Maximum DVD Video File Size

Ted writes, “I’m really having problems trying to find information on creating a 6-hour DVD from SLP VHS. I have tried Google and Jeeves – nothing. What is there?”

To get video at a quality level comparable to what you see on a commercially released DVD, you’re looking at 5-6GB for a 2-hour video, which requires a dual layer DVD if you want to do something comparable at home. Ratcheting down the quality level slightly to fit on a standard 4.7GB DVD-R, you can easily fit a fairly high quality movie on a single layer disk. As you fit more video footage on that same 4.7GB disk, you dramatically reduce the quality of the video until you potentially end up with something that isn’t very pleasant to watch. In this case, you’re starting with VHS quality footage, which is considerably lower quality than DV or a digital movie copied from a source like a DVD or high resolution digital movie. The trick is finding software that will resize your footage to fit on a DVD.

To the best of my knowledge, only one company is currently making software designed to fit more video than normal on a standard DVD. Sonic’s MyDVD Studio 6 line of products includes a feature called Fit-To-DVD which automatically adjusts the quality of your movies to fit more video on a single disk. The software supports both standard 4.7GB single layer disks and the newer dual layer disks, assuming you have a DVD burner capable of supporting dual layer.

Currently, the maximum amount of video that will fit on a 4.7GB DVD playable in a consumer DVD player is just under 4 hours. If you have a dual layer burner and dual layer DVD blanks, that total should go up to around 7.5 hours, which would meet your criteria. At the moment dual layer disk are still very hard to come by. Dual layer burners are available for under $100, but the blanks (when you can find them) are in the $10-per-disk range and aren’t as widely supported in consumer DVD players as their 4.7GB counterparts.

If you are looking for a way to store a 6 hour video file on a 4.7GB disk, with no regard for being able to play it back on a consumer player, you should be able to accomplish this by saving the video in MPEG-4 or WMV format and adjusting the quality settings to something less than 4.7GB in total size. Starting out with VHS quality footage, this will get you a reasonably good looking file with quality that approximates the original VHS tape. This might be a more affordable alternative for storing the video until DVD burning technology becomes more accessible to large projects. The other alternative would be to divide the movie in two two or more logical sections and burn a multi-disk set.