How My Mom Can Make DVDs

with the magic of Ubuntu Linux

Hi Mom! So I told you I made you that DVD with the menu and stuff, and you asked what I used and I said "Linux." So now you want to try. I'm going to make another DVD, and show you the steps I took using Linux.

1. Get the software

I already know you're using Ubuntu. The software I used is free, and it comes with Ubuntu Linux, but you have to download it from their free software collections. They will install themselves.
In the menus for Ubuntu, find the "Add/Remove Applications" program. It might be in the "Applications" menu -- I found it in System > Administration. Use the Search box in the upper right to search for three particular programs: Brasero and DeVeDe and VLC media player. They might already be installed, but if not, click on the checkboxes next to each, and then press the "Apply Changes" button in the lower-right. You may be asked to enter your password; this happens anytime you make changes that will affect not just you but anyone you might share the computer with (such as installing new software).


2. Get the videos

This is the easy part. It used to be that you'd need movie files that were already pre-cooked, cut into a certain shape, with the crusts removed and on whole-wheat bread not white bread and dijon mustard only... but the DeVeDe software takes care of that. Do remember that for digital art, making things smaller is better than making them bigger because it's easier to round off corners than to add detail where there was none. If you're getting video from websites or email, they will most likely be 320x240 @ 400 kilobits-per-second, which is pretty close to an original television's 352x240 size. If you're not sure, DeVeDe will let you preview a minute of each video file, and you can fullsize it to see what it will look like. For this example, I'm going to use some music videos I keep around, and movie trailers, and anything else I can find.


3. Using DeVeDe to make a disc image - Part 1

- Now the part you actually asked for. First we make an image file to burn to disc (or multiple discs...). The software that I used is DeVeDe and it can be found in Applications > Sound & Video > DeVeDe. It will ask you which disc type you want to create -- choose "Video DVD". It should start you with the layout for an empty video DVD disc. The "Titles" box lists each seperate show/ episode/ feature on the disc. The "Files" box lists the *.mpg/ *.mov /*.mp4 /*.avi files that make each Title. Before you get started, make sure the "Default Format" near the bottom of this window is set to NTSC, not PAL; the former is for North American televisions, the latter is for Europe and Asia.

- Think of it like folders and files: Titles hold one more more files, that are supposed to be watched in sequence, but you could watch each Title on it's own without needing to watch other Titles. Also: on the DVD menu it only lists Titles, never files. So if you had an arena event that was recorded in two *.avi files, one after another because they had to switch tapes, you'd put both *.avi files into the same Title, but a different arena event would be under a different Title. On the right I have a disc I'm partway through making, which will be just eyecandy music videos played one after another. I have one group taken from the "Chill Room" video podcast, and another programme of music videos I just dug up. (notice the one I have selected, "delerium_-_silence.avi", says the original size is 320x262, but the Final size will be 352x480. Since it will be bigger than the original, it's going to look poor. I will replace it with something else.)

- Most of the time you'll only have one file per Title. I'm doing it differently to show you what's possible. To add a file to a title, you'd click on the "Add" button under the Files box. You'll see a new window for "File Properties," with a very wide button at the top marked "(None)" That button is how you choose the *.avi/ *.mpg/ *.whatever video file from your harddrive. (Didn't I see some Thomas Dolby earlier in this tutorial?) The other parts of this window shows how long it will be in seconds and in MegaBytes, whether you have added any subtitle tracks (I expect you'll never use this) and which audio track it will use if the *.avi file has multiple languages (sorry, only has the audio track #, but it won't matter: read the next bit.)

- This dialog box also has a big Preview button just before the bottom. This one is IMPORTANT because you can use it to check to see if the movie file will work, if it will look like an elephant sat on the lens, and whether you have the correct audio track. It will convert just the first 60 seconds of the video, and play it for you immediately so you can test it. (The screenshot has some motion blur that you wouldn't see if it was moving.) Just above the Preview button it says "Advanced Options." That's the "don't mess with this unless you know what you're doing" stuff, which is why it stays folded up between the Subtitles box and the Preview button.

