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The New Hollywood Workshop: 2001, a DVD Odyssey (Part 8)

By Eliot Hochberg, June 19, 2001, Updated November 27, 2001

This series covers DVD Studio Pro (DVDSP), Apple’s high-end DVD authoring tool. It allows you to create all the menus, interactivity and groovy visuals you want to have available for professional DVD authoring. It is very different from iDVD.

This will be a short update. Once again, I will refer to the interview with Paul Adams of Fenix Graphix. Although I have not had the opportunity yet to test one of my DLT tapes with a replicator, Paul has, and in his words, “Once we received the final DLT drive and got it installed, DVDSP worked without a hitch.”

There are a couple more things to keep in mind, however. First, be sure that your DLT drive has no compression settings turned on. The DVD standard for replicating requires that the tape be written with no compression. That means that your default tape size should be greater than 5GB.

It is also my understanding that even if you use a larger capacity tape drive, a multi-layered or multi-sided DVD will require one tape per side/layer, so getting an 80GB uncompressed tape drive won’t save you any time or money. If you can verify/dispute this, please contact me.

Finally, when going to a DLT, many DVDSP users have found that using the CMF option (as opposed to DDP) when setting up their DLT tape recording provides more consistent results due to improved compatibility.

On a related note, I think it’s also useful to mention that more (but not necessarily many) DVD replication houses are offering other ways to duplicate. Some will accept consumer DVD-Rs (as opposed to DVD-R Authoring) discs for replication, while others will make a DLT from your hard drive for an extra fee. It’s worth asking about, but since the whole kit for a DLT tape drive and differential SCSI card (which, apparently, is required for most DLT drives) is under $600, if you will be making many DVDs, getting your own DLT drive will definitely be the way to go.

Ahhh, the joys of buying on eBay. Today, I’ll talk about finding a DLT tape player, and things to be wary of in the process. In a few words, pay attention!

Anyone who has read articles I have written about purchasing hardware will know that I can get very excited about a purchase, to the extent that I may get something other than what I intended. I give as an example my purchase of the nice PowerMac G4 I am currently writing on, which I bought in 1999. Did I ask if the DVD-RAM burned CD-Rs? No. Did I check that the brand-new LCD display had all of the fancy options of its predecessors (VGA input, S-Video input, etc.)? No. Did any of this have to do with the fact that I ordered it at 4 AM online from the Apple Store? Maybe. Okay, yes. So it shouldn’t surprise me (or you, at this point) that I might make an error when purchasing something I really want. Let my mistakes be a lesson.

I finally decided to break down and order a DLT drive when the vendor I had selected to press my DVDs backpedaled and said he would not accept a hard drive to use for authoring DVDs. “DLTs only, please.” So I did some research and found that DLT drives can be quite expensive, indeed! New, they can run as much as US$4000 MSRP, although that is for the largest capacity drives in an external case. In reality, for the purposes of DVD authoring, a 10GB drive should be sufficient, and the standard is the Quantum DLT 4000, a 20GB tape drive. After doing a little more research, I found that I could get such a drive for under $500 on eBay. Oh joy!

Here is where my faithful readers should pay close attention. Yes, such drives can be found on eBay, but they take many forms – some internal (which are unlikely to fit in your G4 tower) and some external. Some come with tapes (as mine did), but some don’t, and those tapes aren’t cheap. My particular misstep was twofold. The drive I bid on was, as listed:

[a] Quantum DLT4000 tape drive, SCSI differential... I’m selling it with the controller card I used on it, an Adaptec AHA-1744 EISA. Note the EISA! If you have any Compaq server not newer than a couple of years old, they all have EISA slots in them ... [selling] the drive, 6 tested/used DLTIV tapes, the card (EISA!) and an external cable. The drive can also be used internally, in fact that is how I ran it.

Now, to anyone with half a brain (I had left mine on my friend’s porch the night before. That’s my story, I’m sticking to it...), the “EISA” warning should have been enough to set up a red flag. And it did, sort of. I simply assumed that I wouldn’t need the card, as I have no fewer than three SCSI busses on my G4! One is the built-in SCSI, one is an Ultra Fast and Wide that I ordered with it (I don’t know why I did – I never use it. 4 AM problems again?), and one is a card I had from another machine that matches my Iomega 1GB Jaz drive. I figured one of these cards would work, so I didn’t worry.

Dutifully, I completed the auction ($460, for the record) and received my DLT drive. Taking it out of the box, I noticed that, indeed, it had the same connector as one of my cards! I also noticed, however, a legend on a sticker next to the connector which stated “Differential SCSI drive. Do not connect to SIngle Ended SCSI Controller.” This worried me a bit, but I ignored it. After connecting the drive up, it wouldn’t work. I went to Quantum’s site, and eventually found a .PDF manual about DLT drives. Through a little experimenting and reading, I finally turned up the truth: differential drives are not the same as the standard SCSI we all know and love!

Apparently, a differential SCSI drive is faster than standard SCSI because of the way it transfers data through the connectors. Basically, don’t hook one of these up to a regular SCSI card. It could ruin both the card and the drive. I say “could,” because, thankfully, it ruined neither my card nor my drive. No matter what, though, it will not work. “Well,” thought I, “So what if the drive won’t hook up to my card? I’ll just install the card that it came with.” Of course, this is just silly: notwithstanding the fact that the EISA card is longer than the G4 case itself, it is the wrong standard, and will not fit in a PCI slot, no matter what.

So, what to do? Well, fortunately I now had all of the information. From a little conversation with the seller, I verified my facts and went on to find and purchase a PCI differential SCSI controller. Installation was a snap, requiring no special software installation, and after launching DVDSP and building my test files to disc, the software recognized my DLT drive and created a working DVD master DLT tape! Now, all I have to do is get that tape to the replication house and have them verify it, and I’m in business!

The moral, as you might surmise, is that as with any product you must buy that you aren’t familiar with, read and learn as much as you can about it, and don’t buy anything until you are sure you have everything you need for a successful installation. Remember that DLT tape drives were not originally designed for DVD authoring, nor were they designed for Macs, so there will be a large variety of options that may be unnecessary for, or incompatible with, your setup or project. Good luck!

Hopefully the next installment will find me singing the praises of one or another replication house, on the way to making my first real DVD!

The New Hollywood Workshop is dedicated to using Macintosh computers and software to do what the big boys do. Want an example? Go to TheForce.Net and check out “Duality,” a short made completely with Macintosh products.

Eliot Hochberg is a Web developer with over 6 years experience. Apple’s new professional tools are just the ticket to take a sole proprietor like Eliot to the next level. Right now, he’s seeking DVD duplication services that support DVD Studio Pro. Also, he’s looking for DVDSP users who have succesfully completed a DVD project. If you fit either of these qualifications, let us know. We’ll cover your story in future articles.

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