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I'll be getting a HD editing rig soon at my studio where we make mostly corporate AVs. So far our format is PAL SD and usually the delivered product is a MPEG or AVI as the client demands. Occasionally, some projects are delivered as authored Video DVDS.

With the new setup, we'll look to output 720p either as MPEG-4 part 2 or part 10 (H.264) in suitable containers like AVI/MOV/MKV/MP4. So standalone videos are fine for data DVDs. But what about the equivalent for a menu-driven environment like in a Video DVD. Almost certainly, most of the end users will not have access to Blu-Ray players. So, is there any way to create DVDs containing a menu-driven environment but with HD videos? Third party self-contained application/frameworks are welcome, depending on the economics and technical steps required. Hopefully, any solution will enjoy similar levels of compatibility as Video DVDs.

Edit: I'm well aware that the DVD-Video spec will not accept HD videos. That's not what I'm trying to do. In the case of an authored Video DVD, when you put in the disc in a comp with autoplay on, a graphical interactive menu will pop up with buttons pointing to videos or other menus, which the user then has the ability to select. If the user selects a video, it plays and then returns to the menu as per the authoring. I wish to emulate, as far as possible, such a interactive presentation system but containing HD video and to be burnt onto DVD media. I know that this is not possible within the confines of the DVD-Video spec. But maybe a third party polished solution or even a hack method exists, such as a set of web pages and a standalone portable media player provided on disc which can be invoked from the web page, but I don't actually know of anything like that, hence the question

  • Will the final product be played on a computer, or in a standalone DVD player? – Friend Of George Jan 24 '12 at 18:29
  • On a computer. Almost always some flavor of Win - XP or later. – Gyan Jan 24 '12 at 18:44
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Sorry to say this, but DVD does and will not support HD videos - at least not with menu and other DVD features. HD-DVD didn't survive on the market - Blu-Ray did. The problem is that the amount of data necessary to create a HD image is higher that the bit-rate of DVD-Format.

You can save various file formats on a DVD-ROM and some DVD players can play those formats. But "native" HD on a DVD is not supported. Some DVD Player can upscale certain compressed formats, but that will not show real HD.

See: http://www.dvddemystified.com/dvdfaq.html#2.3.2

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Your question: So, is there any way to create DVDs containing a menu-driven environment but with HD videos?

To confirm what @blindfold states, No, you can not make a DVD, that plays in a DVD player to show HD video.

But, you can make a Blue-Ray, with interactive menus that looks and feels like a DVD menu system, but with HD video.

You can also use a program like Adobe Encore to create one project file and then export either a DVD with menus or Blue-Ray with menus without having to make multiple projects.

  • As mentioned in the question, Blu-Ray is not an option. I'm trying to recreate a Blu-Ray like system on DVD media. – Gyan Feb 13 '12 at 5:47
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If you expect your users to play the videos in a computer instead of a DVD player, then I recommend a web based player. With the power of web languages, you can make a very rich menu-driven experience. Added benefit of this is that you can switch media if you want/need to. For example, we used to do DVD discs very successfully, but fully switched to USB thumb drives about a year ago. Nothing about the player had to change. It all works the same on any storage media. Further benefit is that you are fully web-ready. You might have to change some path names, but your player will work from a server over the Internet just as well as from a DVD disc.

You will need to have/develop/decide the following things:

  1. What media to use
  2. Web-based menu so users can make their selections
  3. The web-based player itself
  4. Your videos converted and optimized for the above player
  5. Auto-run solution
  6. A duplication workflow

1 - What media to use

You mention DVD discs, which are great. They hold 4.7 or 8 GB of data, depending on type, and are cheap to produce. There's also a variety of printing and case options that are equally cheap. If you're making enough of them, there's tons of duplicating services that will mass produce your DVD disc product for at little as $2 each.

But even in 2012 when this question was asked, I'd recommend against DVDs for any general public delivery for one reason: obsolescence. This once ubiquitous media is now missing from more than half of the computer models made today. If you include smart phones and tablets as "computers" then it's less than one quarter. You don't want to choose a delivery mechanism that is becoming less and less used every year.

