DVD Authoring hassle averted

I bought a new computer a while ago with Tivo-like powers. Oooh, Ahhh. But the hard drive started filling up fast with all the shows we were recording via Windows Media Center Edition 2005’s bloaty tv recording format.

So I started trying to burn a DVD of the shows and have met resistance from the software to produce what I consider to be a usable DVD. Last night I figured it out, thought I’d place this reminder here so the next time I get angry with the software, I’ll be able to find the solution.

Say I’ve recorded a dozen episodes of my daughter’s favorite show (not giving names so I don’t confess to recording dvds of tv… in case any mouse-eared executive has a problem with that). I want the DVD to play the show’s opening theme, then jump right into the first episode I put on the disk. When that episode’s done, go to the next, etc. If I hit the menu button, I want to go to the menu listing all the episodes on the disk. If I choose an episode from the menu, I want to skip the opening theme and just get started.

That doesn’t sound like too much to ask.

Here’s where I ran into problems previously: The menu button doesn’t work. I could create the disk with 8 episodes on it, no problem… they’d play all the way through, just fine. But the menu I created only showed up once – when I first popped in the disc. After that, there’s no way to get back to it but wait for all the episodes to play through. I tried 3 different dvd authoring packages, and none of them explained how to make it work. Immature software niche, I guess.

Here’s how I found it works. I was using Tsunami’s DVD Author software. The proper solution is:

  • Create a first-play track that contains the opening theme, and nothing else.
  • Create a second track that contains the episodes I want, cut & edited so they start at the episode name (skipping the opening theme).
  • Make sure each episode has a single chapter defined at the first frame of the show.
  • Create the menu: Track only, not DVD menu or Disc Menu, or any other option.
  • Set the menu display pictures/titles as desired.
  • Set the play options (forgot where they’re hidden) so the firstplay track plays, then the episodes play, and each episode calls the next when done.
  • Burn it, and don’t bother trying to fix the “non DVD-Video” error that pops up and leads you to believe you’ll have no audio unless you make the program happy. It just works, and the error is a stupid thing. Ignore it.

Finally, a disk that does what I want. Except…

It won’t hold more than eight 12 minute shows. Another DVD author program I tried, not sure of the name (Power Producer?) had the nice feature of modifying the display quality of the show to fit as many episodes as I wanted per disk. 8 seems to be all I can get via Tsunami, and the auto-sizing would be nice so I could fit more. After all, they’re going to be played on a 7-inch screen in our van, on bumpy roads with a noisy sibling – the quality won’t be too noticeable no matter what.