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Preparing to make a movie DVD

DVD prep
NOTE 1. The following pages assume you are starting with your own movie clips (i.e. non-commercial, non-DRM, non-encrypted files). If you want to copy commercial DVDs, you will need to look elsewhere

NOTE 2. This page is aimed at making Standard Definition (SD) mpeg-2 movie DVDs. For High Definition (HD) H.264 movies on standard DVDs (AVCHDs), see my Making a AVCHD DVD page. For making HD on Blu-ray (HDBDs), you will need to look elsewhere.

What software do you need to make a DVD ?

The first thing to realise is that you will be wasting your time with the "all-in-one" packages. No one package can ever hope to keep up with the various changing standards and 'container' definitions used by video capture devices.

So just accept that you will need to find the 'best' Open Source package for each step of the process.

After years of frustration trying to use 'over promoted' useless software that only half works, the following pages show how to make a movie DVD's using the best Open Source** and Freeware applications

** a number of Open Source authors have withdrawn their source software from the Open Source community (SourceForge) either due to the 'excessive' demands of users on their time or to make it a little harder for the parasites who steal Open Source code (like ffmpeg) and use it in their own 'commercial' (i.e. charged for) applications
Fortunately, most continue to make available the .exe files as Freeware

What type of DVD 'R' do I need ?

There was a time when DVD+R disks were the 'standard' for most 'do it yourself' movies = I would guess mainly because most stand-alone DVD 'video recorders' used +R disks.

HOWEVER 'low end' (e.g. Tesco) DVD players ONLY support DVD-R's (and not DVD+R's). Since the more 'upmarket' players support both +R & -R (and +/- RW as well), I suggest you stick to the 'lowest common denominator' i.e. DVD-R, for your 'final' product.

I've also noted that some more recent not-so-low-end players are also having problems playing DVD+R's ...

To 'burn' your DVD, here is my first recommendation, ImgBurn (Freeware). It copes with IDE, SATA and USB connected CD/DVD and even BD drives and is able to make sensible 'suggestions' on 'special burn formats' based on the file types you 'select' to burn (especially useful when you need to burn AVCHDs)

What's the big issue with DVD movie formats ?

Much mystery seems to exist about what the 'bog standard' DVD Video Player expects, so most 'guides' that mention a DVD movie 'standard' get it wrong :-)

The main reason for so much confusion is that computer displays are based around SQUARE pixels, whilst the analogue domestic TV displays are NOT (and never have been).
(Un)fortunately, UK PAL analogue TV '4:3' (720x576) is 'near enough square', so that 'true' 4:3 (768x576) square pixel computer generated video will still be displayed on your TV screen without noticeable distortion = and so starts the confusion between 768 and 720 (width).
Note - I always try to specify resolutions as 'width x height' .. when I get it wrong, the width is always the larger value :-)

Worse, ancient analogue TV's are often setup so they 'over-scan' the display area, with the result that (typically) only 704 of the 720 'un-square' pixels could actually be seen by the viewer anyway. So, in the old days', when every pixel 'counted' when it came to storage etc., SOME 'TV recordings' were only 'saved' at 704x576 !

All that above relates to PAL, the UK / European TV system. Americans use NTSC and their TV's have only 480 have scan lines (rather than 576).
Needless to say, Microsoft and (almost all) it's 'movie' software will 'default' to the US system (but most US software will have a PAL / NTSC 'preference' setting somewhere) whilst many European applications typically only ever cope correctly with PAL

When wide-screen TV's were introduced there was no 'magic' increase in the broadcast bandwidth or data rate of DVD's. The wide screen 16:9 'film format' display (1024x576 square pixels) was achieved by SQUEEZING the 1024 pixels in a scan line down to 720 prior to broadcasting (or recording to DVD) and STRETCHING them out again to 'fill' the TV screen during playback. In other words, 16:9 movies shown on TV (or recorded to DVD) are made up of really NON-SQUARE pixels !

The same applies to 'wide format' Standard Definition (SD) video camera's. They were designed to record in a 16:9 format that could be played back on a TV screen, so the 1024x576 video was typically recorded as 720x576 non-square pixels.

What video format does a DVD player need ?

Most 'domestic' DVD players will actually cope with a very wide range of heights & widths and pixel 'aspect ratios'. This is why you can often 'get away' with recording PC display (square pixel) material onto a DVD and successfully play it back on a TV.

You can, of course, read your DVD players manual to see what (if) your 'computer video' is supported, however that won't tell you what other Players support - and could leave you with a pile of unplayable DVD's when you replace your Player in the future.

