TMPGEnc DVD Author 3: DVD Authoring Guide

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Date Added: Jun 30, 2007
Date Updated: Jun 30, 2007

TMPGEnc DVD Author (TDA) has just been upgraded to version 3, and for me, it is one of the best DVD authoring tools for home users, because of its simplicity, and at the same time, advanced features. This guide will show you how to take your video files and turn them into a DVD, complete with menus, chapters and other advanced features.

This guide is aimed at users who are fairly new to DVD authoring, but is already fairly comfortable with things like video conversion and editing and know about basic DVD structures like Titles and Chapters. Please note that TDA allows you to make picture slideshows, and even DivX menus, but this guide only covers authoring DVDs from video files (guides for picture slideshows and DivX menus coming soon). You can read the DivX version of this guide in our TMPGEnc DVD Author 3 DivX Authoring Guide. Read our DVD Authoring Tools Roundup to find out which DVD authoring tool is best for your needs.

A guide on how to use the previous version (version 2.0) of TMPGEnc DVD Author can be found here. You can also use Nero Vision 4 to author your DVDs much in the same way as TDA, but there are quite a few missing features in Nero Vision - the ability to encode 16:9 DVDs, and it's habit of always re-encoding the video (without re-encoding, a DVD can be made in 30 minutes or less - with re-encoding, it can take 3 or more hours), even if it is already in the right format.

Software you'll need:

Step 1: Starting and setting up a new project

Install TMPGEnc DVD Author - it's very straight forward, so you shouldn't run into any problems.

Start TMPGEnc DVD Author (TDA). You will be shown the "Start Project" screen. From the top right hand side, click on "Options" and select "Preferences". Go to the "DVD-Video settings" section and click on "Video encoder advanced settings".

TDA: Video advanced settings

The settings here are important if you need to re-encode your input video to the MPEG-2/DVD format - if you are editing an existing DVD, then in most cases, you won't need re-encoding and so these settings are not needed. "Motion search precision" determines the encoding speed and quality, where the "Highest" setting will be the slowest and best quality. "Standard" should be good enough for most situations. The "Output bitstream for editing (Closed GOP)" option can be selected if you wish to edit the video (in TDA) before authoring - this option removes inter-GOP dependencies, which can cause playback problems in certain DVD players. The "Detect scene change" options should selected. Press "OK" to close this window

Back to the "DVD-Video settings" section, some audio options are shown. These are the default audio settings. Under the "Format Change" section, you can select "Convert non-conforming audio as below" to make these options affect any audio encodings that does not comply with the DVD standard (if the audio does comply, no re-encoding will be needed). The "Bitrate" can also be adjusted to lower/improve quality. And finally, you can select a default language for the audio/subtitle, which the DVD player will play by default in the event you have multiple audio/subtitle tracks. The options I've selected in the screenshot below should be a good default setting. Press "OK" to close the options window.

TDA: Audio settings

We're now back on the "Start Project" screen. Select the output format, NTSC DVD or PAL DVD, depending on your input source. Usually, if your input is 25 FPS or a multiple of it (eg. 12.5, 50), it is PAL. Otherwise, it is NTSC. Make sure you TV/playback device supports the format you have chosen (say you have a PAL source, and your TV only supports NTSC, then select NTSC). Click on "Start a new project" to continue. You should now make yourself familiar with the "Options" button and the "Save Project" option - keep on saving your project at regular intervals, to prevent you losing your work or making a mistake which you cannot undo. Also keep a note of the output size bar at the bottom of the screen - there are two markers, one for 4.7 GB (single layer) and another for 8.5 GB (dual layer), and depending on which type of blank media you plan on using, you need to ensure the purple bar (representing the current size of your DVD compilation) stays to the left of the marker so that the DVD compilation will fit on to the blank disc. The actual size in MB is also listed to the right of the size bar.

TDA: Size Bar

Step 2: Load the input files, editing and chapter creation

TDA: Start a new Project

You are now at the "Select Source" screen, where you can load in your input files, be they AVI/DivX/XviD files, or DVD files. Before you do that, let's go through what a track is. In TDA, you can use one track and keep adding video files to it, or you can have separate tracks for each video file. If you only use one track, then all the video files added to it will be treated as one continuous video file - chapters are created at the start of each video file for individual playback. If you use multiple tracks, each track can be selected for individual playback from the main menu, and once selected, it will show the chapter select menu for this track. If your DVD only has one track, the first menu shown will be the chapter select menu (or no menu at all). If it has more than one track, the first menu shown can be the menu to select which track to play. As an example, if I had the files, "Fishing Trip - Part 1", "Fishing Trip - Part 2" and "Camping Trip", then I would create a track for the fishing trip and load both fishing trip files into it, and then create another track for the camping trip. It is also required that each video under the track have the same or similar properties (eg. resolution, audio type, aspect ratio).

