Video CD is a format for video storage and playback on a standard compact disc. It was the first format for distributing films on standard 120 mm (4.7 in) optical discs. The format was widely adopted in Southeast Asia and the Middle East, superseding the VHS and Betamax systems in the regions until DVD-Video became affordable in the late 2000s.
The format is a standard digital format for storing video on a compact disc. VCDs are playable in dedicated VCD players and widely playable in most DVD players, personal computers, and some video game consoles. However, they are less widely playable in some Blu-ray Disc players, in-car infotainment with DVD/Blu-ray support, and video game consoles such as the Sony PlayStation and Xbox due to lack of support for backward compatibility of the older MPEG-1 format.
Although they have been superseded by other media, as of 2015 VCDs continue to be retailed as a low-cost video format.
LaserDisc was first available on the market, in Atlanta, Georgia, on December 15, 1978. This 30 cm (12 in) disc could hold an hour of analog audio and video (digital audio was added a few years later) on each side. The LaserDisc provided picture quality nearly double that of VHS tape and analog audio quality far superior to VHS.
Philips later teamed up with Sony to develop a new type of disc, the compact disc or CD. Introduced in 1982 in Japan (1983 in the U.S. and Europe), the CD is about 120 mm (4.7 in) in diameter and is single-sided. The format was initially designed to store digitized sound and proved to be a success in the music industry.
A few years later, Philips decided to give CDs the ability to produce video, utilizing the same technology as its LaserDisc counterpart. This led to the creation of CD Video (CD-V) in 1987. However, the disc's small size significantly impeded the ability to store analog video; thus only 5 minutes of picture information could fit on the disc's surface (despite the fact that the audio was digital). Therefore, CD-V distribution was limited to featuring music videos, and it was soon discontinued by 1991.
By the early 1990s engineers were able to digitize and compress video signals, greatly improving storage efficiency. Because this new format could hold 74/80 minutes of audio and video on a 650/700MB disc, releasing movies on compact discs finally became a reality. The extra capacity was obtained by sacrificing the error correction (it was believed that minor errors in the data stream would go unnoticed by the viewer). This format was named Video CD or VCD.
VCD enjoyed a brief period of success, with a few major feature films being released in the format (usually as a 2 disc set). However, the introduction of the CD-R disc and associated recorders stopped the release of feature films in their tracks because the VCD format had no means of preventing unauthorized (and perfect) copies from being made. However, as of 2013 VCDs are still being released in several countries in Asia, but now with copy-protection.
The development of more sophisticated, higher-capacity optical disc formats yielded the DVD format, released only a few years later with a copy protection mechanism. DVD players use lasers that are of shorter wavelength than those used on CDs, allowing the recorded pits to be smaller so that more information can be stored. The DVD was so successful that it eventually pushed VHS out of the video market once suitable recorders became widely available. Nevertheless, VCDs made considerable inroads into developing nations, where they are still in use today due to their cheaper manufacturing and retail costs.