Tuesday, October 25, 2011

George Mindling Column 7-8-2005 - DVDs Turn into 'Saucers"

Don't Let Your DVDs Turn into 'Saucers"

Many people have found that VHS videotapes may be less than a perfect way to save old memories. Many of my old VHS tapes are already stretched or distorted leaving me wondering how long before they are useless? What about the DVDs? How long before this “new” medium becomes unreliable? If you put paper adhesive labels on DVDs, you may have a problem immediately.

Writing DVDs, or “burning” as it is commonly called, no longer requires a personal computer. There are now DVD recorders that burn a blank DVD without any need for a PC. Many of today’s new DVD recorders have both VHS and DVD capabilities in the same unit and can copy from DVD to tape or tape to DVD. Making a copy of your last vacation video now only requires putting in the tape and a blank DVD. As usual with technology and competing companies, there are different format DVDs just as there was BetaMax and VHS. The difference is almost all new players will play back both the DVD+ and DVD- formats. The R/W formats may be different so checking the manuals is a must!

Almost all label manufacturers claim to overcome peeling and adhesive problems with CD/DVD labels, even the issue of imbalance has been minimized. What has come to light recently involves heat and the distortion of the disc as it heats up in the DVD player.

A quick check if you have this problem with a labeled disc is to take a disc that fails and hold it between two good, factory labeled, or even new blank disks. Hold the three disks between your thumb and forefinger and look at the disks from the edge. The distortion of the center disc will be obvious. The center disk has become a "saucer."  The distortion pulls the media out and away from the pick up laser.

Both CDs and DVDs write from the inside out, just the opposite from the old vinyl record players of the past that put the tonearm on the outside of a disc to start playing. As a result, a full CD or DVD has the end of the program material on the most susceptible portion of the disc, the outer edge. The outer edge of the disc shows the most distortion as the DVD or CD heats up. Letting the disc cool off seems to always temporarily fix the problem.

The problem does not appear to be limited to DVDs either. Home labeled CDs used in car players have always had problems playing an entire CD without skipping or dropping out after they got hot. Basically, one side of the disc expands, the other does not, resulting in the saucer shaped disc that won’t play back.

Marking up your precious DVDs with a marking pen will solve the problem and is a sure incentive to better penmanship.

George Mindling

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