Whether you're burning standard definition or have moved to Blu-ray authoring, it's never been a better time to jump into the realm of DVD creation. Producing standard-definition DVDs has become easier and more affordable than ever, allowing everyone to author simple DVDs.
Whether you're burning standard definition or have moved to Blu-ray authoring, it's never been a better time to jump into the realm of DVD creation.
Producing standard-definition DVDs has become easier and more affordable than ever, allowing everyone to author simple DVDs. With Blu-ray Disc as the choice for the next generation, the world of DVD creation has changed. We'll take a look at the encoding, software, hardware and media options for creating both DVDs and Blu-ray Discs (BDs).
To encode video for a standard-definition DVD, you use MPEG-2 compression for the video. For audio, you have a choice of using Dolby Digital or PCM (pulse code modulation, or uncompressed digital audio). For Blu-ray Disc, you have a choice of using SMPTE VC-1, MPEG-2 or H.264 compression to maintain the high quality of high-definition video.
The more compression applied to an encoding, the smaller the final video and audio files will be, but the quality deceases significantly. Most professional non-linear editing and DVD authoring software applications allow encoding options, depending on the length of the project and disc type (single- or dual-layer DVD or BD). There are also manual options to control the amount of compression. Consumer software tends to automatically encode and compress the video and audio, with very little control for the user. Changing the bit rate of compression to a higher number yields less compression; a lower number yields more.
Many studios and independent video producers will choose to have two DVDs (or one dual-sided disc) to maintain a higher-quality encode of the main project, with extra bonus features found on the second disc.
There are numerous software applications for creating professional-looking DVDs and Blu-ray Discs, complete with everything you'd find in major film studio DVD releases. These include software encoding, menu templates and creation, navigational option, slideshows, director's commentary, hidden "Easter eggs" and more. Many consumer applications do support many or all of these options.
As of now, BD authoring software for Macs is limited, but growing. Of course, you can now run Windows (and, by extension, the Windows-based applications described below) on an Intel Mac.
In the professional arena, Sony Creative Software's DVD Architect 5 (Windows only, part of the Vegas Pro 8 collection of video editing and creation applications) supports DVD and BD creation. Apple's DVD Studio Pro 4.5 (Mac only, part of Final Cut Studio 2) supports DVD and high-definition DVDs that play on compatible Apple computers.
Adobe's Encore CS4 (Windows and Mac, part of Premiere Pro 4 and Production Premium) includes BD and DVD authoring, plus the ability to publish the material to websites for an online DVD-like experience. Final Cut Pro users can work with Adobe Encore CS4 to author and burn BDs.
Also for Windows is Nero 9, which also supports BD creation and burning, along with editing popular video formats, including AVCHD.
Sonic Solutions is still the industry leader for encoding and authoring DVDs and BDs. Its professional applications include Scenarist (design) and CineVision (encode). Avid DVD version 6, created by Sonic (Windows only, part of Avid Media Composer), supports both DVD and BD creation. Corel's Ulead MediaStudio Pro (Windows XP only) supports DVD creation, but not BD as of yet.
Sonic's Roxio line includes Toast 9 Titanium (Windows and Mac), which provides not only DVD and Blu-ray Disc encoding and creation, but many other tools such as enhanced burning capabilities, audio fingerprinting technology for identifying music tracks, file recovery from discs that have seen better days and more. For BD creation, there is an HD/BD plug-in that you must purchase separately. DVDit Pro HD (Windows only) is another Roxio app that authors BDs and DVDs.
For consumers, Apple's iDVD (Mac only, part of iLife) is one of the best solutions available, though it doesn't support BD creation. Sony's Vegas Movie Studio 9 with DVD Architect Studio (Windows only) also supports only DVD creation with menu templates and more, while Vegas Studio 9 Pro Pack supports DVD and BD creation.
Other DVD and BD software applications include Roxio's Creator 2009 (Windows only, BD with plug-in), Pinnacle Studio Plus and Ultimate (Windows only); Corel DVD MovieFactory Plus (Windows only, BD support with plug-in); and Corel VideoStudio X2 (Windows only), which creates DVDs, BDs and AVCHD DVDs on standard-definition discs and burners.
Nearly all computers in the last few years have added DVD/CD burners that support -R (read and write once) and -RW (read and re-write many times) disc burning. Lately, some Windows PC systems are adding internal Blu-ray Disc burners that support BD/DVD/CD-R/-RW, including Sony, Dell and Lenovo.
There are many external FireWire (iLink or IEEE 1394) or USB 2.0 DVD/CD and/or BD burners. Most are single-disc units, like Pioneer's BDR-202, Sony's BWU-300s (Sony's 200S can be installed into a desktop computer), or Panasonic's SW-5583. You easily plug in the unit to your system, then install any drivers and software and begin burning discs. For now, this is the only way for Mac users to burn BDs.
DVD authors looking to do large orders of DVDs or BDs without sending them out to a professional duplication house can use multi-disc publishers and printers. Primera's Bravo SE Disc Publisher (DVD/CD/BD) allows you to burn and print up to 20 discs, all unattended. Similar duplicators include those from Microboards, MF Digital and Xerox (doesn't support BD at press time).
DVD and Blu-ray Disc Media
DVD and BD media is ever-evolving, and BD capacities are getting bigger and bigger. A single-layer DVD-R/-RW disc (there are also DVD+R/+RW discs, which are very similar) can hold up to 4.7 gigabytes (GB) of data, video and/or audio.
A dual-layer disc can hold up to 8.54GB. A dual-layer disc is a DVD that has two layers within one side of the disc, as opposed to dual-sided discs, which have 4.7GB capacities, but on both sides of the disc. Next time you're watching a major studio DVD release, you may notice a quick pause about halfway through the movie. This is your DVD player's optical system re-focusing to the second layer of the DVD. DVD-9 discs are industry-standard and hold up to 8.54GB.
Many of the discs have special coatings on the top to make printing directly onto the disc easier. These coatings make the discs water- and smudge-proof, providing protection to the labels.
Blu-ray Discs (BD-R/-RW) have capacities ranging from 25GB to 50GB, with newer discs coming out with capacities of 100GB or more. Thanks to the larger size discs, you can add less compression to the original source material during encoding, which makes for higher-quality discs.
There are many different types of software, hardware and DVD media for a DVD author to choose from, and also different encoding options. My advice is to consider what system you're using (Mac or Windows PC) and then try out the various software applications on the market, which are usually offered as a limited trial. With hardware, look for solid reviews and talk to colleagues to see what they recommend.
When it comes to encoding, the professional software applications provide options that help you determine how long the project is (total running time), how much compression to use and the size of the disc. It's good to experiment with these options, or you can use the fully-manual commands. Then, burn and watch the DVDs to see if audio and video quality is being maintained and whether or not the final encode can actually fit on the DVD. Consumer applications usually do all the encoding automatically.
Finally, when choosing DVD media, try not to use brands you're not familiar with. There have been many instances where cheap discs fail during burning or playback, producing more unusable "DVD coasters" than ones that actually work.
Heath McKnight is a filmmaker and writer who co-wrote the book, HDV: What You NEED to Know, Volume 2, from VASST.
Disc Burner Manufacturer's List
Click here to download a PDF Disc Burner Manufacturer's list of Videomaker's DVD Authoring Hardware and Software Buyer's Guide.
Disk Authoring Manufacturer's List
Click here to download a PDF Disk Authoring Manufacturer's list from Videomaker's DVD Authoring Hardware and Software Buyer's Guide.