Burning video DVDs?
January 3, 2006 7:10 AM   Subscribe

How come I can't burn a working DVD to save my life?

I've been doing some video editing with Vegas Video. No problems there. When I prepare the film the resulting .mpg file looks fine on my PC. I burn it onto a disk and if (big IF) it works at all in my DVD player the sound is corrupted (static, cutting in and out, distorted) and the video is usually choppy. Basically unwatchable.

PC is fast enough,WinXP, 3.something GHz P4, fast ATI card, 2gb RAM, 7200rpm hard drive, etc. Internal DVD burner (-R.+R, or whatever the two types are) is a "generic" brand. I'm using DVD architect from Sony (came with Vegas 4.0) for burning, though I've also used Nero with the same (bad) results. I make sure I shut off everything (anti-virus, screen blanker, any other taskbar crap) before burning and my temporary burning folder is on a separate physical hard drive from my Windows swap file and system folders. Everything is being done locally, nothing is on a network drive.

I've tried both Sony and Memorex disks, +R and -R. The Sony -R give me the best results, in fact one disk looked pretty good in my player at first, but after a couple plays it started getting progressively worse, even after wiping the disk off.

I've tried playing the disks in my iBook player. Some play ok, even ones that won't play in my stand-alone player, but others won't even load up and then I can't even eject them without rebooting the machine. There doesn't seem to be any pattern as to which disks will work in which players. Some work in both, others work only in the iBook, others will play in the stand-alone but will look like crap. I can burn the same thing twice using the exact same settings with different results. Data DVDs work fine.

I've played with software settings. I got better results when I turned off the "fast video re-sizing" in Vegas, but things were still unacceptable. Although it doesn't seem to help (or hurt) any, I usually burn at the slowest speeds. The file that is created from the video software is an .mpg at "DVD quality" (I think 720xwhatever resolution) that's about all I know. The DVD burning software "preps" it before it burns it. The original source is DV from my video camera. The source looks and sounds fine.

I don't know a lot about DVD or video technology. I suspect cramming all that data onto a small disc with a $200.00 burner, there isn't a lot of room for error. My iBook doesn't have a DVD burner, otherwise I'd try it out there.

I think I may have answered my own question, that my burner sucks, but I don't want to give up yet. Would higher-quality media help? Is there some piece of software that will massage the disk and make it all work?

What have others experienced with burning video DVDs? What about doing it on a Mac? If I got a Superdrive for my iBook (12" G4) would all my problems go away?

I've scoured DVD and video forums but none of the tips I've found have helped much.
posted by bondcliff to Media & Arts (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
DVD burners are magic. Black magic. I'm fairly bright and do plenty of digital video stuff as part of my day to day work. But finding rhyme or reason when it comes to DVD burners? Forget it. It took trying a few different burners and combinations of DVD media to get something that would work consistently.

All I can suggest is get a new model (within the last year or so) and make sure it's brand name.

Then again, I don't know much about your video editing software, so perhaps you do just have something set wrong.
posted by voidcontext at 7:19 AM on January 3, 2006

There's a piece of software out there that's called DVD Shrink that is absolutely fantastic and totally free. I've been doing a lot with converting home video to DVD and it's been a tremendous help.

Two caveats. One, it needs to be combined with another software package that does the actual burn - it just preps the disc image. Two, it takes an enterprising Googler to hunt down a copy due to laws against linking to it.

Good luck and happy burning.
posted by zogbie at 7:48 AM on January 3, 2006

Check dvdrhelp.com and make sure that your DVD player is compatible with the format that you are trying to burn.
posted by adampsyche at 8:08 AM on January 3, 2006

I use DVD Shrink with DVD Decrypter to burn. My boyfriend uses Shrink + Nero. But what zogbie says, Shrink is the best!
posted by k8t at 8:09 AM on January 3, 2006

I've found burning DVDs to be a very black art. Even pre-prepared dvd images will end up not playing, playing poorly, or playing perfectly, seemingly at random. Have you tried playing the vob files created with a software dvd player like PowerDVD? Rather than burning them to disk? Then you could at least determine if it's the actual dvd image being created, or the burning process, or what.
posted by antifuse at 8:09 AM on January 3, 2006

Re: DVD Shrink. Just googled it. I'm not trying to "back up" anything, just burning some home video with plenty of room on my disc. How would it help in my case? In any event, I'll give it a try.

antifuse: I'll try playing the vob, but since different discs do different things with the same prepped files, I suspect the process is in the burning.

adamp: I've tried that. It is.

