DVD/VCD Distribution

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DVD is a must in thinking about how to distribute your video work, particularly if your key audiences don't have good, or any, internet access. Additionally if your film is long it will be difficult for many people even with broadband to download, especially if you want to distribute it in high resolution.

DVD stands for Digital Versatile Disc and can be burned in many different formats and used to store any kind of data. DVD discs can have a single layer of information burned on one side (single-layer), two layers of information on one side (dual-layer) or have information on both sides (double-sided). Each layer or side can contain up to 4.7 Gigabytes of video or other data. DVD-Video discs contain video encoded in the MPEG2 format.

DVD-Video discs are designed to play back in DVD players or using DVD playback software on computers with DVD drives installed. The video is compiled along with graphics and sound for interactive menus into the DVD-Video format during the DVD authoring process.

VCD stands for Video Compact Disc and is basically a CD containing up to 74 minutes of video, in a format both hardware VCD players and most DVD players can play back. The video on a VCD is encoded as a standardised form of MPEG1 - an old video compression standard that requires less computing power to play back than many of the newer and more sophisticated codecs that are available. MPEG1-VCD is comparable to viewing a VHS in terms of perceptible image quality.

DVD and VCD - Advantages and Disadvantages

The advantages of distributing your video on DVD over VCD are:

  • quality – DVD uses a more sophisticated and better compression standard and can also hold a lot more data than VCD.
  • interactivity – the ability to create complex menus, subtitles and simultaneous video streams for additional camera-angles etc.
  • familiarity – audiences in some parts of the world are much more at ease with DVD technology.

The advantages of distributing your video on VCD over DVD are:

  • cost – the price of blank CD media is lower than blank DVD media
  • distribution – as CD's are an older technology many more people have CD players installed in their computers
  • ease of copying – many more people have access to a CD burner than a DVD burner and can therefore copy your movie for others themselves.
  • DVD player compatibility - the majority of hardware DVD players will play back VCDs and in many areas of the world VCD players and the VCD format in general are so popular that they are more widely available than DVDs.

Distribution Options

There are a few different options for distributing your video on DVD or VCD.

  • Submit your video to existing compilations. The producers of the compilation will look after distribution for you, though you can arrange to be responsible for distributing copies in your own area.
  • For small amounts of copies you can duplicate DVDs or VCDs yourself if you have a CD or DVD burner in your computer
  • If you anticipate distributing larger numbers of discs then you can author a master disc and have it professionally duplicated. Prices are continually dropping for duplication and digital printing. You can then choose to either set up an ordering system yourself online or through the post, or pass the discs on to a mail-order company that may have their own online credit-card ordering facility to take the trouble of filling orders and delivering them out of your hands.

Tips for Making a DVD

  • Decide what content you wish to include on the DVD – video segments may include the programme itself and additional video such as a trailer or extra footage, text info about the video and the issues concerned with links to further information, production stills, logos and some audio loops for background music in the menus.
  • One of the advantages of the DVD format is that you can include sub-titles for different languages, or original language subtitles can be activated for the hearing-impaired, so prepare translations if you have the time and resources.
  • Work with a graphic designer to create images for menu backgrounds and buttons or create them yourself
  • Import your video into your DVD authoring application – some applications will let you import the DV file you have exported from an editing program as it will be transcoded within the application itself, while others will expect you to have encoded the video as MPEG2 that conforms to DVD specifications.
  • Arrange your content within intuitively designed menus that will be easy for users to navigate.
  • Create the DVD master using your authoring application and test on a DVD player to make sure it works correctly including all menu buttons.
  • Make sure you author your DVD as region-free (known as Region 0), enabling the disc to be played on DVD players sold in different regions of the world. You will still have to choose to author the DVD as either PAL or NTSC depending on where in the world you are going to distribute the discs.
  • Copy this master using a DVD burner and a DVD burning application or take it along with graphics for the disc and jacket to a professional duplication company for bulk copies to be made.

Tips for Making VCDs

  • Export your video segments as MPEG1 using the MPEG1 VCD settings for either PAL or NTSC depending on which territories you will be distributing the disc in.
  • Import your MPEG1 video files (in the .mpg format) to your VCD authoring or CD burning application. Many CD burning applications will let you author a VCD as one of their options.
  • Choose to burn your CD in the VCD 2.0 format. Each video file you imported will create a separate chapter on the disc that can be skipped forward or backward to using the DVD player remote control or media player software on computer.
  • Burn your VCD and test on software media players and on your hardware DVD player.


In the realm of Free and Open Source software there are some adequate but not brilliant tools for creating DVDs and VCDs. If you want to make a professional quality DVD with advanced menus and
graphics we suggest you look at proprietary software like DVD Studio Pro (Mac) or Adobe Encore (Windows).

If you can't get access to the these tools or have more modest requirements you might like to have a look at


This content is build upon the Guide to Digital Video Distribution