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DVD capacities explained.

Q: “What is the video capacity of DVD?”

A: The amount of video a DVD can handle is a moving target that is nearly impossible to define simply due to factors such as how much audio accompanies the video and how heavily the video and audio are compressed, just to name a few. For reference, a single-layer, single-sided disc can hold just over two hours of good quality (MPEG-2) video, or about an hour of very high quality MPEG-2 video. It is possible to put nearly eight hours of “VHS-quality” video or 160 hours of audio on a DVD-5 disc. It really depends a lot on how much it is compressed. Uncompressed video takes up much more space so you wouldn’t get nearly this much on a DVD. But since DVD doesn’t really have the throughput to be able to play uncompressed video back it doesn’t much matter. All commercially released DVD’s have compressed video.

The following list gives you some idea how much video (roughly) you can put on various DVDs with moderate amounts of compression. Be sure to refer to the reference chart below for information regarding DVD types (i.e. SS/SL, etc.).

  • DVD-5 (SS/SL): 4.38 GB (4.7G); over 2 hours of video
  • DVD-9 (SS/DL): 7.95 GB (8.5G); about 4 hours of video
  • DVD-10 (DS/SL): 8.75 GB (9.4G), about 4.5 hours of video
  • DVD-14 (DS/ML): 12.33 GB (13.24G); about 6.5 hours of video
  • DVD-18 (DS/DL): 15.90 GB (17G); over 8 hours of video

SS = Single Sided
DS = Double Sided
SL = Single Layer
DL = Dual Layer
ML = Mixed Later (single on one side, double one the other)
GB = gigabyte
G = billions of bytes

Now, this brings up another question, which is, what is the difference between “Gigabyte” and “Billions of bytes?” Information on a DVD is measured differently than the computer norm. For example, a DVD-5 has 4.7 billion bytes (G bytes), NOT 4.7 gigabytes (GB). Confused? We understand. Many people have been mislead by this and don’t understand why they can’t seem to get anywhere near 4.7 GB on a disc. It’s because information on DVD is measured on multiples of 1000 while the computer world measures bytes in multiples of 1024. Therefore, a DVD-5 (4.7 G) actually has a computer file capacity of 4.38 gigabytes (GB).

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