Burning Video Files to DVD

Michael writes, “I have been downloading the new Doctor Who episode torrents via Burst. If I wanted to keep them for future viewing on a disk, what would be the best and easiest way to convert them and maybe put two or three on one disk?”

This reminds me of one way public television could win more supporters over commercial broadcasting. If part of public television member support included access to sanctioned downloads of shows, I think we might see the more savvy viewers opening their wallets to support their favorites. As it stands, the current line of thinking suggests that any downloading of shows recorded from over-the-air broadcasts via cable, satellite and true FM transmission represents a violation of the distribution agreements made by the rights holders and the licensed distributors.

Potential legal issues attributed to downloading television shows aside, putting several video files on a DVD is a common need whether the files originated online or from a digital video camera. In order to create a DVD, the video files need to be in the appropriate format (MPEG-2) organized in the standard DVD directory structure. In most cases, the video files won’t be in the correct format, so they will need to be converted.

Depending on where the files originated, they may be in AVI, MOV, MP4, WMV or some other common format. Most video conversion apps will convert a video file from one of these formats to a format ready for burning to DVD. If you only need to put one video file on one DVD, you can simply use a media converter to make the proper modifications and then burn the resulting files to DVD. This won’t create a menu for navigation, when the DVD is inserted in a player it will automatically start the movie. Trying to use conversion software to setup multiple video files for the same DVD generally requires combining the individual video files into one big file that plays each video back-to-back-to-back. Not an ideal experience if you watch episode 1 and want to watch episode 4 next, without needing to fast forward through episodes 2 and 3.

For improved navigation you probably want to select each episode or video clip individually, so plan for creating a menu similar to the menus on commercial DVDs which allow you to select specific chapter points on the DVD. In your case, rather than chapters, each episode is a top level menu item selected before any video playback starts. This is most similar to choosing to play one deleted scene from the special features rather than selecting the play all option.

The best way to create a functional DVD from your multiple video files is to use a DVD authoring package. A variety of software companies specialize in DVD authoring, but some are better than others at delivering a great looking end product. For my own DVD authoring needs, I typically use Sonic MyDVD because the software easily handles importing video files, creating menus and the burning process without relying on any additional software. A second choice (also now owned by Sonic) is Roxio Easy Media Creator, which works almost as well as MyDVD. If you’re looking for an app capable of doing some editing (to remove commercials from television shows before burning, for instance) Adobe Premiere Elements is one of the easiest tools I’ve found for taking a raw video file, editing the file, creating a DVD and burning the finished product. If you do all the authoring portion of the DVD project in another app, you can easily burn the VIDEO_TS and AUDIO_TS folders created during the authoring process using any burning software with DVD support by simply burning the files as a data DVD and adding the two folders with contents to the project.

While none of the software apps are free, there are currently no free alternatives that come close to performing as well as the options I mention here. You can encode your video to prepare it for burning to DVD using the free trial of TMPG_enc but that’s not a viable long term solution and you still need to invest in a second authoring app capable of creating menu structures.