DVD cases come in a pretty wide variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. The case used by most DVD packaging plants is the single-disc Amaray keep case, usually in black or dark gray. However, since the DVD packaging industry is not standardised, you'll find a lot of subtly different cases when buying DVDs.

Generally, a single-disc DVD case is 26.5cm tall, 14.5cm wide, and 1.3cm deep. Most modern designs include a clear plastic sleeve around the outside to facilitate printed movie identification stuff, a set of two plastic clips on the inside cover to allow for inserts or booklets (though sometimes these will be absent), and the disc bed itself on the inside back cover. The disc bed is the most non-standardised part, and no two case manufacturers use the same disc retention device.

Here's a list (complete, as far as I know) of DVD case types and their various case types and specifics, as well as my own opinion on their quality (or lack thereof). A rating of "A" is the best possible and "E" is the worst. I've omitted all non-standard sized cases with the exception of the THINpak.

  • ALPHApak
    • The ALPHApak is commonly used by distributors of independent films because they're cheaper than Amaray cases, but the quality remains fairly good. Uses a three-piece clasp, with one central piece and two smaller pieces that lock the disc into place. Also uses a small, circular area pressed into the case above the disc bed to provide room for questing fingers. Cases that hold up to seven discs each are available, in black, dark grey, white and clear, and custom colors for studios/distributors.
    • Grade: B
  • Amaray
    • DVD-Safe™ is their flagship product. The standard and most often-used case. Identifiable by the Amaray logo on the disc bed. Uses a two-piece yin/yang clasp. Available in single, double, triple, and quadruple-disc varieties, in black, dark gray, white and clear, or custom colors for specific retail releases. American versions are manufactured by Nexpak, European versions by DuBois, Ltd. (Note: empty/replacement Amaray cases can only be bought through resellers; Amaray itself sells empty cases only to distributors.)
    • Grade: A
  • Flexbox
    • Flexboxes seem to be available only in Europe, so I can't comment too much about them. They come in black and clear, and use a vertical yin/yang disc retention device. Reportedly made of polyurethane inside and out.
    • Grade: Unknown, but gbulmer attests to their quality.
  • Jewelbox
    • Jewelboxing, Inc. took the standard jewel case design for compact discs and made it larger to accommodate DVDs and their associated printed materials. They're cumbersome, misshapen, and generally bad news. Like CD jewel cases, they're extremely easy to crack or break. Their j-cards and booklets are custom-sized, so they can't be used with cases made by other manufacturers. Unlike the CD cases, however, Jewelboxes are impossibly difficult to disassemble, and because they're so fragile, you can't use any gripping or prying tools to take them apart without causing some noticeable damage. The Jewelbox is most often used by record labels to distribute music DVDs, like music video collections, DVD singles, or concert recordings.
    • Grade: E
  • Meritline
    • In general, if a movie ships in a plastic case that isn't Amaray, it's in a Meritline variant. Meritline produces the full range of cases, the largest of which can hold up to eight discs plus an insert or booklet. Their products are unbranded, so a lot of the major media manufacturers (see below) license and sell them under their own name. Their disc retention devices are widely varied, though the one I've encountered the most uses a three-piece circular clasp. I've seen Meritline products in black and clear, but I'm sure there are more colors available. Meritline invented the "flapper"-style double-disc case, which uses a pair of hinges and a panel on the inner spine of the case to hold a slim tray for a second disc. The first to use the "flapper" case was the DVD release of Terminator 2: Judgment Day (Ultimate Edition) in August 2000. Highly durable and handsome, Meritline cases are about the best you can get if you can't get Amaray.
    • Grade: A
  • Scanavo
    • A lot of distributors stopped using Scanavo cases when a large number of customers started complaining about their flimsiness and fragility. The outer sleeve is much thinner than any other case on the market, and their disc retention device makes you work pretty hard to release the disc. They use a five-piece star-like configuration that's easy to break while you're trying to pull the disc off of it. Thus far I've only seen black Scanavo cases. Not seen too often as of 2004. Cases that can fit up to four discs are available, in all the standard colors. Their multi-disc cases are in wide use in Asia -- the double-disc cases I've seen have a disc bed on each inside cover, leaving no place for an insert or booklet, although an earlier double-disc case they made used a overlapping 2-disc bed area, which was odd to say the least. My copy of Battle Royale (Special Edition) from South Korea came in one of the newer double-disc Scanavo cases; I was not impressed. Better than Jewelboxes, but not by much.
    • Grade: D
  • Snapcase
    • The Snapcase is made mostly out of cardboard. It doesn't actually have a name, but it's generally referred to as "Snapcase" by DVD enthusiasts. As of 2004, only HBO Home Video, New Line Cinema, and Warner Brothers use these (though sometimes HBO uses Jewelboxes, the clueless cheapskates), and then they use them only for single-disc releases because there's no way to expand the Snapcase to hold more than one disc. The front cover, back cover, and spine seem to be made out of compressed, recycled paper or boxboard, and the plastic disc tray, which connects to the back cover using a series of clasps, is always black and uses a flimsy nine-piece device to hold the disc. The security stickers on new DVDs that come in Snapcases are notorious for the ease with which they tear the case material when removed. Time and environmental conditions are not kind to the Snapcase, either, as they're prone to bleaching, tearing, corner wear and staining. The Snapcase famously stands out among shelves of titles using Amaray (or similar) cases, because it's about 0.75cm longer than them. The best thing to do with these is to scan them, then use the the scan to make a new cover. Put your custom cover in an Amaray case, and then throw the Snapcase away. The entire New Line Platinum Series of DVDs ships in these. Ugh ugh ugh.
    • Grade: E
  • THINpak
    • THINpak cases are about two times thinner than regular cases -- single-disc THINpaks are only about 0.3cm deep, only a few millimeters taller than the disc itself. THINpaks are available only in clear, but they also come in sizes up to four-disc. On a shelf, they look about the same width as a CD single. Generally these are of decent quality, as they can accommodate a custom-sized sleeve (though they provide no room for inner sleeves), and a solid, single-piece disc holder, which is more of a peg than a clasp; it's just a circle in the middle of the DVD bed, made to fit exactly within a DVD's hole. Printing your own covers for THINpaks is easiest if your printer can't hack printing a regular-sized outer sleeve fully on letter-sized paper.
    • Grade: B
  • Fujifilm, Memorex, Sony, etc.
    • These are, among others, the major media manufacturers I mentioned in the Meritline listing (see above). They all license Meritline cases and sell them as their own.
    • Grade: A

