Greetings FCP editors! The southern Louisiana summer is here: heat, humidity, and drought. It's about this time we usually slow down our pace around here even more than usual. So this month I'll show you the quick, easy workflow between Final Cut Pro and DVD Studio Pro that will leave you with more time to do less, if that's your preference.
This workflow is flexible and includes some neat tricks to save you time. But there are decisions to be made, all depending on what your project calls for. One of FCP's great strengths is its flexibility. There's always at least three ways to do anything in FCP, which means you can choose the approach best-suited to your personal workflow.
Let's start with a finished Sequence. I've done all my editing and now I'm ready to go author my DVD. First, I need to place all my Chapter Markers. You can place these markers in DVD Studio Pro, but doing it in FCP is much easier and faster. FCP can use markers in a variety of ways.
To begin, we make a generic marker, then we specify it to be a Chapter Marker as well. I place my Play head where I want a Chapter Marker in my Sequence. Then I hit the M key twice. The first stroke makes the generic marker. The second stroke brings up the Edit Marker window (Figure 1). Here you'll type in the name of the Marker. This should be exactly what you want it to be called in your DVD menus. Then hit the Add Chapter Marker button and click OK.
Figure 1. Hit the M key twice to bring up the Edit Marker window, and type in the name of the Marker. This should be exactly what you want it to be called in your DVD menus.
I'll do this until I have all my Chapter Markers in place. Note that you should not place a marker at the very beginning of the Sequence. DVD Studio Pro does this automatically to conform to the DVD spec.
One thing I need to look at is the length of my Sequence. In the Canvas window, the timecode in the upper right corner shows where your Play head is in the Sequence currently open in the Timeline window. The timecode in the upper left corner shows the duration of the Sequence currently open in your Timeline window. Knowing the full duration of your Sequence will be helpful later in this process.
I have to make a decision at this point. Do I want to export as a QuickTime file, then let DVD Studio Pro create the MPEG-2 and AIFF files to its default settings (which can be changed in the DVD SP prefs)? This will encode all my assets in exactly the same way. My other option is to export it via Compressor, which will allow me ultimate control over the encoding specifics. This way I can create a batch and encode various assets in different ways. I can encode for DVD, for the web, and for playback on computer drives—all at the same time. Note that the Batch Export feature of FCP won't do MPEG-2 for DVD.
Making a self-contained QuickTime file (using Make Movie Self-Contained) gives you a master file of your final project. This can be used to archive or duplicate in its native QT format to share. This method requires that you render the Sequence in your Timeline window completely on all levels.
If you go to the Sequence menu, then to Render All, you must have all the levels of RT rendering selected with check marks next to them. Otherwise, you may not get a full rendering of your Sequence. If so, when your Timeline window is highlighted, use the keyboard shortcut of Cmd+R (that's the Apple key plus the R key). This process may take a few seconds, or much longer, depending on the hardware configuration that you're running.
Once the Sequence in the Timeline window is fully rendered out, go to the File menu and chose Export, then chose QuickTime Movie. Once that QT movie is created, quit FCP and launch Compressor. In Compressor choose File > Import File (Cmd+I).
If you choose to use Compressor directly from the Timeline, you don't have to render at all. This is because Compressor will ignore your FCP render files and create its own render specifically for the target format. This is also why Compressor takes longer to encode. It helps ensure top-quality encoding. While in your Timeline window, go to File > Export, then to Using Compressor . . ., which launches Compressor with your Sequence ready to format. Remember that this method ties up FCP and Compressor so they can work jointly, ensuring best-quality encoding.
Which route you take will be a personal decision. Either way you choose to use Compressor—via QT file or directly from the Timeline—you end up in the same place. We'll pick up there.
Once in Compressor, we have either our Sequence or QT movie file showing in the Batch window. First we want to click the double-arrow button in the Setting column. Select Audio Formats, then Dolby 2.0 (Figure 2). This sets our audio file for DVD authoring.
Figure 2. Select Audio Formats, then Dolby 2.0 to set your audio file for DVD authoring.
Next we'll choose that arrow again, but this time, remember the duration of your project. Pick the DVD preset that most closely resembles your project in length and aspect ratio, then the MPEG-2 option only. Now if you highlight the MPEG-2 line in the Batch window, you can go over the specifics in the Inspector window (Figure 3). I won't go into discussing these specifics now, due to the space limitations of this tutorial.
