Tom Ramcigam (magicmarmot) wrote,
Tom Ramcigam

Making DVDs

I'm putting together the "Pray for Daylight" DVD. Actually working on it right now, go figure. And I just started encoding one of the video clips, which is gonna take a while, so I'm a fill you in.

There are two leading schools of thought on making DVDs: the easy way, or the hard way.

The easy way is to get a simple program where you basically drag and drop and press a button. It's fast and easy and it works, but it's pretty limited: you might not get the ability to do subtitles or multiple audio tracks or nifty menus.

The hard way is really versatile, and allows you to get in there into the guts of the machine and make it do your bidding. Of course, it means you have to do a lot of prep work.

1.) Figure out what the hell you want the DVD to do. Fer instance, I know I want to have an opening flyscreen, motion menus, a couple of extra audio tracks, and maybe a couple of short extras. Make a list. You'll add to it.

2.) Map it out. Draw pictures, sketches of the menus, or lists if that's how you work. Visio is excellent for this kind of thing.

(Aside here: it helps if you know something about the structure of a DVD.)

3.) Gather together all of your media. I've created a couple of menu loops, a couple of animated logos with sound, clipped some sound cues, basically a few days of creating little interstitial bits. I have to create a couple more. This is the tedious part.

4.) Encode all of your media and create your media pool. Oh my yes, this is where it gets interesting.
DVDs are encoded with a special MPEG-2 MP@ML format, and split into separate video and audio streams.

Ideally, the audio stream is encoded with Dolby Digital (.ac3) format. It's the best bang-for-the-buck as far as fidelity vs. compression goes (or compression for fidelity, you figure it out). Happily, Vegas Video will let me output directly to a DVD-ready AC-3 format, otherwise known as Dolby Digital 2.0.

The video stream though, hoo boy. Do I encode with the TMPGENC dual-pass VBR encoder which had to be demuxed, or do I go for the video-only Main Concept encoder direct from Vegas? It's dual passes either way.

Not having to demux wins, so I'm using the Vegas Main Concept encoder. It's still VBR, and it has proven to be a good-looking DVD output already. What I should really do is run a test between the two of them. Same piece of footage, encode with both codecs and see which looks better, if either.

Yah. In my spare time.

So anyway, the video encoding takes a bloody long time, like around a 9:1 ratio render to realtime. A two hour movie would be about an 18-hour render, just for the video. Thankfully the audio encoding is a lot quicker.

You wanna add pictures? Music videos?

Once you're done encoding your media pool,

5.) Create the project. Do you want a VMG menu? Do you want a VTS menu? Is your project 16:9? PAL?
VMG is the Video Manager. It's the topmost block in a DVD object tree structure. You don't need one if you're creating a DVD that's all the same format, like all 16:9 and so on (that's what a VTS is for), but it will let you have multiple VTS "children", and it makes certain kinds of menu finagling easier.

6.) Import the clips into the project. Pretty straightforward if you know what all the clips are.

At this point, it can go a lot of different ways. My favorite is to import the media now-- and the order is important-- starting off with the primary feature and adding the more frivolous stuff later. I tend to do the menu clips immediately after the feature, kind of an "order of importance" thing.

Once the video has been brought into the workspace, any audio tracks are assigned to it. If there are commentary tracks, this is where that matchup happens.

And then we're ready to actually start authoring the DVD. Which shall have to be another installment.

Bear in mind that DVD Architect, which I use to create most of the DVDs that I burn for one-offs is much simpler to use, but it doesn't have the ability to do multiple audio tracks. Version 2 does, but that's a spendy little upgrade path.

Besides, this is a fer-real DVD, and not just one for me or mah friends.

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