By Galan Bridgman, Windows XP Expert Zone Community Columnist
Burning a DVD from footage you shot with your own camcorder is a lot of fun. It demonstrates
how off-the-shelf computer technology has bridged the gulf between PC video quality and professional
video production standards. You can now make great looking DVDs at home—if you maintain quality
standards each step of the way. And this can be done on equipment that is relatively low in cost
or may even come with your new computer.
As you may be aware, Movie Maker 2 doesn't natively burn DVDs. Or video CDs (VCDs), which are
playable by many DVD players, but are of significantly lower quality than DVDs. Movie Maker 2 is
a video editing tool that can burn videos to CD by using the CD-burning capabilities built in to
Windows XP. But CDs only hold about 700 MB of data—not enough for a high quality video. And Windows
Media Video 9 files on a CD aren't playable by current DVD players. So what do you need to burn
a movie to DVD?
A variety of software products can import, export, and convert Type 2 DV-AVI or MPEG-2 files
and burn a DVD, but in my opinion Sonic Solution's
MyDVD is the easiest and
most direct route, requiring little or no format conversion and the least amount of temporary disk
space. Sonic MyDVD is even included with many DVD burners, such as the Sony DRX-510UL I used in
writing this column.
But inexpensive applications that add DVD writing capabilities to the Windows operating system
usually lack a good video editing tool. This is where
Movie Maker 2 comes
in. As we've seen in
Moviemaking 202 Movie Maker 2 is an excellent entry-level video editing tool. It's a free component
of Windows XP that's easy to use and has many powerful features.
In this column, I explain how to use Movie Maker 2 to prepare a home video so you'll have the
best experience burning it to DVD and later viewing it. In the steps that follow, I'll show you
how to use Movie Maker 2 to capture and edit your videos, and then use Sonic MyDVD to burn your
DVD to an external burner.
Hardware Requirements for Good DVDs
Many people report audio or video glitches or "dropouts" with the DVDs they produce. There are
a variety of reasons for this, but good quality media and adequately powered hardware will eliminate
most of these problems. Properly matching media type to your DVD player will help too. Below are
a few considerations to keep in mind when selecting hardware.
You can't expect a great looking DVD if you start with a poor quality camcorder or capture process.
That's not to say you have to go pro or expensive, but do look for one that's good quality and fully
digital, exporting by IEEE 1394 or USB 2.0. See my column
Capturing Video from Digital Sources (written before USB 2.0 existed) or
Dunn's column Selecting the Right Camera to Meet Your Needs for help on selecting a camcorder.
When you're dealing with the very high data rates of DVD video, do not skimp on computing power.
Numerous aspects of the DVD-creation process can be painful at best or unachievable at worst if
attempted on inadequate hardware. Luckily, just about every recent mid- to upper-level computer
model has sufficient power. I'd recommend at least a 1.8 GHz processor, 512 MB of RAM, and lots
of hard disk space. Capturing one hour of video will use about 14 GB. You'll typically either remove
it after your DVD is created or compress it if you want to keep it around, so it's temporary storage,
but you won't regret having plenty of free disk space. More information on hardware selection is
Jason Dunn's Using the Right Hardware for a Great Video Editing Experience column.
DVD recorders now come as a standard component on many recent model computers. Also known as
a "DVD writer" or more commonly as a "DVD burner," these drives have come down in price dramatically
in the last two years, while their feature set has similarly increased. My preference is to get
a "multi-writer" that is capable of writing either DVD-R or DVD+R formats. This gives you the best
overall coverage for all of your DVD DVD-ROM burning needs. I used the Sony DRX-510UL external drive
for writing this column, and I was very impressed with its capabilities and performance. If your
computer does not already have a DVD burner, you can add an internal drive or attach an external
one. It's easier, of course, to plug in an external one and it's portable too, although a little
Selecting good media and the right format of media is vital in obtaining good results
in your DVD burning ventures. More often than not, if you burn a DVD and it does not work in a player
that supposedly supports that format, the cause is poor quality media. Ask around and avoid media
that has a bad reputation. DVD-R is supported by a slightly higher percentage of DVD players than
DVD+R is, but DVD+R burns about 2.4 times faster and seems to be the preferred format lately. See
DVDRhelp.com for more information on media types.
