Home and Links
 Your PC and Security
 Server NAS
 DVD making
 Raspberry Pi
 PIC projects
 Other projects
 Next >>

Background to making a movie DVD

DVD movie background

What are the different types ?

Standard Definition (or 'SD') is recorded only onto DVD (single or dual layer), whilst High Definition (or 'HD') is usually recorded onto BluRay (BD) but can also be recorded onto DVD (when it is known as 'AVCHD')

Both SD and HD support stereo and surround sound (including surround sound encoded into 2channel stereo = Dolby ProLogicII) and allow multiple audio (language) tracks.

Both SD and HD suffer from DRM. Fortunately you can produce your own SD/HD DVD's without knowing much about DVD DRM - however the same is not true of HD 'BD' BluRay discs, so I will focus on DVD generation (and leave BD for another day)

How is a movie 'stored' ?

Movie files are often called 'containers' because they contain both video data and audio data. The container (file) 'extension' often indicates the format of the movie data = for example, a .mpg file USUALLY contains SD movie with mpeg2 encoded video with AC-3 encoded audio, however this is not always the case (.m4v, the Apple 'container' is used for both SD and HD movies which are always encoded with totally different formats)

If you have a Windows computer, your Microsoft software expect your movies to be in .wmv files. If your computer is a Mac, then it will expect movies to be in Apple .m4v files. Whatever system you use, you will need software to process your movie files from one 'container' (and format) to another, as neither Microsoft nor Apple make it 'easy' for you to 'escape' from their system and generate DVD's (or BD's) that play on stand-alone players

What sort of video can you turn into a movie DVD disc ?

Anything that 'plays' on your PC can be made into a DVD. This 'DVD movie making guide' is for people who already have a video file (typically ".wmv", ".mpg", ".mp4" or ".avi" etc.) that they wish to 'burn' onto a DVD and so they can play it in a normal domestic DVD 'movie' player.

Note. If you are looking for "How to get movies from my Mobile Phone onto my PC", "How to convert my VHS home movie into digital form" or even "How to 'hack' a commercial movie DVD / BD" you will need to look elsewhere.

Typical source of the video files will be your digital video recorder or a video capture card (or USB 'dongle') that is used to convert older analogue material (eg VHS tapes) to digital form.

FreeView SD is transmitted in MPEG format. Most PVR's simply add a 'header' and then copy the data stream to hard disk. Whilst they often use their own container file 'extension' (eg .rec) the data is essentially 'DVD ready'.
This guide will also be of use to those who have created a 'slide show movie' using either PowerPoint or Microsoft Photo Story 3 (or similar) and do who not wish to pay $$$ for some 'commercial' DVD making package that only half works and generates poor quality garbage.

What are the biggest problems when converting for SD DVD ?

Non-sqaure pixels

The biggest video problem, which hardly ever seems to be mentioned, is that SD movie DVD's contain 'non-square' pixels, whilst computer video (and computer displays and HD) are based on SQUARE pixels. Whilst it is a (relatively) easy but (very) time consumimng task to convert from one aspect ratio to another, it is also very easy to 'loose track' of which 'format' your movie is in :-)

One way of avoiding confusion is to stick to 'square pixels' (in some specific video file type eg .wmv) untill the last possible moment. You then do the conversion (into the 'final' file type, eg .mpg) before (or with) the final 'DVD author' step. This means that all your .wmv files contain square pixels (and all your .mpg files do not)

Maintaining audio quality

When it comes to audio, you should keep all your 'source' files in '.wav' format. Whilst mp3 may be more 'common', it is a 'lossy' compression system that will always be of lower quality than your .wav original - and you will loose even more quality when you convert from .mp3 into DVD standard AC-3.

Frame rates

The final problem is that most software defaults to the US standard "NTSC" - which is 29.8 frames per second - rather than the UK standard "PAL" - which is 25 fps. Fortunalty, just about every stand-alone player will cope with both standards, so converting from one fps to the other is not only results in a loss of quality but is also a total waste of time.

NTSC also has less pixels per video 'frame', so I never waste my time using NTSC.
The problem is, of course, unless you are very careful, some sofware packages will 'default' to the wromg mode and insist on wasting 8 hours of your life automatically doing a conversion before burning your DVD

Whilst PAL is my preferred standard (it has more pixels and is thus higher quality), if you discover your source movie is NTSC DO NOT make the mistake of trying to 'convert' it into PAL.

NB. HD (1080) is 23.976 fps (which is often referred to as '24fps').

