Create a DVD from Video Clips

the simplest, fastest way

You can spend a lot of money on powerful, complex DVD authoring software, and make awesome, professional DVD's.  It does take a long time, and it has a steep learning curve.  Here's how to do it fast and easy - for those times where you have a collection of AVI's, MPG's, or WMV's that you want to put onto a DVD and make a simple menu.  Of course, there are some drawbacks - the powerful, expensive tools offer a lot, and with this simple quick process there are things you can't have. 

Unavailable features (i.e. what you must give up, to use this simple method)

There are just 2, simple steps:

Step 1)  Conversion - convert the clips to standard, DVD-compliant, MPEG-2 files

Step 2)  Author and Burn - use TMPGenc DVD Author - author the DVD (add in the clips, and make a menu) and burn it

DONE !!!

Stuff you need to know First

no thanks - take me right to the simple DVD creation method

We will cover a few basics here, that are necessary to know what you are doing when creating a DVD.

MPEG-2 Standards

to make DVD's that play on any player, you MUST adhere to these standards !!!

*** also see MPEG-2 FAQ

Width:Height Typical Use
4:3 525 line (NTSC) NTSC TV
4:3 625 line (PAL) PAL TV
16:9 525 line (NTSC) Widescreen NTSC TV
16:9 625 line (PAL) Widescreen PAL TV

Television Standards
Your DVD player looks at IFO files, which are index & information files that
tell the DVD player how to play VOB files (which are MPEG-2 files wrapped in a header)
The DVD player then converts the video streams to these TV formats

It is definitely possible to make non-standard MPEG-2 files, and there are some DVD authoring packages that will even allow them as input and make a DVD.  You may even be able to play a non-standard DVD made from non-standard MPEG's on your DVD player.  However, only a 100% standard DVD will play on ALL DVD players.  So stick with that - or else you are just asking for trouble.  Here are the allowable standards for MPEG-2 video.  The framerate is also called "Hz" (Hertz):

Both 720x480 and 704x480 are from the NTSC's CCIR 601 standard
352x240 is for both MPEG-1 and MPEG-2, and is also called SIF (Source Input Format), also known as Low Level (LL)
352x480 is for non-interlaced, which is called "progressive" scanning - used at 24 fps

NOTE:  a common MPEG-1 Myth is that the max frame size is 352x240.  Actually, MPEG-1 permits sampling dimensions as high as 4095 x 4095 x 60 frames per second. The 352x240 size that most people think of as "MPEG-1" is really a kind of subset known as Constrained Parameters bitstream (CPB).

You may encounter some common terms such as "D1" (Digital 1 - which is broadcast video at 29.97 fps, MPEG-2 only) and SIF (Source Input Format, MPEG-1 and MPEG-2), SIF is also known as Low Level (LL) and, like D1, is at 29.97 fps.

 

MPEG-2 Aspect Ratios 

*** you will not always want exact aspect ratio's - because it is best to be able to divide evenly by a factor of 8 or 16.  The various video software editing and player packages work best that way

Terminology:

16:9  =  enhanced for widescreen TVs, anamorphic widescreen
4:3 = fullscreen, 1:1.33, pan&scan, standard edition, letterboxed widescreen.

When you encode MPEG-2 files for DVD, you use 720x480 for the source file aspect ratio.  But the actual displayed ratio is either 4:3, 16:9, or 2.21:1 (less common).  This is decided by the DVD player based on a parameter that is encoded into the mpeg-2 file. 

In addition, the Source File pixels can be square or oval shaped, which also affects the displayed aspect ratio.  Here are the various combinations of pixel aspect ratios and image aspect ratios - only one of these can be encoded into the mpeg-2 file

If you have a square pixel (1:1) source file:

If your have a non-square, oval pixel source file:

the actual displayed aspect ratio of the encoded file can vary greatly !!  Therefore you are better off just selecting "square pixels" if this setting is even available in your encoder.  This will give you more constant results.  TMPGenc Express allows you to select the pixel ratio in the "Clip Info" box.  Here are the effects of different settings selected for the source file.  Note the effects as far as the black bars are concerned:

TMPGenc Express
720x480 Source Video clip Aspect Ratio Settings
Shown as displayed on a 4:3 Screen

The images show how the source file is interpreted and the resulting aspect ratio if it were to be displayed on a 4:3 screen.  However, the aspect ratio that you select for the final output will be either 4:3 or 16:9, which, as AVIcodec indicates, ends up being 16:9 or 21.1:1, which to add even more confusion, so long as square pixels were selected for the input, ends up being displayed by the DVD player as 4:3 or 16:9 !!!  The easiest way to understand all this, is to ignore the AVIcodec reported aspect ratio, and just realize the following:

 


the two DVD aspect ratios on a 4:3 screen  -  both using 720x480 video

NOTE1:  on a 4:3 screen, if using letterbox (widecreen) the 16:9 video is merely shrunk in size and retains the same aspect ratio, and therefore will have black bars on top and bottom.
If the DVD is played using "Pan and Scan" then it will fill the screen and the sides of the 16:9 are chopped off.

