Thursday, June 19, 2008

Free / Open Source DVD Creation Workflow

Occasionally I will have the need to create a DVD. I'll do slide shows for weddings or special events, videos for family or church. My DVD drive came with it's own burning software but I've been looking for a more portable solution, since I use other computers with DVD burners in them, but no pre-installed burning software. Here is a rundown of how I might put together a slide show DVD with no commercial software.

First I'll need to scan in my images, for this you can use Paint.NET. If you haven't seen Paint.Net yet, it is a great light Photoshop replacement. If all you are doing is scanning, rotating and cropping images and doing minor work on them, it is super. Others would say to use Gimp here, but it has always felt clunky to me. Paint.NET is Windows only, so Mac and Linux users will need to look elsewhere for this part of the chain.

Once you have you images ready, you may need some extra slides as intro or ending slides. For this I go to my old stand by, Blender. Here for instance is a pair of wedding bands that I made for a wedding slide show. I added the text after the fact. You could also use Blender to create menu graphics for your DVD. It has a built in non-linear video editor if you wanted to do any motion video or animation as well. Blender is cross-platform: Windows, Mac and Linux can all use it.

So at this point, I have a folder full of images that I have named numerically in the order I want them (this speeds up the process later) ready to be made into a slide show. Now in the past I have used Windows Movie Maker, but I wanted to get away from that because it really has it's limitations. So in doing a little searching I found SSMM which is a really handy slide show tool. It has a pretty wide selection of transition effects and a pretty simple layout. You can also sync up audio as well (as long as it is in WAV format, see the section on FFMPEG later for help) Once you have all your settings done, it will render an AVI file of your slide show. SSMM is Windows only, so Mac and Linux users will need to look elsewhere. It may run under Wine for you Linux folk, but I don't know.

Now I needed to get this AVI onto a DVD. I found DVDStyler, a Windows/Linux DVD authoring package (Mac users could of course use iDVD). It lets you build your menus and insert movies into your DVD project and burn the DVD as well. There is only one problem with DVDStyler, for videos, it only accepts mpeg and SSMM only outputs AVI. But have no fear, there is always a solution.

If you do any work with video files, FFMPEG can be your best friend. One of the tools in the ffmpeg package is a command line converter. It can convert a TON of formats, including wmv and quicktime. It also does audio formats, so if you have an MP3 file that you want to convert to a WAV so you can use it in SSMM, it'll do that too! So with this simple command I can convert my AVI from SSMM to an mpeg usable by DVDStyler.

ffmpeg -i inputmovie.avi -b 1600kb outputmovie.mpg

Now that it is converted, DVDStyler can add it, I can finish the menus and burn my DVD.

So there you have it it may not be the quickest solution, but if you have a scanner and a DVD burner already, you are good to go. Do you have any suggestions for this production chain? Any tools in your toolbox that you would like to share?

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