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DVD Glossary

Click the links for definitions of some common DVD jargon:

Amaray | Anamorphic | Aspect ratio | Digipack | Dolby Digital | DTS | DVD-Audio | Easter egg | Languages & subtitles | Region code | Sound options | Special edition | Special features | Superbit | Surround sound


The official name for the standard plastic packaging used for most DVDs, as well as many video games. The case is designed to protect the disc, which is held in place by a lockable central "hub". There's also room for a booklet. See also Digipack.


The process whereby a cinematic (eg: 1.85:1) or TV (4:3) ratio is encoded onto DVD so that the image will fit the full frame of your widescreen TV (16:9) without any loss or distortion of the original. This does away with the need for letterboxing most films on widescreen TVs. Some DVDs details describe this as "enhanced for widescreen TVs". See more under Aspect ratio.

Aspect ratio

Specifies the shape of the picture on your TV screen:

  • 4:3--the shape of standard (non-widescreen) TVs, which simply means the picture "frame" is 4 units wide to 3 units tall, or not quite square.
  • 16:9--the shape of widescreen TVs, which is almost but not quite equivalent to the standard cinematic ratio of 1.85:1 (hence the need for anamorphic DVDs). See also Anamorphic
  • Widescreen--the standard cinema screen ratio is 1.85 times wider than it is tall (1.85:1). CinemaScope or Panavision films are wider still, typically with a ratio of 2.35:1. When played on a 4:3 TV, a widescreen film will appear "letterboxed" in order for the longer rectangular image to fit on the almost square TV screen


A type of DVD packaging often used for multiple-disc box sets. Digipacks are made from reinforced cardboard that folds out (like an old gatefold LP) to reveal the disc(s) in plastic trays fixed to the cardboard outer sleeve. Often Digipacks are protected from wear and tear by an additional outer sleeve or slipcase. See also Amaray.

Dolby Digital

See under Sound options.


See under Sound options.


DVD-Audio (DVD-A) is an audio format that provides music in multi-channel surround sound. Whereas a standard DVD, carrying both picture and sound, uses digital compression to store all the information on the disc, the DVD-A format takes advantage of the greater storage capacity of DVD compared with CD to provide up to six channels of uncompressed audio. Its main rival Super-Audio CD (SACD) is a modified CD format, not a DVD. See also Introduction to DVD-Audio.

Easter egg

Easter eggs are hidden special features found on some DVDs that are not displayed on the disc's menus in the usual way. Accessing an Easter egg often requires the user to enter a specific sequence of handset functions in the form of a code. These unlocking codes can only be found by guesswork, browsing specific websites, or talking to others in the know.

Languages and subtitles

Many English-language DVDs carry alternative dubbed language tracks and/or optional subtitles in a variety of foreign languages, as well as English for the hard of hearing (HOH). Similarly, many non-English films on DVD have English subtitles or English-dubbed options.

Region code

Most DVDs are region coded and theoretically only playable on machines with the same region code. In Britain and Europe, most DVDs are Region 2 encoded. Find out more about DVD Regions.

Sound options

  • Mono--a single-channel audio track
  • Stereo--two channels of audio
  • Dolby Digital--the most common surround sound format for DVD, which comes in various types featuring a number of discrete (independent) audio tracks: 1.0 is mono (i.e., not surround), 2.0 is stereo but might also contain a two-channel Dolby Pro-Logic surround track, Dolby 4.0 and 5.0 (four and five channels respectively) are also available
  • Dolby Digital 5.1--uses six discrete (independent) channels. The extra sixth channel is for "rumbling" low-frequency effects. This "LFE" channel is referred to as ".1"
  • DTS--an acronym for "Digital Theater Systems". As with Dolby 5.1 it uses six discrete channels (five plus a subwoofer), but with DTS all six channels are digitally encoded, ensuring flawless reproduction.

See also Surround sound.

Special edition

An informal term to describe a DVD release with significant extra material in addition to the main feature. Often these are two-disc sets, with the second disc devoted entirely to the bonus material. See also Special features.

Special features

The list of bonus or supplementary material included on the disc(s) in addition to the main feature. Special features typically include behind-the-scenes documentaries, interviews, audio commentary/commentaries from the director and/or other cast and crew, and explanatory making-of featurettes.


The Superbit Collection presents high-resolution DVD picture and sound. Superbit DVDs utilise a special high bit rate digital transfer process that optimises video quality and offers a choice of both DTS and 5.1 Dolby Digital audio. Browse our list of Superbit DVDs.

Surround sound

The use of multiple audio tracks to recreate the authentic cinema experience of being "enveloped" or surrounded by sound in your home. To be effective, surround sound requires multiple speakers through which discrete or separate channels of the soundtrack can be played. A common speaker set up would involve: two front speakers (left and right) that carry most of the music and sound effects; a centre speaker that carries most of the dialogue; two rear speakers (left and right) which provide "surround" or ambient effects, plus a subwoofer, which reproduces very low-frequency bass noises. See more under Sound options.

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