TDK's Promising New Recordable DVDs

Recordable DVD is on its way to the home-theater market. TDK has announced two breakthroughs in high-density recordable media that will likely cause an epidemic of apoplectic fits in the film industry.

One new development is a record-once DVD (called DVD-R) with a 4.7 GB data-storage capacity---the same capacity as DVD-ROMs and DVD movies. The other is a rewritable DVD (DVD-RW) with the same capacity and a usable lifespan of more than 1000 record/overwrite cycles. The discs, which can be played on any DVD player, were unveiled at TDK-sponsored technology conferences held recently in New York and San Francisco.

TDK's new DVD-R discs use a metal-stabilized cyanine organic-dye technology optimized for high-density, short-wavelength optical digital recording. DVD-R discs from other manufacturers don't offer the same capacity, TDK spokesmen noted. The company's DVD-RW discs use a compound of silver, antimony, tellurium, and indium, a mixture known as "ReCom," for Rewritable/Compatible. ReCom is said to be ideal in its response to high-rate laser data pulses, which form small, ultraprecise marks on the disc's surface. The marks can be overwritten in a "phase-changing process" so that new data can be recorded over old.

The new DVD-R discs will be introduced early in 1999, and DVD-RWs should appear on the market late next spring. The release of RW products is being held back pending approval and publication of final standards for the format. Both new discs are expected to aid software developers and others who create content for DVD.

DVD recorders---or "burners" as they're known in the computer industry---have already appeared in some high-end computers, but DVD-RAM discs are not compatible with the current batch of DVD players. DVD recorders for the consumer-video market are probably a couple of years away, but they are definitely coming. One likely use for the DVD-RW is unattended recording of movies, sports, and favorite programs, much the way VCRs are used today.

High-quality digital signals delivered via satellite, cable, or terrestrial antennae and stored on recordable discs will present new challenges for television executives and film producers concerned about piracy. This situation was addressed by TDK Electronics' Kuni Matsui, who says, "There are many hurdles that must be overcome before the age of home video recording can be achieved---not the least of which are the needs of copyright holders and content creators."

Matsui believes that optical disc-based recording is the future of the market for both business and entertainment applications, as CD-R has proven. "This year, sales of CD-R discs in the US will total 150 million pieces, and should double within three years," he says. "As recordable DVD technology begins to reach home and desktop users---especially with media that is playback-compatible with DVD-Video and DVD-ROM drives---the market will grow even faster."