Prepare the Content
Although many popular applications and tools exist for creating DVDs, I'm narrowing the focus
of this column to the products I think yield the easiest overall process and result in finished
DVDs in the shortest amount of time. To edit your raw footage into a completed movie, you need a
video editor and I'm a big fan of Windows Movie Maker 2.
If you're new to Movie Maker 2, I suggest you read
Moviemaking 202 before you start your first project. Make sure you've upgraded to version 2,
available from Windows Update. And if you never
got that degree from film school you wish you'd gotten, I also recommend
How Composition and Lighting Can Help You Make Better Movies for some helpful tips on shooting
good video. I’ll concentrate on issues that relate to DVD burning in this section.
Let's begin with a quick look at the capture and editing process. With your camcorder connected
to your computer by IEEE 1394 or USB 2.0, start Movie Maker 2 and begin the capture process:
1. Click Start, point to All Programs, point to Accessories,
point to Entertainment, and then click Windows Movie Maker.
2. In the Movie Tasks pane, click Capture from video device. Enter
a name for the video and click Next.
3. If the video you are going to capture is temporary and you'll delete it after
burning your DVD, or you intend to experiment with any additional DVD burning utilities besides
MyDVD, or you insist on the highest possible quality for a permanent record of what you are capturing,
then select Digital device format (DV-AVI). It'll take a lot of disk space, but you'll not
lose any quality. If you want a single-step process in capturing your video and also archiving it
to your hard disk or a DVD-ROM or tape, and great quality but not perfect quality is fine for you,
then click Other settings and click High quality video (NTSC) from the list,
as shown in Figure 1. Your resulting quality will be perfectly fine for DVDs, and even though
the file size will be large, it'll still be about one-eighth the size of a DV-AVI file.
Figure 1: Selecting a video capture format
Note that if you do choose any setting other than DV-AVI, Movie Maker will temporarily use a
larger amount of disk space and then compress the video to your selected format. You can always
leave the computer and do something else if you see it's going to take awhile, and it saves an extra
conversion step for you afterwards.
4. There are a couple other high quality formats you could choose that have a better
compression ratio than the High quality video (NTSC) setting, but I was beginning to notice
a slight degradation in DVD quality when I used those. Only try them if it makes sense for your
5. After you've selected your capture format, click Next, and select whether
you want the entire tape captured automatically or manually control the capture process, and then
click Next. Depending on which option you chose, you'll either see Movie Maker rewind your
tape and begin capturing the entire tape, or you'll see the manual capture dialog box. See the columns
referenced above for information on capturing.
6. After your video footage is captured, create your movie in Movie Maker, as shown in
Figure 2. You can mix in other video files you already have on your disk if you want, but try to
select similar quality videos within any given movie whenever possible, so you don't see the quality
going up and down as your DVD plays.
Figure 2: Editing your movie in Movie Maker 2
7. Let the criteria used above in capture format guide you in determining whether you want
the DV-AVI or the High quality video (NTSC) setting as your output format. I doubt
you'll notice any difference in your finished DVD, but DV-AVI takes up considerably more disk space.
One additional hint, if you select a different output format than you selected for your source videos
formats, Movie Maker 2 will spend some time re-encoding anything not already in that output format.
It takes time, as opposed to extra disk space, but you might want to keep the formats the same to
speed the overall process.
8. After you've decided on your output format, click Save to my computer under
Finish Movie in the task pane. Enter an output file name and click Next.
9. If only one format choice is visible, click Show more choices. Now three
choices should be available. Click Other settings and then select your desired format from
the list. Click Next and wait for the output to complete.
Burn the DVD
You're now ready to start MyDVD and burn your movie to DVD. In Figure 3, a DVD project is waiting
to be burned.
Figure 3: A MyDVD project ready to burn.
With your selected DVD media in your DVD burner, follow these steps:
1. Click Start, point to All Programs, point to Sonic, point to MyDVD,
and then click Create DVD.
2. A blank project is created for you, which you can name and save at any time from the
File menu. You're bypassing the Capture step because you already did that in Movie Maker.
Click Get Movies.
