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Comprehensive Guide to Disk Burning - Different Formats

written by: Daniel Barros•edited by: Lamar Stonecypher•updated: 4/30/2009

The first in our three-part mini-series about disk burning, we explore what different formats can do for you. Read on inside for more information.

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    Burning Part 1

    Welcome to the first in our three part series about burning content to your favorite media types. In this article, we’ll be discussing the various shapes and sizes that your media will come in. Before we begin, let’s review what a burner does so that you’re well informed about the subject.

    A typical DVD or CD reader will shoot a laser at the traditional media that’s inserted into the drive and depending on whether the light is refracted or reflected, the reader recognizes the information sequence of a 0 or a 1. A burner takes a string of information and “burns” it onto media by turning up the potency of the laser to actually create the grooves on the disk and therefore create the information in physical form. This is why when you scratch a disk completely; the information is almost assuredly gone forever.

    That being said, let’s move on to our discussion about media and which ones you need for different jobs. I’ve streamlined the process for you:

    If you’re burning LARGE files, you’ll need a Blu-Ray Disk

    A BD-R or BD+R (although to this day I’ve only seen the BD-R), is a Blu-ray disk with no information on it. A BD-R disk represents the epitome of modern laser technology, swapping out the traditional red laser for a much more intensive blue laser (ergo the name) in order to read and write more information. A BD-R disk can hold upwards of 25 Gb (on single-layers) or 50 Gb (dual-layer). These disks should be used for those backup jobs where a DVD just won’t cut it. Keep in mind that safety is essential – if you’re recording 50 Gb of backup information, make sure to encode it properly and store the disk in a safe place. Essentially, any sort of high-definition movie you’ll want to burn or files of that size need to go on a Blu-ray disk.

    If you’re burning anything from movies to music to games, you’ll need a DVD

    DVDs are the modern staple of versatility in media recording. Serving essentially the function of a disposable, 4.5 Gb flash drive for your information, a DVD is perfect for giving your friends a home movie or even burning a few movies for your collection to keep them all in the same place. Over the years, you’ll find that DVD is the cheapest of the higher-level formats and still retains its “street cred” because it’s versatile and EVERYONE has a DVD player these days. Or if they don’t, Walmart sells a DVD player that’s about 10 bucks, or you could even get it for free. In keeping with tradition, the DVD is the perfect size, extremely well liked and has cemented its place as a movie medium. With the advent of the blu-ray disk and those affiliated technologies, we might see the DVD take the place of the CD as a music storage powerhouse, and the BD-R will supplant the DVD as a movie-medium.

    If you’re burning music, you’ll want a CD

    These days, if you think music, your first thought might be iPod or iPhone, but the CD has occupied a special place in the hearts of many who lived in the pre-digital age and even in the time leading up to the current era of mass-produced personal MP3 players. In those days, a CD housed as many songs as a fully-featured LP and still managed to retain quality in an optical media. For that reason, for those that haven’t made the leap to all-digital in places like their cars or boom boxes, the CD is still king of the hill. At 700 Mb, and roughly a few cents for every CD, it’s the cheapest and most prominent media in existence. These days, every disk drive is not only a CD/DVD reader – it also burns CDs and DVDs, and as such, keeping a few CDs around for music burning is important. Furthermore, with the advent of things like the thumb drive and increased solid-state memory, the CD may soon be fading away – these days, it’s cheaper just to buy a 1 Gb flash drive for ten dollars than to buy 100 CDs for the same amount of money, because the flash drive can be written and rewritten until the end of time.

    In our next article, we’ll be discussing the types of burned media that you can create and why you would want to burn specific disk types.