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DVD Guide

by Zach B.


DVD Terms


You may not know these off the back of your hand, or know them as well as your SAT vocabulary list. Either way, here are some important DVD words and terms you should know. STUDY THEM HARD!


Anamorphic - Also known as 16x9 enhanced, Anamorphic simply means that the picture is formatted to fit your screen if you own one of those widescreen TVs. Though widescreen TVs are a small market as of now (a lot of people use the standard square 4:3 shape televisions), Anamorphic discs are very important if you own one. It also beneficial because they give higher resolution (up to 33% more). If a DVD is not anamorphic and you are watching it on a widescreen television, it will be letterboxed in a 16x9 ratio and create a squished and somewhat distorted image. This can be very annoying when watching. Still, square (4:3) TV owners beware, make sure your DVD player is set to 4:3 letterbox mode when watching a DVD that is Anamorphic, or the entire image will be fit into your box and it won't look right. By setting it on 4:3 letterbox, the image will have the proper letterboxing.

Dolby Digital - Dolby Digital is also used in theaters, and every DVD player (I am pretty sure on that one) has this decoding for you to get up to 5.1 channels of sound, for the best home theater expierence possible. Still, new recievers have 6.1, which was recently introduced in theaters with "Star Wars Episode 1". A good majority of movies have 5.1 (or hidden 6.1 "EX" mixes), but some DVDs due retain the new EX mixes. If the movie is older or is a TV show, it will most likely have 2.0 stereo or Surround (see below), or mono. Some discs also have Digital in 2.0 and mono mixes.

Dolby Surround - Another good sound option, Dolby Surround was the best and choice theater listening option when it was introduced, before Dolby Digital came along and you got a whole theater expierence. Either way, Dolby Surround is still very good, and usually uses only two speakers, but creates a "surround" effect. If you can't afford a major sound system, Dolby Surround is a good choice. A good majority of DVDs include 5.1 mixes and 2.0 (Surround) too, but some only 5.1 mixes. Usually for foreign language tracks Surround is used. There are also Dolby Surround 5.1 or 5.0 tracks, but usually it will be Dolby Digital. Surround mixeds are more limited, but a lot better than stereo.

DTS - Which is better? Dolby Digital or DTS? Another sound option, more recent players have DTS and Dolby Digital decoding. (A good majority of older players have only Dolby Digital). Meaning Digital Theater Sound (this sound is also used in theaters), the debate has always been there which sounds better, and everyone has their opinions. DTS also uses a few speakers and .1 LFE usually. Universal, New Line, Artisan, Dreamworks Warner Bros., Fox, Disney and a few other studios include both Dolby Digital and DTS on some of their discs. Some Universal and Dreamworks discs are released seperate, but others have both tracks. But because DTS requires a higher bitrate which requires more space, usually DVD supplements are scarce on DTS discs.

Easter Eggs - Not all DVDs have them, but Easter Eggs are quite a joy to treasure (somewhat). Basically, they are features, but they are hidden. Some discs will tell you if they have them, some won't. But the whole idea is that they don't tell you where, so you have to start searching. Some notable DVDs that have Easter Eggs are "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me" and "The Matrix".

Features - Also known as Supplements, Extras, etc. Something that really sets DVD apart from VHS are extra things included with movies. Though some Laserdiscs had these, they were at a much steeper price, but DVD offers great features with more superior picture and sound quality. DVDs range from having nothing on them, to full blown our special editions. Some features you may find on DVD are the theatrical trailers, documentaries, featurettes (much shorter behind the scenes making, but more promo like), deleted scenes, TV spots, games and websites (if you have DVD-ROM) and commentaries by people involved in the production, just to name a few things DVD does offer.

Pan and Scan - Tons of DVD lovers and film fans truly HATE this form of viewing. Pan and Scan (or "Pan and Scam") can really ruin a movie when viewed on video format. When videos are released for sale or rental, you usually can only get them in a form of viewing to fit square TVs, a ratio of 1:33:1. However, when titles are released as sell-through or sometimes a couple of months later with mass-market video, you can get them in widescreen. Still, for the most part, a good majority of DVDs have widescreen transfers. If you are watching a movie that was originally shown is the ratio of 2:35:1 on a square TV, and it fills the screen, you are losing 48% of the picture, and if you notice in a lot movies, you lose a lot and gets annoying. How does it get annoying? Well, for one thing, you don't even see part of the scene, and if it's cut at the wrong place, you may only see half of someone's body. But what really annoys people is that sometimes it slowly (or if you watch HBO, they do it fast, that gets on my nerves tremendously) pans, so you see the whole widescreen image. You see one part first, then it pans to the other part. Still, if you are watching a show or special or whatever on DVD, it makes no difference, because the original aspect ratio was 4:3. "Open Matte" means you actually see more, a top and bottom than the widescreen, and that it was matted for widescreen during the theatrical run. "Full Frame" or "Full Screen" is not Pan and Scan, there is no panning and scanning, but you do lose the picture still. Basically a movie stays in one place of the frame.

Widescreen - People get annoyed with the black bars (except if you own a widescreen TV and the disc is Anamorphic, where it fills the whole viewing area), but it's easy to see why so many love Widescreen. You truly see the original vision, nothing is lost and everything can be seen. No scans, no chopping, no cropping, no nothing. A lot of people like DVD because movies are offered in the widescreen format, which I prefer. Widescreen ratios usually come in 1.78:1, 1:85:1, 2:35:1 or 2.40:1 (but they sure can vary).