4. Using DeVeDe to make the disc image - Part Two

- Once you've finished adding files to a DVD Title (and most of the time you'll only be using one file), you need to edit the properties of the Title (the Properties button under the Titles box), to set the name that will appear in the DVD menu, and to tell the DVD player what it should do when it finishes playing that title. The default setting is to just go back to the menu when the Title is done, but you can also tell it to start playing the next track or to loop back to the start.

- While you're adding files to the disc, you'll notice there's a "Disc Usage" bar that goes up to 100%... and maybe past 100%. It won't stop you to say the disc is full, because you can adjust the quality of the video to resize the Titles so they all fit inside the disc. Next to the Disc Usage bar is a button that says "Adjust Disc Usage". Pressing this button will get the software to tweak the quality settings to either bump the quality up (if you're less than 100%) or ratchet the quality down (if you're over 100%) until everything fits the disc closely.

Next up is the DVD menu. You could get really fancy with this, having sub-menus and animation, but doing all that is way more complicated than making a webpage, so DeVeDe has a tool for making just one simple menu with a picture and maybe some background music. On the main DeVeDe window, below the Disc Usage bar, on the rght side you'll see two "Menus" buttons: Menu options and Preview menu. Clicking the Menu options button brings up the options for making your menu the way you want. There's a lotta stuff here, but it's simple if it's broken up into chunks, so I'll do just that

- First, the Menu Title. This is some text that will appear in the centre of the top of the screen. People expect this to be the name of the disc that's on the outside of the box they purchased. You can change the font used for the text (the size counts as part of the font), and what colour it will be, and if you wanted a shadow behind the letters.

(I'm going to take a time-out here to talk about picking colours. You'll see to the right of the Text area and Font button there's two other buttons for Text color[sic] and Shadow color. Pressing these buttons brings up a colour-picking tool you'd expect out of Photoshop or something. It's cool, it's just a lot of different ways to pick colours all in one because they don't know what you're used to.
The triangle-in-a-circle is the most fun to use: The triangle has a white corner, a black corner, and a colourful corner. You click inside the triangle to set how light/dark you want it, and how colourful/grey you want it. You change the hue at the colourful corner by clicking on the circle around the triangle.
For those who are used to web-pages, you can just type in the six-digit hex code in the "Colour name:" box. This is identical to setting the "Red","Green","Blue" numbers, just in that nerd number system that goes 0-9 and uses letters up to F as extra digits.
If you see a colour on your screen you want to use, you can click on the eyedropper button below the triangle, and it will change your mouse cursor to a little sampling tool. To the left of the eyedropper button are two colours: to the left is the old colour you're changing, and to the right is the new colour that will be set when you finally press "Okay."


- Next, the background image and music. This is what goes on behind the menus. You want somthing that isn't TOO interesting, because it's supposed to be a background, like desktop wallpaper. The default image is just a white background and a big cartoon disc, which kinda sucks. Google Images is one place to start looking, and you can even tell it the size and type you're looking for. The picture must be *.png format, so if you have a photo you really like you'll have to convert it. [put a link here to some other tutorial for Mom.] The background music has to be a *.mp3 music file, or you can use the "60 seconds of silence.mp3" that comes as a default.

- Next you choose where the names of the DVD Titles will appear on the screen. Your only choices are Top (just underneath the Disc Title if you made one), Centered between top & bottom, or along the bottom. The horizontal alignment is whether you want the text flush to the left, or right, or centred (sorry no "justified").

