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DVD Studio Pro: Worth the Price of Admission

When I first started making movies, at the ripe old age of 15, I’d shoot my friends doing skateboard tricks with my dad’s VHS camcorder. I’d take the footage and edit using two VCRs—the process was tedious and yielded not-so-impressive results. The final “films” were very rough, filled with shaky camera work, jittery edits, and terrible sound (I’d add a soundtrack by playing music, usually, pop-punk, on my boom box). Needless to say, not a single one of my friends asked for copies of the final films.

It’s not that the movies I made were entirely unwatchable, but presentation counts for so much; true when I was 15, but especially true today when there are so many forms of entertainment vying for your attention. When you screen your work, you want it to be an event. You want to screen in a darkened room filled with your friends and family, and you want to wow people the second you hit play. To my mind, nothing ups the film presentation ante like an authored DVD. I remember the first time I used DVD Studio Pro, to make a DVD copy of a short film I made a few years back. My parents were so impressed, floored really, by the DVD menu that it almost didn’t matter how good or bad my film was (FYI, the film was good enough to get me into film school).

DVD Studio Pro is included as part of Final Cut Studio, and it’s definitely the most powerful program in the bundle. Basically, if you can dream up the main menu, the chapter select menus, and the special features, you can build it in DVD Studio. I go through a basic instruction of the program in my beginner’s course and a more comprehensive instruction in the advanced course. It’s a very intuitive program, designed to work seamlessly with Final Cut Pro, so here’s a quick look at how easy it is to turn your film project into a DVD.

When you’re finished editing a project and are ready to start making a DVD, you’ll want to export the final sequence to QuickTime. For short films shot on SD, an uncompressed version is fine. Translation: just turn it into a QuickTime file, and don’t go through Compressor.

Next, open up DVD Studio Pro. I always use the program’s “advanced” configuration, simply because it’s what I’m used to, and because all the of the program’s options are at your disposal. On the lower left-hand corner you’ll find a window with two tabs, one entitled “Assets”, the other “Log”. Make sure you’re under the “Assets” tab and click the “import” button.

Find the QuickTime file you made in Final Cut Pro and import it into DVD Studio.

Grab both the video and audio icons and drag and drop them onto the Track icon in the asset manager. Hold onto the Control button, click on the track icon (which at this point has been renamed to match the QuickTime file’s name) and select first play. This is the fastest way to make a DVD without a menu, something I do all the time when I’m screening films at various stages to classmates and colleagues.

Now, insert a blank DVD-r into your computer’s disc drive, wait for your computer to recognize the blank disc, then hit the “burn” icon at the top of the screen.

That, believe it or not, is it. You’ve got yourself a playable DVD. Of course, I’ll explain how add a main menu, a chapter select, and how to add fun stuff like blooper reels and photomontages in my filmmaking courses. I just wanted point out how DVD Studio Pro is at once intuitive and powerful, how easy it is to put on a great show.

I’m teaching the Beginning and Advanced Digital Filmmaking for Teens courses at both Harvard and Yale this summer. In the meantime, I’m easily friendable at:

or sign up for classes at DMA’s website!

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