Perky news

Dear editor:

My ex-wife frequently preferred “style over substance.” That's a big part of why I divorced her.

I think you're dead-on in your August 2006 editorial on packaging — especially as it related to Katie Couric. I must admit, I really liked Couric on “The Today Show,” but I'm not so sure about her anchoring the “CBS Evening News.”

Did you catch her request at the end of her first broadcast? She asked the viewers for help finding an appropriate catch phrase. As stupid as Dan Rather's “courage” was, you can bet he didn't hire a focus group to come up with it.

Oh, Uncle Walter! Now I know why you introduced her in a voiceover and not on-camera. I wouldn't have been able to keep a straight face either!
Name withheld by request

DVD authoring

Craig Birkmaier:

Recently, my company created a DVD on our Pioneer PRV-LX1 DVD hard drive system. We tested that DVD in every laptop and DVD player in our facility to make sure it played properly and experienced no problems.

When we gave the DVD to our client, it skipped on his laptop. We told him that no DVD would play on every laptop. If it was an old computer with an underpowered video card or processor, it could skip.

We suggested that the best option would be to play the DVD in a DVD player. We even lowered the bit rate (grudgingly, because we didn't want to lose quality).

The client is concerned that if he orders 10,000 DVDs, there is no way to ensure they won't skip. What is the best way to guarantee DVDs don't skip, and what would you suggest as the optimum bit rate for most DVD players?
David Hardy
Take One Productions

Craig Birkmaier responds:

When it comes to the world of DVD authoring, I am no expert. But I have been involved with a number of CD-ROM and DVD projects, and these issues always seem to come up.

The short answer is that outside the world of dedicated DVD players, there are no guarantees. There are too many variables in terms of performance, in a properly configured system. When a machine is not configured properly or is infected with a virus, all bets are off.

I asked a colleague, Randy Tinfow, president of DVD replication company Image Plant, to address your questions. Tinfow said there are two issues: average bit rate and maximum bit rate. The difference between the two is key. In his experience authoring for Fortune 50 companies and broadcast entities, an average video bit rate of 6.5Mb/s with a maximum of 7.5Mb/s allows for high quality and minimizes the possibilities of hesitations in playback.

Tinfow keeps the maximum within 2Mb/s of the average so that data does not have high spikes. For example, if the average rate is reduced to 3.2Mb/s, the max rate is dialed down to 5.2Mb/s.

This raises an issue with DVD-R systems. While most systems offer a range of MPEG-2 encoding options, they may not limit the peak bit rate. If this is the case, it may be necessary to encode the source material using an encoder that provides this level of control.

Compatibility of DVD-R media isn't perfect. Not all DVD-ROM drives or DVD set-top players will play back DVD-R, with older players having the most problems. Some drives will play a brand of DVD-R perfectly and won't play other brands well. It's impossible to generalize and say “this media will work,” because even the highest quality media will have an unpredictable compatibility profile.

For quantities of 10,000 or more, disc replication is the way to assure reliability and minimize cost. Always require the client to review a disc and approve it in writing before proceeding with the manufacturing run.

Test Your Knowledge!

See the Freezeframe question of the month on page 6 and enter to win a Broadcast Engineering T-shirt.
Send answers to