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export-fcp-to-dvd-icon.pngA friend of mine asked me the best way to get his Final Cut sequence on a DVD - and I was surprised to see that we didn't have a GeniusDV tutorial for that!  So here goes:

The textbook "easiest way," of course, is to export your sequence as a Quicktime movie, then drag the Quicktime movie into iDVD.  But that process degrades the quality of your video -- and it wastes the excellent tools that come with Final Cut Studio.

The "right way" doesn't take much more effort -- read on for a step-by-step!
The Theory
Exporting to a Quicktime movie ordinarily will collapse all of your source clips into one video stream, then compress that video stream using a different codec than DVDs use.  This is even true for movies that aren't "self-contained:" any source video that's not compressed with the codec that the Reference Movie uses will indeed be recompressed.

Compression means you're having the computer guess at what the video should look like when it's displayed to you.  That means that, with each successive recompression, you're making your video look worse and worse -- in this case, when you go to recompress for DVD, you're having the computer make a different guess at what its last guess would look like, instead of what the original video would look like.

For that matter, all compression is not equal: "good" compression suites (like Compressor, which is part of Final Cut Studio) offer you control over how the computer balances compression and quality, while dumb ones like iDVD and Final Cut's generic "Export to Quicktime movie" option do not.

So what we want to do is take your Final Cut sequence, then use Compressor to export it directly to the highest-quality format that DVD players can use.  Then, we'll use DVD Studio to set up the DVD menus and so forth.

The Step-by-step
  1. Open your project.  Right-click on your sequence in the bin, and select "Export -> Using Compressor."
  2. Compressor will open, and you'll see your sequence in the main window.  Beneath that window, you'll see the Settings window.  Pick the Apple folder, then the DVD folder.  Find the "DVD: Best Quality" setting with the lowest number of minutes that will still hold your video.  That is, if your video is less than 90 minutes, pick the 90 minutes setting.  Drag that whole folder up to your video.
  3. Click on the Destinations tab, and pick where you'd like your output files to go.  Drag that destination up to each of the two entries:
  4. Click Submit, then click Submit in the next window.  Compressor will render two files (an m2v file and an ac3 file) in the destination you specified.  If you want to view the encoder's progress, click the Batch Monitor button, then click "This Computer."
  5. Once the render's done, close Compressor, then open DVD Studio.  You'll want to use the Extended or Advanced view for these steps -- if you're using Basic view, you can switch using the Window menu:
  6. Find the .m2v and .ac3 files that Compressor created.  Drag the m2v into the V1 track, and the ac3 into the A1 track.  Make sure they line up, as shown:
  7. Pick a "Cover" template from the upper-right pane ("Templates" tab), and double-click it.  Things should begin to look familiar to iDVD users right about now.
  8. In the upper-left pane, switch to the Outline tab.  Drag "Track 1" into any drop zones in the menu.  Then, drag "Track 1" on top of a button to link the button to the video.  Click the button once to select it, then click it once again (don't double-click!) to make its text editable.  Type the name of your clip or movie.
  9. If you want to add more clips to this DVD, click here for instructions...
  10. Delete any extra buttons on your menu.  Use the "Simulate" button to test your DVD, and, if you're happy, use the "Burn" button to burn your DVD.

...And there you have it -- the highest quality DVD video you can easily create out of your Final Cut sequence.  As you might have guessed, there's an awful lot more power under the hoods of DVD Studio Pro and Compressor: they can save you time and, like just now, they can really put a professional gloss on your product.  Good thing we now offer our world-class live custom training on all Final Cut software from the comfort of your own workstation ...

And as always, if any of these steps are unclear, please do let me know so that I can revise them.


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