Tuesday, December 14, 2010

VideoQ&A: Burning Flip video to DVD

A recent question arrived about how to burn video captured on a Flip to a DVD. You'd think it would be pretty straight forward, but...

Earlier this year I got a Flip. I tend to use it for family videos. I'll take bits of footage and edit it together in Final Cut Express, and then export little 400 x 225 movies via the QuickTime Conversion / MPEG-4 export option (H.264). Then I email those mp4 files to grandparents, etc. The files are nice and small, look good, and everyone (Mac and PC users) can see them - works out great!

So my problem: It's the time of year where I make DVDs to give to family members. In the past, it's been 640 x 480 video and I've used iMovie and there have been no problems. This year I'll be exporting 1280 x 720 sequences, via Final Cut Express. I'm wondering if you can recommend a formula for exporting from Final Cut Express so the video will look good on DVD? I've been trying Quicktime Conversion / MPEG-4 / H.264 and, even with the data rate jacked up pretty high, the footage looks crunchy compared to the source files.

When I make DVDs from HD material, this is what I do:

If editing in Final Cut Express, I go to File>Export>QuickTIme Movie... to export the edited movie. This saves it in the same format as the Sequence you've created; it doesn't recompress it to the MPEG2 format that will appear on the DVD; I leave the MPEG2 compression to iDVD.

The output movie probably has the same/similar settings as the Flip Movies. You can open it in QuickTime player just to check that it's what you think it is i.e. 1280 x 960.

If using iDVD, go to Preferences, and choose Encoding: Professional Quality. Go to File>New Project and then in the New Project dialog, choose Widescreen (16:9), since your video is HD. Add your video(s) and then burn a DVD. iDVD will/should create a video that is in 16:9 format and should look pretty good.

Make sure you test the DVD on a Television; its not going to look as good on your computer as the HD source files do, but it should look pretty good on a TV.

The follow-up revealed that I'd assumed something; it turned out the movie was being edited using the wrong settings...
I do have more questions, if that's okay. 

1) I exported a sequence via File> Export.> QuickTime Movie. The default application to open the file is Final Cut Express- when I do that it displays the video in 16:9. But when I open it in QuickTime Player the image is squished. Does this mean anything, or will it look okay on the DVD end? (I'll be using Adobe Encore by the way, if that matters.)

2) Going to "Get Info," I see that the exported video is 720 x 480. Guess that explains the squish. So, my settings in Final Cut Express are probably to blame? I've been using DV-NTSC 32 kHz Anamorphic, via Easy Setup. Should I be using a different setting, given the Flip footage is 1280 x 720 size?

3) And, if so, how does one easily move edited sequences from one setting to another?
Personally, I wouldn't use the DV-NTSC 32 kHz Anamorphic format with the Flip video, even though your final video is going to an NTSC DVD. I'd probably try the Apple Intermediate Codec 720p 30 setting. That's if you're sure your video is 720p (1270 x 720).

Then, export to a QuickTime movie and it should not be stretched when played in the QuickTime Player. (The opening by default of the QuickTime file in Final Cut Express rather than the player, while annoying, is expected behavior.)

Re; whether DV-NTSC Anamorphic would look okay on the DVD; the answer is "maybe"....while it's true you do want the video to end up compressed anamorphically on the DVD as that will give you the best image quality for widescreen material, the DVD uses MPEG2 not DV, so it still have to be recompressed to MPEG2. I'm assuming Encore will handle that for you, but you should give it the best source material you can. Note that DV is a different compressor to MPEG2 that in some situations does not produce as high a quality as MPEG2 (which is why I wouldn't use it as an intermediate compression format.)

Now, I don't use Encore, so I don't know what it wants or can handle. It may be that you have to export to something like DV-NTSC Anamorphic to give it a file that it will accept, though I doubt it. iDVD will accept any QuickTime file, so I just give it the HD file on the theory that it will produce the best result from that. Admittedly, there may be better MPEG2 compressors out there, but I've been happy with the results I'm getting.

I would recommend doing a quick test disc with a short video segment; create a New Sequence, or change the existing one (by going to Sequence>Settings... and choosing the Load Sequence Preset... button) to Apple Intermediate Codec 720p 30 in Final Cut Express. Export the file as a QuickTime movie, then put it and the DV-NTSC Anamorphic file into Encore as separate movies on the same disc, burn the disc and then play it on a TV and see what you get. If there's no visible difference, then stick with the settings you are currently using!

Let me know what happens!

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