The VCD standard, agreed in 1993 by a consortium of Japanese electronics manufacturers and referred to as the White Book, involves storing MPEG-1 video as a track on an otherwise standard CD.
The resolution specified by the standard is 352x240 (NTSC) or 352x288 (PAL).
The quality of the picture is approximately equivalent to VHS video, though probably worse than a high-quality professionally dubbed VHS tape. Blurring, compression artifacts, and jerky motion are sometimes noticeable on VCDs.
While never gaining a foothold in the United States or Europe, VCDs were very popular throughout Asia because of the low price of the players, their tolerance of high humidity (a notable problem for VCRs), and the lower-cost media. The negligible cost of the media made piracy rampant in these areas, which is probably the reason it was never widely supported by industry in the United States. The advent of recordable CDs and inexpensive recorders has spurred a rapid growth of their acceptance in the US, since most DVD players can play them.
An improved standard, SVCD, uses MPEG-2 compression and a variable compression rate for higher video quality.
The VCD format allows computer users to create home movies on CD. Almost all DVD players are capable of playing regular VCDs. However, not all DVD players can read the CD-R media, hence homemade VCDs produced by CD burners (versus those produced by pressing) may not be playable on some DVD players. Such incompatibility is a major problem that prevents consumers from distributing their home-made VCDs as their video Christmas greetings.
VCD is gradually being replaced by DVD, which offers most of the same advantages to Asian buyers as VCD, as well as a much better quality picture and sound, due to its larger storage capacity.
VCD does however have a few points in its favor:
- Unlike DVDs, VCDs have no region coding, which means they can be played on any compatible machine worldwide.
- Some titles available on VCD may not be available on DVD and/or VHS in the prospective buyer's region.
- They are much cheaper than DVDs.