People have basically said, “if you want it to play *everywhere*, your best chance is Video CD.” It's true. I can get these to play in my two DVD players, and both of my Blu-ray players. Doesn't look bad, either. I like it as a good alternative and fail-proof backup of transferring VHS videos to something.

Specifications for Video CDs:

  • MPEG-1 video
  • 352×240 (NTSC), 352×288 (PAL)
  • Aspect ratio 4:3
  • MP2 audio, 224 kbs

Using ffmpeg to create the MPEG is simple, since it's a prebuilt target:

ffmpeg -i source.mp4 -target ntsc-vcd video.mpg

Convert it to VCD (version 2) format using vcdimager:

vcdimager -t vcd2 video.mpg

Play it back using MPlayer. This part confused me a bit. You have to pass the .cue file as the CD device, and then specify 2 as the track to play for the first video. It won't default to it. If there are multiple tracks on there, you can jump using chapters key press – @.

mplayer vcd://2 -cdrom-device videocd.cue

Finally, burn it to CD:

cdrdao write --device /dev/cdrom videocd.cue

And there you go :)