3. Navigate to where you saved your finished movie and select it. MyDVD imports your movie
into its project and creates a button for it. You can add additional movies the same way, and a
button will be created for each. You can also add a slideshow of still pictures, and submenus, as
you can see from the task pane to the left. As you add items to your project, you'll see the DVD
menu being built on the right. You're free to add as much content as will fit on your DVD, the current
total size of which is displayed in the bottom-left corner.
4. Click the main menu title or any button caption to modify those titles. Drag the buttons
to a new spot if you want to rearrange the order. You can also choose different fonts, select other
backgrounds, add chapter points to your videos, or modify other aspects of your DVD from the MyDVD
menu selections. See MyDVD Help for information on using MyDVD features.
5. When you've finished creating your DVD, you can preview it by clicking the Preview
button. MPEG-2 files of all your buttons, slideshows, and backgrounds will be composed, after which
you'll be able to experience and navigate your DVD on your computer. Modify it now if there's anything
you didn't like.
6. When you're happy with it, click the bright red Burn button. At this point, be
patient, because the process takes awhile. Remember that what you're doing now wouldn't have been
possible a few years ago. You'll notice that MyDVD performs a conversion step with each piece of
content that it prepares for the DVD. It must convert everything to MPEG-2 format, the standard
for DVDs. This step can be lengthy for large files. It doesn't perform this step for any content
you may have included in your project that was already DVD-compliant MPEG-2. MyDVD will then begin
burning the final content to DVD. Burn speeds vary depending on the media you're using. When the
process is complete, you want to see the message in the figure below.
Figure 4: Your DVD is ready!
One additional note on disk space—it does take a lot of space to hold the temporary MPEG-2 files
created just before the burn, so make sure you have plenty of space before you start. Figure on
about 65 MB per minute, more or less. The resulting MPEG-2 file sizes for your videos will be virtually
identical regardless of your input format, because all content is transcoded into the same DVD-compliant
Now it's time to try your DVD out on a DVD player! My first DVD worked the first time. I hope
you have such success. Recent model DVD players are more likely to work with either DVD media type.
Older model DVD players may not work with your DVD media, especially if you used DVD+R. If one format
doesn't work, try the other format, if your burner supports it. I've also experienced times when
a DVD didn't play and I popped it out of the player and back in and then it worked fine.
Additional Moviemaking Resources
Now that you've created your first DVD, you'll undoubtedly find yourself wanting to get more
creative. If you're making DVDs of your latest holiday festivities, be sure to get the
Windows Movie Maker
2 Winter Fun Pack 2003 to spice up your DVD with some snazzy new videos, title screens, transitions,
and other effects. Additional Movie Maker effects and transitions are available in
Microsoft Plus! Digital Media Edition
As your needs grow, there are other great DVD-authoring products available that contain features
you may want. I didn't mention them in this column because I wanted to make your first DVD burning
experience as easy and painless as possible. But if you're ready to try products with more advanced
DVD authoring capabilities or just to get a single feature you want that MyDVD doesn't have, check
out the following: Sonic DVDit!,
NeroVision Express 2,
Roxio Easy CD & DVD Creator 6,
Ulead DVD Workshop,
Pinnacle Studio 8, and
WinDVD Creator. There are many more
that you can find references to on the Web. Three places I highly recommend you visit are
DVD FAQ, and
PapaJohn's Movie Maker 2 site.
You can also ask questions and get help from peers, MVPs, and Microsoft volunteers at the
Windows Movie Maker Newsgroup. Jason Dunn's book
Faster Smarter Digital Video is helpful,
as are two books by John Buechler ("PapaJohn") on Movie Maker 2. I hope you find this column useful.
I've received lots of inquiries from readers about how to "create /DVDs with Movie Maker," and now
Galan Bridgman is a developer, architect, and enthusiast for digital media technologies. He co-developed
QuickTime for Windows for Apple Computer. At Starlight Networks he developed innovative client and
backend technologies using ActiveMovie® and NetShow® Server, the precursors to Windows Media Technology.
He is a full-time consultant, and is currently developing a next-generation, fully-automated radio
station using Microsoft Windows Media 9 Series technologies. After hours he enjoys showing others
how to make the most of Microsoft's latest Windows Media applications. Check
Galan's Web site for more information about him.
This article is provided by our friends at the Microsoft®
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