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Burn a Movie Maker Project to DVD using Windows XP

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.

Camera

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 Jason Dunn's column Selecting the Right Camera to Meet Your Needs for help on selecting a camcorder.

Computer

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 available in Jason Dunn's Using the Right Hardware for a Great Video Editing Experience column.

DVD Burner

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 more expensive.

Media

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.

Selecting a video capture format
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 scenario.

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.

Editing your movie in Movie Maker 2
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. 

A MyDVD project ready to burn.
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.

Your DVD is ready!
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 MPEG-2 format.

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 1.1.

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, TMPGEnc Plus, 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 DVDRhelp.com, the 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 you know.

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® Mindshare Program.

Expert Zone Columns Archive

Looking for other Expert Zone articles like this one? Every column that has appeared on the Expert Zone is listed here, in chronological order.

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