Video: DVD Studio Pro – I love you!

Spent a good chunk of today fighting with DVD creation. My previous attempt was using iMovie HD 6 and iDVD 6. Now, I have some issues with iDVD:

Suppose your projects are saved on an external drive, both iMovie and iDVD. You’d think that when you are rendeering the final DVD, it would still keep all the bits and pieces on the external drive, where the data is saved. Oh, no. iDVD is different. iDVD is smarter then the user, and will try to save the intermediate audio track (before the muxing) in /tmp If you have PCM audio track (and all of my previous projects did, because I didn’t know any better. Me Ogg. Ogg stoopid, remember?). Now, imagine that you are running out of disk space on your internal drive as it is, and then out of nowhere another 1.5 – 2 gigs of stuff show up in /tmp. Of course iDVD would die at this point.

iDVD 6 is also temperamental about DVD mastering, and was refusing to even think about creating a dual layer DVD (ie something longer then 4.7 gigs in size) if I didn’t have a dual layer burner plugged into the iBook. Fiar enough, I gave it the drive.

Then after running all night, it would die with a numerical error code (I’ve googled for it, noone saw it before). I tried three times, as originally I thought that I might have exceeded the “TV safe” area on the menu (another famous was of getting iDVD to die) with DVD title, or somesuch. But no, it just wouldn’t work.

So I got access to a machine with Final Cut Studio installed on it.

Oh, what a joy.

Software actuallly uses the location you tell it to use, without arbitrarily using what it should not. Software tells you what it thinks you should do, but lets you overrule it if you think you know better. Sane software.

I’ve plugged in my external hard drive, and imported into DVD Studio Pro DV streams which I used in iMovie and iDVD without much success before. It happily dealt with them.

Quickly I created a timeline. I’ve had everything pretty much pre-rendered, so it was as simple as setting a bunch of chapter breaks, creating a menu and linking the buttons to actions (ie Play chapter 1).

System I was using is an elderly G4 1.5 Ghz which was kind of skipping frames when dealing with large streams, and thus creating chapters was a bit of an excercise in patience. I’ve opened the iMovie project, and looked at places where I’ve placed chapter breaks before. In DVD studio I’ve created a bunch of chapter breaks arbitrarily, and then adjusted the times, so they would match more or less what I had in iMovie.

Worked as it was supposed to. Beautiful.

DVD Studio was telling me that my project would compress down to 5.1 gigs. At this point I thought that I should just do it, and then run it through DVD2OneX or somesuch, and shrink it down to 4.7 gigs, and told it to go ahead and just do it. It happily rendered to hard drive (it also asked me where I want to set layer breaks in dual layer disk, which was really nice too).

Eventually I realized that there is such a thing as Compressor, that can take a component of a multiplexed stream, and convert it to a different format.

After taking two 12 gig DV streams, and running them through Compressor, I’ve converted the audio tracks on both streams from PCM audio to Dolby 2.0 AC3.

Once I’ve imported the AC3 streams into DVD Studio Pro project, deleted the PCM audio from the timeline, and added in ac3 audio, projected project size dropped from 5.1 gigs to 4.1 gigs, and actual project size (once assets were rendered) dropped from 4.9 gigs to 3.6 gigs (I’ve used crappy video as DV source, from video tapes that were sitting in storage for god knows how long, so they compressed a fair bit).

So overall, I am really really happy with DVD Studio, although I’ve not used even 1/10’s of it’s capabilities. It can create HD DVDs. It can embed web links in mpeg files. It can edit existing menus. Now I need to save up my shekels to buy it (899 CAD for student license for Final Cut Studio).