Making DVDs for Fun and Profit
By Jim Bray
Budding videomakers have a nifty tool with which to inflict their visions
onto the public.
The DVD Toolbox software, from VITEC Multimedia, lets you convert video
productions to the digital disk medium for maximum durability and playback
Since the DVD medium offers the most and best storage you
can reasonably get right now, this makes it the ideal medium for students,
professionals on a budget, or even Mom and/or Pop who wants a permanent
way to archive all that footage they shot of the kids back when they were
cute and cuddly.
DVD Toolbox takes your existing footage (once its saved onto your
PC as an AVI file (Audio Video Interleave a common multimedia format
for the PC), convert it into the MPEG or MPEG 2 standard (Moving
Pictures Experts Group, according to the MPEG.org web site), then
burn it onto a DVD-RAM (a recordable DVD format), or other recordable
optical disc format.
DVD Toolbox offers a pretty complete software solution to moviemaking
on the PC. It comes with virtually everything you need to encode, edit
and produce your DVD-Video, except for a big hard drive and a method of
capturing your video footage in the first place.
About the only other thing it wont do is burn the DVD for you.
To do that, youll need a DVD RAM drive and accompanying software,
and right now DVD-RAM is a VERY expensive beast. It will, however, create
the final files for you, ready to be taken to a duplication house where
they can do the dirty deed for you.
DVD Toolbox is actually made up of a few different modules, each of which
is designed for a different task. Modules include MPEG Maker 2
which, as its name implies, actually creates the MPEG 2 file for eventual
output onto the DVD disc. MPEG 2 is the technology DVDs and digital
satellite dishes use to compress the digital information to a workable
size. MPEG-1 is an earlier version and it can still do a reasonable job,
but its nowhere nearly as good as MPEG-2. It works in a pinch, though,
if youre short of space and dont need the highest quality:
you can sacrifice excellence for smaller file sizes.
I used this to burn an eight minute VHS-quality production onto a CD-R
disc. I chose CD-R because I needed a way to send a demo video
to people in a format they could watch on their PCs. Since far more
people right now have CD-ROM drives than DVD ROM drives, CD-R was the
It worked well; by dumbing down the quality to MPEG-1, I
could fit the whole production onto one disc and thereby distribute it
inexpensively and with little hassle for the end user. The MPEG-1 quality
was adequate in this case because VHS isnt particularly great to
start with, so I didnt really lose anything in the translation.
Another module of DVD Toolbox is VIDEO Clip MPEG-2 SE, a non-linear editor
with instantaneous preview and copy and paste functionality.
If youre going for the gusto and creating an actual DVD title,
the DVDMaker module will create it for you. It can even add
chapter stops so the end user has random access to particular sections
of your masterpiece.
You can also use the software to mix from DVDs back to MPEG for
editing. Theres also an audio conversion tool that lets you strip
out old sound from an MPEG and replace it with a wave file,
which could let you add your own soundtrack to a disc.
VITEC also throws in a software DVD Player, but youll need a DVD
ROM drive to use it.
Even if you arent burning your own DVDs, youll need
a horrendous amount of hard drive space to store the really BIG files.
I was using a 36 Gb hard drive for storage, and its elbow room was much
appreciated. Archiving videos there would eat up the space really quickly,
The $399 product requires a Pentium II 300 or higher, 64 meg of RAM,
800x600 16 bit color resolution or higher, and Windows 95/98, NT4, or
DVD Toolbox works as advertised, though theres a lot of waiting
from the time you start creating your files until theyre actually
ready for use.
Which makes for a nice coffee break.
Tell us at TechnoFile what YOU think