Video playing sideways after burning to DVD was recently posted. The gist:

The OP used their cell phone to record videos, then transferred the files to their computer and was able to watch them on the computer. They used their computer to re-record the videos onto DVDs to share with others. The resulting DVDs played sideways when tested on a DVD player.

After the question was posted, two views emerged as to whether the question is on-topic. I'm posting this to get community input on how such questions should be viewed. I'll summarize the two views as answers that people can vote and comment on. Feel free to also post additional answers with other perspectives.

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    It could be answerable from the direction of how to analyse the file, why it is fine on a computer and thus identify the problem and then transcode the video file on a computer in order to be playable on a DVD player... but if the only problematic part is the DVD player then that would be off topic in my book. – Mokubai Aug 30 at 11:33
  • @Mokubai The only problematic part is the DVD player. There was no file conversion so how the files ended up in the DVD player isn't relevant to the problem, the only role of the PC was saving the files to a storage media (DVD) and that was done correctly, the DVD was readable at the PC and at the DVD Player. A question about how to convert the video files so they play in the correct orientation in the DVD player, or about how to author a DVD-Video (for best compatibility), that would be on-topic. – GabrielaGarcia Aug 30 at 16:52
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    @GabrielaGarcia I agree with you, "how do I make my DVD player correctly play rotated mp4 video" is 100% off topic and the answer is "check your manual, ask your manufacturer". I was just suggesting a way to make it about the computer side and bring it back on topic. – Mokubai Aug 30 at 16:54
  • The question essentially says that the DVD player is a problem but then asks "how do I burn them correctly" which is asking how to correctly author it on the computer. – Mokubai Aug 30 at 16:57
  • @Mokubai Exactly. I knew there was something wrong about the DVD player (and mentioned the firmware). Later I learned about the "flags" and the player's limitation thanks to the answer given. – GabrielaGarcia Aug 30 at 17:01
  • @Mokubai, some good insights. See if the new answer captures it (feel free to adjust). – fixer1234 Aug 30 at 22:22

On-topic

We generally try to answer questions that are reasonably on-topic, and extend wide latitude in determining that.

In this question, a computer was an integral part of the OP's workflow. The phone was just the source of the files. The objective was to get the files onto DVDs that would be viewable by others. That process took place using a computer, and the OP was looking for a computer-based solution. The OP's process failed to achieve the desired result of producing universally viewable DVDs. That is an on-topic problem.

Analysis of the issue indicates that the problem lies with the ability of the DVD player (an off-topic device if that was the only hardware). That observation could potentially be the basis for an answer, although it doesn't necessarily rule out being able to produce a usable DVD on the computer by altering the OP's process. The fact that the DVD player was the source of the symptom doesn't make the question off-topic.

  • I agree with this one, I feel the burning process makes the question on-topic – Burgi Aug 30 at 11:53
  • @Burgi The burning of files in a DVD-ROM or CD-ROM does not change the files. In that question the OP didn't reencode to a DVD-Video. It is no different than saving the same files to a USB stick. – GabrielaGarcia Aug 30 at 16:42
  • @GabrielaGarcia a computer was an integral part of the OP's workflow This is the critical line here. I suspect you have misunderstood me. – Burgi Aug 30 at 17:27
  • @Burgi The computer was not relevant let alone integral for the problem asked in the question. – GabrielaGarcia Aug 30 at 17:30
  • Completely disagree, the testing, editing (or lack thereof) and media creation were all done on the computer. – Burgi Aug 30 at 22:50

It Depends

This answer was inspired by Mokubai's comments (feel free to edit if it misses the mark).

Neither of the other answers really focuses on the critical criteria.

  1. Whether or not a question is on-topic isn't governed by the potential answer; the question needs to be judged on its own merits. For example, a question can't request a software recommendation, but software can be recommended as a solution.

    If, in the example here, the OP was trying to go directly from a phone to a DVD player, that whole process would be off-topic. An answer could be to inject a computer into the process to solve it, but as covered above, the potential answer doesn't affect whether the question is on-topic.

    We might anticipate that the problem can be fixed only by doing something to the DVD player. We don't know that for sure, and closure on that basis would preclude getting an answer with a computer-based solution.

    Potential answers (or comments) could be:

I think the only solution is modifying the DVD player, and we can't help with that because it is out-of-scope.

or

Based on yakkity-blah authoritative source, the only solution would be to modify the DVD player in a fundamental way, which cannot be done, so sorry, there's no solution to the problem.

