What is a Video Compact Disc or VCD?

A Video Compact Disc or VCD is a compact disc that plays movies instead of  music. It is in multi-platform format which means you can use many different kind of equipment to play it!

VCDs look exactly like a CD or CD-ROM except that it stores video/audio clips using the compressed and standardized MPEG-1 (Motion Picture Expert Group) format. It was jointly developed by Philips and Sony and was introduced in 1993.

Why are there so many VCD titles available in China but not videos?

Since the first VCD player was introduced in China in 1993, China has become the leader of VCD production and sales in the world. By the end of 1998 there were 50 million VCD players in Chinese households. In contrast, very few Chinese households have video players. Therefore you can now understand why it is so difficult to find videos in China. However, there are thousands VCD titles of Chinese, including children's and educational programs, as well as foreign movies available in China. VCD has become one of the most popular cultural and educational resources in China.

Why is VCD gaining popularity in America, Europe and Australia?

VCDs are very popular in Asia and is gaining popularity  in America, Europe or Australia. Nowadays, VCDs have practically replaced video cassettes in Asia. The main reason is because VCD is cheap compared to DVDs (that is why it is nicknamed "poor man's DVD") and the quality is even better than VHS. It can also last much longer than VHS and has no drop in sound/picture quality when stored for a long time. It is much smaller in size, easier to store, that is why it is ideal for movie collectors! One good aspect is that it can be played on DVD, LD players, a computer and many other devices.

What equipment do I need to play VCD?

VCDs can be played on VCD players but it is not quite popular yet in other parts of the world except Asia. The second way is to play VCDs on DVD players. DVD movies are encoded using a compression technique called  MPEG-2. Whereas, VCDs are encoded in MPEG-1. Because of the similarity of encoding/ compression technique, most, but not all DVD players can play VCD  and DVD.  For example, SONY DVP-S3000 and SONY DVP-S7000 and  PIONEER DVD PLAYER DV-505. On the other hand, VCD players cannot play DVDs. You also can play VCDs on your PC if your computer is properly  equipped.

Here are the different types of equipment to play Video CDs:

  • VCD Players. (obviously!)
  • Computers. You need to have a MPEG player software, but if you want to get high picture quality, you need to install a MPEG accelarete card accompaning with a good video card.    
  • Some DVD Players with VCD capabilities. For example, SONY DVP-S3000 and SONY DVP-S7000 and PIONEER DVD PLAYER DV-505.
  • Playstation Consoles with VCD Add-On [ a.k.a the Movie Card ]
  • Saturn Consoles with VCD Add-On  
  • Nintendo 64  

What is the quality of VCD like?

Because of the capacity to hold more data, DVD movies are of more superior  quality compared to VCDs. DVD can hold up to 26 more times (6 Gigabits) of data as compared with VCD (650 Megabits). One of the objectives of the MPEG-1 standard for VCD was to get the quality comparable to S-VHS. In practice, picture quality when using a VCD players may somehow be almost as good as laser disc, depending on the encoding. VCDs are playable on any machine capable of playing VCD anywhere in the world. This is because VCDs have no incompatibility problem caused by different formats such as PAL, NTSC & SECAM, and also do not have lock-out codes that disallow you playing movies that are not bought in your region.

How can I play VCD on my computer?

Almost any computer can play VCDs. A new version of Windows Media Player recognizes the VCD format, finds the video files on the disk and plays them in order. With an older version of Windows Media Player, you have to find each of the videos files for it and then open them.

Using a newer version of Windows Media Player:

  • Launch Windows Media Player.
  • Insert the VCD in to the CD Drive.
  • From the menu bar, select the VCD you want to play.
  • If it doesn't begin playing automatically, press the Play (>) button.
  • Adjust the screen size.

Using an older version of Windows Media Player:

  • Launch Windows Media Player.
  • Insert the VCD.
  • From the menu bar, choose file>open and select the Video CD you want to play.
  • From the menu bar, chosse file>open and open the MPEGAV folder.
  • Select the first file and click the "Open" button. On the Player window, click the play button (>).
  • Adjust the screen size.
  • When WMP has played the file, open the MPEGAV folder again, open the next file and click the play button. Repeat this step until you have played the entire movie.

