Confusing DVD scene: Plus vs Minus Formats

Discussion in 'Amateur Video Production' started by Fred, Aug 24, 2003.

  1. Fred

    Fred Guest

    Now that DVD video recorders are at last coming down in price in New Zealand
    (for example, the Panasonic DMRE30 is on special at $NZ1000), I thought I
    might splash out and buy one. After a quick search on internet, I found
    that, like the early days of VHS tapes, there are different DVD formats,
    such as the pre-recorded commercial DVD format, and the home DVD recorder
    formats, that is +R, +RW, -R, -RW, and DVD-RAM. After a while I came across
    a good site about DVD recorders that use the + (plus) format:

    After some further research, I realised that the Panasonic DMRE30 is based
    on the DVD-RAM and DVD minus formats, and probably won't play back plus R
    and plus RW DVDs. Can anyone confirm that this is the case please. I then
    read that several companies are manufacturing DVD recorders for computer and
    TV use that are compatible with both the plus and minus formats, but it
    seems that only one or two companies, such as Panasonic, support the DVD-RAM
    format. Is this correct?

    When you look at the advertisements in New Zealand for DVD players and
    recorders, they are often not very specific about which formats they
    support. For example, it seems that Philips players and recorders are
    primarily based on the plus format, and although they don't advertise that
    they will play minus formatted DVDs, they often can do this. I think the
    retailers need to be quite specific when they advertise DVD players and
    recorders and say which formats they will and will NOT support.

    It seems to me that the only safe way for consumers to proceed is to buy
    only recorders and players that clearly say they support both the plus and
    minus formats, because it isn't clear at this stage which format will
    continue on into the future. Will it be the plus format, the minus format,
    the DVD-RAM format, or a new format altogether? As a new entrant to the fast
    growing DVD industry, I find the scene is extremely confusing and that
    retailers are seldom explaining the plus vs minus format battle and its
    implications to consumers.

    Fred, Aug 24, 2003
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  2. Fred

    Mutley Guest


    One thing. Don't buy a DVD recorder that does NOT have a hard disk
    built in. You will regret it.

    Most DVD recorders use the DVDRAM format for it's reuse format. i.e
    you can copy from the built in hard disk and put on DVDRAM for PC
    editing. For permanent storage the DVD-R format would be fine. If
    you worried by not having the DVD+ format supported buy a PC like like
    the Pioneer AO6 that supports both + and - or a LG 4040 writer that
    supports all 3 formats RAM, + and -

    However I will wait a little longer until these DVD recorders drop in
    Mutley, Aug 24, 2003
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  3. Fred

    Fred Guest

    Thanks for this advice Mutley, I agree that a built-in hard disk is a really
    good feature. I see that the Panasonic DMR-E100H DVD-RAM Recorder has a
    built-in 120GB hard disk, which is capable of storing up to 160 hours of
    video in the EP mode:

    Although the DMRE100H DVD Video Recorder can also record onto DVD-R discs,
    strangely it doesn't seem to be able to record onto rewritable DVD-RW discs.
    Therefore, it seems that every time you want to take one of your DVD
    recordings and play the DVD on another DVD player, you can only use a once
    only recordable DVD-R. I think this is a pity because I guess that most of
    the TV recordings you make you would be prepared to write over once you had
    watched them. The DMRE100H doesn't seem to have the capacity to play back
    either DVD+R or DVD+RW DVDs, so this seems to be quite a strong disadvantage
    (but I am not sure on this point).

    The Panasonic DMRE-E100H also records on DVD-RAM, but am I correct in saying
    that these DVDs cannot be played on most DVD players? Although DVD-RAM seems
    to be a really good (but relatively expensive) format, if the DVD is not
    transportable between many different DVD players, then you may need to watch
    these DVDs on the DVD recorder itself.

    I see that the new DVD camcorders (such as the Sony DCR-DVD300 and the
    Panasonic VDRM30) are using the minus format rather than the plus format:

    I guess this shows that the minus format is still quite healthy, despite all
    the disadvantages of the minus format as set out at:

    I was impressed with this article, and I would certainly like a DVD video
    recorder (that is used for recording TV programs) to be able to record in
    the plus and minus rewritable and once-only formats.

