mac screen 88.
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It may be a bit dated, but all you have to know about Mac vs. PC DVD encoding and authoring is included in that old piece of geek humor, "If Operating Systems Ran Airlines" (http://jokes4u.mycybernet.ca/airplane.htm).
On the Mac airline, "Every time you ask questions about details, you are told you don't need to know, don't want to know and everything will be done for you without you having to know... so just shut up."
Meanwhile, in the Windows world, "The airport terminal is nice and colorful with friendly stewards and stewardesses, easy access to the plane and an uneventful takeoff... then the plane blows up without warning."
How true, as Windows users know.
In truth, you'd have to amend that statement a bit, because Windows XP is a lot more stable than previous versions, so there's a lot less blowing up. Nevertheless, video work, at least at the lower financial end of things, is still risky, and users have been known to blow wads of time trying to get things right. If you've got the money to spend on something like the Adobe Video Collection (http://store.adobe.com/products/dvcoll/overview.html), you'll be guaranteed perfect results - if you can figure out how to use the software! Lots of people complain about difficulties and limitation in even higher-end DVD software, however. Check out http://groups.google.com/group/rec.video.production and do a search for "authoring problems" - the range of complaints about software is truly awesome (as in, "it leaves one in awe of how poorly some of this stuff performs"). You never see this kind of cursing at Mac software forum sites.
Price vs. performance vs. perspicacity all go into a decision on how to approach a software challenge like authoring, which seems to me to be the reason that the popular choice for videophiles, from beginner to advanced, is TMPGEnc DVD Author (http://www.pegasys-inc.com/), which has a simple interface and, for not too much money, will give you the results you're looking for. Again, keep in mind that this is not a professional program, so some of the bells and whistles in higher-end programs are not available here, but it's certainly good enough to produce a family DVD of little Stewie's bar mitzva for distribution to the family.
TMPGEnc DVD Author (We'll call it TMP to save time and my fingers) is wizard-driven - an inviting interface for a task usually so daunting. The opening screen gives you a "map" of your project - you go from Start to Source Setup to Create Menu to Output. Clicking on the Create New Project button (which gives you the same result as Source Setup button) to start adding files to your project. How many can you add? Just check out the capacity bar on the bottom to see how much of the 4.7 GB on a standard DVD remains to be written to (if you have a double-sided DVD writer, you can change the disk capacity to 8.5 GB with the Options > Environmental Settings command).
Note that TMP is strictly an authoring program; if you try to add an AVI file you'll get a message directing you to the TMP encoding program (TMPGEnc). Only .mpeg (1 and 2) or .mov files are welcome here. You can also add a VIDEO_TS or DVD_RTAV folder generated by an Mpeg2 encoding program.
After you've added your video, it's time to move to stage two - editing video and inserting chapter markers to which you can later attach buttons or other menu selection items. TMP automatically splits up the video according to "natural" breaks in sound, picture, lighting, etc., in an attempt to guess what the most logical points for chapters are. You can also add chapter breaks at any point you want, using the program's easy to understand time line. The editing tools seem rudimentary, but the cutting/editing tools, which are designed to help you be as exacting as possible in eliminating the stuff you don't want are actually quite accurate. Coming from iMovie and iDVD, it was a bit clumsy for my taste, but it works quite well.
There are several other powerful tools available if you want to add tracks to the DVD, or if you want to add sound or language tracks to your movies. TMP also has the ability to encode sound in Dolby stereo, but for this you have to download the TMPGEnc AC-3 sound plug-in for $79 (although there are freeware versions available, TMP requires you to use theirs).
Now it's time to dress up the opening screen by adding buttons, thumbnails and background graphics. TMP has a bunch of pre-set items you can use, and you can substitute items for the program's defaults. After that, it's on to file creation (the Output button), which will produce the requisite Audio_TS and Video_TS folders that you can write to your DVD with a writing software.
TMPGEnc DVD Author costs $68 on its own, and as part of a suite including TMPGNec encoder and the Dolby AC3 plug-in costs $130. Then of course there's the added cost of the DVD writing program, pro-rated on the cost of the movie's production. It's not the cheapest kid on the block (there are several freeware programs that can do the same things) but there's no doubt that TMPGEnc DVD Author is one of the easier ways to go. Of course, the PC world being what it is, there are plenty of other solutions for a project like this, some of which we'll look at next time.
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