Having recently completed a lynda.com training series on DVD Studio Pro 4 – I think it is due time to blog about the experience – as well as the numerous things that I have picked up from the series.
To begin – the method employed by lynda.com is that of video tutorials done by experts in a particular program, which I think is highly effective, especially if you tend to be a visually oriented person. Further, seeing the different operations in a screen capture allowed me to have a memory of what the operation looked like, rather than it just being explained. The lessons are broken up into larger sections that have a heading, under which videos ranging from 1 minute to 15 minutes (depending on the topic) are listed. There is usually also a few “basic” headings, which one would be able to view and get a elementary grasp of the program at hand, paired with more “advanced” headings that allow one to gain more skills and learn more difficult processes beyond the basics.
So, on to DVD SP. The program is included in the Final Cut Pro Suite, and is thus most readily suited to be used in direct correlation with FCP. Similar to FCP, the interface of the program is not quite intuitive, that is, unlike iDVD and iMovie, one would probably not be able to just open DVD SP and end up with a decent looking DVD an hour later. However, like FCP, DVD SP allows one to make some extremely complex, beautiful, and professional end products in a way that is not always possible in iDVD. There are many tools in DVD SP that really allow you to take control of the DVD creation process, and once one learns how to use the program, there are many elements which are actually easier than iDVD. For example, creating one’s own theme in iDVD is certainly possible, but is fraught with many aspects that can make the process quite frustrating. In iDVD, the order of button selection is tied to the order in which assets are brought into the project, whereas the user has complete control over the buttons in DVD SP.
More about the technical aspects. To begin, DVD SP is primarily a “wiring” program, that being a program which takes assets from other places and “wires” them together into an end product (that being a DVD). So, DVD SP is not for creating or designing menus – which can sometimes add an extra step onto your workflow (albeit one which can result in a better end product). DVD SP, like iDVD, has templates already created for menus, buttons, chapter indices, etc. – but also allows the somewhat simple import of a photoshop document that can serve as a menu. It is a somewhat simple task to create a menu in Photoshop, even including cool looking buttons and text, and bring it into DVD SP. DVD SP will recognize buttons and text that you create in a Photoshop document (as long as it is on a different layer) and will allow you to have it be able to be selected.
Rather than make an exhaustive commentary on everything I have learned (you can go to lynda.com for that!) – I found the tutorial to be helpful in generally creating DVDs, in iDVD or DVD SP – I will outline a couple of general points under headings, that should allow a future reader to come out with a better end product where they making a DVD!
1. Always use a minimum of 24 point text in buttons, titles, etc. – any smaller and the difference in computer screen resolution and TV screen can make the text difficult to read.
2. When creating buttons, try your hardest to create buttons that have a symbol appear next to the words, or a line underneath them, or a box around them, etc. when selected. Try to avoid having the text itself be highlighted – DVD programs do not allow aliased objects and your text will look choppy and mouse-eaten when highlighted.
3. Always be sure your buttons are tied to an asset – test this first in the simulator (DVD SP has a tool that will search your entire DVD and tell you if you have any unconnected buttons).
1. TEST, TEST, TEST. There is nothing more frustrating than spending two hours compressing a DVD, only to find out that your misspelled “manipulating.”
2. To test your DVD, first look at it is either in the graphical tab in DVD SP, or look at the DVD map in iDVD – make sure everything is tied together and will play the way you intend (in DVD SP you can use the tool to make sure there are no loose connections here, iDVD typically ties things up automatically for you).
3. Next, use the simulator to check the actual playback – press each button, play the assets to the end to be sure they return to the main menu. Use both the mouse and the remote control to be sure both computer and set-top users will be able to view and access the DVD in the way that you desire.
4. Now, either “build” your DVD (in DVD SP) or choose “File” –> “Save as VIDEO_TS Folder” (in iDVD). This will take some time, but will allow you to open the resulting VIDEO_TS folder in the DVD player on your computer without burning any discs yet. Never choose the “build and format” (in DVD SP) or “burn” (in iDVD) as neither gives you a chance to do this process, and they will also require the long process of encoding to go again should you desire to make more copies at a later time. Again, click your buttons, watch the assets, and be sure both remote control and mouse controls work.
5. Now using Toast – which I found out is the preferred burning program for the pros, choose “Burn VIDEO_TS Folder” and burn your DVD. Some tips about burning:
- Slow down your burn speed (2x-4x), it will take longer, but will be less likely to corrupt the DVD.
- Do not try to burn a dual-layer disc – these fail 90% of the time.
- Use Toast Titanium to burn, it verifies and often will fix small problems with burned DVDs.
6. Check your DVD in a set-top player and computer, and be careful when labeling the disc.
1. Computers and TV sets often differ in the shape of pixels, so if you do not want a stretched-out looking photo in a background, it must be cropped in iPhoto or Photoshop to 720x534x72 (odd I know, but it works).
2. Try to avoid JPEG files as backgrounds, they save space, but can pixelate on a TV easily. Try to stick with TIFF or PNG files.
3. When undertaking a DVD project that you know will push the space limitation of a DVD (4.3 G for a burned disc = about 2 hours of video) – be sure to “bit budget” – that is, be sure not to create menus or other additional material which will result in more than 4.3 G of information (you can compress your video further to fit more on a single-layer DVD, but the quality rapidly degrades as you do so).
4. If your DVD is complex, or involves a lot of menus, it is a good idea to make a sketch of how you want the DVD to flow before you start working on it (I do this even on simpler DVDs, just to have a clear idea of where I want to go).
That is about it! A lot I know, but hopefully it will prove helpful to someone somewhere. The materials above are conglomerations of what I learned and my own practice and experience.