NOTE2:   if these were displayed on a 16:9 widescreen, then the 4:3 would have black bars at the sides

The MPEG-2 standard defines several "layers" which contain both data and variables.  The Sequence layer represents either interlaced or progressive video sequences, (MPEG-1 is strictly progressive).  In addition, MPEG-2 sequence layer contains a variable called "aspect_ratio_information", sometimes called a "flag".  It refers to the overall display aspect ratio (e.g. 4:3, 16:9).  With MPEG-1, the same variable refers to the ratio of the pixels, not the display.

NOTE:  in addition, another important variable is "frame_rate_code", which with MPEG-2 refers to the display rate.  The same variable in MPEG-1 refers to the actual coded frame rate.

So, the mpeg-2 file structure has internal information that flags the DVD player as to whether it should be played as 4:3 or 16:9.  This can actually be edited without re-encoding, through the use of a utility called DVDpatcher.

In BOTH cases, the MPEG-2 file is the same pixel size of 720x480.  So, pixel-wise, that is an aspect ratio of 1.5:1, or simply 1.5  -  and to make it really confusing, here are the various aspect ratios normalized to 1 :      720x480 = 1.5   but 4:3 = 1.33  and  16:9 =   1.78:1

As you can see, none of them are equivalent !!  But today's TV's are either 4:3 or 16:9, and therefore, to fill those screens the DVD player, when given a video clip of 720x480, will NOT play it at the 720x480 aspect ratio of 1.5.  It will either go below that for standard TV, or above that for HDTV.  The DVD player inspects the header of the MPEG-2 file, reads the aspect ratio, and plays it accordingly.

Using the CucuSoft encoder as an example  .  .  .


AVIcodec Report of a CucuSoft Transcoded MPEG-2
CucuSoft Settings = 720x480, 4:3
Use for Standard TV viewing

 


AVIcodec Report of a CucuSoft Transcoded MPEG-2
CucuSoft Settings = 720x480, 16:9
Use for widescreen, HDTV viewing

CucuSoft, at the 16:9 setting, creates MPEG-2 clips at 2.21:1, which will give you a perfect DVD screen on a WideScreen TV.  However, if you have a standard 4:3 television, then select 4:3 in CucuSoft.  Surprisingly, the resulting video will be 16:9 !!!  But as it turns out, a 16:9 video will be changed to fit your 4:3 screen.  In both cases the video clip is indeed 720x480, but the clip contains elements that tell the player what aspect ratio to use.

This is a small but extremely capable utility.  It has tabs on top to select the type of output you want.  Do not select "DVD" because it will create VOB's ina DVD structured folder.  Instead, select MPEG-2.

Other Factors affecting the Displayed Aspect Ratio

To calculate and figure all this out - impossible - you need to consider things such as anamorphic squeezing of the picture, and non-round elliptical pixels.  Both of those features can take a 16:9 video and display it as 4:3

 

CBR vs VBR

Virtually every MPEG-2 encoder has these two options.

Constant bitrate (CBR)
The video stream bitrate is fixed to a constant value. This means that high motion scenes are allocated the same number of bits as low motion scenes. Either bits are wasted during the encoding of low motion scenes, or block artifacts will be seen during high motion scenes.

Use this setting to create a VCD.

Variable bitrate (VBR)  -  typically requires a 2-Pass encoding process !!
Variable bit rate does exactly what it says on the tin - the bit rate is varied. During periods of high motion the number of bits used to encode the video is increased. When the action stops the number of bits used to encode it is reduced. This gives the best video quality for the least average number of bits.

To work out which parts of the video should be allocated the most bits the encoder processes the whole video clip twice (hence the "2-pass" part of the name). During the first pass it keeps a record of the complexity of each frame. Highly complex frames will be allocated more bits. The second pass does the actual encoding.

