Friday, September 7, 2007

#36 Making DVD's

by Jeff Smith

After last week's article, hopefully you're somewhat familiar with what is entailed when working with video files. Due to the user-friendly-ness (if thats a word) of many of todays DVD authoring suites, you won't need to know how most of that works, but where that knowledge will come in handy is when something DOESN'T work, you'll have a pretty good idea why.
In Windows, there are quite a few DVD makers out there, and I'm sorry to say that there aren't any All-Star free ones out there. There are some that are free, but either they require you to convert videos into MPEG-2 format first (requiring another program) or they do all the encoding, but don't allow you to make nice menus and title screens for your DVD's. One such program is DVD Styler ( and is a quick and easy solution for someone who's videos are already in MPEG-2. Another free solution is called DVD Flick ( which can convert just about any video you have and burn it to a disk, but doesn't offer much in the way of window dressing. If you just want a versatile down and dirty DVD maker, this one is for you.
It won't always be this way though, one up and coming free program is Avi2DVD ( which promises to do conversions of just about any file you have a codec for and even lets you do menus. It looks like it has a little ways to go on the user friendly-ness (theres that word again) but if you're willing to take the time to learn to use it, or if FREE just happens to fit your pricerange, I say give it a shot.
Moving into the Proprietary (costs $$) software realm, NeroVision Express is about the best I've found combining both ease of use and a good feature set including video converting, stable burning, and the ability to make some nice looking menus. And being that many of you likely received Nero pre-installed when you bought your computer, its possible you already have it and just aren't aware of it.
Another good name brand DVD authoring tool is Ulead VideoStudio 11 ($99). Meanwhile, the editors over at C|Net recommend a program called DVDComposer 1.5 ($130). I've never personally used that one, but I do have a bit of trust for the guys over at C|Net.
After reading this, I hope you got a good sense of just how many options are available. When looking for software like this, always ask around a bit or get a recommendation from a trusted source (like me!) because there is lots of software out there that promises the moon, but only gives you a big stinking piece of cheese.

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