DVD production on the iMac

I put together my first iDVD project this weekend using iLife ’05. I shot some video of my son’s trampoline competition in the morning and put the project together in the afternoon. Bottom line: to edit about 40 minutes of tape into a 15 minute movie took me about six hours to edit the tape, add transitions and titles, add music, adjust sound levels and create the iDVD project itself. I had used earlier versions of iMovie and iTunes to put together QuickTime movies (since I didn’t have a SuperDrive), but this was my first time through with iDVD so I expect that I will be a bit quicker on that part next time.

iMovie HD is very nice, and still very easy to use. One of my biggest complaints about earlier versions was the inability to edit the audio levels on the video track, but you can now do this without having to first extract the audio. Another key difference I noticed was how the iMovie project file is saved. In earlier versions, the iMovie project itself was a small file with all the various clips saved as separate files. In HD, the project is one large file.

Since this DVD is for my family to enjoy, I just pulled a couple of songs from my iTunes library to use as soundtrack. One complaint with the interface here is that you can’t view selections by playlist. You get a list of the entire library with the option to sort by Song Name, Artist, and Time. The last is especially useful if you know how long you need the piece to be. If you know what music you want to use, though, you don’t really have to worry about the time, since you can split, crop, and otherwise adjust audio tracks once you’ve add them to your project.

I didn’t use iPhoto to pull any images into this movie, but I did use it to build the menus in iDVD. Here the interface is very nice, and does allow you to browse your albums in iPhoto (not just the entire library like iTunes).

Since this was my first time using iDVD, I had to take a little time to learn what was what. The chapter markings and movie are automatically brought in from iMovie, so it is really just a matter of packaging. The first thing I had to do was think about how DVD menus work, what I’ve seen and liked before, and what I wanted to have my DVD menus look like. (This was, in fact, a recurring theme throughout the project. The applications themselves are incredibly easy to use, but the process of putting together a project requires a lot of thought to make sure you get what you want.) I tried several of the different iDVD 5 themes (there are themes from older versions available as well) and found one I liked. The “drop zones” allowed me to put photos from iPhoto or movies/clips from iMovie into the menu, creating a very professional looking effect.

Burning the DVD was as simple as clicking on the Burn button and inserting a blank DVD.
A couple of lessons learned worth mentioning (though I’m sure there were many others I didn’t capture):
  • Wait until you have completely finished your edit before adding chapter marks in iMovie. I added my chapter marks in and then did a little more editing. When I went back and checked the chapter marks, they were right where I left them on the time line. Unfortunately, the contents on the timeline had changed so the chapter marks were pointing to the wrong place. Easy enough to change, but why do it over when you can just wait until the edit is complete.
  • As you are going through your edit in iMovie, use the Save Frame feature to capture frames to use later on your DVD menus.
  • In iDVD, you have to create each menu and sub-menu separately. If you don’t modify them, they will use the default. Since I had 12 chapters, this meant I had the main menu and two sub-menus. On the one hand this is very nice because of the flexibility it gives you (for instance, if you are combining several different events onto a single DVD, you can distinguish them with different menus). On the other hand, if you just want everything to have a consistent interface it can be kind of a pain.
The six hours didn’t include the time to import the video (about 40 minutes) and the time to burn the DVD (about an hour). The long time to burn the DVD is mainly due to the rendering required for the menus and other aspects of the project itself. I only burned one copy, but I’m assuming subsequent copies will burn much faster.

(Note: After burning straight to a DVD, I discovered that you can now burn an iDVD project as a Disc Image. This allows you to quickly burn multiple copies of the project without having to render each time.)

All in all, a lot of fun with a nice product at the end. The only iLife app I didn’t get a chance to use on this project was GarageBand (and that’s only because I haven’t hooked up my piano yet). I have the feeling that it will fit in nicely.

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