What is LaserDisc

As audio and video technologies continue to evolve and merge, it is now easy to sit at a desk or pick up a cell phone and enjoy a theater-quality experience with ultra-high-definition images and high-fidelity surround sound. But today, in 2024, does anyone still remember or know the term LD?

LD (LaserDisc) was born in 1981 and was the same size as a regular vinyl record, hence the term ‘picture record’. But the LD was heavier than a record, weighing more than twice as much. the LD was similar to a CD on the outside, glistening, and on the inside it combined video and audio technology, the first time the two were combined at a time when optical disks didn’t exist.

LD as a video carrier has been retired from the history stage around 2000, and the production of LD discs and players has been discontinued, so it’s natural for “Generation Z” to be unaware of the term LD, and even for audiophiles or those who still have LD players, most of them probably have forgotten about it, or don’t know if the machine works at all, or threw it away as a piece of junk at some point of time. or threw it away as scrap at some point of parting with it.

Speaking for myself, the last time I really played an LD was one night in 2002, more than twenty years ago before I knew it. Recently, I suddenly thought of this dusty Panasonic LD player, which I thought should have been broken after all these years, but I didn’t realize that it was still working after I powered it up, so I simply cleaned this nearly thirty year old “antique”, and in the process, revitalized the endangered LD.

What is LD?

LaserDisc (LD) was the world’s first commercially available optical disc storage medium, publicized in the United States in 1972 by the MCA Group (now NBCUniversal) and Philips under the name MCA DiscoVision. Pioneer of Japan purchased the format, renamed it LaserVision, and began production of LD players under the LaserDisc name. LD is an optical disc like the CDs or DVDs we see today, but LD storage uses analog video signals and is only available on NBCUniversal. Pioneer of Japan purchased the format, renamed it LaserVision, adopted LaserDisc as the name for such discs, and began production of LD players.2 LDs are optical discs like the CDs or DVDs that we now commonly see, but LDs store analog video signals and support digital audio only in NTSC.

LD discs are usually double-sided, 30cm in diameter and 2.5mm thick, compared to 12cm in diameter and 1.2mm thick CDs/DVDs, making them about 2.5 times the size of today’s common optical discs.LDs are not only huge, they are also bulky, with each one weighing in at about 350g.

In the days of analog signals, the term “line” was often used to denote the clarity of an image. The average LD disc had a level of up to 440 lines and supported digital audio, while the popular VHS video tapes of the same era had only 240 lines, and the audio and video were purely analog. From an experiential point of view, LD was unquestionably superior to VHS, and in 1993 Japan introduced the MUSE-specification Hi-Vision LD, which reached 1,125 lines of clarity.

Although LD has a better viewing experience than VHS, the maximum speed of LD during playback reaches 1800rpm (Hi-Vision LD is even as high as 2470rpm), so the player not only has obvious low-frequency noise, but also vibration can be felt when touching the body, which makes the failure rate high due to the high-intensity mechanical load.

Although LD and VHS did not compete with each other on the stage, they were still in competition from the market point of view, but LD was never popular in any period of time. LD discs were not only expensive to produce, but Pioneer also prohibited any kind of LD rental, meanwhile, VHS with its low price and mature and stable rental market, as well as a high penetration rate of the hardware, which led to the LD becoming the “rich man’s man” during its life cycle. At the same time, the low price and stable rental market of VHS, as well as the high popularity of the hardware, directly led to the LD becoming the symbol of the “rich” or “audiophile” during its life cycle. In addition, due to the abundance and variety of TV programs at the time, many movies could be watched directly on TV, so consumer demand for LDs was not as strong as expected, and eventually LDs were mainly used for movies and animations that could not be seen on TV or that needed to be watched over and over again.

To a certain extent, LDs were only a flash in the pan, and with the advent of DVDs in 1996, the market position of LDs declined rapidly. Famous companies such as Sony and Panasonic stopped selling and withdrew from the LD market by 1999, with Pioneer being the only company to hold on to its production until 2020, when it completely stopped after-sales service for LD products, bringing the history of LDs to a final close. Although optical disks have evolved into CDs, DVDs, and Blu-rays and are still widely used, their predecessor and foundation is in fact the LD.

How to play?
RetroScaler2X – HDMI Converter
In the era of HD technology, it takes a bit of tinkering to reproduce the effect of LD playback. I used to have a Samsung CRT monitor, but I sold it to a junk collector last year, so I had to use a combination of hardware and software to simulate and restore the original playback experience. That’s where the RetroScaler2X, recently purchased for the PS2, comes into play.

The RetroScaler2X is an HDMI converter that seamlessly converts video inputs from composite, S, or component terminals to HDMI outputs, while completing the analog-to-digital conversion with virtually no latency, and upscaling interlaced signals to 480P progressive scans, which mitigates the wobbling that interlaced signals can cause on modern TVs. The phenomenon of interlaced signals on modern TVs has been somewhat reduced.

