More on iDVD and DVD burning on the Mac

Well, unfortunately, it appears that iDVD doesn’t work quite as I had predicted in a previous entry. Apparently, even though it stores the encoded video between sessions, it still needs the entire uncompressed iMovie project to be able to do anything with the project. I learned this the hard way, after I had deleted some stuff from the iMovie, and found that I could no longer go into iDVD and burn a new disc. So apparently, the encoded data that iDVD stores is only there to speed up subsequent burns, and not for archival purposes. So, this is a bit disappointing, but that’s life (I guess they figure disk space is cheap, so why wouldn’t I want to keep 15+ gigs of uncomressed video around for every tape I shoot).

Basically, what I’m looking to do here, is just archive my DVD image somehow so that I can burn extra copies down the road. Once I’ve edited the video, created the menus etc., I don’t care about making further mods to the project itself, I just want to keep a copy of my work in case a disc goes bad down the road, or whatever. It appears that iDVD isn’t my answer here.

Fortunately, the solution turns out to be much simpler: Once I burn a project to DVD, I can just extract the image from the disc, and re-burn it to a new disc. Apple conveniently provides an article that describes how to do this.

In practice, this seems to work, but the process had a couple hiccups. I tried it out with one of my previously-burned discs. Extracting the data onto the hard drive went without a hitch. Then I went to burn the image onto a new disc. The first attempt failed. I took the disc out of the drive, and it had a physical glitch (appeared to be a speck of something, but I couldn’t wipe it off the disc) right where the burning stopped. On the second try (with a new disc of course), the disc burned successfully, but then it went to verify it (which I’m guessing just does a byte-by-byte comparison of the image on the DVD with the image on the hard disk), and that failed. However, the resulting disc played fine all the way through on the Mac.

My whole recent experience with DVD-R burning leaves me feeling not overly confident about the reliability of the media, but despite the glitches, I seem to end up with playable discs. Not quite sure what to make of it. At any rate, in the future, I think I’ll burn two copies of each iDVD project. One copy can be for archival purposes (to burn more copies down the road), and the other for playing. Alternatively, I could burn one copy and then extract the image, and save the image on my hard disk. Or I could do both (I believe iDVD can create disk images directly, but I haven’t tried it yet). When finished, I’ll delete the iMovie and iDVD projects. And, I’ll be sure to keep the source tapes around.

All in all, it’s great that this technology works as well as it does, but it’s got a bit of evolving to do before I will feel like I can completely trust it!

DVD Playback weirdness on the Mac

Well, I burned my second DVD today. I used the same parameters as my first disc, and the burn process was smooth (one thing I forgot.. in iMovie, when you go to auto-create an iDVD project, there’s no way to export only a subset of the actual content in iMovie. You have to physically delete the stuff you don’t want, then export. Bit of a pain, but shouldn’t be an issue for me any more beyond these first two discs — I’ll just do one iMovie per disc from now on).

After the burn, I popped the disc in the Mac and played some of it back. In one spot, it locked up. The app locked up and the drive seemed to be stuck seeking back and forth. I ended up powering down and rebooting. Tried again, froze up in the same spot. Bad media, maybe? Then, I took the disc home and tried it in my standalone DVD player. The same passage that froze the Mac, played fine in the standalone player. I haven’t viewed the rest of the disc yet, but I’ll do that tonight and see how it fares.

Seems a little odd that the Mac SuperDrive would have problems playing back media burned on the same drive.. Will have to check this out further.

Update 1/5/06: The entire disc played fine on my standalone Sony DVD Player. Not quite sure why the SuperDrive is having problems with it.

Followup: I just burned the exact same movie to another DVD. Playing it back in the Mac now. So far, no lockups (in particular, it did not lock up at the same spot it did with the other disc). I guess the SuperDrive must just not like the other disc. Odd, because the discs are the same brand (Fujifilm) and came from the same pack-of-50. Who knows?

I did learn something about iDVD today… when you go to burn a project for a second time, it re-encodes the menus and audio, but reuses the encoded video from the first run. This is nice, because it makes subsequent burns go much faster. I was wondering about this at first, because after the initial encoding it leaves the encoded MPEGs (4+ gigs worth) in the project directory. When I initially went to re-burn, and it started re-encoding the menus, I was wondering if it was going to go through the whole 2+ hour encoding process again, and if so, why did it bother saving all that encoded data from the previous run? Well, now I understand.

This also means that if I want to re-burn the discs at a later date, I should be able to safely delete the (huge) captured video data and just save the iDVD project.

Do-it-yourself DVDs: If at first you don’t succeed…

When I got my Powerbook, it came with software for creating/editing movies (iMovie) and burning them to DVD (iDVD). I already have a Sony MiniDV video camera, and several hours of footage of my now-3-year-old son. With this gear, all I needed to make DVDs, was a FireWire cable and some blank DVD media. So I figured, what the heck, I’ll give it a shot. I bought a cable for $10 and a spindle of DVD-R media for $12 (after rebates of course), and today I gave it a shot. It took two tries, but the end result was success.

First step was to copy the video onto the computer. This was straightforward. Connect the camera, start iMovie, and tell it to import from the camera. I imported two 1-hour tapes, which took up around 26 gigs total (13 per tape). Then, I used iMovie to add DVD chapter titles to the movie, and told it to create a project in iDVD.

In iDVD, I was able to build menus for the soon-to-be DVD using several different built-in themes. It’s actually pretty cool. I went through this process, got everything looking good, and attempted to burn a disc. Nope. The project was too big for the single-layer disc I inserted. It asked for dual layer media. I don’t have any. So instead, I created a new iDVD project with only half the footage from my imported video (one tape, or one hour’s worth). Then, I went into iDVD’s Project menu and told it I was using single-layer media. That seemed to make it happy. I redid the menus and went to burn again.

Dang, this takes a long time! The encoding process seems very CPU intensive. Encoding the video is the most time consuming part. After it does the video, it encodes the audio. This takes longer than you would think by looking at the progress meter, but it eventually completes after 10 minutes or so. Then it goes to actually burn the disc.

The disc seems to burn OK, but at the end I get some sort of happy-fun-ball encoding error at the end. The resulting disc plays in the Mac, but my 1-year-old Sony DVD player refuses to recognize it. Bummer.

I try to quit out of iDVD. It seems wonky. I have to CMD-Q to quit it and I get a “terminated unexpectedly” dialog. Now, the odd part. I start it back up, open my project, and this time, it tells me the “project is too large for my encoding scheme” or somesuch. I wonder if that was the problem. If it was, why didn’t it tell me that in the first place? OK, so the software’s not perfect I guess. I’ve got a nice shiny round coaster to show for it.

Not to be discouraged, I try again. This time, I change the encoding scheme to “maximize quality” (it was previously set to “maximize performance”). I go to burn again. One bit of weirdness this time: During encoding, the progress bar got to 100% when the encoding was only half done. That didn’t give me warm fuzzies, but I let it keep going anyhow. It finished this time, with no errors. Seemed to play OK on the Mac, too. Cool.

Moment of truth: I popped it into my Sony again, and this time it worked! Great.

Moral(s) of the story:

  1. Use “maximize quality” setting
  2. Ignore the progress meter during encoding
  3. Keep videos to around one hour for single-layer media (this works well when using tapes recorded in SP mode; 1 tape == 1 DVD).

It seems to have used most of the available space on the media, just from looking at the disc. The “maximize quality” setting must use minimal compression. I’ve got no problems with that, the media is cheap.

Just for yuks, I’ll try it out in my 1997-vintage Toshiba 3006. I really don’t expect that it’ll play DVD-R media, but if it does, I’ll be really impressed.