Making Choices During DVD Authoring

A DVD itself is a dual-purpose format. It can act as a piece of art all on its own, but at the same time the main function of playing the media content has to be the focus. When you are creating a DVD project you have to be able to make choices about what goes on, what is left out, and how you are going to put it all together.  Here are some great DVD authoring tips to get you started.


The most important thing to remember is that the DVD format is finite, meaning that there is a set limited amount of space on the disc that cannot be changed. Conventional DVDs are set at 4.7 GB, but there are also dual layer and Blu-ray options out there. Though Blu-ray gives you so much room that all standard content can probably fit, the amount of space is still set in stone. You will likely have to make compromises because of this. 4.7 GB will only allow for a couple hours of footage, and so if you want to have extensive menus, media, and special features, you may want to burn some other discs. It is best to just keep the materials down to a minimum and if you are going to use video segments in the special features they should be very short.  This will also be determined by the MPEG-2 codec you select, so try to choose this according to how long the film is and what format it was produced on.

Remember the Film

The DVD must maintain the aesthetics and themes established in the central video project, even if this means that it remains simple and minimalist. You are free to construct something that can be admired, as a free standing work, but it is still a vessel for the film. This then affects the choices in menus, photos, transitions, and music especially.  If you include work that was not directly in relation to the film you need to make sure that it actually enhances the feature presentation.

Extra Work

You are also going to have to decide where you want to put the work in on your DVD. Doing things like film commentary, especially if the software has a feature for this, is great, but takes an extensive amount of time and equipment. If you already have things like a trailer, production photos, and press info, then those should probably be first priority.  Remember the audience when you are preparing this.  For many people, this will simply go to those interested in the project.  In these cases, extended and deleted scenes may take priority.  For professional or film festival submissions, on the other hand, you need as much information about the film, the filmmaker, and the production crew as possible.

After Use

Many of the choices that you are going to make about what to put on there depend on what you want to do with the DVD. If you are using it to submit your film to festivals then you want to put every bit of promotional material and professional contact information that you possibly can. Anything about the production or your credentials is welcome. If you are making a family video then you may want to include a lot of fun photos and intractability.


The choice about where you are showing it also gives you certain considerations about what kind of outside media you can use on the disc. If you are just keeping it for personal use and distribution then you do not have to worry about putting copyrighted photos and music on your DVD menus. If you are showing it to commercial institutions then you need to be more restrictive.  The best option for this is to simply mine the creative resources you have already produced for your film.  Include songs from the film; short video clips from the project in your video drop areas, and basically theme it with all the media you already own.  This is also going to continue your visual and emotional themes into the DVD experience as well.

DVD Studio Pro Layout

Which Software?

One of the most serious choices to be made is whether or not you should do certain actions in the software or not. You can make commentary tracks, photo slideshows, and other media things in your editing software, but many DVD authoring programs allow you to do it right during the burning process. This can end up making it much easier and will take up less room than if you did it in the editing program.

DVD Studio Pro has often been the standard because of its connection to the Final Cut Studio package.  If you are working with Final Cut Pro, especially Final Cut 7, then you likely already have DVD Studio Pro in your arsenal and should stick with that because the workflow, which also utilizes Apple Compressor, is built for that.  Its features are also rather extensive and have one of the better learning curves for people without a background in scripting or design.  As we shift to a world of Final Cut Pro X this program may become more and more disconnected from DVD Studio Pro, so this balance may end up dissolving.  Likewise, if you are working with the Adobe Production package then it is best to stick with Adobe Encore.  This is one of the higher ends of the available DVD authoring programs and will give you an array of features.  You do not, however, want to work high to low from editing to DVD authoring.  This means that if you are using a full service non-linear video editing program you are not going to want to dumb it down to something like iDVD.  This lower end DVD authoring software is good in connection to iMovie and for the most basic DVDs you could create, but if you have a legitimate film or video project you will want to actually develop a real menu system that includes original content.

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