Use the "Add a Track" button on the left hand side to create your tracks now, if you need more than one track.

TDA: Select Source

Each track will be shown on the left hand side. For each track you have created, use the "Add file" button on the right hand side to load in your video file(s). A new window will now open (the "clip addition" window). There are three sections you can select at the top - note that you can get back to this area even after you've added in your clip by using the "Edit" button next to each clip. In the "Clip Properties" section, the most important things you need to specify here is the name of this video clip, and the aspect ratio (the little preview window on the left can help you determine which aspect ratio looks right). You can also specify the audio stream mode, if your input file has multiple audio tracks.

TDA: Clip Properties

Click on the "Cut-edit" button at the top, and here you can edit/cut your video to your liking, as well as add chapters. The video editing features are fairly easy to use, with clear buttons marked to do the usual things (mark start/end, cut). You can also add effects to the audio, such as volume reduction or fade effects. The function we are most interested here is the chapter creation function. Creating chapters is quite easy - just play the video or use the slider to get to the scene where you want to add the chapter, and click on the "Mark the current frame with a chapter entry" button (the one that looks like a "flag", on the bottom left) - each chapter will be show on the left hand side with a thumbnail. You can right click on each of these thumbnails and select whether to display this chapter in the chapter select menu (sometimes you want a chapter stop, but you don't want all the chapters to be shown in the chapter select menu), or edit the chapter name (which can be displayed on the chapter select menu, to make selections easier). Hover your mouse over the chapter thumbnails will display the chapter name and details.

TDA: Chapters

Once you have created all the chapters and edited your video file, you can click on the "Subtitles" button at the top to go into the subtitle editing area. You can add up to two subtitle streams for the video by using the slider to go to the right scene and manually inputting the subtitle text (you can also specify the position and of the subtitles) - the preview window will display the subtitles once you have added them in.

TDA: Subtitles

Once you are finished with this clip, press "OK" and it will be added into the project. As mentioned before, you can go back and edit the clip again by clicking on the "Edit" button next to the clip. You can also right click on clip to access any of these editing functions, or duplicate the clip. If you have multiple clips in the same track, drag the clips around to get the right order. Or you can drag the clip to another track if you wish.

TDA: Clip

Once you have added at least one video to the track, you can click on the "Settings" button for the track. A new window will pop up.

TDA: Track Settings - General

In the "General" section, you can name the track (this name can be shown on the menu select screen). Moving on to the "Video" section, here you can adjust the video encoding settings for this track. It is recommended that you select the "Automatic" setting for "Encoder mode" (otherwise you will have to individually set the video settings for all the tracks, which could waste space on the disc and force the input to be re-encoded, even if they already fit on the DVD). You will need to adjust the "Aspect ratio" to match the aspect ratio of your input video (4:3 - full frame, 16:9 - widescreen). If your video needs re-encoding (ie. you are not editing an existing DVD), then you will need to select a "Rate control mode" - "2 pass VBR" will give you the best quality as the expense of a slower encoding speed, but it is recommended. Again, if you are re-encoding, you will need to select a bitrate - the higher the bitrate, the better the quality (most commercial DVD movies have a bitrate between 4000 and 7000). Keep an eye on the size bar down the bottom to make sure the bitrate you select fits into the media you plan to use. The "Picture quality" slider, again for re-encoding, allows you to select the output quality. And the other options can be left alone (note that you can configure the advanced video settings here again, if you want to use different settings for each track - otherwise, the default settings we selected in the previous step will be used for all tracks).

TDA: Track Settings - Video

The options in the other two sections, "Audio settings" and "Subtitles" can be left at their default in most cases. Click "OK" to close the track settings window.

Repeat the above for all your tracks and clips.

TDA: Select Source

Step 3: Menu Creation

Click on the "Menu" button at the top to go to the menu creation area. The "Menu Wizard" should be launched immediately - if it does not launch, click on the "Launch the Menu Wizard" button on the left hand side.

TDA: Menu Wizard

The simplest way to create a menu is to select the first option to use a template - just select the template, and then choose a "DVD menu structure" and "playback settings". For this guide, we'll cover the second option, "Create a custom menu ...", which has an extra step or two that will help you make a more personalised menu. Alternatively, you can also choose to have no menus at all. The option at the bottom allows you to specify the aspect ratio of the menu 4:3 (full frame) or 16:9 (widescreen). So select "Create a custom menu ..." and press "Next" to continue/

On to the "Menu structure mode settings" page. Here, you can specify how to structure the menu. The "Create a Title Page in the Top Menu" option, when selected, creates a page that loads first and contains the option to "Play all tracks" or to select individual tracks for playback - if unselected, the first menu you see will be the track selection menu. The "Create a Title page in the Track menu", similarly, will display a menu after you select a track that gives you the "Play All" or "Select Chapters" options - if it is unselected, you will be redirected to the chapter selection screen right after selecting a track. There is also an option to create separate pages for the audio/subtitle selection, or have it all on the same page (assuming you have multiple audio/subtitles). Press "Next" to continue.

