The Camcorder DVD and
Mini DVD Format:
Is This Digital Camera Storage Media Format for You?


Camcorder DVD Format

The camcorder DVD and Mini DVD format is for you if  you want a simple way to store and playback your video footage immediately after shooting it...!

Let's take a good look at this popular digital camera storage and playback media format…!


For several years the DVD was one of the most popular types of digital camera storage media and you can still find many of these types of camcorders still being sold and used today.

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DVD stands for "Digital Versatile Disc" or "Digital Video Disc". 

It is a familiar format as it is used extensively for storage and playback of movies (and other types of video) pictures and music files. The discs themselves are sturdy, compact and easy to handle. They can last for years and are great to use as a storage medium.

Blu-ray DVD playback unit

DVDs come in a regular size (4.7 inch (12 cm) across) and a mini size (3 inch (8 cm) across) and can record data and music, as well as video. The 3 inch (8 cm) Mini DVD is mainly used in camcorders and usually has a capacity of 30 minutes of video for a single-sided disc and 60 minutes for a *dual-layer disc.

Not all DVDs and miniDVDs are the same… They have different formats and will work only in the equipment designed to read/write to that particular type of DVD.

First... Let's Define Some Common DVD Terms…

Dual-Layer DVD Disc

* Dual-Layer DVD Disc...

Dual Layer DVD Disc

Is a DVD disc with two layers of data recorded on the same side. The second layer is accessed by changing the laser-beam's angle.

With the laser in the new position, the upper (first) layer is transparent, and the second layer can now be read.

This type of disc must be played back on dual-layer compatible equipment.


DVD Camcorder Disc Finalization
DVD – Disc Finalization

* Disc Finalization ...

Disc finalization is the process done electronically in the camcorder (or computer) that "closes" the DVD " R "  disk to any further recording...

Once this is done it can then be recognized and read in DVD playback devices.

This process can only be done on "  R  " type discs and not on RAM or RW discs.


DVD – Burning to Disc

* "Burning the Disc "or" Burning to the Disc"

Burning to DVD Disc on your computer

The process of "writing" to the DVD disk by using a precise laser beam to heat (Burn ) the dye on the disk causing it to alter its pattern.

When the disc is played back (Read ) the altered pattern of the dye causes the laser beam to "jump" (Not unlike a stylus on a vinyl disc) thus creating a pattern of digital electrical signals that are then read by the playback equipment and reproduced as video and/or sound.


What Does the "+ "and "– "Mean…?

I'm glad you asked...!  :-)

In the camcorder DVD and Mini DVD format the " + " and " - " are, in fact, different sub-formats, that require that the camcorder record in that  particular format.

Sony DVD
JVC DVD

You cannot record a " + " DVD or Mini DVD disc in a camcorder meant for " - " discs.

These two formats are mainly just a difference in preferences between the different camcorder and computer equipment manufacturers. Back in the days when these companies were fighting it out to win their share of the market they decided to create proprietary video recording media formats.

The " + " is primarily an HP/Sony format and is used mainly in their DVD and Mini DVD cameras. Samsung, Canon, Hitachi, Panasonic, JVC and many other camcorder makers use the " - " camcorder DVD and Mini DVD format making it the most popular one as there are more video cameras out there that use it.

No real difference in quality…It's a commercial thing…

Just manufacturers trying to get you to buy and use all of their  type of equipment… Their  DVDs, camcorders and playback equipment etc.

Oh well…

– R and + R Discs…

Verbatim DVD + R

An " R " format DVD is a "Write-Once" disc meaning it can only be recorded to only one time. Here's why…

This DVD R (both  and  + ) format uses an organic dye that will be permanently altered when the laser beam from the recorder hits it.

Once it is altered ("written-to" which is also called * "Burning to the disc ") by the laser beam it cannot be rewritten-to and the data recorded is fixed.

What are the advantages of this digital storage media format…?

Security of data is one of the greatest advantages of this camcorder DVD R format over other types of DVD discs. Once the data is written to the disc the material recorded cannot be accidentally erased. Also… footage, in this format, can be used immediately.

A DVD R format disc can be played (after *disc finalization) in almost all DVD players immediately after the footage is shot.

– RAM and + RAM Discs…

RAM stands for Random Access Memory.

Panasonic DVD RAM pack
Verbatim RAM disk

This is a re-recordable/erasable format that can be erased and rewritten-to 100,000 times or more on the average.

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The file structure on the disc is created as you shoot so the RAM format also allows for quick data access (just like a hard drive).

This type of disc isn't commonly used in camcorders but, you run across it from time to time so it's good to know at least a little bit about it. 

– RW and + RW Discs…

RW stands for Read/Write.

Maxell DVD + RW
Sony DVD - RW disc

The material used in the recording layer of an RW disc is different than that of a regular DVD R disc. The re-writable discs (both RAM and RW) use a metal alloy material instead of a organic dye as the medium that is being written-to.

By using the heat of a laser beam the alloy can be switched back and forth between a crystalline and an amorphous (lacking distinct crystalline structure) state. Doing this changes the reflectivity of the material thus making it a medium that can be written-to  and read-by  the camcorder's Recording unit.

When being recorded on the properties of the metal alloy RW discs are changed (written-to) by the camcorder but are not permanently  changed like the dye in the "R" format (Write-Once) discs.

Using this type of material... the data on the DVD can be changed the next time it is written-to therefore it can essentially be "erased" and written to again and again. This type of re-recordable/erasable disc format can be erased and rewritten to approximately 1000 times or more. Another advantage of RW discs is that the finalization process is not necessary and this type of media (much like hard drives or solid-state drives) is very fast in accessing files on the disc.

Some disadvantages are... the lower popularity of this format makes blank media for this format harder to find at retail stores and the cost will be higher than the Write-Once (R format) discs. But… This camcorder DVD and mini DVD format is still an excellent and economical choice for the videographer who will most likely download his footage to another type of storage medium after the shoot and wants to be able to reuse the same disc a number of times over.


I hope this article has helped you understand a little bit more about what DVDs are and the different sub-formats that are associated with them...!

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Have fun...!  Dan


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