For a list of standard 'digital TV' display sizes, see here

How can I discover the 'standard' DVD movie format ?

The obvious way to discover EXACTLY what a 'standard' DVD contains is to use MediaInfo on a standard commercial movie DVD of course !

So pop any commercial movie DVD into your PC's drive and find out for yourself ...You will, of course, already have disabled 'Auto-Play'** and installed DVD43 which will avoid the DRM that normally prevents Windows from 'seeing' the files on the movie DVD (if not, then don't be too surprised when Windows Explorer simply refuses to 'open' the disk or when Windows Media Player (or VLC) 'launches' and starts playing the movie no matter what you try).
**Autoplay is one of those virus writers dream support functions provided by Microsoft. The way it works is, when you insert media (CD, DVD, USB stick etc) that contains a type of file that Windows has been 'told' to run automatically (eg. 'autorun.inf' ... or a virus) then, by default, Windows will automatically run it !
This means, of course, that a virus can immediately infect your system before Windows lets you do anything else ... and that movie (and audio) DVD's start playing automatically before you get a chance to notice that the DRM is denying you 'browse' or 'explore' access.
The best way to Disable Autoplay in Windows XP & earlier is to use TWEAKUI.
For those of you unfortunate enough to be stuck with Vista, see How to disable Autoplay in Vista.

Once you get access to the DVD, choose any one of the 1Gb sized "xxxx.VOB" files and MediaInfo should show something like :-

Overall bit rate : between 5,500 and 6,500 Kbps (depends on number of languages embedded in the video) Video Format : MPEG Version 2 Bit rate mode : Variable Nominal bit rate : 9,800 Kbps Width : 720 pixels Height : 576 pixels Display aspect ratio : 16:9 (stretch 720 pixel scan lines by 133% to 1024 pixels) or 4:3 (stretch 720 to 768) Frame rate : 25.000 fps Standard : PALAudio Format : AC-3 Bit rate mode : Constant Bit rate : 448 Kbps (max., for 'main' language 6 channels, for other languages the bit rate is often lower) Channel(s) : 6 channels (= 5.1, for other languages sometimes only 2 channels (stereo) Sampling rate : 48.0 KHz (per channel) For a multi-lingual DVD, the other languages will be listed (since they are all embedded in the VOB)

What's the 'official' standard ?

The 'official' standard is what the DVD player manufacturers 'must' support. Many support formats 'above and beyond' the official standard (and many don't)

PAL Format (Europe and elsewhere) Encapsulation (mux): mpeg ps up to 10.08 Mbps total for everything. Video: Format mp2v (MPEG-2 Video), up to 9.8 Mbps Resolution of 720x576 (Full D1), 704x576, 352x576 (Half D1), 352x288 (same as VCD) 25 frames/sec Audio: Up to 8 audio tracks in the following formats. At least one track must be in a52, mp2a or raw. mp2a Standard MPEG Audio. a52 AC3 Dolby Digital DTS Audio PCM Uncompressed (raw) Format: 48000 Hz, 32 - 1536 kbps
NTSC Format (USA standard, the default for most computer software) Encapsulation (mux): mpeg ps up to 10.08 Mbps total for everything. Video: Format mp2v (MPEG-2 Video), up to 9.8 Mbps Resolution of 720x480 (Full D1), 704x480, 352x480 (Half D1), 352x240 (same as VCD) 29.97 frames/sec Audio: Up to 8 audio tracks in the following formats. At least one track must be in a52 or raw. mp2a Standard MPEG Audio. a52 AC3 Dolby Digital DTS Audio PCM Uncompressed (raw) Format: 48000 Hz, 32 - 1536 kbps

What 'standard' formats do (almost all) DVD players ACTUALLY accept ?

PAL (720 x 576) or NTSC (720 x 480) only. The '16:9 flag' tells the player if this is to be 'stretched to widescreen' during playback

Video MPEG-2 or MPEG-1, VBR / CBR @ max data rate 9800 Kbps
Audio LPCM, MP2 or AC-3, 48kHz or 44.1kHz (at various bit rates)

Subtitles are 'embedded' into the main video/audio (.VOB) files as a video 'sub-picture' data stream. The player will (optionally) multiplex ('bitmap overlay') the subtitle video into the 'movie' video stream during playback

Note that all modern DVD players all accept both single layer (4.7Gb, aka 'DVD5') and double layer DVD's (8.5Gb, aka 'DVD9')

What's the first step in making a DVD ?

