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The DVD Process

Author: Roupen Mouradian, Chief Technical Officer

Even if you do not decide to use our service, we want to make our site helpful to all those interested in expanding their company into digital media. With so many steps involved in the process of making a final DVD, it is important that each step is done correctly. Even the smallest mistake could cost you thousands of dollars and days or even weeks worth of work and effort. When using explanations in this DVD Process explanation, we will use Apple products to illustrate the process due to their ease and relative cost effectiveness. The Apple DVD Production suite includes: Final Cut Pro and DVD Studio Pro, along with their helper applications Compressor and A.Pack.

Filming / Content Production -
If you are making a CD or DVD, chances are you have some sort of video presentation to give. Before you start any other process of making your DVD it is important to get all your content together. If you do not have any video (your DVD simply will have pictures or pages with text and graphics on it), then you should assemble all your resources on a CD. If you do have video, you will need to film all your content and get all the tapes together to pass on to the next phase of the preparation process.

DVD Artwork -
Though this part of the project isn't actually necessary until the replication/duplication step of the DVD creation process, it is a good idea to get all your artwork for your CD/DVD cover and your CD/DVD disc before the video editing process or, at the least, before your authoring process. If you plan on having the artwork on the outside of your media match the artwork on the inside of your media this is crucial. Video presentations are always more pleasing when things such as intro sequence and credits while watching the movie use similar color and style to what your CD/DVD case display.

Video Editing -
In preparing your video resources for authoring, all the video must be edited to a common theme and order to make the video seem cohesive. In most filming processes, you will use more than one camera so transitions between angles, linking the storyboard together, and making uniform color and brightness levels all occur in the editing process. With all the video in its final format, you are now ready to compress. From Final Cut your most powerful tool for this is Apple's Compressor which comes bundled with Final Cut and DVD Studio Pro. For NTSC, your final video will most likely be in MPEG-2 format for video and PCM format for your audio. MPEG-2 is an industry standard compression format that supports a wealth of features to allow you to configure your video to meet your needs. For a detailed explanation of how MPEG-2 works, visit our MPEG-2 explanation page.

You will need to choose a suitable bit rate for your encoding. As a rule of thumb, provided by Apple in their DVD Studio Pro Manual, you would do a simple mathematical expression to find your target bit rate. For DVD-5 media, you would take the magic number "560" and divide it by however many minutes your video is. For instance, say your movie is 112 minutes long. Then, you would do the math: 560 / 112 = 5. That number, 5, is how many megabits per second the combination of your video and audio can be to fit on a DVD-5. Similarly you would use the magic number "1120" to calculate for a DVD-9 since it is double the size of a DVD-5.

Compressing your video sometimes isn't the only thing you have to worry about. Audio compression can also save you crucial space on your media. Many times you can compress audio to at least 1/8 the size without hearing any noticable compensation in quality. For this, Apple now bundles an application with their DVD Studio Pro known as A.Pack. This encodes the audio into Dolby Digital's 3rd generation audio compression format, AC-3. Another industry standard, you will find AC-3 in many common locations, particularly in DVDs and HDTV. For a detailed explanation of supported formats in DVD audio, check out our DVD Audio Guide.

DVD Authoring -
With final video version complete and compressed, along with the finalized artwork, your DVD authorers can begin on their DVD creation process. With the Apple platform, you have access to a very powerful tool known as DVD Studio Pro. Although DVD Studio Pro has a wealth of features, you will most likely be utilizing only its Menu builder interface, Adding video tracks, and possibly picture slideshows. Illustrating this whole process is rather long and drawn out but TXP Media will soon be providing a set of assorted tutorials for performing these tasks via DVD Studio Pro.

Once your DVD has been fully authored and approved, the next step you need to do is prepare it for Replication or Duplication. The process for duplication and replication tend to be different because of the way the data is written to the final destination. For duplication you generally need a normal DVD written to a DVD-R disc. Note that there are 2 formats for DVDs: DVD+R, DVD-R. In general, commercial burners and duplicators support DVD-R format. It is a good idea to check with your duplicator to make sure which DVD media format they will accept for their duplication machines. For replication, your process for delivering is a bit more complicated. Depending on what type of DVD you are trying to replicate different options are available to you.

The most tried and tested standard for delivering your DVDs are via DLT Tape. DLT drives are supported on most authoring applications including Apple's DVD Studio Pro. DLT is good for DVD-5 or DVD-9 authoring. Currently it is the preferred method to deliver DVD-9 projects because you can seperate each layer to a different DLT tape.

Another method of project delivery is via DVDs for Authoring. These discs are seperate from standard DVD media and even require a special burner such as the classic Pioneer DVR-S201. DVDs for Authoring however currently only come in 4.7 gb DVD-5 format so they will not support your dual layer DVD-9 projects.

Lastly, some replication vendors will support direct FTP transfer of your data. In general this is not an ideal process because of the size of your projects. Unless you have some sort of direct connection to your replication supplier on ethernet or better connection this method will likely be discouraged.

Replication / Duplication -
This is the final step of the DVD creation process. Your company will likely not have much part in this other than to pay a replication or duplication vendor and hand them your final DVD data and artwork.
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