How To Make A Performance Event DVD In Final Cut Studio (Without Going Crazy)

This Final Cut Studio tutorial will be useful for anyone who has to make an event DVD with a detailed menu, and a large number of chapters.

Most of my work is commercial in nature, so I manage to avoid events, most of the time. However, for a couple of my old clients, I still pull out the trusty HDV camera and fire away.

One such client is a local ballroom/social dance studio. Twice a year, the students and teachers put on a two-hour “showcase” performance, featuring several dozen dance numbers. I shoot these showcases, and put them on DVD. Part of what makes this client so happy with my work is that the DVD I give them has a detailed chapter menu with the names of the student and teacher in each dance. Since there are upwards of 30 individual dances in each showcase, the last thing I want to do is sit in DVD Studio Pro and create 30 individual buttons, labeling and programming each one. Instead, I let the electronic monkeys in Final Cut Studio do the work for me.

First of all, a tip for anyone who does performance videos that involve pre-recorded music: get a copy of the music CDs from the studio, and then use the Pluraleyes plugin to automatically sync the original music tracks from the CD with the ambient sound you recorded on the camera. This will give you a very clean, “live” sounding soundtrack, complete with applause and crowd noise, but without most of the echo and excessive noise that you get from a purely camera-mic’d event.

Once you have your music sync’d up, and your footage edited, the fun begins.

1) Add chapter markers to your timeline (press the “M” key with the timeline selected, and the playhead where you want the marker to be placed), wherever you’re going to need a DVD chapter. To make the rest of the process work, it’s vital that you click the “Add Chapter Marker” button here.

Whatever name you give the marker in this dialog box will be the text that accompanies your DVD menu button, so keep it short, and watch for typos.

2) Once you’re finished with your markers, click File -> Send to -> Compressor

3) Within Compressor, open the Settings window, and open Apple -> DVD -> DVD Best Quality 120 minutes (of course, if your event is less than 90 minutes, you can use the 90 minutes setting).

4) Drag and drop the two settings from the DVD Best Quality folder onto the icon that represents your project. If you’re used to dumping Final Cut MOV files directly into DVD Studio Pro or iMovie, this will seem odd. What you’re doing is creating separate tracks for the audio and video of your sequence. Compressor does a much better job of creating these tracks than DVD Studio Pro does, so your final DVD will look much better. You won’t have to wait hours for DVD Studio Pro to convert the file, but you will have to wait for Compressor to do it.

Compressor is a system hog, so even though I have an eight-core Mac Pro, I usually set it running and then go to lunch or leave it overnight. Otherwise, everything else will run slowly, and the conversion process will take forever.

5) Once Compressor is finished, open up DVD Studio Pro. Go to Window -> Configurations, and make sure Advanced is selected. This will show you all the windows you’ll need to see to get the job done.

6) Whatever name you save your project with in DVD Studio Pro will become the default name for the DVD (which your customers will see, if they put the DVD in a computer), so make it short and clear.

7) In the “Assets” window, click the Import button, and bring in the two files that Compressor created. Usually, Compressor will put the files it creates into the same folder as your original project, but sometimes it will put it in the root directory of your Macintosh HD. I have no idea why. You can specify a destination in Compressor, but it’s unduly complicated (you have to create a destination button, and then apply it to your project batch), so I usually don’t bother.

8) At this point, you can either turn the default “Menu 1” into your main menu, or you can create the main menu later. Since creating it later opens the door to a few “gotchas,” I’ll take you through that process. Once you’ve done this, it’ll be obvious how you can make the main menu first. In this case, we’re going to create all our submenus first. Simply select the video (“[filename].m2v”) track in your Assets window, and drag it onto the menu pane. If you hover for a moment, instead of releasing the mouse, you’ll see a small dialogue window pop up. Select “Create Chapter Index.”

9) Now, you will be prompted to select a theme from the DVD Studio Pro theme library. Any of them will work, but, depending on how many chapters you have, and what type of event you’re doing, some will work better than others. For this project, I used the “Leader” them, and used the “Leader Index” for these submenus. All you have to do is click on the theme you want, and sit back.

10) At this point, the magic happens. The video and accompanying audio file will automatically be added to the DVD project’s Track. Compressor, by default, transferred your Chapter Markers to the m2v file it created, so now DVD Studio Pro detects these markers, creates individual menu buttons for each one, and adds menu pages until every marker has a button.

11) Since Apple hasn’t bothered to update DVD Studio Pro for several years, it still defaults to a 4:3 aspect ratio. To fix this, you need to individually click on the name of each menu in the “Outline” window, and change the Aspect Ratio in the Properties window to “16:9 Letterbox.”