What's inside the PC video ? (wmv) What's on the movie DVD ? (mpg)
Standard display 768 x 576 Spixels (4:3 or pre-distorted 16:9) 720 x 576 non-Sq with 4:3 or 16:9 'display' flag
Letterbox display 1024 x 576 Spixels (16:9) 720 x 576 non-Sq with 16:9 flag
PAL Video WMV, 25 fps MPEGv2, VBR 3.5-9.8 Mbps (max**), 25 fps
Audio (Stereo) WMA, 2 ch. 342 Kbps, 48KHz AC-3, 2 ch. 224-256Kbps, 48kHz (or 192Kbps @ 44.1kHz)
Audio (5.1) (n/a) AC-3, 6 channel ("5.1"), 448Kbps, 48kHz

** The maximum data rate supported by the DVD 'specification' is 9.8 Mbs .. this leads to the 'rule of thumb' that 'good quality' movies require '1 megabyte per second'. At '1 mb/s' (8 Mbits/s), a (single layer) 4.7Gb DVD holds 4700 seconds = 78 minutes (or, at the max 9.8 Mbs rate, 'about an hour')

To skip the rest of this page (which mostly consists of my rants about Copyright, DRM and the 'Movie Industry', go straight to my "Next>>" page (the button on the bottom left of this page)

Am I breaking Copyright Law by turning my video into a DVD movie ?

Almost certainly, although it does depend on where you live and the 'source' of your video. Even if your entire video (and all the commentary) was 'shot' by yourself, in public, if you have accidentally recorded some music playing in the background or included some identifiable 'logo' (including shop fronts and advertisements) or even a 'identifiable building', then I'm sorry to say you will be 'in breach of copyright' from the moment you take the photo or record the video

For sure, if you add music, no matter what the source (but especially from 'your' CD that you 'paid for'), you will be breaking Copyright Law unless you have obtained permission from the Copyright holders (i.e. often the publisher, sometimes the composers & performers).

What about broadcast TV ?

If you use a 'PVR' (Personal Video Recorder) or 'DVR' (Digital Video Recorder) to record a TV program, it is accepted in most countries that you may view the stored program at a later date. However, even if you have paid a licence fee to the BBC, moving the material onto DVD (even if only 'for personal viewing at a later date' i.e. 'time-shifting'**) means you are 'in breach' of Copyright Law. This is because it involves MOVING the program onto different 'media' and Copyright applies separately to each and every 'media' format.

** Those with 'Sky+' boxes will discover that their time-shifted recordings are ENCRYPTED. This means you can only play them back from the box whilst paying the monthly Sky subscription.

Encryption is not limited to Sky - programs made available on the Internet by the BBC iPlayer & Channel 4's "4 OD" etc. are not only encrypted but also enforce a strict 'view by' time limit.

Why does it depend on where I live ?

US law permits 'Fair Use', which means that it is actually legal (as opposed to illegal, but not enforced) to copy a broadcast program 'for time-shifting purposes'. This is enshrined in a Supreme Court decision known as "The Betamax case">.

However the law in UK is clear - you are 'in breach' the moment you 'copy' ANYTHING without the express permission of the Copyright holders. Of course it's impossible to enforce strict UK Copyright law (which prohibits copying for any purpose) when applied to individuals 'time-shifting' or making copies for personal viewing only, so, in practice, this is 'allowed' by 'custom and practice'. Instead of attempting to directly prosecute individuals for making ecordings, the music/movie industry successfully lobbied many European Governments to impose a 'copyright tax' on blank (cassette tape) media.

What's the problem with DVD movie making software ?

Over the years I have spend a small fortune in time and money trying to use 'best of breed' DVD movie 'makers' only to run into 'impossible to fix' problems. After browsing the 'forums', I often find the problems have been found and discussed years ago but no solution has ever been posted. The same problems are often reported year after year, by each 'batch' of new buyers who have been tempted by the latest glowing review of the latest and greatest version.

It soon becomes plain that most bugs in commercial software are never fixed. Typical 'bugs' are locking up or shutting down (after 5+ hours of processing) with a 'file too big' message (and no actual file to be found anywhere) or a 'Burn Complete' of a 'video DVD' that displays nothing but a black screen or (very frequently) plays at very poor quality (blocky, breaking up, stuttering) or (almost as often) without sound. Another more than typical bug is to take your original 'HD quality' 'letterbox' film and reduce it to low quality TV at 4:3 aspect ratio by throwing away pixels, exceedingly poor 're-sizing' (interpolation) and/or 'squeezing' the width (so everything is tall and thin on screen) without any warning.

Don't waste your time and energy playing with feature-disabled 'trials' and time limited 'free download' software that will, in the end, prove incapable of doing what you really want. I've done that and wasted enough time for you already :-)

Why do you use Open Source software to make movie DVD's ?

(rant mode 'on')

A1. All commercial and 'shareware' video software is riddled with restrictions, 'copy protection' and 'Digital Rights Management' (DRM).

DRM 'infects' commercial video processing software - and DRM is a disaster waiting to happen to your home movies (in the form of the dreaded "A problem occurred with digital copyright protection") and you DON'T WANT any trace of it on your PC.