It's good to know it's not just me!
posted by bondcliff at 8:13 AM on January 3, 2006

Re: DVD Shrink. Just googled it. I'm not trying to "back up" anything, just burning some home video with plenty of room on my disc. How would it help in my case? In any event, I'll give it a try.

It's basically going to re-author your VOBs so that we can eliminate one source of error-- if the re-authored discs play well, it's probably the output from Vegas Video.

However, best bet for the culprit is your writable drive. It sounds like it's just not getting the job done cleanly.
posted by Mayor Curley at 8:41 AM on January 3, 2006

Do your burning on the iBook. Seriously. Use Toast or iDVD. Toast will be easier with an outboard DVD writer, but iDVD will work with non-Apple-OEM drives with a patch.

A Mac-less relative was decrying the amount of coasters he burns on his PC, even using DVDShrink and Nero.

I didn't have the heart to tell him that I've done hundreds of backups and many dozens of DVD authoring sessions on my Macs with only two or three coasters in as many years.

Right now I'm about 2/3 of the way through a 100-spindle of Fujifilm DVD-Rs, but I've had good luck with other brands as well.
posted by tomierna at 8:47 AM on January 3, 2006

I can't speak directly to settings in Vegas, because I don't use it - but here are some other hints and a hopefully "good" way of creating a workable DVD Video disc. Some of this leaves out some techie details, but should be a good primer...

1. There's MPEG and MPEG2. MPEG2 is what is used in video DVDs. Vegas can likely export this, and you may be doing it already. Keep in mind hat MPEG2 pixels aren't always "square" - you encode your video to 720x480 for NTSC DVDs (what you're creating if you're in North America) and then provide an aspect ratio for it - either 4:3 or 16:9 (widescreen, HDTV aspect ratio). Your video camera is likely outputting 4:3 - standard TV formatting.

1.5. VOBs are special MPEG2 files with different streams in them, as well as with special padding for navigation and seeking and the like. Streams can be Video (multiple angles) or Audio (different languages, commentaries) or SubTitles. These are split into ~1GB chunks and numbered in sequence - first for the title and secondly for the chunk.

2. MPEG2, like other video codecs, have a bitrate. The more bits (higher bitrate) the better the video will look - but too high of a bitrate will possibly result in a choppy video or a non-compliant video DVD. On the other hand, a small bitrate can make a video look blocky.

2.5. There's various versions of Audio formatting for DVDs. Some players will play some and not others, but all will play Dolby Digital AC3 formatted sound. You have AC3 2.0 and AC3 5.1 - 2 channels and 5.1 surround. Unless you know what you're doing, stick with DD AC3 2.0.

3. Nero Vision Express, whatever the latest version is. It'll take pretty much whatever you throw at it and transcode it into a "perfect" DVD video, after X hours of processing. On my machine, it's about a 1:1 ratio of video length to encoding time for a standard quality DVD.

4. Burn to the hard drive first, then check the encode, and then burn to a DVD.

The benefit to Nero Vision Express is the ability to do "smart transcodes" (or something similar) where it will detect if the video is already in the proper MPEG2 format, or if it has the properly encoded audio, or both. That will cut down the encoding time quite a bit if you do happen to have the right video from the get-go.

NVE also allows you to burn to a folder on your hard drive first - giving you a VIDEO_TS folder with VOBs in it. Nero's DVD player (and likely others) allow you to play the DVD back from the folder first, without committing it to a DVD - so you can check your menus, encoding quality and the like. Both Nero and Nero Express will take your VIDEO_TS folder and burn it to a DVD as DVD Video.

NVE will also capture your video from your camera, and allow for simple editing. The menu creation features are a bit lacking, but work for what I need it to do. There's also lots of settings (do a bit of digging in the menus) for different qualities of video, depending on your needs. Lower Quality = Quicker Encodes.

