Shakin' All Over: DVD Recording Goes for 16X
Posted Dec 5, 2003

Hot on the heels of their dramatic demonstration of dual-layer DVD recording at CEATEC 2003, Philips raised the stakes again, demonstrating the world's highest-ever DVD+R speed—16X—in an experimental setup built at Philips Research. In the test, Philips Research burned a "full" (4.4GB) DVD+R in "less than 6 minutes." According to Philips, this recording speed approaches the "highest possible speed" for DVD recording.

The Philips technology will form the basis for the 16X DVD+R recording standard to be defined by the DVD+RW Alliance in 2004. To achieve higher recording speeds, Philips Research said they had to develop a suitable "writing strategy"—calibrating the timing and power of the laser pulses so that marks (representing digital zeros and ones, and imitating the "pits and lands" of pressed DVDs) of the correct length are created in the organic dye that forms the active layer of recordable DVDs. Doing this well becomes increasingly difficult at higher recording speeds, according to Philips, because the available time to heat up and cool down the dye at the position of a mark becomes ever shorter. Philips has developed an efficient write strategy that not only results in accurate recording results, but in addition needs only a limited number of parameters to realize it, allowing disc-drive manufacturers to implement the algorithm in a straightforward manner.

Keep in mind that the "16X" achieved here is akin to the maximum CAV speeds reached by CD recorders—that is, the recording speed increases as the laser approaches the outer edge of the disc, finally achieving full 16X at the outer edge of discs recorded to maximum capacity. Hence the diminishing returns of increased speed (4X=15 minutes, 8X=9-10 minutes, 16X=6 minutes).

The design of an accurate and stable system for tracking and focusing the laser beam to the right position on the disc was especially challenging, according to Philips. Another demanding task was the development of fast laser-driving electronics, which runs at a 420mHz clock at 16X DVD speed. Furthermore, a prototype high-power laser was utilized to achieve the recording power needed. Finally, Ricoh provided the DVD dye discs for the recording experiments. The results mark a next step in the speed race for recordable DVD. "It is generally agreed," Philips says, that 16X "is close to the ultimate limit, which is set by the highest safe rotational velocity of the polycarbonate discs." At 16X, a disc makes 180 rotations per second, corresponding to a linear velocity of 56 meters per second (over 200 km/h), while marks are burned with a precision of less than 0.05 micrometer.

Meanwhile, as Philips demonstrated 16X prototypes, drive manufacturers began to flesh out the nascent 8X DVD recording scene. Most noteworthy was Pioneer's announcement of the DVR-A07, a new dual-format DVD/CD internal writer that marks not only Pioneer's first foray into 8X recording, but the first for the DVD-R format developed by Pioneer. The DVR-A07 writes DVD-R and DVD+R discs at 8X, and writes DVD-RW and +RW discs at up to 4X speed, which makes it the first and only "8x8"—not to mention the first "4x4" for rewritables—in the DVD recording market. The drive also records CD-R and CD-RW discs at up to 24X. At press time, Pioneer expected to ship the drive in December, pending the DVD Forum's approval of 8X write speed for DVD-R and 4X write speed for DVD-RW.

Memorex has also launched a new internal dual-format drive boasting 8X recording. The new Memorex Dual-X recorder writes DVD+R discs at 8X, DVD-R discs at 4X, and CD-R discs at 40X. It also rewrites DVD+RW discs at 4X, DVD-RW discs at 4X, and CD-RW discs at 24X; read speeds are 12X for DVD-ROM and 40X for CD-ROM. Memorex bundles Roxio's digital media software suite with every Dual-X DVD Recorder. The suite includes Roxio's Easy CD & DVD Creator 6, full versions of Roxio's PhotoSuite 5 SE and VideoWave Movie Creator, and the DVDMax Player software. The Memorex 8X Dual Format DVD Recorder shipped in November at a suggested retail price of $229.99.

Unless you're the Plextor 708A, you can't do 8X DVD recording without 8X DVD recording media, and in November Verbatim Corporation debuted 8X-speed DataLifePlus 4.7GB DVD+R. Verbatim 8X DVD+R media has been tested and approved by major original equipment manufacturers of 8X burners such as BenQ, LiteOn, NEC, and Plextor. The new 8X DVD+R media is manufactured utilizing Verbatim's proprietary Ultra-Precise Molding (UPM) technology. With UPM, the deflection or tilt of the substrate is minimized so the media spins smoothly at high speeds, regardless of the type of drive. Stable rotation at high-speeds is critical to eliminate the possibility of data errors during the read/write processes. Verbatim DataLifePlus 8X DVD+R media has an estimated street price of $3.99 per disc and is available through authorized resellers and the Verbatim Web site.