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chapter-marker-teaser.pngWhen you're producing a DVD using a Final Cut Studio workflow, you can add chapters in plenty of places.  FCP, DVD Studio Pro, iDVD ... all of them will graciously let you split your files up.  But if you're using our recommended workflow for producing DVDs, there are three rules you should follow:

  1. Add chapter markers in Final Cut
  2. ONLY add chapter markers in Final Cut
  3. Don't add chapter markers outside of Final Cut
Now, if you're on a tight deadline, we understand.  You can break our rules.  And if you're going against our advice and using "Export to Quicktime" rather than Compressor, it doesn't really matter which way you make your chapters (why).  But read on for an explanation of why adding your chapter markers directly on your Final Cut sequence is important.
When you prepare a video for DVD, you transcode it into MPEG-2 format.  MPEG-2 thinks in terms of Groups of Pictures (GOPs) -- sets of 6 to 15 frames that are all tightly related to one another.  In each set, only one frame contains all of the information necessary to create the picture without relying on other frames (it's called an "I-frame," for reasons I'll cover in our compression series).  So if you were to skip to any other frame in that Group of Pictures, the DVD player wouldn't have enough information to draw the frame, and it would choke.

Ever had the problem where DVD Studio moves your chapter marker away from where you want it?  DVD Studio Pro won't actually let you place a chapter break where there is not an I-frame, which is a good thing -- until you realize that your nearest I-frame clips the beginning or end of a piece of dialog, or interrupts a transition.  At that point, you have no choice but to accept the lower-quality chapter setting or go back and re-encode from scratch.

By contrast, Compressor has plenty of control over where the I-frames go -- after all, the intermediate codec you're editing in contains complete information about EVERY frame.  But Compressor can't read your mind.  Of course, it can read the chapter markers that you place on the timeline in Final Cut -- and it will pass them along to pre-create your chapters in DVD Studio, as well.

To add a chapter marker in Final Cut, simply move your playhead to the point where you'd like to add a chapter break, then press the "M" key twice.  Give your chapter a sensible name, then click the "Add Chapter Marker" button.


<CHAPTER> appears in the "Comment" field.  Press "OK," and you're done.


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Bitrates, CBRs, and VBRs was the previous entry in this blog.

What are pixel aspect ratios? is the next entry in this blog.

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