Finally, DVD-R seems to have the best compatibility with a wide range of devices, including older stand-alone DVD players. I seem to remember that it's, in order of compatibility: DVD-R, DVD+R, DVD-RW, DVD+RW. If you're burning something to give away or for a wide range of devices, I'd stick to DVD-R. I recently duped 100 copies for a video for a friend to DVD-R, and they had no complaints.
posted by Fat Elvis at 8:58 AM on January 3, 2006 [1 favorite]

Have you tried burning a known-good DVD image?
posted by Good Brain at 9:02 AM on January 3, 2006

One thing to realize is that even a perfect burn may not play in all players. It should play in all computers, but not all DVD players will be able to read all burned movies. It's called a reflectivity failure. A DVD from the store is a pressed metal disk -- your burned ones are burned by a laser on a disc spinning madly. They are different (and when you think about it, it's a miracle the latter works at all). Some combinations of discs ad players just can not give a good read. There is no guarantee of 100% compatibility, which is a drag. DVD-R is supposedly the most compatible with DVD players (indeed, look carefully at the DVD+R packaging you have: you won't see the DVD logo on it anywhere). I don't know if the difference is huge. I have bought 50 packs of DVD+Rs that had greater than 95% success, and worked with all of my players.

As for your problem -- I have experienced problems like this very recently (I needed 8 copies of a family video, it took 29 burns to get those 3 good ones). In my case, I either have a bad batch of media (TDK, they've asked me to send it to them), or it's just incompatible with my burner. Because when I went out and bought some Verbatim discs, I burned the last 5 copies without a single problem. Hmph!

One thing all the DVD media makers will tell you to do is update the firmware in your DVD burner. And I would second the Firewire enclosure for your Mac -- I get considerably more consistent burns, with the same DVD burner, with Firewire and an iMac than I do with Windows XP and Nero (Linux seems to be just as reliable as the Mac, but it's burning support has been flaky in Debian unstable recently).

This may sound silly, but try a media with a different die color. The DVDs that are giving my burner fits are dark purple -- I've never had a DVD with that die color before, and it's possibly wreaking havoc with the lasers of my DVD readers and burner. It's all just light, so the color of the die can have a real impact.

But I'll third or fourth the notion that DVD burning is a black magic. Be sure to properly sacrifice the goat before you burn.
posted by teece at 9:33 AM on January 3, 2006

I use DVD Author with a GUI frontend to convert (and to make menus) video files into VOBs, then use either Nero or DVD Decrypter (which, sadly, is no longer available).

Also, what everyone else said about DVD-R (instead of DVD+R) discs.

After you've burnt the DVD, can you see the filesystem under, say, explorer (or MyComputer)?
posted by PurplePorpoise at 11:05 AM on January 3, 2006

I second checking your firmware revision. See if you can figure out what the drive really is by examining the label or through the Windows Device Manager and searching for the model number with Google. If you can figure out who makes it, hit their website and hunt for firmware. Or this page may be helpful.
posted by xiojason at 11:51 AM on January 3, 2006

One fairly esoteric problem alluded to by someone who had good luck with a Plex but *only* in the factory enclosure is *power*.

If you're trying to burn DVD's on an internal burner, and your computer is at all old, *buy a real power supply*. You wouldn't believe the number of esoteric, intermittant, untraceable problems I've solved that way.

Antec has a *very* nice 500Wer that probably weighs *twice* what your generic one does, and costs less than $100.

If you haven't replaced your power supply lately, make it your New Year's resolution. :-)
posted by baylink at 1:50 PM on January 3, 2006

I had some problems very much like yours burning some home videos. What worked for me was reducing the video quality. Specifically I was losing frames when I was rendering the video. Fortunately my software package showed me that I was losing a high percentage of frames during rendering. When I reduced the quality of the video, dropped frames went to 0, and the DVD played fine. Well it played in 2 out of 3 DVD players (but like others have said, I haven't had any problems with computers playing the DVD).
posted by forforf at 2:53 PM on January 3, 2006

Yeah, make sure it isn't your player. My cheap old player won't play anything I burn. My stepsons new cheap player will play anything, just fine.
posted by JamesMessick at 7:08 PM on January 3, 2006

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