TDA: Menu Wizard

The "Custom menu creation" page is where you can get down to creating your menu. You can change the top menu's layout from a selection of pre-designed layouts - note that the top menu is the one where you select which track to play, and the track menu is the one where you select the chapters for the current track. So let's say you have 3 tracks, then you might want to select a top menu layout that can show 3 items on the same screen. And let's say you have lots of chapters, then perhaps you would select a track menu that shows as many chapters on the same screen as possible. The "green square" with the number in them is where the picture/animated thumbnail will be - otherwise, you can select one without the green squares which will only show the text title of the track/chapters. The rest of the options ("Navigation buttons", "Thumbnail frame" and "Background") allows you to use different sets of pictures for the menu template you've chosen - choose them as you see fit (you can always change them, or add in your custom background images/video later on). Press "Next" to continue.

TDA: Menu Wizard

The next page is the "DVD menu structure" page (you will see this page as well if you selected to use a template). Most of the time, just leave the setting on "Automatic", but you might choose to not have a chapter select menu (track menu) or to only have a chapter select menu, without the track selection screen (some DVD players will have problems with this if you have multiple tracks, and no track selection screen). If you have multiple tracks, each with chapters, then the "Automatic" setting will automatically choose the third option, "Top and track menu", which will create a track selection screen and chapter selection screens for each track. Press "Next" to continue.

TDA: Menu Wizard

Finally, the "DVD playback settings" page (you will see this page as well if you selected to use a template) allows you to choose the actions that the DVD player should take when it first loads the disc and when it finishes playing a particular track. The options you see here depend on your other menu options and on how many tracks you have. If you have multiple tracks and a top menu, you should see a screen similar to the one below. The options are all fairly obvious, but the option that commercial DVDs use for multi track DVDs is "Display the top menu" for both settings. Press "OK" to end the menu creation wizard.

TDA: Menu Wizard

Back to the main menu editing screen, click on the "Global menu options" button on the left hand side. These options will affect every menu in your current project - you can have different settings for each menu if you prefer. The first page (General) shows some of the options we just went through in the menu wizard. Click on the "Chapter display" tab, and here you can change, for each track, which chapters will be displayed in the chapter selection menu (when you created chapters, there was an option to not show the chapters in the menu, which has the same function).

TDA: Menu Settings - Chapter Display

Click on the "Item display" tab and here, you can choose which menu items will be displayed.

TDA: Menu Settings - Item Display

Click on the "Motion menu" tab and here, you can choose whether to add motion or background music to all your menus. Motion refers to the thumbnails (showing the first specified seconds of video in the thumbnail), background images/videos (eg. fade in/out effects) and other pictures being animated. If background audio is selected, you will have the further option to add a background sound/music track when editing each menu later on. If you selected a motion menu, you will have the option to specify the number of seconds of motion the menu will show before it stop or loops back to the beginning (depending on if you select the "Loop menu/audio" option or not). Remember to keep an eye out on the size of your project by looking at the size bar on the bottom, because motion menus can take up quite a lot of space. You can also enable/disable animation for the different types of motion elements, thumbnails, background images or other pictures. Remember that these settings will apply to all the menus, so if you do not wish for all the menus to be animated, you can leave animation off here and then enable them for each individual menu later on.

TDA: Menu Settings - Motion Menu

Click on the "Highlights" tab, and here, you can specify what the highlight colors will be. A highlight is when you move the navigational cursor over an element (eg. a chapter in the chapter select menu), and that element will turn a shade of a particular color you select here. The "Activated" color is when you actually click on the item, and then the item will be highlighted with another color. There are also some highlighting shape settings you can configure (eg. the "frame" option will display a frame around the element, instead of highlighting the entire element).

TDA: Menu Settings - Highlight

And finally to the "Output" tab, where you can specify the encoding options for the menu. You can decrease the "Video bitrate" to decrease the file size of the menu, but at the cost of quality. Similarly, you can decrease the audio bitrate if your menu has background audio. Press "OK" to close the global menu settings window.

TDA: Menu Settings - Output

Back to the main menu editing screen again, you should now see the structure and the individual pages of your menu shown, both using the menu tree browser on the left hand side, and actual thumbnails of the menu pages in the main section. At any time, you can click on the "Simulation" button at the top to preview the menu structure - some things like animations and effects won't be shown, unfortunately.