DRM software will attempt to control what you are 'allowed' to 'read' from your CD or DVD drive and what you are 'allowed' to 'write' or 'burn'. Once it has got it's 'hooks' into your PC (which WILL happen if you start installing commercial video processing software) you may never be able to eradicate it. It is full of bugs and problems and you may well end up ripping out your DVD drive in frustration when all that's wrong is some DRM 'infection' corrupting Windows ability to access the drive and read it's contents.

If you wish to test some (DRM infected) commercial 'free trial' package, go ahead. You can be sure that the DRM restriction code will remain behind, infecting your system, after you run the 'uninstall'. You may think you can use Windows 'System Restore' to set a 'check point' before installing any time limited / copy protected / DRM infected software and then 'restore' to that checkpoint afterwards. Well, I'm sorry to say that the DRM 'mafia' have already thought of that - and so most DRM (and free trial) software is designed to defeat System Restore. The ONLY real way to avoid being infected with DRM is to do a full 'disk image' (or 'Ghost') before installing (and then wipe the disk, and the DRM, by restoring the disk image afterwards).

A2. Eventually I realised that commercial software programmers must have put so much effort into complying with the various DRM restrictions, Copy Protection and Licensing control requirements that they have little or no time to actually code or debug the functional software. The first semi-working 'Draft' software is so tied down and 'set in stone' by the DRM etc. that changing (i.e. fixing) the functionality (as opposed to making cosmetic changes to the fancy GUI) is virtually impossible. Thus whatever they managed to achieve for the first draft is shipped and is never fixed.

The ONLY way to avoid the 'DRM crap trap' is to go Open Source .. so don't use anything else !!

(rant mode off ... well, mostly :-) )

What about Magazines, Guides and Reviews ?

A1. Most software magazine 'Reviews' have only one thing in common = they are really just advertising in disguise !

No matter what is implied in the 'Guide' or 'Review', at the end of the day, you have to pay ... but, of course, you will never discover this until AFTER you have clicked on the 'Free Download' button and installed some time-limited 'free trial' feature limited version that stops after processing 5 minutes of video, adds 'watermarks' or 'copyright' notices all over the result or, perhaps worse, runs for hours 'going through the motions' but then refuses to actually save or 'burn' anything at all.

The existence of any Open Source 'equivalents' to the 'best video software' being reviewed in any Magazine etc. will, of course, never be mentioned == if they did, the commercial vendor would pull their advertising - after all, who is going to pay $$$ for part-working restricted rubbish when a fully featured 'DRM free' alternative is being 'advertised' instead ?. Needless to say, any problems introduced by the DRM and Copy Protection (with which all commercial products are riddled) will never get a mention in any review.

A2. There are some on-line 'Guides' and 'Reviews' that are, to be blunt, simply lies from start to finish. When you see the words 'Open Source' prominently displayed on the same web page right next to the 'Buy it Now' button you can only suspect the entire site - only fraudsters would use the term 'Open Source' to describe their "you must pay for our software" = so why do they do it ? = I can only assume it's to get their blatant lies higher up the Google page ranking and thus 'suck in' more unwary punters.

A3. None of the serious limitations or restrictions of use of any commercial 'package' will ever be mentioned in any 'Review' or 'Guide'. Often you will discover that the 'promoted' product depends on other components which also have to be purchased - sometimes there is a clue in the Review when it ends with the comment "and now burn the DVD" (without mentioning that you either need some specialist ISO Burner or will have to purchase additional software to convert the 'part finished' files into the required Video_TS form).

Some commercial software will generate proprietary intermediate files that are deliberately designed to prevent you from making changes to the video outside of 'their' control. There was even a time when some commercial software vendors tried to 'steal' your video content by claiming 'copyright' over the proprietary encoded version they created from it !

A4. Finally, it often seems that the 'reviewer' has never actually used the product, except, perhaps, to get the fancy screen shots, because if you do make the mistake of trying to use the software 'for real' (with actual 'DVD sized' video files), it often turns out to be full of fatal bugs that prevent operation as described in the review. You might think the 'reviewer' would have noticed some of the more obvious problems (such as refusing to 'open' files or create DVD's over 4Gb, loosing the sound or setting the wrong frame rate or aspect ratio - and then converting your perfectly sharp video into garbage), but no, even those are never mentioned.

Indeed, the way some so-called on-line 'Guides' are written, you might think that the Author has a financial interest in 'pushing' the chosen products == especially when you discover a 'Buy it Now' button prominently displayed at the bottom of the last page :-)

The only way out of the 'commercial crap trap' is to stick with Open Source.

Click 'Next >>' in the Navigation Bar left for the actual guide

The pages in this topic are :-

Next subject :- Preparing video - (for a DVD movie)