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DVD Rot: Fact Or Fiction?

DVDs are durable but may have their faults.

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The Success of DVD

DVD has been celebrated by consumer electronics manufacturers, the movie studios, and an overwhelming number of consumers as the best means of storing and distributing video content. With its large storage capacity, exceptional video and audio quality, and versatility in both home entertainment and data storage, the DVD has become, undoubtedly, the most successful consumer product ever. DVD didn't even exist in the consumer's mind before 1996 and, in a very brief time, has displaced both laserdisc and VHS from store shelves. For all parties involved, this is too good to be true. However, an apparent glitch has surfaced that may put a damper on the party: DVD Rot.

Appearances May Be Deceiving

It seems that, with DVDs, outward appearances may be deceiving. What appears to be an indestructible 5-inch disc, is actually a delicate audio/video/data storage device that is held together by a laminated outer surface containing layers of plastic and reflective metal coatings, and held together by special glues.

If manufactured with proper quality control at the production line end, placed and removed properly from its storage case when used, and stored properly by the consumer, DVDs will definitely outlive their video tape counterparts.

DVD Quality Control Issues

However, it has come to light that a small percentage of DVDs are suffering deteriorating effects, such as cloudy areas (that look like coffee stains), holes, and specs that show up after repeated playings. In addition, some multi-layered DVDs (DVDs that in which the movie is extremely long or has lots of features on a single disc) seem to be experiencing layer separation or other defects that show up as skips or pixelization when the laser in the DVD player has to switch between the layers. Sometimes the DVD player will actually freeze at this point, preventing the playing of the next DVD layer. Much of this may be attributed to lack of quality control at the factory where the DVDs are made.

Another quality control point that is being missed by some manfacturers is the type of center spindle used in DVD storage cases. While most spindles enable the easy release of the DVD, some spindles I have encountered are so stiff that they can tear the edges of the outer lamination of a DVD in such as way that dust and other particles can creep in and cause disc playability issues as time goes on.

Unfortunately, at the time this article is being posted, neither the consumer electronics industry or consumer advocacy groups have addressed this issue in a systematic fashion (watch for updates on this), however, several reliable private parties, some of the print and online media have taken notice and are advocating action in this regard. Even the movie studios are responding in a mixed fashion. Some studios have replaced defective DVDs while others have refused to replace defective DVDs past the normal warranty period.

Impact on Recordable DVDs

In addition, with the rapid acceptance of recordable DVD, no one has done an extensive evaluation of the dozens of brands of DVD-R/-RW/+R/+RW/RAM discs now available for preserving video at home on DVD. On the other hand, there haven't been any major reports of deterioration of these discs. Undoubtedly, there are differences in disc construction quality by manufacturers; my advice would be to stick to a brand name that you are familiar with, such as TDK, Philips, Memorex, and Ricoh.

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