Burning a DVD of the finished product is commonplace for many slideshow creators. But along with burning DVDs comes the risk of burn failures. These often fall into two camps – either a burn that fails at some point during the writing process, or one that finishes successfully but does not play all the way through on a standalone DVD player. There are multiple factors at play here, and it’s often hard to identify the true culprit. Today we’ll be looking at four possible factors for disc burning failures and how to avoid them.
If you buy a new DVD burner today and a pack of blank discs, odds are that both are rated for at least a 16x burn speed. Without going into the technical details, this means that a DVD can be burned 16 times faster than the time it takes to watch the DVD from start to finish. This relationship varies greatly depending on the DVD quality setting you’ve chosen, which makes it a less-than-ideal rule of thumb, but you can safely assume that the higher the x value, the quicker the discs can be burned.
The truth is, the stars have to align for you to have a good burning success rate at 16x. Not only does your burner have to be top-notch, but your system has to be able to consistently feed the burner data at that rate. More importantly, the manufacturing quality of the discs may not be up to par to allow for burning at 16x, despite what’s written on the label.
The easiest way to ensure successful writes is to lower the burn speed. Assuming you’ve already inserted your blank DVD in ProShow Gold or ProShow Producer, the Burning tab of the Create DVD window will allow you to change the speed from “Max” to a lower value. I generally recommend no faster than 4x, but if this isn’t available for the disc you’re using, try the lowest speed listed.
While a lower burn speed can increase the reliability of most blank discs, you’ll want to hedge your bets with discs that are manufactured at a higher quality. The problem is that the vast majority of brands outsource their production to a number of factories with varying processes and quality standards. A ubiquitous brand like Memorex, for example, may be decent quality in one batch and low quality in another (they’re usually never *great* quality though).
The two brands that get mentioned the most when talking about good quality blank discs are Taiyo Yuden and Verbatim. You’re not likely to see the brand Taiyo Yuden in any of your local stores, so your best bet is ordering them online under one of their various brand names (JVC being the most common). Just do a search on Amazon for Taiyo Yuden discs. Verbatim is comparatively much more common to find in stores, but make sure to look for those that have the “AZO” label on the packaging (Link), which indicates that a superior recording dye is used in their manufacturing process.
One question that comes up a lot is whether to use DVD-R or DVD+R media. Though technically two competing technologies, in the modern era they’re almost equally supported by the vast majority of burners and DVD players. Just make sure that your burner explicitly supports the type of media you’re buying.
If you find that you have a higher failure rate – perhaps even a 100% failure rate – with a certain pack of discs, it’s time to buy a different pack, right? Not necessarily. DVD burners have what’s known as “firmware”, which is a low-level set of instructions that tells the writer how to respond to the commands sent by the burning software. Over time, a drive manufacturer may release an updated firmware that not only improves the reliability of the burner, but also improves the compatibility with certain discs.
Assuming your drive is burning your discs with no problem, you don’t need to worry about the firmware. But if you’re getting a number of coasters – or discs that failed to burn correctly – you’ll want to check your drive manufacturer’s site for an updated firmware to download. Drives that come with pre-installed in name brand systems (e.g. Dell, HP, etc) will often have firmware updates in the drivers/downloads section of the brand’s website for your computer model.
If your computer is not made by a name brand or has an aftermarket drive, you may need to look up firmware for the exact model number of the drive. To do this, you can open the Device Manager in Windows’ Control Panel to see the model number of the optical drive(s) is installed. After you’ve found this, do a Google search for [model number] firmware. With any luck, the first few results should lead you to what you’re looking for. Just make sure and follow the instructions listed on the website to ensure a pain-free update.
There are a handful of brands that are synonymous with making good DVD burners – Pioneer, Sony Optiarc, Samsung – but not every drive model out there is a winner. Likewise, the less-revered brands like LG or Matsushita will have their share of great models. Your best defense is to read reviews (on Amazon, Newegg, etc) for a general consensus on quality. Remember: a drive with 1000 reviews and an average rating of 4.5-out-of-5 stars is often a better bet than a drive with 50 reviews and a 5-out-of-5 rating.
As I mentioned earlier in the article, burning a DVD requires that your system be able to feed a steady stream of data to the burner. Potential bottlenecks include slow hard drives, a slow CPU, or the type of data connection between your system and the drives, just to name a few. The bottom line is that you’re regularly burning discs on an older machine, it may be time to look into purchasing a new computer.
What about Blu-ray?:
The same principles above apply to burning Blu-ray discs as well. You should burn at a lower speed than what’s advertised (2x or 4x for BD-R discs) and you’ll want to make sure your burner’s firmware is up to date. When buying Blu-ray BD-R discs, you should avoid discs that say “LTH” or “Low-to-High” on the packaging. These discs are manufactured using cheaper organic dyes that degrade over time. I personally recommend using Verbatim BD-R discs.
If you’d like to get more in depth in the concepts mentioned above, the website The Digital FAQ is an invaluable resource. Here are a few recommended articles: