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What is a Dual Layer DVD Burner?

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  • Written By: R. Kayne
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 04 November 2016
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A dual layer DVD burner is an optical disc player and recorder that can utilize dual layer DVDs for both playback and burning. Most modern DVD burners incorporate this function, including those built into computers, and all models are additionally compatible with standard, single-layer media.

The advantage of dual layer media is that it holds twice the data of its single-layer counterpart. A standard single-sided, single-layer DVD (DVD5) has a capacity of about 4.7 gigabytes (GB), while a single-sided, dual layer DVD (DVD9) can hold about 8.5 GB. The dual layer disc is convenient for high-definition movies that can fit on a single disc without having to reduce quality. Also, both physical layers of data reside on the same side of the disc so content can play straight through without need of removing the disc to flip it over.

A commercial pre-recorded optical disc, whether a CD or DVD, has an internal layer that is stamped with bumps and lands to indicate ones and zeros for the accurate payback of digital content. The bumps and lands reside on a spiral track, which a precise laser follows, reflecting off the deviations. When the laser hits a land, the light bounces back to a sensor, indicating a one. When the laser hits a bump, the reflection bounces away from the sensor, indicating a zero.

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When a dual layer DVD burner reads a dual layer disc, the read-laser readjusts its focus past the semi-transparent first layer of physical data, on to an additional layer of data. This refocusing of the read-laser can take a second or two, causing a momentary pause in playback.

While pre-recorded DVDs and CDs have stamped lands and bumps to suffice for ones and zeros, writable media used for the home enthusiast utilizes another method to record ones and zeros. Rather than lands and bumps, a layer of photosensitive dye is used.

When a dual layer DVD burner is recording data, it uses a write-laser more powerful than the read-laser. The write-laser heats the dye at precise points, causing it to become opaque. Where the dye is opaque, this will be interpreted as a zero. Where the dye remains translucent allowing the laser to pass through to a semi-transparent, reflective metal layer, a one. When the first track of data is recorded, the write-laser re-focuses its beam to a deeper, second layer of dye backed by a second layer of reflective metal, continuing the burn process.

A dual layer DVD burner can also burn to rewritable media. Rewritable optical discs use phase-change compounds that can be wiped and rewritten repeatedly. When a phase-change compound is heated briefly to the melting point, it de-crystalizes, becoming fluid and opaque, remaining in this state even after it cools. This serves as a digital zero. If reheated and held at another temperature (that is interestingly enough cooler than the melting point), the compound re-crystallizes, becoming reflective again. In this state it serves up a digital one. A dual layer DVD burner can use rewritable media to record TV shows or movies for later viewing, in the same way video cassette recorders were previously used, recycling a single tape.

Dual layer burners are reasonably inexpensive and are available everywhere home entertainment equipment and computers are sold. Check unit specs to verify desired input and output ports, and whether or not cables are included.

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