ReShade – Universal Image Quality Plugin
ReShade is a post-processing injector for games and video software that is unique in its ability to extract depth buffer data from numerous games, which in turn enables a range of visual effects that rely on depth information, such as ambient light masking and depth of field effects. So what to do with LD’s graphics? I’ve used some tricky methods: first capture the RetroScaler’s image with the help of a video capture card, and then inject it into the OBS with ReShade, so that I can indirectly process the LD’s image on the OBS.

The settings of Reshade is simple: for OBS, choose DX10-12 for the Rendering API; to add CRT-like effects to the picture, we recommend using RSRetroArch; Add-ons choose OBS Capture; if everything goes well, open OBS and you will see the configuration window of Reshade.

Parameter Adjustment and Actual Effect
RSRetroArch provides a rich selection of CRT filters, and for video, using CRT_CX is basically enough to achieve the desired effect. The use of filters is affected by different monitors and window resolutions, so you need to adjust them accordingly to the actual environment and conditions.

The packaging of LDs is very luxurious, and usually comes with a detailed description of the movie’s contents. For some LDs that contain two or more discs, the packaging even adopts a unique unfolding design, which can be opened to enjoy a wealth of stills and other content. This kind of super deluxe packaging is in stark contrast to the current invisible and uniform digital era, and it really does feel like money well spent.


CAV (Constant Angular Velocity) discs, which maintain a constant rotational speed of 1800rpm during playback, represent one frame per revolution of the disc, both inside and outside. This feature allows CAV discs to realize many special frame-based playback functions, such as rewinding if the optical head jumps to the inner ring, fast-forwarding if it jumps to the outer ring, and frame-stopping if it stays on the current ring (only supported on some high-end players). However, CAV discs also have drawbacks, such as each side can only hold about 30 minutes of video, if you want to watch a movie of more than two hours, you need to change the disc frequently; the player can only display the number of frames and chapters that have been played, and there is no way to know the playback time.

CLV optical disks

A CLV (Constant Line Velocity) disc, on the other hand, is one in which the machine maintains a constant reading speed during playback, and in order to maintain the same reading speed on both the inner and outer rims of the disc, the disc’s rotation speed is gradually reduced (1800~600rpm) as the reading position of the optical head is moved from the inner to the outer side. This means that the inside of the disc records one frame per revolution, while the number of frames recorded per revolution gradually increases as the position changes, up to a maximum of three frames, so CLV discs can hold about 60 minutes of video per side. The advantage is that most of the time to watch a movie just flip a disk, the disadvantage is that the loss of CAV discs frame-by-frame playback ability, the most obvious feeling is that in the implementation of the fast-forward and rewind operations, you can only to the black screen by feeling to estimate the approximate to which screen.

In contrast, CLV discs do not have the frame-by-frame search capability of CAV discs, but because they can accommodate longer movies, most movie discs use the CLV format, while the CAV format is used more often for karaoke discs3 or short animations. Some discs are labeled as “Long Duration Disc” to emphasize the advantages of CLV.

LaserVision and LaserDisc

In terms of name evolution, LaserVision and LaserDisc are in fact the same kind of disc, with the main differences between them being industry standards and brand names. Before digital audio technology became commonplace, these discs were commonly referred to as LaserVision or LaserVision Discs (found on the packaging of early LD releases), and these discs only supported analog audio.

Once NTSC LDs began to support digital audio, the Digital Sound logo appeared and the CD Video logo was printed on the packaging, although the LaserVision moniker remained for a short time.

The history of CD Video is short (not Video CD/VCD as we know it, CDV has very little in the way of finished products or searchable information), and the CD Video version of the LD only adopted the CD standard for the audio portion of the program, and did not contain any CD-compatible content; the CD Video logo was printed on the LD more for marketing purposes than anything else.

As the technology evolved further, subsequent LD discs supported digital audio, and the LaserVision logo was gradually replaced by LaserDisc. Therefore, the difference between the two names can also be regarded as the type of LD that supports digital audio or not.

This is my complete LD memoir. There’s actually a lot more to explore about LDs, even LD game consoles, but unfortunately my limited financial resources don’t allow me to fully satisfy this nostalgic quest. The LX-V860EN in my hands is still functioning normally, but I can feel the deterioration of the electronics inside the machine, the image resolution is not as good as it used to be, and the information about this kind of machine is basically extinct, so it is possible that no one will repair it when it breaks down completely.

With the passage of time and the rise of digital media, LDs will eventually be completely forgotten, and every technological change will, to a certain extent, make us lose some of our precious memories. Although nowadays we can easily access all kinds of cinema-quality movies through the Internet, the unique romance and nostalgia carried by LDs are as hard to replace as vinyl records.