First you have to get your video clips onto your PC. Most manufacturers of video camera's etc. will include software that is capable of 'exporting' their own (often obscure) proprietary format into some 'industry standard'. Since the manufacturer is likely to know their own format best, you should use that.

If you get a choice of formats, choose MPEG *(.mpg, .ts) or DV/AVI (.avi)
The (rather more advertised) Apple QuickTime (.mov / .m4v) is fine for those playing around on a Mac (or iPad) but is useless for DVD making - you will have to convert into .mpg at some point, and that means either paying Apple (or finding the KL QT Alternative) and risk 'breaking' the video (as well as degrading the quality)

Aspect ratio

Windows applications, especially Windows Movie Maker (WMM), have their own view of what to put in the .wmv Video File 'header' when it comes to 'aspect ratio'. Whilst Windows Media Player (WMP) plays WMM .wmv's 'correctly', 'real' applications that actually 'read' the (usually wrong) .wmv header data end up getting it wrong ..

The 'problem' is that many file 'containers' only have a single aspect ratio 'parameter' .. and whilst some software uses this as the 'Display Aspect Ratio' (DAR) others treat it as the Pixel Aspect ratio (PAR)
When dealing with the non-square pixels found in all DVD videos, confusion reigns.
The typical DVD file contains video frames of 720x576 pixels. These are intended to be displayed in '4:3' or '16:9' mode.
If the file contained square pixels, 4:3 would be 768x576 and 16:9 1024x576 - and if a 720x576 video consisted of square pixels it's aspect ratio would be 5:4 !

Needless to say, when video processing and DVD author software that 'assumes' square pixels act on the aspect-ratio values found in the .wmv header, they can end up adding 'black bands' to the top and bottom of the video or 'black bars' at the left and right end of each and every scan line !

You can use the WMVARChanger utility to change the AspectRatioX / AspectRatioY
Note, however, that other values in the .wmv header can interact with AspectRatioX / AspectRatioY making it virtually impossible to work out what values you need for correct display.
One way to reset all the values within a .wmv is to copy the input.wmv to a new output.wmv container using FFmpeg :-
ffmpeg.exe -i "input.wmv" -f asf -vcodec copy -acodec copy -async 1 -y "output.wmv"
This sets the output.wmv parameters assuming square pixels (i.e. PAR = 1).
That means 768x576 will result in a 4:3 display, and 1024x576 in 16:9 (so, in both cases, AspectX and AspectY = 1:1 i.e. these will display correctly without further changes)
However 720x576 will now be displayed 5:4 .. to get 4:3 means making an adjustment of 1.06666r (i.e. using WMVARChanger to adjust the DAR to AspectX = 240 and AspectY = 225). For 16:9, that's AspectX = 144 and AspectY = 135.

NOTE that WMP ignores AspectRatioX / AspectRatioY, however real software (such as VLC) should now play back and process your video correctly


Whilst this makes zero difference to steps required to make a 'DVD movie', it DOES effect the 'quality' (resolution) of the final result

Most domestic DVD players will correctly play both PAL and NTSC disks, however the fact is that NTSC has fewer 'scan lines' than PAL, so a typical European system will almost always display NTSC with 'black bands' at the top and bottom of the screen. So PAL is better.
On the other hand, if your original material has been recorded in NTSC, don't spend hours waiting for your PC to perform 'format conversions' since the 'interpolation' required to convert 480 NTSC scan lines into 576 PAL scan lines will make the video much 'smoother' i.e. less sharp.
The other problem is the fps. NTSC is '30fps', whilst PAL is 25 fps. So to get PAL from NTSC you have to 're-sample' the video frames
A typical way to get 'high speed' when converting is to simply 'drop' every 6th frame, however some software just skips 5 frames in 30 (to get 25) which can introduce 'flicker'. Other 'NTSC to PAL conversion' software just leaves the fps at 30 (so you get 30 fps PAL, which MOST DVD Players will cope with but which your DVD Author software might insist on spending hours converting to 25fps)

SO, ideally you want PAL - but if you have NTSC, don't make things worse by trying to convert :-)

Note - many movie creation software packages (such as MS PhotoStory 3) will 'default' to NTSC at 'export' time. If you accidentally exported as NTSC, just go back and re-export, DO NOT try to convert it instead.

What about recordings from my DVR (Digital Video Recorder) ?