- Next is the font for the menu items, and what colours you'll use. There are four colours mentioned: Colour for unselected titles and for shadows are exactly like for the Disc Title. Colour for selected title is a highlight overtop the menu item when you move the up/down buttons on your DVD remote. The last item, Background color for titles, is for rounded bars that would appear behind each of the disc titles to set the menu apart from the background image. I usually turn this off by choosing a colour that is completely transparent. Um, I forgot to mention that with the Colour Picker above, so scroll back up there and check one of the items I didn't mention, the sliding switch above Color name called "Opacity." 255 is "100%" in some nerd settings; set Opacity to 0 and the colour is completely transparent, thus invisible or absent. To help you see how transparent a colour is, the colour button has a checkerboard pattern behind the colour -- if you can see the checkerboard pattern perfectly, then the colour you picked is transparent.

The last option is what the DVD player will do when you first put the disc in: does it show the menu? or does it start playing the first Title? I'm going to pick "Jump to the first title" since I'm making a disc that is supposed to start playing when you turn it on and keeps looping. Right below that is the "Preview menu" button, which is your friend because it shows you what the menu is going to look like, so you can make sure you've got the colours and alignment and sizes correct. Size is important because the Disc Title and each of the Titles in the menu can only be one line high. Check out my masterpiece below:

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5. Using DeVeDe to make the disc image - part 3

When you're happy with the menu as it looks in the preview menu window, hit "Okay", go back to the main DeVeDe window, and click the "Forward" button in the lower right. (I think they mean "Next", but maybe this software came from somewhere that English is a foreign language). It will ask you for a folder to make the image in, and it defaults to making a folder called "movie" in your home directory. It's best to change the name to something more unique, in case you make more than one disc. After hitting "Okay," it will start by making the menu, then converting each of the movie files to DVD format. The whole thing is gonna take a while, so might as well go make a cuppa tea.

(Actually I made some rice and tika masala. I stepped outside for some fresh air and juice at the depaneur, and came home to a lovely-smelling apartment. I should cook Indian more often.)

6. Testing

- DeVeDe tells me it took 1 hour to finish the job. It created a *.iso file that is the byte-for-byte image of what goes on the disc. It would suck to burn the disc and then have to find out afterwards that it's busted. There's actually a video player that will play DVD images without needing to use a DVD player, named VLC media player. If you find the *.iso image, right-click on it and choose "Open with Other Application..." and choose "VLC media player". It will recognize the image is a copy of a DVD disc, and it will show you your DVD menu right away. Instead of using your remote to go up/down through the menu, you can use your mouse to highlight a menu option and click it to start that Title.

7. Burning the image into a DVD blank

- So you've played with the DVD image. Time to impress the image onto some laminated polycarbonate. Your DVD burner should already be the DVD+R and DVD-R type (they never figured out which is better), so you can just get "some blank DVDs" at Office Depot Staples.

When you put the DVD into the drive, Ubuntu will sense it, and offer "choose what application to launch" and the first option will be "Open CD/DVD Creator". Unfortunately, this is NOT the application you want -- this is the "making a backup of your files" application, not the "making a new video DVD" application or even the "copy this image onto a disc just the way it is please and thank you" application. Hit the "Cancel" button, and instead find the *.iso image you just used for testing, and double-click on it. It will automatically start Brasero in the "copying an image to disc" mode. It will ask you which image to burn (it already knows) and where you want to burn it to (it should only see one blank DVD, so there's only one place). It might say "blah GB of free space" smaller than the image -- that's ok, because it's telling you how much free space there will be AFTER you burn the image. (It's possible to add another smaller image afterwards, but it's so complicated that I never bother). I told it to go ahead, it took 10 minutes, and now I'm going to carry the disc to a DVD player at the office to test it.

8. Press Button. Receive Bacon. Enjoy Bacon.

... just got back from Denis-Carl Robidoux's desk. I laughed when it took him fifteen minutes to find the remote for the DVD player at his desk. The disc works, the menu looked weird, but then I made the DVD for aspect ratio 4:3 screen, and his television has aspect ratio 16:9 (aka widescreen shaped). Now that they have a looping DVD for use in testing, I'll take back my "Koyaanisqatsi" DVD they were using for demonstrations.

I hope these instructions are enough for you to burn your own DVDs.