Multimedia Workshop 



Oct 20, 2000

Ask The Guru


Making a DVD at home

Q: I know these may be some naive questions, but is there a way I can desktop video edit and export to a DVD disc so that I can for instance watch edited professional or home movies on a commercial DVD player? Do I need a DVD RAM or DVD ROM or both? Is there any software out there to edit audio to 5.1 or 2.0(Pro-Logic) onto a DVD? If there is, is it available for MAC or IBM based, or both?


A: DVD authoring is pretty complicated, the problem being further complicated by the different DVD formats; DVD-ROM, DVD-RAM, DVD-RW, etc.

But to try and simplify it, there's really three parts to a DVD; the disc on which the content is stored, the interface menus, and the compressed video.

Taking these one at a time, in reverse order:

Video: This is compressed using the MPEG-2 compressor. There's both hardware and software copressors available at very different prices that offer very different qualities. The more expensive compressors offer more options and control (and the hardware based systems are usually faster than ther software only ones.)

Interface: has to be formatted in a special way. This is often done with a different application which lets you create the menus, and link to the MPEG-2 video. Again, this software varies in complexity and cost. Inexpensive tools may not offer all the options (multi-angle authoring for example) that the high-end tools offer.

Note that it's possible to get "DVD authoring" software that only does the menus, or only does the MPEG-2 compression, as well as software that does both. So when looking at software you have to be sure to know what it does.

If you're looking, you might want to look first at Sonic Solutions. They offer a range of products (from about $100 up to many $$$) running on Mac and PC systems (interestingly their high-end system is mac only, while the low-end ones are PC; they promise a Mac version of the low-end systems early next year.)

Disc: Finally, there's the disc on which you put the files. From what I understand, to get a DVD label the format only has to be able to store and play a DVD movie. It doesn't have to play in standard DVD home players. That's why there are DVD-RAM systems that cost less than $1,000 and work in PCs, but whose discs don't work on home DVD players.

The only recorders I know of that burn a DVD disc that will play in a home player currently cost about $5,000. There's been talk of some other rewriteable and writeable DVD formats but so far they haven't been mass marketed.


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