How do I play VCD on a Power Macintosh?

Update: MacVCD is the # 1 Video CD player for the Macintosh and the only Video CD player that works with Mac OS X. For more information please see Alternatively, you will need Quicktime Apple's video technology that allows you to play high quality video directly to your computer. A 4x CDROM and a 604e proccessor is good enough to play VCDs. Alternatively, you can go to WWW.TUCOWS.COM and do a search on VCD Player to get the software. Download a VCD Player 1.4.6 on Macintosh and there you have a software to play VCD on your Mac! VCD Player simplifies the process of playing video compact discs on your Mac. Simply select the Present Movie command, and VCD Player provides full-screen MPEG playback. It features options that control sound and playback, and like an audio CD player, you can select which track to start watching. VCD Player can now "remember" where you stopped playing the movie after you quit the program, restarted your Mac, or changed to another disc then changed back. This update includes support for multiple monitors.

How can I play VCD by using SONY Playstation?

You need to either convert it or buy an add-on from a  third party manufacturer e.g. the VCD Adapter for your PS to watch VCD movies but this device does not work with DVD movies. You can go to WWW.NEOGAMER.COM for the latest Dreamcast, Playstation and Saturn imports.

How do I play VCD on SEGA Saturn?

By adding a 'movie card', you are able to play VCD on SEGA Saturn. You could try the Dreamcast S-Video Cable WWW.NCSX.COM for excellent video quality on S-Video capable monitors and televisions. It is an official add-on hardware and is widely available.

Can I play VCD on Nintendo 64?

You can add-on Doctor V64w/256M into Nintendo 64 for playing VCD.  You can go to WWW.NEOGAMER.COM to view it's features.

What is the difference between a VDC and a DVD? from Elizabeth Dalton

DVDs and VCDs are not the same thing. They look similar, but they are actually very different formats. DVDs hold a lot more information than VCDs, and require more specialized equipment to play. VCDs are much more common in China than in the US. (In China, they are more common than VHS video tapes.) DVDs are still not common in China.

VCDs are not region encoded. DVDs are. When buying a DVD, you need to make sure it is playable on a Region 1 (US & Canada) player, or buy a "zone-free" player. With VCDs, you don't have to worry about that... only about whether your DVD player can play VCDs.

Many, but not all, DVD players can play VCDs. (Look for "VCD" on the front of the player.) One other thing to look for is whether the DVD player can play *copies* of VCDs. Many VCDs sold in China and elsewhere are actually "copies" (not necessarily illegal copies, but made using copying technology, rather than a factory press process) using a CD-R format. These will only play on DVD players that also
support CD-R (again, look for "CD-R" on the front of the player or in the manual.) For the technically-minded, the problem is that the CD-R requires a different "colored" laser to read than a DVD, so your player has to have the physical ability to read CD-R to be able to read these particular VCDs.

I use an Apex 600A to play DVDs and VCDs (including VCDs recorded on CD-R discs). It will only play Region 1 DVDs, but other than that it works well, and it was under $200 US at Circuit City a year ago. For more information about DVDs and VCDs, see the DVD FAQ at:

What do people think of Chinese VCDs?

 "I am living in China now with my daughter, and we really enjoy watching VCD's on my computer.  When I see all the wonderful VCD's that are available here, I often think that we're lucky to have such a great Chinese language resource available to us here in China.  When we go back home, we'll definitely want to make sure that we have a good source for VCD's, so I'm glad that you're selling them."

                                   - Lisa McClure in China, JinZhou

 "We have a 6 yr old daughter who came from China last spring and she enjoys watching these shows."

                                               - Barbara Wright

 "I have found that the VCD player helps us all, we sing songs and watch  cartoons and I am surprised at how much I can understand. I must say that the kids love VCDs. They are a wonderful resource for older kids (younger children too if people know about them)."

                                                - Carol Forslind