    Fred, Aug 25, 2003
  4. Fred

    Fred Guest

    Although I agree that a DVD Recorder that has a 120GB hard disk is useful
    for making recordings in the first instance, unless the recordings are
    subsequently transferred to a DVD-R DVD, then these recordings can't be
    viewed in any other player. However, the Panasonic DMRE-100H doesn't seem to
    allow you to record on rewritable DVD-RW or DVD+RW DVDs. Would anyone be
    able to confirm this point?

    To illustrate the confusion that exists about the DVD compatibility issue,
    Newbolds Electric Store in New Zealand recently advertised the Panasonic
    DVD-S35 player as follows:

    "The multi-format capability of this DVD player will future-proof your
    investment in this technology."

    When I enquired at Newbolds whether the DVD-S35 would play back +RW DVDs
    that were recorded in a Philips DVD recorder, I was told that, because +RW
    DVDs have not been finalized, they could not be played back in the S35. But
    the site makes it clear that +RW DVDs do not need
    to be finalized for them to be playable in DVD players. However, the catch
    is that not all players will play back +RW DVDs, as shown on the following

    After further enquiry, I was advised by Panasonic NZ that the Panasonic DVD
    Player DVD-S35 is one of those that will not play back +RW DVDs. There is
    also some doubt whether the S35 will play back +R DVDs. This is borne out by
    the information on the Panasonic web site about the DVDS35.

    Therefore, in my opinion, the S35 does not future proof your investment in
    DVD technology as claimed. But some other DVD players available in New
    Zealand, such as the Sony DVP-NS530, claim they can play back +RW, +R, -RW,
    and -R DVDs, but this player is not compatible with the DVD RAM format.
    Although the Panasonic S35 will play back DVD RAM DVDs, a single sided
    DVD-RAM disc costs about $NZ20 and a double sided one costs about $35, so
    this format is quite expensive, but it looks to be more durable than the
    normal DVDs.

    I think that all DVD recorders and players should clearly display what DVD
    formats they are compatible with and those they are not compatible with. If
    this is not done, consumers can easily be misled by advertisements for DVD
    players that claim to future proof your investment.

    Fred, Aug 26, 2003
  5. First, I absolutely agree that you will want a built-in hard drive. I own
    two Panasonic DVD recorders --- the HS2 and the E80. Both have built-in
    hard drives.

    There continues to be much confusion about the DVD formats (+/- and RAM).
    Here's the straight facts.

    First you need to understand that +/-R will only play on a typical DVD
    player AFTER you "finalize the disc. Finalizing the disc does two things:
    1) No more recording or editing possible, and 2) Converts the disc format
    to "DVD Video" (technically it is no longer a + or a - disc at this point).
    DVD Video is the format of most commercial DVD movies that you can purchase
    or rent.

    Way too much has been made of the format differences as it relates to DVD
    recording. Meanwhile, these ignorant, opinionated people have failed to
    pass along the most important benefits of each format. For example, time
    after time I see opinions from people who are "afraid of RAM format" ---
    without ever having owned or even knowing what they are talking about.
    Consider the following:

    Compatible with approx. 85% of DVD players now in use.
    Compatible with approx. 99% of new players now being produced and sold.
    Write once format.
    Editing limited to deleting tracks/programs and adding program titles ---
    BEFORE "finalizing".
    No other editing possible.
    Empty space created by deleting tracks CANNOT be re-used (dead space).

    Compatible with approx. 75% of DVD players now in use.
    Compatible with approx. 90% of new DVD players now being produced and sold.
    Re-writeable format up to 1,000 times.
    Limited editing directly on the disc, but can be completely erased and

    Compatible with less than 5% of DVD players now in use and/or being produced
    and sold.
    IMPORTANT: Panasonic has RAM playback capability on ALL current models
    (even the cheap ones).
    Best video quality of any format available.
    Most flexible recording format available (all editing can be done directly
    on disc).
    Editing includes easy elimination (removal) of commercials and unwanted
    High speed dubbing (up to 8x) both "to and from" hard drive, with NO
    Re-writeable up to 100,000 times.
    Typically a little cheaper for blank discs than +/-RW.
    Blank discs are available which are housed inside a cartridge (easily
    removable, great protection, easy labeling).
    Two sided blank discs available (can hold up to 12 hours at EP speed).