Material that is broadcast live 'over-the-air' on 'terrestrial' TV channels is still covered by Copyright, however it has long been accepted that you may record this material for your own viewing at a later time ('time shifting'). This does not apply to commercial, cable or satellite TV (none of which may be legally copied without a 'licence'**) nor does it imply that you can copy, move or 'save' the material in any other way than to temporarily record to, and playback from, your PVR/DVR

There was a time when recordings could be 'downloaded' quite easily from your DVR to you PC without having to worry about any DRM restrictions. Unfortunately, with the introduction of HD broadcasts, to get a 'licence' to 'record HD' the DVR makers have had to adopt 'DRM'. This means all DVR's now 'encrypt' all recordings before placing them on their internal hard disks.

Of course, to play back the recording, it has to be 'decrypted' ... and since modern DVR's actually contain small LINUX based computers, it will always** be possible for clever people to install software that can 'pick up' the decrypted material - and if the DVR has any sort of Ethernet or USB option, it is then just a matter of making the decrypted recording available to the external port.
**The one exception is the Sky+ box. To use this you have to pay a subscription (licence). The box uses a form of 'time stamped' encryption that requires '#(hash) keys' to be transmitted 'over the air' by Sky. This is 'linked' to your subscription payments = if you stop paying the subscription, you will no longer be sent the '# keys' needed to play back any recorded material

So, when looking to purchase a DVR, you should ALWAYS check the 'unofficial' user forums first (to discover what has (or has not) been done to 'extract' recordings from that unit).

If the DVR supports DLNA, you don't need to do anything 'clever' at all

A standard DLNA 'client' (which you can set-up on your PC) is used to display movies.
So a DVR that acts as a DLNA Server always has to remove it's own proprietary encryption from the recording (on it's own hard disk) before sending it off to the Client.

Standard recordings are transmitted in mpeg-2 (HD is transmitted in H.264) and recorded as a type of 'transport stream' (.ts) file. If you are lucky, ".ts" is what you will see on the DVR's hard disk, although many add their own propitiatory 'container' wrapper. To 'unwrap' the .ts you will need software on your PC that 'understands' the propitiatory 'container' (such as '.rec').

Note that broadcasters 'pad' transmissions with all sorts of "extras" (program 'Guides' and 'Info' (information)). This material, which typically adds about 300 Mb per hour, is recorded by your DVR along with the program.
This rubbish can add 25-30% to the size of a typical SD recording (or about 5-7% to a HD recording). Some DVR's (e.g. the Humax range) have a user 'hack' that lets you strip this data to save space and most PC software (such as VideoReDo) will strip this from the .ts automatically when 'saving' as .mpg

How do I make sure my video is OK ?

To make sure the video file you just obtained from your HD Camcorder, Camera, DVR etc. is, in fact, a valid (i.e. playable) video file WITHOUT any Copy Protection, Licence or DRM problems, use the Open Source program VLC. On the VLC site you can learn how to add support for most video formats.

Is there anything I need to do when confirming my video plays in VLC ?

Yes = you should make a note of the video Height & Width and 'Codec' information (in VLC, Tools, Media Information, Codec Details). At the very least you will need to know if you are dealing with a 'letterbox' pixels (16:9) or 'square(ish)' pixels (4:3).

When it comes to conversion later, you will need to check the 'converters' own assumptions :-)
SO unless you want spend 6+ hours processing only to discover the final version has been 'force fitted' to the (wrong) screen aspect ratio, make a note of the height & width in pixels first :-)

What to do when my video won't play in VLC ?

If VLC failed to play your Video (or it ran with a blank screen or without expected sound) you need to know why & fix it NOW.

DO NOT assume your clever 'convert X to DVD' software can sort it out later. If VLC can't play it correctly, chances are you are missing a 'Codec' and it won't convert correctly (or at all), so don't spend hours trying = or worse, letting the converter go through the motions for hours only to discover there's no picture and/or no sound (or the 'aspect ratio' is wrong).

Video files with the common ".mpg" (& ".mp4") extensions can 'contain' almost any type of obscure video & audio content.
Needless to say, until you know what's inside the "container" you stand almost no chance of fixing the problem (or finding out how to convert the proprietary rubbish into something that will end up on a working DVD).

How can I discover why VLC won't play my video ?

If you are lucky, VLC will display the basic video file information in Tools, Media Information, Codec Details. However if VLC can't play it, chances are it can't 'read' the details from the file either :-)

So our next piece of Open Source software is "MediaInfo". Use this to discover what's hiding inside an unplayable .wmv / .mpg / .mp4 etc. 'container'.