12) These submenus are great, but they’re missing a “Play All” option. So, let’s create a main menu. (As I mentioned above, you could also do this before creating the submenus.) Right-click on the Menu icon in the Outline window, and select Add -> Menu. In this case, because DVD Studio Pro had already created 7 menus for me, this new one was called Menu 8.

13) By default, this new menu is just a black screen. To make it more interesting, drag and drop one of the themes from the Theme window onto it. (As you did before, hover over the menu until the pop-up dialog appears, and then select “Apply To Menu”)

14) Next, customize your menu by typing in the correct text, and deleting all but two of the buttons.

15) As you did before, make the Main Menu letterbox by clicking on the Aspect Ratio option in the Properties window and selecting “16:9 Letterbox.”

16) Go ahead and rename the menu to be “Main Menu” while you’re at it.

17) Now let’s make the “Play All” button. Click on one of the buttons on the main menu page screen, and make the following changes in the Properties Window (which will change from Menu to Button when you click on a button): Click on Target -> Tracks and Stories -> [name of your track] -> Track (this signifies the very beginning of a track). Also within the Properties window, change the “Name” and “Text” of the button to “Play All.”

18) Creating the “Chapters” button is similar. As before, click on the button and change the “Name” and “Text” to “Chapters” in the Properties Window. Then change the Target -> Menus -> Menu 1 -> [Menu] (you could select a specific button if you wanted to, otherwise it defaults to whatever the first one on that page is).

19) Now the menu structure of your DVD is complete. It takes a lot longer to read how to do this than it does to actually do it. Once you’ve built a couple of DVDs this way, it will only take you a few seconds to get to this point in the process. Let’s dress this up a bit now. As you can see, most of the DVD Studio Pro templates are full of blank gray boxes. These are called Drop Zones, and you can put video in them. You can create individual little movie files for each one, but that’s a waste of time. Instead, we can do everything we need just using the original event video file. Drag it from the Assets window to the first Drop Zone, and hover. When the pop-up appears, select, “Set Asset.”

20) If your video starts off with a fade up from black, all you’ll see is a black screen in your Drop Zone. That’s because DVD Studio Pro defaults to the first frame of video. No problem here, though. In the Properties window, you’ll see an option for “Start Frame.” Change that time to whatever time in the video you want to show. If you want a freeze-frame instead of a little box of video, uncheck the “Motion” check-box.

21) Repeat this process with the rest of the Drop Zones on your Main Menu. Just by selecting different start times for each Drop Zone, you can create a very elaborate look with minimal work.

22) The Main Menu is finished. Now we need to ensure that it shows up when it’s supposed to. Click on the DVD icon in the Outline window, and change the “First Play” option in the Properties window to “Main Menu.” This way, when the DVD is put into a DVD player, the first thing the viewer will see is the main menu, not the submenu. Next, you want to make sure that if someone pushes the “Menu” button on their DVD remote control, it will go to the Main Menu. Still in the Properties window, change all the Remote Control options to the Main Menu.

23) When the program is finished playing, it needs to go back to the Main Menu. Confirm this by clicking on the video track icon in the Outline, and looking at the Properties window again. “End Jump” should be Menus -> Main Menu -> [Menu] (or a specific button, if you prefer).

24) Let’s turn our attention to the Submenus. Click on the first one, and customize the title information.

25) As you did before, add the video file to the Drop Zones.

26) Here’s where DVD Studio Pro does you a huge favor. Since you’re using the same video file that the Drop Zone’s button is linked to, it doesn’t default to the first frame of video in the program, it defaults to the first frame of video in that chapter! All you have to do to quickly and easily create a video preview of each chapter is to add a minute to the Asset Start Time in the Properties window.

27) As you go through the submenus, adding video to the Drop Zones, you can copy and paste your Title text from one page to the next. This saves some typing. Also, watch out for chapter names that are too long to fit on the screen, or run into other chapter names. Fix these by making the font size smaller.

28) You’re close to finished now. Click the “Simulate” button and look at all your menu pages. Fix any text that doesn’t look right.

29) I don’t like to have complete silence during the main menu, but I’ve found that importing a regular MP3 or AIFF into DVD Studio Pro results in menu music that is much louder than the actual program. So, I usually make a 30-second clip of music in Final Cut, and lower the level to the same volume as my main program. I export that as an AIFF, and bring that into DVD Studio Pro as an Asset. Whatever you decide to do, if you bring in a music track, drag it onto the menu screen and hover, then select “Set Audio.” It will play in the background, without interfering with anything else.

30) Finally, you’re finished! Select “Build & Format,” and let DVD Studio Pro burn your disk. Unlike iMovie, once DVD Studio Pro has “Built” your DVD, it never needs to process it again. For subsequent disks, you can simply reopen the project, select “Format,” and it will quickly burn another copy of the DVD.

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