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readersrespond.jpgSeveral of you wrote emails in response to my article on burning Final Cut sequences to DVD.  Thank you!  A few responses were particularly helpful, and their authors were kind enough to let me share them here.

Eric Mittan writes:

"You might also do a tutorial for getting out a REALLY "quick and dirty" DVD that doesn't even have a menu.  Here at the TV station, we're often throwing little videos to DVD, under 5 minutes even, for viewers or story subjects that want a copy of their piece.  Since I'm Chief Editor AND the IT guy, I went to all the editing stations and changed the preferences for bitrate in DVD studio pro to be pretty high by default, and then printed a copy of these instructions for all our editors and photographers:

The absolute simplest way to make a DVD using FCP and DVDSP is as follows:

1. Export as a quicktime movie.

2. Open DVD Studio Pro.

3. Select the "graphical" tab and you will see two little monitors,
one blue, one green.

4. Select the left blue one and hit delete.

5. Now, select the green one, right click on it and select the top
option "first play".

6. Now drag your Quicktime file and drop it on top of the green monitor.

7. Hit the little black and yellow burn icon at the top of the page
and put a a DVD-R in when prompted.

DVD Studio Pro will encode and burn your new DVD.  The disc will
auto-play your piece when inserted into a player or drive.



Note that since DVD studio pro uses the same background encoder as Compressor, (compressord) you're getting the exact same compression quality out of DVD Studio Pro that you can get out of Compressor using the same bitrate settings."


Eric's absolutely right -- DVDSP and Compressor share encoders, and, if you change DVDSP's default bitrate, it'll work comparably to Compressor's defaults (hint: Preferences, then Encoding; you want Two-Pass VBR and high bitrates). 

There's one caveat, though: if you have anything other than source video on your sequence -- titles, graphic supers, transitions, composites, etc. -- Final Cut encodes those elements using the sequence's codec when you Export to Quicktime (yes, even if you do a reference movie).  When you bring that movie into DVDSP, you're then asking it to transcode those elements -- whereas Compressor uses the original frames from FCP.  It's generally a tiny sacrifice in quality, but bear in mind that those points in your sequence happen to be the ones that DVD's MPEG2 codec chokes on at any quality.

Still, that's an awfully geeky point for me to make.  Eric's workflow is quick, easy-to-understand, and completely sensitive to quality for most purposes.  Thanks again!




Steve Brown, of DVD duplication house Media14, writes with some suggestions to improve the video files that Compressor produces.  I'll be writing some more articles about configuring Compressor (and compression in general), so if this sounds like Greek to you just tune back in a couple days from now:

"An addition to your instructions may be the elements I use inside of compressor. 

1.  The default setting for dolby 2.0 is -27, I usually change this to -31 this makes the  input equal to the  output

2.   I change the structure of the GOP.  I use CBR, it seems to do quite well.  I also change the GOP from IBBP to IBP, change the closed file structure to OPEN and then change the I frame from 14 to 6.  This creates an I frame every 6 frames.   That really helps with those 1-2 second transitions and fades to black.

I have been using this formula for over a year now with great success.
"


Steve and I have been discussing the details of these settings, and you'll probably see the results in those articles I was talking about.  We have different opinions about some of the video settings, but then again we come from different perspectives: I look at it from the math side, where he looks at it from the real world of mastering bazillions of DVDs for clients on deadlines!  We do agree that his settings will help out a whole lot around those transitions that can look so awful in MPEG2 -- so definitely give them a try if you're in to messing with video compression.

For a future article, I'm planning to simulate real-world conditions using some of our test media and real-world-appropriate bandwidth limits, then encode using a range of different GOP structure/size settings, motion algorithms, and bandwidth strategies (i.e. CBR vs 1/ or 2/VBR).  Right now, I'm thinking a resolution test pattern stepping through fades (simulates quick transitions), some sports footage, some talking heads, and some nature footage -- I'll run each at full-bandwidth (approximating 90 minutes of footage to a DVD) and two steps of restricted bandwidth (approximating 120 minutes and 160 minutes).

I'll run the results through a suite of objective VQM tests (with the MSU VQMT, unless someone suggests differently), and then I'll post both the test results and the encoded clips so that you can make your own judgments.  Anyway, long story short: if you've got a favorite set of MPEG2 settings and you're willing to share them, please let me know!



Steve and I definitely agree on the audio: if you've put any work into mastering your audio track in FCP, the default audio settings in Compressor are probably inappropriate.  You should be aware that, in its default settings for DVDs, Compressor slaps a fairly heavy-handed dynamic range compression (a cousin of a limiter) onto your audio.  The dialog normalization to -31 make sense for use with the DRC -- but if you've spent time bringing your audio tracks to your standards, you don't want the DRC in the first place!  It's well-hidden, too: under the inspector for Audio settings, pick the Encoder icon, then the Preprocessing tab -- they call it "Compression Preset."


Thanks again to all of you who wrote -- as Steve eloquently put it, "We're in this wild, wild, west thing called DVD authoring together.  Your thoughts are valuable."



PS - We think we might have gotten our Comment Spam problem under control.  So, on a trial basis, we're opening comments back up.  Have fun, and keep it civil!

PPS - Our Comment Spam blocker has swallowed a whole bunch of comments already -- if you're a real person having problems posting your comments, drop me a line so I can try to fix it!
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After Effects: Holding your RAM hostage! was the previous entry in this blog.

Create a story edit for Final Cut in the Finder is the next entry in this blog.

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