Next we need to make a couple of changes to each line, audio and video. In the Destination column, set where you want these files to be written to. Second, in the Output Filename column, make sure both files have the same name exactly, one followed by .m2v and one followed by .ac3. This is vital for use inside DVD Studio Pro. Once that is done, hit the Submit button at the lower right of the Batch window.
Now we get to the fun part. Inside DVD Studio Pro, hit the F2 key to open the Extended Window layout. On the upper left, hit the Import button and bring in your .m2v file and your .ac3 file. They should show up under your Assets tab. At the bottom you should see Track 1 in the Track tab (Timeline window). If you gave both files the same name, you can grab just the video file and drop it into the Timeline. The audio file will be included and synced up automatically. Naming both audio and video the same links them intelligently in DVD SP. Now you have a Timeline with video and audio tracks and Chapter Markers all ready to go!
I'm skipping some detail here, but I only want to cover the workflow, not the details of encoding and authoring. We can cover those processes in future installments of Cut Lines.
So what's next? We need to create a main menu. I'll use the Brush Cover menu template that comes with DVD SP. To do so, I double-click it and it is applied to Menu 1. You can see the DVD layout items under the Outline tab, upper left. There is a Drop Zone on the left half of this menu template, so I'll click there to highlight it. Then I grab my .m2v file in my Assets tab, and drag and drop to that Drop Zone. Presto, motion menu! All I have to do now is use the Inspector window (lower right) to set where that video file will begin the motion loop. Its duration is already set in the menu template.
Next I fix all the text, as necessary. One button I'll call "Chapter Menus," which brings us to the next step: creating our chapter menus. Pick a template, or create one on your own and import it into DVD Studio Pro. But if you do choose the custom option, you need that menu template made up first.
I've chosen a menu template, so I'm ready to populate it with chapters. I grab my Track 1 in the Browser's Outline tab, and hold it over the Chapter Menus button. A pop-up menu appears and I'll select the last item, Create Chapter Index/Make Connections (Figure 4).
Figure 4. When I grab my Track 1 in the Browser's Outline tab, and hold it over the Chapter Menus button, a pop-up menu appears and I select the last item, Create Chapter Index/Make Connections.
Next, I'm presented with a dialog box that prompts me to select my template. I'll go ahead and use the Brush Index template that matches my main menu template. In a few very short moments, I'll see several more menus appear in the Browser's Outline tab. If you look at them, they are all set up with the names of your Chapter Markers ready to use (Figure 5). It's that easy! All links are made, and navigation buttons ready to go; just change the title text of the templates and you're done. Each video loop for each button is already set to start at its corresponding Chapter Marker.Figure 5. In the Browser's Outline tab, all links are made, and navigation buttons are ready to go. Just change the title text of the templates and you're done.
Now back to Menu 1, our main menu. Right-click (Ctrl+click for one-button mice) on each button. You'll see a drop-down menu that will allow you to select what you want that button to link to (Figure 6). And be sure that in your Inspector you set the disc itself to the proper "First Play" asset, and make sure your Track 1 (and all tracks you may create, for that matter) have the proper "End Jump" set in the Inspector window, too.
Figure 6. In the main menu, right-click on each button to bring up a drop-down menu that will allow you to select what you want that button to link to.
In the Palette window, if you use iTunes, you can access all the music in your iTunes library right there. You can access just about any music, video clips, and photos anywhere on your system via the Palette window. This makes frequently used music and graphics easier to find from one project to another.
One thing I do that saves a bunch of time is to make a DVD Studio Pro template project. I start a project, then create my main menu, without links. I import any logos, intro music, or anything else that I often use in my wedding DVDs—such as my company's animated splash screen at the beginning of the DVD—and make its own track, etc. Then I save the project as "Wed DVD Template," or some other easily recognizable name. This shaves a bit of set-up time off projects for which I will use the same set of templates and assets over and over again.
You can also do this with a Final Cut Pro project. When it's time to start a new wedding project, copy your template projects to a folder that has the name of the bride. Change the name of the templates to the name of the bride. Then you're all set up to work faster with the next wedding that comes through your edit bay.
So let's jump back to our DVD project one last time. You may need to do a little more tweaking to make it really shine. And you may have other assets to include. But that's basically the workflow, as we've gone through it here. A little planning ahead of time can save you hours of work in the long run.
In future installments we'll look at some of the specifics of encoding and working in the various applications in the Final Cut Suite bundle, as they relate to Final Cut Pro itself. In the mean time, happy editing, y'all!