Microsoft Photo Story 3 for Windows exports ".wmv" video files. These consist of 'WPV2' video (a 'pan and zoom command' sub-set of the proprietor Microsoft .wmv format), which is only supported by Windows Media Video 9 Image v2 Codec and (usually) 'WMA Version 2' audio. You will have built your story at 30fps (to avoid flicker) and at 720x576 (or 768x576) for PAL.
Next you will have converted the Photo Story 3 ".wmv" into DV/AVI at 25fps for PAL using Windows Movie Maker and set (or not) the 16:9 flag.
Use MediaInfo to check the .avi file = if you slipped up and 'exported' from WMM using the default US (NTSC) setting, the frame rate will be 29.970 fps (30fps), so go back and re-save in PAL mode)

Video from other sources may be in H.264 (or VC-1) format. Whilst this format normally associated with HD ('Blu-Ray') video, it is also often used by many 'modern' sources, such as modern cameras and 'smart' phones, to record 'normal' SD video as well

The problem is, only "BD" (BluRay) players are 'guaranteed'** to playback this format. To get such material to play in a normal DVD player you will need to 'down convert' to MPEG2.
** as of Dec 2010, many 'normal' DVD players started to ship with H264 support built in for AVCHD (HD DVD's). Many will play back a 'normal' SD DVD's in h264 as well.
NB. VLC supports H264 playback using the Open Source x264 Codec

Why won't my .m4v "QuickTime" video play in VLC ?

Apple's proprietary video format ".m4v" is Copyright protected and requires a Licence payment be made to Apple. So the Open Source VLC can not legally access this file type. However, non-DRM .m4v is identical to .mp4, so first try re-naming the file as ".mp4". If it still fails to play OK, then you will need to install the KL QuickTime Alternative.

NOTE. If you intend to use the MPEG Streamclip edit software to convert the .m4v into industry standard mpeg later, you need a version of KL that ignores the DRM restrictions. This means you should select KL version 1.81 from the KL web page above (it's listed on the right of the page).
In the event of problems, you can download KL v1.81 from here.

Why not use Apple QuickTime ?

Apple QuickTime itself does not support MPEG2 output unless you pay Apple $19.99 (and this is why current versions of KL won't do it either)

If you would still rather install Apple QuickTime and pay, consider the following :-
Whilst 'free', this bloated viewer (download over 30Mb = installed size over 77Mb), is all about selling 'upgrades'. It's menu's are full of greyed out options prefixed 'PRO' (meaning you have to pay to use those functions).
It is also, at best, a 'pact with the devil' = it will try to 'steal' your video file extensions and make multiple attempts to add entries to your Registry (mainly to add an 'update checker' Service - but it also keeps trying to 'Run' parts of itself at start-up).
You will, of course have already installed "WinPatrol" to prevent this attempted Registry hijacking. If you didn't, then you will need "HijackThis" to locate and remove the start-up 'Run' commands from your Registry.
Needless to say, every time the QuickTime 'decoder' is 'invoked' (e.g. by VLC) it will once again try to set itself up to RUN at start-up. It also attempts to contact an external web address each time it is invoked (to 'check for updates') - of course you can prevent this by denying VLC access to your network (using your Firewall, such as CoMoDo, ZoneAlarm or similar), but that will also prevent VLC checking for it's own updates (so you will now have to remember to check manually every few months)
To avoid all the above aggro, just use the KL QT Alternative instead :-)

Importing QuickTime .mov movies into Windows Movie Maker

Microsoft WMM does not natively support QuickTime .mov files, however all it needs is a .mov Codec. This can be installed as part of the K-Lite Codec Pack (download from eg. MajorGeeks - Download K-Lite Codec Pack Full 11.9.0). You will have to reboot XP before the new Codecs take effect.

WARNING. K-lite will insist on 'un-installing' ALL your existing Codecs and replace them with it's own !!
Unfortunately, on my PC, this resulted in almost all my existing media applications becoming 'unlinked' from their own Codecs - with the result that I had to re-install each of them, one at a time ...
Before I discovered the K-Lite Codec Pack, I wasted some time on the Microsoft 'help' forums where, in answer to 'How can I open .mov files in WMM ?' the ever helpful MS employee responded with "MS WMM does not support .mov" (which is about as useful as any Microsoft 'answer' ever gets).
Other (slightly more helpful) forum users responded with "you must use a 3rd party tool to convert from .mov to .wmv first", which, after reading my Warning above, you might well agree with.
If you decide to follow the 'convert' approach (instead of taking the risk of installing a Codec), I suggest using "MM-Convert" (which is a good Open Source video conversion utility)

The pages in this topic are :-

  + Using MediaInfo

  + PowerPoint to video

  + Video to DVD - (mpeg format) == Latest changes (modified 2nd Mar 2016 05:17.)

Next page :- Using MediaInfo