is arranged circularly on the disc, the micro scratches you create when cleaning the disc will cross more error correction blocks and be less likely to cause unrecoverable errors.

For stubborn dirt or gummy adhesive, use water, water with mild soap, or isopropyl alcohol. As a last resort, try peanut oil. Let it sit for about a minute before wiping it off.
There are commercial products that clean discs and provide some protection from dust, fingerprints, and scratches. CD cleaning products work as well as DVD cleaning products.

If you continue to have problems after cleaning the disc, you may need to attempt to repair one or more scratches. Sometimes even hairline scratches can cause errors if they just happen to cover an entire error correction (ECC) block. Examine the disc to find scratches, keeping in mind that the laser reads from the bottom.

There are essentially two methods of repairing scratches: 1) fill or coat the scratch with an optical material; 2) polish down the scratch. There are many commercial products that do one or both of these, or you may wish to do it yourself with polishing compounds or toothpaste. The trick is to polish out the scratch without causing new ones. A mess of small polishing scratches may cause more damage than a big scratch. As with cleaning, polish only in the radial direction.

Contact our experts!

If you do not find the answer to your question in this list of frequently asked quesions, then please visit our studios or fill out our enquiry form and one of our DVD experts will respond to your query within 24 hours.

Opening hours: Monday to Friday 9.30 to 5.30. Open during lunch.

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DVD Centre are Ireland's digital media specialists. Located in the heart of Dublin City for over thirteen years, we provide services to both personal and corporate clients. Our staff aim to make complex technologies simple to understand. Whether it’s a single tape conversion or a corporate client requiring archiving of video and audio tapes, our friendly, professional staff are here to help.

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