    The most misunderstood thing about RAM is the fact that EVEN IF more players
    were compatible, most people would still NEVER give recordings to
    friends/family on a RAM disc. It costs too much (compared to +/-R), and the
    person who only owns only a PLAYER cannot do any editing anyway. Right now,
    average costs for blank discs are:

    +/-R $0.75 to $2.00 each
    +/-RW $4.50 to $8.00 each
    RAM $4.00 to $8.00 each (single sided)

    Most of us who own RAM compatible recorders use RAM discs exclusively for
    our own personal archived recordings. We then use the RAM (or hard drive)
    to burn a DVD-R copy to give to others. This way, our own recordings stay
    at the highest quality possible (called a "Master") and friends get a
    perfectly viewable copy.

    My advice is to forget all the crap you hear (and read) about compatability
    issues. Panasonic is far and away the leader in DVD recording technology.
    Sony, Toshiba, Phillips and others are trying to catch up and they (as
    always) have decided to perpetuate a format difference in order to pull
    people away from the competition. Meanwhile, their chosen format (+/-RW)
    has considerable limitations as compared to RAM. Do I need to remind anyone
    of the history concerning Sony's comittment to the BETA VCR format?

    I am not here to push Panasonic as a brand. In fact, there are no "perfect"
    DVD recorders at this time. Every single one leaves something to be desired
    (aside from format compatability issues). However, Panasonic has the best
    features and recording format available for the forseeable future.

    On the computer side, we now see readily avilable "SUPER DRIVES" that can
    burn and play ALL formats --- including RAM. Do keep in mind that while the
    computer side offers much more sophisticated editing possibilities and lower
    hardware costs (for the DVD burner itself), newbies and computer dummies
    should enter this arena with considerable caution. Unlike stand alone DVD
    recorders (which function much like a TIVO), computer burning carries a
    considerable learning curve and can easily cause you to spend big bucks to
    upgrade your computer.

    Hope some of this info will help you.

    P.S. For all of the procrastinators who are waiting for the prices to come
    down. Be aware that there already is a better technology available on the
    market. You guessed it --- it is yet another completely different
    (uncompatible) format. It is called "Blue-Ray". Utilizes a blue laser,
    instead of a red one (all others currently use red). The blue laser is much
    finer and can compress much more data onto a DVD size disc. Blue-Ray discs
    can hold up to 28 hours. Sony already has a unit available for around

    My point is, what will you do in another year when stand alone DVD recorders
    (with hard drive) are down to about $350, but the Blue-Ray recorder is in
    full production at $1,000 each (and Blue-Ray players are about $250 each)?
    Will you be able to overcome your fear of prices and compatability to buy
    outdated technology that produces non-compatible discs (cannot play on
    Blue-Ray players)?

    Why not do your research and dive in now? In home electronics, waiting
    never really clears up the issues due to continual changes in technology.
    By taking the plunge now, you can be enjoying so many great recordings while
    Blue-Ray is still being developed. Besides, unless professionally stored,
    those old VHS tapes are losing image quality with every passing day (due to
    oxidation effects).
    Jim Wilkerson, Aug 27, 2003
  6. On Mon, 25 Aug 2003 12:24:37 +1200, "Fred"
    Can anyone tell me the difference between EP and SP mode? My VCR
    plays NTSC tapes in EP format in black and white. Everything else
    appears to be fine, stereo etc.
    Jacques de Basnage, Aug 28, 2003
  7. Fred

    Fred Guest

    Thanks very much Jim for your very informative posting. With regard to plus
    and minus RW (+ / - RW), there are substantial differences betweeen these
    formats as set out at:

    People I have talked to who have invested in DVD recorders using the +R /
    +RW format, say that DVD+RW recordings do not need to be finalised and can
    be played back immediately in any DVD-Video compatible DVD players. This is
    a very important feature. In addition, after the +RW recording has been
    completed, you can later add or amend chapter markers in the DVD recorder,
    and after using the function "make edits compatible" the DVD will again be
    compatible with any DVD-Video compatible DVD players. On a DVD "minus" RW
    recorder, you cannot add chapter stops manually when the recording is made
    in "compatible mode", that is, when a decision was made at the start of the
    recording to make the disc compatible with a normal DVD-Video player. There
    are lots of other important differences between the plus and minus RW
    formats as set out in the "dvdplusrw" site referred to above, which I think
    is essential reading to anyone considering purchasing a DVD recorder that
    will record only in the "minus" and / or "RAM" format.

