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Putting it all together (Part 6)

By Eliot Hochberg (eliot@high-mountain.com), October 23, 2002

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In this series, we’ve been going over how to do anamorphic 16:9 video on a DVD. In this last installment we’ll assemble our DVD, taking into account a few quirks along the way.

The DVD I made was pretty simple. I set the default action to the intro footage I created, then had it link to the still Photoshop menu. As described earlier, I used what amounts to a rollover to display the director’s biography. If someone hits enter on this button, it just goes back to the start of the menu. The “play” button does just what it says, plays the movie. Of course it actually plays the transition movie first, then switches to the main movie, which when finished goes back to the intro movie.

I allowed user searching on the whole DVD. Another item worth noting is the settings for the 16:9 footage. Initially I set the footage to “16:9 Pan and Scan” and “letterbox.” It turns out this would show the film properly if the user sets his player to 16:9, but if the user sets it to “Pan and Scan,” it would zoom in and fill the screen with the video footage, cutting off the left and right portions of the image. It turns out that there is a provision in the DVD specs that would allow the DVD to actually zoom and pan the wide screen image, thus saving a lot of disc space. However, from what I gather, few if any DVDs have ever used this feature, which I think is a shame, since it really would be a good feature to take advantage of.

The way to set the DVD then is to select 16:9 “letterbox” only. Then the footage will appear letterboxed in both 4:3 and “Pan and Scan” modes. On a 16:9 screen the footage should appear to fill up the entire screen. The DVD itself is set to 4:3, since the menus are all set for that aspect ratio.

When creating the DVD, there are a few things I noticed. First, the ability to use a previously built file is back. Simply select the folder where your current VIDEO_TS file lives; and after you select your authoring mode, it will ask if you want to use the previous file. Second, there is a new checkbox in the burning dialog: “lossless linking.” This is an option that helps slower computers build DVDs more reliably. Essentially, it compensates for hiccups that may occur during the burning process, and results in successful DVDs. It is similar to “burn proof” in CD-R burning. The downside is that apparently some DVD players may have trouble with DVDs burned this way, so only use it if you absolutely have to.

One area I found disappointing was the time it took to create MPEG-2 files. It took nearly 45 minutes to encode a 17-minute file into MPEG-2. I had expected it to take much less time on my new 800-MHz G4. I haven’t double checked, but past experience with DVDSP 1.2 on a 450-MHz G4 is that it only took 2-3 times as long as the footage to do this encoding. I thought that now I could expect shorter times, but so far this does not seem to be the case for my new setup.

Another item that annoyed me was doing titles in Final Cut Pro. I’ve had problems in the past, but I thought with Version 3 in OS X they might go away. I was able to do text titles; but when I tried increasing the text size, applying fade in and fade out caused the text to forget its leading during the fades. It was very frustrating. It could have been the font, Final Cut Pro or a combination; but whatever it was, I still recommend using Photoshop to create your text and then import that into FCP. That way you have complete control over the text spacing and no worries about what FCP will do when effects are applied. If you do this, be sure to import at 720x540.

One final item: I have discovered that the screensaver built in to OS X (at least in 10.1.5) causes strange visual artifacts when DVDSP or Final Cut Pro are running and the screen goes into save mode. This is not a big surprise; I have noticed over the years that screensavers and energy savers invariably eventually cause a system to freeze, crash or otherwise cause heartache on both Macs and PCs. I usually turn them off and shut my monitor down by hand. I had hoped that OS X would not have this problem, but I was wrong. And before you go telling me that I should try Jaguar to fix the issue, I have heard from many people that DVDSP does not yet play nice with Jaguar, So I think I will hold off on that upgrade.

Well, that’s it for the moment. I hope this short series has been helpful. There’s plenty more to do in DVDSP. Keep coming back to see what we go over next time!

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

Eliot Hochberg is a Web developer with over seven years’ experience. Apple’s new professional tools are just the ticket for a sole proprietor like Eliot to go to the next level. Right now, he’s seeking DVD duplication services that support DVD Studio Pro. If your company does, let us know. We’ll list you in future articles.

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