TDA: Menus

Note that each menu will have a "menu settings" button (eg. "Top menu settings", "Track 1 menu settings" ...) button that you can click on and override the global menu settings for each individual menu (eg. some menus to have animation, other not to). Select the "Use local settings ..." option at the top to enable the changes.

TDA: Local Menu Settings

If you double click on any menu pages, it will enter the editor mode where you can change each item on the page individually - you can right click on the background or each item to access editing options for the background/item or double click on them to open their properties. Just below the main area are some controls that allow you to go to the previous/next page. To the right of those, you have several options to help with editing, such as display/snap to grid, show all the directional links (more on this later on). The "TV" button is of interest because it shows you the overscan area (inner and outer set of dotted lines) - older TVs use overscan, which basically enlarges the images in order to prevent a black border from showing up - even though new TVs won't suffer from this, it is still best to ensure all your menu elements are within the inner set of dotted lines.

TDA: Edit Options

If you want to add a text or picture element to a page, right click on the page entry in the left menu tree browser and select the "Add a Text item" or "Add a Picture item" option.

If you have lots of menu pages and you want them all to have the same font/effects/music, then you can make it easier on yourself and edit all the menus at the same time as opposed to editing each one individually. To do this, right click on any track of page on the left hand side menu tree browser and select one of the "Change ... for all menus" options.

TDA: Change All Menus

If you selected the "Change fonts for all menus" option, you should see the following screen, which as expected, allows you to change the font used in all the menus.

TDA: Font Editor

If you selected the "Change effects for all menus" option, then here you can apply effects to all the menus, such as fade in/out, blur, rotation ...

TDA: Menu Effects

If you selected the "Change background and audio for all menus" option, then you can upload your own background picture/video, audio and add effects to the background image (eg. fade in/out). You can upload AVI/DivX and other video files to use as the background, as well as just plain still images - but remember that the motion menu settings you change earlier specified a duration for the motion menu - if your audio or video file exceeds this duration, it will be cut off or looped back to the beginning.

TDA: Menu Background

If you select a page and click on the "Link editor" button at the top, you can edit the directional links (what happens when you press the up/down/left/right buttons on your DVD player's remote control). For example, in the screenshot below, it shows that the "play" button is "linked" to several other items when you press the up/down/left/right cursor on the DVD player remote/controls. If you are creative, you can create your own DVD easter eggs by creating an item that is invisible or appears to be part of the background, which can then be "linked" here.

TDA: Link Editor

Basically play around with your menu layout, add different effects, pictures, text, until you are happy with the result. Remember to save often. Once done, press the "Simulation" button at the top, and then the "Start" button on the playback console to preview your menu (unfortunately, without animation/effects) and your DVD video. Make sure to test chapters, navigation, audio/subtitle selection, just like you would on a real DVD.

TDA: Simulation

Step 4: Output

We are nearly finished. Press the "Output" button at the top, and here we will specify where to put our new DVD. I prefer to output the DVD to the hard-disk first, test playback with a real software DVD player like PowerDVD, and then burn to DVD if I'm happy with everything. Otherwise, you can burn straight to disc using the options here too.

TDA: Output

Use the "Browse" button to select an output folder - it is best to create a new folder for your output, otherwise you run the risk of overwriting your existing files.

Next, select the "Target size" to match the type of blank media you will be using.

If you really want to burn the compilation straight to disc, enable the "Write to the media disc after output completion" option, insert a blank disc into your DVD writer drive now and then click on the "CD/DVD writer settings" button to configure the writer options (select which drive to use, burning speed - as a general rule, burn the disc at the lowest speed possible, eg. 4x, to ensure the disc is error free). You should also specify a disc label for the disc. There are also post-output tasks you can specify (eg. to shut down computer after burning).

Press the "Start output" button, and TDA will now produce the DVDs for you. If no re-encoding is required (if you are editing an existing DVD), then it could take only 20 minutes to half an hour, otherwise, re-encoding can take several hours.

Once TDA finishes, you can use PowerDVD or another DVD player to play the rendered DVD files (eg. use PowerDVD's "Open DVD files on hard disk drive" option). TDA will usually present you with an option to use its "Disc writing tool" to burn the files to DVD - you can also access the "Disc writing tool" by clicking on the "Start" button at the top (going back to the "Start Project" screen) and launching it from there. Add in the folder that TDA produced if it isn't already added, insert a blank disc into your DVD writer drive, specify a label, select the burning options (as a general rule, burn the disc at the lowest speed possible, eg. 4x, to ensure the disc is error free) and click on the "Write disc" button to start the burning (or you can choose to create a disc image in ISO format, or burn an existing image to the disc).

TDA: Disc writing tool

And we're done :).

Got more questions? Post them in our TMPGEnc Forum and get them answered by other expert users.

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