    Is it likely that other "big brand" DVD players (such as Sony and Philips)
    will incorporate RAM playback capability in their DVD players in future? I
    think it is important for a DVD recorder to be able to produce a rewritable
    DVD that is compatible with most DVD players on the market. This allows
    people to record TV programs etc, share them with others, and then erase the
    DVDs and use them again when everyone has finished using them. My concern
    with Panasonic recorders is that they do not meet this objective very well
    because they produce only DVD-R discs (record once only) and RAM discs, and
    as you say above, RAM discs are not compatible with most of the DVD players
    now in use. Can any Panasonic recorders produce +RW or -RW DVDs?
    I am interested in this statement because it could be a compelling future
    reason for manufacturers to make their DVD players and recorders compatible
    with RAM discs. How much better is the quality of RAM discs compared with
    other DVD formats? Is there a web site that compares RAM discs with other
    DVD formats?
    The plus RW format also has quite substantial post recording editing
    capabilities as set out at:
    Can more complex editing be performed on RAM discs than can be achieved on
    plus rw discs, i.e. what sort of extra functions?
    This can also be done on +RW discs by adding chapter markers at any given
    location in the recording and then assigning some of these chapters as
    "hidden during playback".
    This is a big plus in favour of RAM discs, as "normal" DVDs can be rewritten
    only about 1,000 times.
    In New Zealand, blank RAM discs are about two or three times dearer than
    I agree that these are good advantages of RAM discs.
    However, as mentioned above, if friends / family are given a +RW disc, they
    can ask for chapter headings to be placed at desired points in the recording
    and this can easily be done on the recorder and the same disc is then given
    back to the person who requested the changes. One of the major advantages of
    DVDs is the ability to go directly to any chapter, so the way the recorders
    handle the creation / amendment of chapters is very important.
    In New Zealand, +/-R cost about $7 to $10 each, +/-RW cost about $12 to $15
    each, single-sided RAM cost about $20 each, and double-sided RAM cost about
    $50 each.

    If "Blue-Ray" is to be the format of the future, perhaps all in the industry
    should get together now and devise one overall compatible DVD format. At
    present, DVD players and recorders need to be compatible with +R,
    +RW, -R, -RW, and RAM to ensure compatibility between the formats currently
    available. Perhaps "Blue-Ray" can eliminate the shambles and uncertainty
    that is resulting from all these competing formats.

    Fred, Aug 29, 2003
  8. Fred

    AnthonyR Guest

    I agree!
    I loved my Philip DVR-1000 standalone for all those reasons, however, I sent
    it in for service last week, and got a call that they are sending me back
    the cheaper DVD985 as a replacement. I wish they would have at least sent
    the newer generation DVD80 etc.. But you can't argue with a repair center.

    Anyway, hopefully the newer Philips will have less reliability problems than
    the older ones. Definately get an extended warranty if you can!

    Good luck,
    AnthonyR, Aug 29, 2003

  9. It may be, but bear in mind that the three standards are being pushed by 3
    competing groups.

    panasonic is pushing dvd-ram

    sony/philips are pushing dvd+rw

    most of the rest are pushing dvd-rw

    Sony has just started selling DVD+-RW/RAM computer drives, at about $800
    each (vs about $300 for +-RW and about $180 for +RW drives)

    Think of it as VHS/BETA/Video2000 all over again. I think DVD-RAM will be
    an early casualty. The big push in europe is now +RW. 6 months ago
    everything was -RW, so the market may have already decided.
    Uncle StoatWarbler, Aug 29, 2003
  10. I've bought a Panasonic DMR-HS2 ( with the 40GB drive ) about a
    month ago. I asked about the new model, and was told that it
    would probably be available in NZ around September-October.

    I suggested an end-of-line discount for the DMR-HS2 could be appropriate,
    and got what I consider a good package deal of recorder, five -R and
    five 9.4GB -RAM Panasonic disks from the retailer ( thereby initially
    ensuring I don't run into the media issues discussed at some sites).

    I've been very pleased with the unit, and there is a huge amount of
    information for novice users of that specific model available eg

    I've not had any issues, and the 40GB disk is just fine, as preventative
    housekeeping and use of DVDs is easy. Overall, I'd say that negotiating
    a good deal for this or a similar product may be timely, as it still
    offers many advantages over VCRs, and it's no longer a bleeding edge

    I can't get excited about media format wars, the disks are cheap and
    readily available, and likely to remain so for the anticipated life
    of the unit. If somebody wants a copy of a recording I've made, it's
    their problem to sort out compatibility, as it's purchased for our
    use, however YMMV - according to your intended use.

    Followups set to nz.general only.

    Bruce Hamilton
    Bruce Hamilton, Aug 29, 2003
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