Hi and welcome back. If you are reading this, hopefully you have read my first blog about the benefits of converting your analog video or audio tapes to a digital format. If you have decided to take that step, congratulations! The next thing that people typically ask me is, “Which format should I choose?” Although digital disc media has been around for a while, there is still much confusion concerning the different types of discs, what they do and how to use them. I’m certainly not the first person to take on this subject; there are many good sources of information online. However, I still thought it worthwhile to cover the basics.
Introduction to CD, DVD and Blu-Ray Discs
When I use the word disc, I am referring to a common type of media that you can find in most retail stores and online. They are round, plastic, about 4.5 inches in diameter, with a surface for printing and a shiny flip side that ranges in color from silver to deep blue. All of these types of discs are called optical media because lasers are used to read them. Older video and audio cassette tapes, by contrast, use magnetic field technology. Discs are digital (sound and images are represented numerically) instead of analog (information is represented as waveforms).
CD (Compact Disc)
Most of us are familiar with CDs. My first introduction to them was in the record store (I know, for some of you that’s the “what what?”) Moving on… At that time, I could not believe that my favorite albums could be replaced by those little discs and have incredible sound to boot. Today of course, anyone can create his or her own music CDs quite easily and listen to them via CD players in home stereo systems, automobiles, boom boxes, portable devices, etc. A CD is mostly used for the storage of audio information. It has a capacity of 700 megabytes, which translates to about 80 minutes of music. If you are looking to transfer your music from analog sources like albums, reel to reel or cassette tapes, you might choose to have them made into CDs.
A CD disc can also be used as a way of storing data. Those same 700 megabytes can be formatted to hold digital files like pictures, documents or spreadsheets. Really, anything that you could store on a computer hard drive or flash drive can be stored or ‘burned’ to a CD. As long as the total size fits within those 700 MB, you’re good to go.
My customers often ask me if a data CD disc can be used in the same way as an audio CD. In other words, “If I burn a bunch of .mp3 files to a CD disc, can I play them in my home stereo system, car or computer?” The answer is mostly, “Yes.” Increasingly, newer CD players can recognize a disc as having audio files and playback the songs accordingly. However, older CD players may not understand this type of structure. It’s important to check the user manual for the player or look for the “MP3” symbol to see if your data CD is supported.
Next up, DVDs and their uses.