Help: How do I produce high-quality DVDs?

FredGarvin

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Aug 23, 2007
17
0
Hello.

I am new to the world of digital editing and would like input from those of you who know your way around this stuff. I have many years of experience shooting and editing on tape (Beta SP, U-matic, MiniDV) and I'm used to a certain level of image quality.

Now I have a Mac Pro, just 2 months old. I recently had to produce a quick and simple project...shot on MiniDV, imported via Firewire 400, edited in iMovie HD and burned with iDVD 6 to a Verbatim 16X DataLifePlus DVD-R disc. iDVD settings used were "NTSC 4:3" and "Best Quality". This is the first time I have ever completed a project on a computer and burned it to a DVD. Everything worked as promised, but the image quality is well below the standard that I am used to.

I realize that DVDs involve compression, but this level of coarse pixelation is unacceptable. The entire video almost looks "posterized." Even stuff that I shot long ago on VHS looks better than this. Clearly, high-quality DVDs can be made; I have plenty of store-bought movies and TV shows that look great on either my TV or my computer screen. So, what is the secret?

The quality on the MiniDV tape is fine, so the loss is coming somewhere after that....the transfer, the editing, the encoding, the burning, or a combination of these steps.

I am about to drop the money for Final Cut Studio 2. Will that alone get me the results I am looking for, or is there something more that I need...a piece of hardware or software that will allow me to produce commercial-quality DVDs on a Mac Pro?

I'm grateful for any assistance you can give me in this quest. Many thanks!:confused:
 

Cromulent

macrumors 603
Oct 2, 2006
6,039
36
The Land of Hope and Glory
iMovie and iDVD were never intended to produce commercial quality DVDs.

Compressor and DVD Studio Pro should give you the options of producing DVDs that look great. That is of course if the original quality is there in the first place.
 

FredGarvin

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Aug 23, 2007
17
0
iMovie and iDVD were never intended to produce commercial quality DVDs.

Compressor and DVD Studio Pro should give you the options of producing DVDs that look great. That is of course if the original quality is there in the first place.
Exactly. I have ordered FCS2...it's on it's way. Speaking of quality, let me ask you this. I have a lot of old footage on various tape formats that I'd like to edit now. I currently have the ability to get this stuff into my computer using the digital pass-thru feature on my MiniDV camcorder (Firewire 400). Will I get better dub quality if I buy a hardware interface with the various connectors I need...RCA, BNC, S-Video, etc. (BTW, which of these connectors offers the best dub quality?)? I've heard the name Canopus before....good? Something better out there? I'd appreciate any suggestions regarding brands and model numbers. Thanks!
 

AviationFan

macrumors 6502a
Jan 12, 2006
510
0
Cedar Rapids, IA
I have ordered FCS2...it's on it's way.
Fred,

that's good, that gives you some powerful tools for the encoding process. Be advised, though, that there are many different ways to export and encode video for DVDs using Final Cut Studio, each of which can be fine-tuned by adjusting a variety of parameters that influence the encoding. What I suggest is that you install and experiment with FCS for a while to get your feet wet, and then do a search on the web (search for "DVD" and "bonsai method", to name just one example) to get an idea of what other people do.

Encoding is a complex topic, and there is no one solution that always works best.

- Martin
 

FredGarvin

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Aug 23, 2007
17
0
Fred,

that's good, that gives you some powerful tools for the encoding process. Be advised, though, that there are many different ways to export and encode video for DVDs using Final Cut Studio, each of which can be fine-tuned by adjusting a variety of parameters that influence the encoding. What I suggest is that you install and experiment with FCS for a while to get your feet wet, and then do a search on the web (search for "DVD" and "bonsai method", to name just one example) to get an idea of what other people do.

Encoding is a complex topic, and there is no one solution that always works best.

- Martin
Thanks, Martin. I have no fantasies about becoming a FCP expert overnight...I expect to have many headaches and questions along the way. Back in the day, I'd shoot and edit on U-Matic. Big and bulky, but beautiful results! I don't have the space for a full editing suite in my office (nor the need; I'm a one-man operation and I don't produce enough video projects to justify that kind of expense). The Mac Pro will have to do. I just want the best possible image quality that I can get from it.
 

balamw

Moderator
Staff member
Aug 16, 2005
19,368
978
New England
Simple question: What was the length of the project?

You can't expect to get more than about 60 minutes of video on a single sided 4.7 GB DVD without sacrificing quality.

B
 

AviationFan

macrumors 6502a
Jan 12, 2006
510
0
Cedar Rapids, IA
The Mac Pro will have to do. I just want the best possible image quality that I can get from it.
You have chosen a great platform to achieve this goal, I am sure you will not be disappointed! There are so many things that influence the quality of the final result; the key to success is to be aware of the many options that exist for acquisition, processing and encoding, and workflow overall, and then pick the ones that work best for a given task. It can be a fun exercise!

- Martin
 

FredGarvin

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Aug 23, 2007
17
0
Simple question: What was the length of the project?

You can't expect to get more than about 60 minutes of video on a single sided 4.7 GB DVD without sacrificing quality.

B
Total time was just under two hours, so that seems a likely culprit.
Is there a magical cutoff time....45, 60, 90 minutes...where quality suddenly goes downhill, or is it just a matter of "the shorter, the better?" Thanks.
 

Sdashiki

macrumors 68040
Aug 11, 2005
3,513
8
Behind the lens
Total time was just under two hours, so that seems a likely culprit.
Is there a magical cutoff time....45, 60, 90 minutes...where quality suddenly goes downhill, or is it just a matter of "the shorter, the better?" Thanks.
Unlike a music CD, DVDs are variable bit rate.

A CD can not physically hold more than 80minutes of audio. (not an MP3 cd of course)


DVDs at the highest bit rate top out at about 60-90minutes worth of footage. This is why BIG hollywood movies can come on those "gold colored" discs, those are dual-layers allowing for twice the length. You can buy and burn dual layer discs, but be prepared to pay ALOT for blank discs.

If you drop the bit rate (read: quality) you can fit more onto a DVD, but there is still a physical limit you will reach at about 120-150 minutes.

DVDs have a finite amount of space for 0s and 1s, 4.4gb worth. Eventually, you will fill it.
 

balamw

Moderator
Staff member
Aug 16, 2005
19,368
978
New England
Unlike a music CD, DVDs are variable bit rate.
You can use a bitrate calculator like here: http://www.videohelp.com/calc.htm to see what will fit on what.

A typical Hollywood film will have ~6-8 Mbps bitrate for the video.

Note that part of your available space goes to the audio, so if you use straight PCM you leave ~ 1 Mbps less available for video, so you need to make sure your tool supports and uses compressed audio as you will more easily note the difference between 6 and 5 Mbps video than 1536 kbps vs 192 kbps audio.

B
 

AviationFan

macrumors 6502a
Jan 12, 2006
510
0
Cedar Rapids, IA
You can buy and burn dual layer discs, but be prepared to pay ALOT for blank discs.
Also, dual layer discs are reported to have very bad compatibility with most regular DVD players, so stay away from them if you want as many people as possible to be able to watch your product.

- Martin
 

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