ProtectDisc used to make DVD cases but they have since gone out of business. There are also older case models which aren't in use anymore, such as the one that uses a huge plastic bullet-like device to hold the disc (which is nearly impossible to remove -- i.e. the 1998 DVD release of The Fifth Element), which I have omitted from the above list since you're not likely to find them for sale anywhere.

A number of other case types exist, all custom jobs for various box sets or collected editions of various movies or television shows (i.e., the metal canister that Showtime's Band of Brothers comes in, or the gatefold designs that the Lord of the Rings extended edition series uses). Given their relative uniqueness and plentitude of design, they aren't included here.

Most people don't really care about the differences in various DVD case brands, but if you're bored, obsessive/compulsive, or a DVD afficionato, then you might want to get around to standardising your DVD collection. Ordering new replacement cases, printing your own covers, and buying shelving at least gives you something to do, and something to look forward to as new DVD titles are announced and released. Granted, the above contains mostly my opinions, but my opinions seem to be on the same level as the really obsessive freaks I see on various DVD industry/collection message boards. It's also less expensive than a heroin or meth habit!




Also, I must credit the following website for inspiration, even though they keep rejecting my submissions:


It was, up until mid-2004, a site where a user-submitted gallery of custom DVD case designs was found. You could create and submit your own (subject to the administrators' approval), download the works of others, and request various designs. Unfortunately, the MPAA got wind of the site and had it shut down. Another casualty of the DMCA.

DVD cases can present a problem, a "space" problem if you manage to acquire enough of them. I did, and after I reached a couple hundred DVDs, I got tired of the storage space "issue" -- racks along the walls filled with DVDs and their cases. So I came up with a solution that holds to this day. In lieu of a photo, let me attempt to explain...

I decided to eliminate the DVD cases entirely. I went to CompUSA and bought several boxes of "CD Sleeves," those cheap, thin clear plastic and some-kind-of-fiber sleeves that you simply slip CDs into. In this case, I slipped the DVDs in, and put the original cases into various packing boxes and stored them away (one nice thing about the sleeves is they hold two DVDs each, perfect for those "special edition" DVDs that come with two separate disks). That done, I was now faced with a mountain of DVDs in those sleeves, piled on the carpet. That isn't what you want, makes vacuuming hard, and if you step on them you can slip and fall down, a lot.

I shopped around and found a wooden serving tray from an import shop. It measured (inside dimensions) 20"W x 12"D x 3"H. Not too big, but the important measurements are the 20" width, and 3" height. A 20" width allows you to create three rows of the sleeved DVDs, and the 3" height lets you flip through and see them, yet they don't fall out of the tray/box. I bought some 1/4" wooden dowels, and with a drill and some glue used it to partition the tray into three rows so the DVDs could sit side-by-side in those three rows. I stained the dowels to match the tray. It looked dandy, although it took a week to get the stain off my fingers.

Then, I went to an office store and got some Index Cards, cardboard tabs with "A," "B," "C," and so on printed on them. Those were used to organize the DVDs alphabetically as I lined them up in the box I'd made. In essence, it was a "file cabinet" of my DVDs, lined up in three rows, 12" deep.

So I was done! Sort of... Another problem is, when you get a lot of "media" is, how do you find/remember what you have? Certainly you can flip through the collection, but that can take some time. But wait! Isn't this the computer age? Yeah, and I found and bought a program called "DVD Profiler" that lets you enter in a DVD title or UPC, and it pulls down from a database the details of the DVD, actor names, director, reviews, and even scans of the DVD cases I'd discarded. You can then search for a title, or more handily, print out a surprising array of "handouts" that you can toss on the coffee table and later page through (the basic program is free, but I paid the fee to upgrade, and because I liked it so much I felt obligated to give them some money).

Was this a lot of work? Yeah. But the space-savings and convenience made the work worthwhile. I no longer have racks along the walls to hold my collection, just a box sitting on a table next to my TV. It looks pretty nifty. The problem is, I'm starting now to run out of space in that wooden box, and I estimate when I hit 500 DVDs (hopefully not too soon!) I'll have to conjure up another like-box to hold the overflow. I should’ve bought two of those serving trays. Poor long-term planning on my part...

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