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What is SVCD?

By R. Kayne
Updated May 16, 2024
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Super Video Compact Disc (SVCD) uses the MPEG-2 format to store video on a CD, as opposed to a DVD. Movies, slide shows, karaoke and clips are all able to be burned to CD using an SVCD burner. Computer DVD players will have no problem playing back SVCDs, but not all home players support the format. In some cases where the format is supported, certain aspects of the standard might not be fully interpreted or rendered properly, leading to problematic playback, aliasing or other anomalies. For this reason, SVCD may not be the best choice when universal compatibility is required, but it can come in handy for personal use.

MPEG-2 is an international standard container codec drafted by the The Motion Picture Experts Group. The codec calls for lossy compression of audio and video; "lossy," meaning some quality is sacrificed for a smaller data footprint. The format supports both National Television System Committee (NTSC) and Phase Alternate Line (PAL) resolutions and frame rates, 44.1 kHz stereo and 5.1 surround sound audio.

A standard 80-minute CD can hold between 700 and 800 Megabytes (MB) of SVCD data depending on the burn mode used, with mode 2/XA granting the most burn for your buck. Choosing the highest quality video and audio the format allows, this translates to about a 35-minute video. When quality can be sacrificed, the rather short footprint of the CD will still only allow for about 100 minutes of video at reasonable resolutions. This puts SVCD just shy of being a good candidate for burning movies, unless it's acceptable to spread the feature across two discs.

The format can be handy for personal storage of favorite TV shows, home movie clips, karaoke songs and digital pictures. All of these can also be burned to DVD, but CDs are cheaper. The CD’s modest data footprint of 700MB can also be an asset when it comes to categorizing personal data, as the discs can be easily organized by dates, events, celebrations, or other criteria. Want to relive the puppy's first day at home? Pull it from an SVCD wallet and save time by not having to scan DVD indexes or navigate multi-page menus.

There are many shareware programs available online for burning SVCD discs, though there are fewer freeware options. Note that files not in the MPEG format will have to be converted before they can be burned. Most SVCD packages feature converters to do this for you. The conversion process can be time consuming, depending on the size of the file(s) to be converted and the chosen software. Some free packages do the conversion and compilation, then rely on a separate installed burning package.

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