But such answers are acceptable, and don't make the question off-topic.

  1. Absence of a computer would disqualify the question, but the presence of a computer doesn't guarantee that the question is on-topic. The fact that a computer is involved in the OP's process means that it isn't off-topic as not involving a computer, but that, alone, isn't enough to make it on-topic; that only gets it consideration. Other context in the question determines whether it's on-topic.

  2. The DVD player doesn't make it off-topic. Even though that's where the symptom appeared, and even if the computer didn't actually contribute to the symptom, that, alone, doesn't make the question off-topic.

What does it depend on?

The OP's process, hardware, and symptoms are just the history that brought us to the question. What drives whether or not the question is on-topic is the question -- what is the OP asking us to help them do?

  • If the question is this, it is off-topic:

Having described the history, I know that the problem is with the DVD Player. How do I fix the DVD player so it will properly play the videos?

  • If the question is this, it is on-topic:

What can I do on the computer to diagnose the issue and/or produce DVDs that will play properly on the DVD player?

In this question, the OP wasn't specific. They just wanted the problem solved. So how do we determine whether or not it's on-topic? We can approach it like this:

  • Speaking generally, the question would be on-topic if the OP was looking for a computer-based solution, and the OP didn't request an off-topic solution; they just want a solution. We can help with one but not the other, so why not pursue the path we can help on?

  • But specific to the particulars of this question, the OP's stated goal wasn't to play videos on the DVD player, it was to share the videos with others. Using DVDs was just one way to share large files. The DVD player happened to be a test bed to verify that the DVDs worked. The symptom raised the question of whether the DVDs might also mess up on other equipment that might be used to view them.

    The problem wasn't necessarily limited to the DVD player, so a solution of fixing the player wouldn't even solve the problem. That being the case, the fact that it would be off-topic isn't a relevant criterion. A solution might actually be just to tell the friends to view the videos on their computer rather than other equipment. Problem solved with a zero tech solution.

  • The question can be edited to better focus it as on-topic. Rather than just leave it up in the air and subject to interpretation, add a request for an on-topic solution.

How can I diagnose the file incompatibility issue, and is there a way to modify the file on the computer to make it compatible with a DVD player?


Perhaps the biggest take-away from the question is not so much the answer of why it is or isn't on-topic, but why it led to opposite viewpoints. The question didn't actually ask a question or request a specific action or result. It just stated an unexpected history. Readers extrapolated and filled in the blank for themselves after picking up on different aspects of what was reported. What we each saw was completely consistent with the facts as we read them, so our positions seemed obvious and correct, and we never noticed that the question was missing a question.

  • A very balanced assessment. The only problem I still see with the "depends" or "on-topic" is the precedent it creates. Accepting it as on-topic we can't latter justify closing the question of a hypothetical next person asking a similar question about a problem playing video files (not their home-made DVD-Video) in a DVD player because the usage of a computer wasn't mentioned... That person could then, justifiably, ask "why is my question closed and the other one isn't if it's the same problem or similar? (cont.) – GabrielaGarcia Aug 30 at 23:13
  • (cont.) Sure, I'm all for giving the benefit of doubt and that is exactly what I did in the first comment. But as soon as we determine the problem isn't related with something the user might have done at the computer, it should be treated as off-topic like anything else. – GabrielaGarcia Aug 30 at 23:17
  • Also, the technical aspects of the question should be the main concern here and it seems those aren't as clear as they should be for some people. I'm not saying you don't know the difference between a DVD-Video and a DVD-ROM with video files inside but I suspect @Burgi above doesn't. A DVD-ROM should be treated like any storage device where files exist as is. Although what happens at the hardware/software level is very different then saving the same files in any other medium, the end result is the same. – GabrielaGarcia Aug 30 at 23:24

Off-topic

The role of the computer is irrelevant in this case. The problem was that the videos played sideways (only) in the DVD player (an off-topic device), due to a shortcoming of that device.

A computer was used to burn the DVD. That was done correctly - the data on the DVD is readable and a faithful reproduction of the source files. So the computer did its job and is not the source of the problem. The files could have been transferred to the DVD player by other means that didn't involve the computer and the result would have been the same. The entirety of the problem lies with the DVD player. The fact that the computer was used to transfer the files to different media doesn't make its role germane to the problem.

The problem begins and ends with the DVD player. The computer was irrelevant, so the question is off-topic.

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