Step 1 - Conversion to 720x480 (16:9) MPEG-2 DVD-compliant Files

*** the best MPEG-2 encoder is TMPGenc Express 3.0, however it is slow as molasses, not because the utility itself is slow, but because it defaults to VBR, which requires 2 passes.  I use it, set up a batch process, and goto bed because it takes all night to convert enough clips to fill a DVD.

CucuSoft is fast, but in my own tests it created blocky, white artifacts.  Nevertheless, you may have better luck with it - here is the instructions . . .

Encoding with CucuSoft

*** your  mileage may vary - I had a problem with blocky, white artifacts on about 25% of the clips - this happens particularly clips with slightly varying shades, such as an outdoor basketball court where many subtle levels of gray are required.  BUT it is very fast !!

CucuSoft Settings - IMPORTANT

For some reason, CucuSoft does not retain the settings !!!  Therefore, each time you open it, you MUST make your selection AGAIN for standard MPEG-2 files.  Unfortunately, it defaults to 24 fps mpg's and those will not play on many DVD players.  Also, the display size defaults to whatever the display size is of the first video clip you Add.   Each time you Add a file, you will see the "Output Size" change to the same size as the file you just input.  For example, if you add a clip that is 320x240, then the output size will also show those dimensions.  If you then add another clip that is 640x480, the output size will change and show that.  However. AFTER you add the video files, and then you set the Output size manually - it will "stick" on that size for all exported clips. 

Follow these steps to convert the clips and workaround the settings issue:

Click "stretch to Fit" so that the video will fill the 720x480 16:9 screen

My TV is standard (4:3 screen)

Therefore I selected 4:3  -  NOT 16:9 here !!!

Oddly, 16:9 would give us a very wide 2.21 result, while 16:9 will give us a 1.33 result (1.33 = 4:3)

Step 2)  Author and Burn

*** also see the great article, TMPGenc Settings

TMPGenc DVD Author (TDA) has received rave reviews, and after using it - I can see why.  It does NOT recode the video files, but ratherm insists on 100% DVD-compliant MPEG-2 files for input.  This is why it has a 100% success rate on burned DVD;s.   It is the best for "basic DVD's" - since you cannot encode multiple audio streams.  Also, I see no support for subtitles.

Here is a How-To.  Run "TMPGenc DVD Author", and just follow the Buttons.  This software is so easy to use that you probably will not even need to read the rest of this - that's the beauty of it !!!

First off, create a new Project, and begin adding in your MPEG-2 clips.  Each time you add in a clip, they give you the option to "Edit" the clip, which means you can slice off portions of it by setting IN and OUT points.  You can just add in all the clips, and then edit later, of course.

The left pane is "Tracks", which is the same thing as a "Chapter".  You can add multiple clips to any Track and then they will play continuously, and when completed you will be returned to the menu.  In general, most people use 1 clip per Track !!

When you have added all the clips and created all the tracks you want, then create a menu.  There is a set of default menus shown in a drop-down on the left - but they only allow several buttons !!  Therefore you may want to make your own, custom menu - which is incredibly easy to do.  You can select menus with buttons or just Text links to the clips.

The screenshots below show you how to create your DVD.

 

Create a new Project

 

Add in the DVD-compliant MPEG-2 Clips
that you converted in Step 1

 

Edit the clip if you want - by setting new Start and End frames

 

Add new Tracks - each Track will be accessible as a Chapter in the Menus

 

Add Multiple Clips in each Track if you like, as shown above
However it is more common to add 1 clip per Track

 

Set up your Menu
*** make sure you do NOT select "Play all Tracks" for the "Firstplay" Option ***
*** If you have an intro track, then select "Play only first track" ***

 

Make a custom Menu using the handy templates
This allows you to add many buttons or text links to the Video clips on one Menu screen

 

Create the final DVD Folders and Files on your hard drive

Make sure it does not exceed the Maximum DVD-5 Disc capacity of 4.7 GB

NOTE:  this utility does not support DVD-9 discs as far as I know

 

Test the DVD
Leave this popup Box sitting there, and goto your software DVD Player such as PowerDVD - and test the DVD
NOTE:  if you used 720x480 and test the video FullScreen, you will probably get black bars at the top and bottom
NOTE:  if your TV is 4:3  -  to test a DVD for what it will look like on your TV, set the display to a 4:3 resolution such as 1024x768, and then play the DVD fullscreen
 

Then - Burn the DVD !!! 
Do NOT click OK unless you want to use another Burner such as Nero.
Instead, click "Open DVD Writing Tool" to burn the DVD

NOTE:  you may want to use a re-writeable (DVD/RW) to test your Player

 

*** these screenshots should be enough - but you can click Here for a more detailed guide