Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Tip #76: The DVD Master

By Dan Parkes (Director/editor)

Once your film is "locked" or at least almost finished you will no doubt be looking at providing it in some form -for the premiere, for preview, or possibly for sale. And this will most likely be either as a DVD or a Blu-ray disc.

The first cuts of Ambleton Delight were mastered onto DVD using Adobe Encore. Here is our workflow and tips along the way:

1. Menu
Always have a menu -even if it is just one page- rather than simply having the film 'autostart'. The reason is that many people insert a disc before setting up channels and volume and once they have everything sorted they may have missed the first five minutes of your film! A menu is also necessary if there are chapters, audio options and bonus features. It is also a way of branding your film -it is good to use images from the film poster or production stills, rather than the default template menus. You can create menus in Photoshop and import into Encore.

2. Chapters
DVD chapters are a great idea for those who may want to jump to a certain scene in the film and provides overall accessibility. Divide the film up into as many chapters as necessary by adding markers (or these can be imported from an NLE) and create a menu option that allows the selection of the chapters. You may have to come up with some names for the chapters -and don't forget to add the opening credits and closing credits as chapters too.

3. MPEG Transcoding
DVD authoring software can automatically calculate the quality of the transcoding of your film into the MPEG format required for DVDs or Blu-ray (which can also use H.264) so that it all fits on the disc (4.3GB for DVDs or 25GB for Blu-Ray). However it can be an advantage to set this manually, as you may want for example the main feature to be at a higher quality setting than the bonus features. It can also be beneficial to create the MPEG video required for the DVD outside of the DVD authoring software so you have better control over the compression quality.

4. Bonus features
Especially if you intend on selling the DVD yourself bonus features add value to your product. These could be interviews, a making of, auditions, deleted scenes, outtakes and the trailer for the film. However be careful to ensure you have rights and clearance to use it.

5. Copyright, disclaimers and studio logo
Don't forget to add a copyright warning and any disclaimers over opinions made in commentaries and interviews. Also if you have a studio logo add that so that it plays before the main feature.

4. Preview
Always check the DVD as much as possible making sure all the links work and the button routing is logical and easy to use. In Adobe Encore you can check this via a preview function that imitates a DVD player.

5. Image burn and verification
Rather than burning straight to DVD I recommend burning an image file (.img or .iso) of the disc first. Then you can use free software such as IMGburn (http://www.imgburn.com/) to both burn and verify (check) the disc. The reason for this is that when you need to burn extra copies you simply open IMGburn and burn the image file again, rather than opening your authoring software or having to insert the disc and make a copy. The verification function ensures you are getting the exact same copy that has been checked for 100% accuracy. You can also check the DVD works correctly by simply dragging the IMG file in to VLC player (http://www.videolan.org/vlc/).

6. Test. test, test!
Test your DVD on lots of different players and TVs, as you may find compatibility issues. Take special note of how some TVs may crop the menu and video -make sure all text etc is within safety margins!

Monday, 4 July 2011

Tip #75: Don't forget the bonus audio commentary!

By Dan Parkes (Director)

It has become a reasonably recent phenomena: the indepth audio commentary with cast and crew explaining as you watch the film how and what went into making it. Apparantly the very first audio commentary was on the 1984 laserdisc version of the original "King Kong" movie, with film historian Ronald Haver. Then later in 1997 the DVD version of the film "Contact" contained a bonus audio commentary with cast and crew which at the time was considered a gimmick to show off the capacity of new DVD technology. Now it is almost expected on DVDs and Blu-Ray, with most cast and crew happy to provide one, although directors Woody Allen and Steven Spielberg have yet to record a commentary believing a film should speak for itself.

While often the source of parodies and used for entertainment value, audio commentaries can serve a very useful purpose -allowing behind-the-scenes glimpses and filmmaking tips as the scene unfolds before your eyes. No doubt there has been a lot of thought and hard work that has gone into the production and this can also be an occasion in which to point out possibly overlooked work done by cast and crew. Maybe there is an unknown backstory or message behind a piece of dialogue or a production design decision that can be highlighted.

Rider Strong and Eli Roth recording their
audio commentary for the "Cabin Fever" DVD.

The recording of an audio commentary uses essentially the same tips as outlined in the previous two blogs on ADR (http://bit.ly/ADRtips) and Voice Over (http://bit.ly/voiceovertips). But here are some extra things to think about:
  1. Before recording your commentary think of as many cast and crew who might want to be involved
  2. Prepare beforehand by making notes of things you don't want to forget to mention
  3. If there is going to be more than one person speaking decide beforehand of any particular scene they might want to speak about so you can co-ordinate it.
  4. Have a method of syncing your audio commentary in post -using visual or audio cues at the beginning or end of the record session.
  5. During playback make sure the commentators are wearing headphones to listen to the film itself at low volume
  6. Commentaries do not have to be one hundred percent of the time -allow occassion for the original film audio to be heard.
  7. Once you have finished recording your commentary it may need to be edited (to remove mistakes etc)
  8. You will need to mix it with the original film's audio, with film's audio very low in the background but if there are moments of no commentary then bring it back up to almost full volume.
  9. Add it is a separate track on the DVD that can be selected via a DVD menu option.