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Figuring Out What iDVD Is All About

DVD is the medium of choice for movies, having replaced videotape in the last few years. DVD stands for Digital Versatile Disc (not digital video disc, which is an older medium that has since bought the farm). The name reinforces the concept that DVD holds anything from video to music to photos and is a versatile medium to use — it is, in fact, the first consumer medium that allows the viewer to interact with the content by using menus to navigate the disc's movies, excerpts, photos, and multiple soundtracks.

DVD authoring is the process of assembling the contents of a DVD and designing the interface — the menus and buttons that allow you to navigate the contents. Authoring used to require expensive digital video and DVD mastering hardware and software and authoring expertise. But with iDVD and a SuperDrive-equipped Mac, you can easily create DVDs to distribute your own videos and presentations.

iDVD is an application that offers tools for creating DVDs that contain menus and buttons to navigate the contents of the discs. iDVD requires a Mac with an Apple SuperDrive, which is a DVD-R (recordable DVD) burner. Besides offering professionally designed menu themes with spectacular special effects, iDVD allows you to grab your photos from iPhoto, import your QuickTime movies from iMovie, and use your music from iTunes.

With iDVD, you can put movies on DVD, of course. But you can add the following features to the DVD besides a menu with a button to play a movie:

  • Mark sections of a movie you create with iMovie as chapters so that viewers can jump to specific sections. Those chapter titles can be automatically turned into a scene menu to access the specific sections of the movie.
  • Add nifty movie menus animated with scenes from the movie. You can define up to 30 menus in one iDVD project, and you can define up to six buttons in a menu that link to submenus, slideshows, or movies.
  • Create a slideshow of your photographs that is accompanied by music. Each slideshow can contain up to 99 images, and a DVD can contain up to 99 slideshows or movies in any combination.

You can fit up to 90 minutes of video on a DVD-R using iDVD, including all still images, backgrounds, and movies. However, if you put more than 60 minutes of video on a DVD-R, the picture quality may suffer because iDVD uses stronger compression with a slower bit rate to fit more than 60 minutes of video on the disc, and both factors reduce overall picture quality. The best approach is to limit each DVD-R to 60 minutes.

DVD is a mass-produced medium, like audio CDs. The discs are read-only — they can't be modified in any way, only viewed. To create even a mass-produced DVD, you have to burn a recordable DVD (DVD-R) with the content. The DVD-R serves as a master to mass-produce the type of DVDs you see in stores. With iDVD, you can burn a DVD-R that you can then use in normal DVD players, and you can also use the DVD-R as a master to provide a service that mass-produces DVDs.

Follow these steps to make a DVD:

1. Import all the content into iDVD.

iDVD enables you to import movies from iMovie projects, QuickTime movies, iPhoto slideshows, and iTunes songs and playlists.

2. Choose a theme for your DVD menus, buttons, and background.

iDVD is supplied with professionally designed themes that you can use to create your own menus and submenus. Themes provide a design that integrates menu elements in a consistent way and makes navigation easier. iDVD allows you to customize these themes into unique menus for your DVDs.

3. Customize the theme with your specific menus, buttons, backgrounds, and content.

After choosing a theme, you assign media elements, such as movies and sounds, to menus, buttons, and backgrounds, to make your DVD project look as professional as a commercial DVD. iDVD gives you a great deal of control over theme elements.

4. Preview and then burn your DVD-R.

iDVD makes previewing the interactive experience of your DVD-R easy, so you don't waste a blank disc on a flawed presentation. You can make changes and adjustments, and preview it again. When you're ready, you can then burn a DVD-R quickly and easily with your SuperDrive-equipped Mac.

You get one chance with a DVD-R — after you burn video to it, you can't rewrite it. Gather everything you want to put on the disc beforehand, so you don't waste a disc.

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