Enter the USB thumb drive. Thumb drives are not too cheap, but they are so much more affordable than they used to be. You can get 8GB versions for under $5 each these days, if you buy in bulk. The benefits of USBs include variable sizes, reusable (i.e. unlike discs that can only burn once)1, durable, customized albums (e.g. flash pacs), and all the same printing and duplication services around. Further, aside from smartphones and most tablets, your market penetration is potentially 3 to 5 times higher. If you do go USBs, make sure you get a good supplier. A discount supplier from Amazon will probably just disappoint you.2

If you want to tap virtually all of the market, then you'll need to deliver online these days. That would be either streaming or download. If you're using a web-based player already, the switch is trivial. Just build or have built for you a website to host the pages.

2 - Web-based menu so users can make their selections

The menu is basically a series of web pages that run directly off of the media is the user's default browser. If you know JavaScript, CSS, and HTML, you can build this portion pretty easily. If you don't know it, any web developer can pound this out for you in a day or two, and shouldn't cost much.

3 - The web-based player itself

Like the menu, this is a series of web-files that are run in the user's default browser. Developing this will be a bit more involved and you can expect the need to update it every now and then. If you don't know web languages, I recommend you just pay someone to do this part for you, especially if you're player is more involved than a simple video playback.

4 - Your videos converted and optimized for the above player

This is part of the "more involved" part above. Web-ready video is a complicated and fluid thing. We are currently in a state of relative calm, with h.264 MP4s being a virtually ubiquitous standard, but that will change eventually. You you were involved in web video in 2010, it was way more complicated, which added to your workflow.

5 - Auto-run solution

Users are both stupid and lazy. Or, you should at least assume that they are. If you can get a decent auto-run going on your USBs, then use it. Currently, I just put the menu file in the root and title it RUN_ME. Most users get that they are supposed to open the file to watch the videos. I still get a call or email every now and then, but this was definitely a huge problem in 2010. Oddly, this might be because people understand that then need to navigate to a USB to use what's on it. For DVDs users still expect auto-run, so if it doesn't auto-run they assume it's broken.

6 - A duplication workflow

If you are going to make any decent amount of these you'll want a duplication workflow that's better than copying files from your computer, one unit at a time. If you have any experience with DVD duplication, you know there are "duplicator towers" that will take one disc as your "master" and copy all the data on it to multiple discs at one time. You can make DVDs by the hundreds per hour with the right duplicator tower.

Good news. USBs have duplicator towers too. They are a lot more compact, but price per bay is still expensive in my opinion. About $100 per bay for this model. But if you're going to make hundreds of USBs every month, it's worth it for the time savings.

Producing online has no duplication workflow. Instead, all your work is infrastructure based. You have to make sure the servers are delivering well and pointing to the right resource files. After that, you actually have to upload your videos and other data. If you live in an area with crappy internet uplink then this can be a real dent in your workflow and time spent. The best part about serving online data is that it pushes you one step further to an automated customer experience. In other words, from attention to purchase decision to delivery to support, your website can be designed to handle almost all cases, thereby minimizing your time spent on it.


Footnotes

  1. The ability to change the data on a USB should not be underestimated. If you want to change a disc, you have to chuck it and make a new one. Even your customers can change the contents of their USB if they need to. A perfect use case is that the new version of a popular web browser breaks your player. You simply provide your users with a CMD batch file (or UNIX equivalent for Macs) and have them run it from the root of the USB. Behind the scenes, you've designed this batch file to update all the player files. Put this on your website support pages for download and never take a tech call again.

  2. I purchased 100 4GB USBs from a supplier on Amazon. They were 25% less, came with free Prime shipping, and looked nearly identical to the ones I was already using. 35 copies in, I get one that won't take data at all from the duplicator. I try it on a computer and it seems like it's DOA. Another 40 in, same thing happens. Over the next few weeks I begin fielding calls for bad USBs that either can do nothing or obviously corrupted the data on them. In some of my USBs retained as masters, I also begin seeing issues. Long story short, I estimate more than 15 of the 100 were bad and could not hold their data. I gave a poor review on Amazon noting all of this and the seller asked what they could do to make it right. I replied "fix your product, send me another 100 for free and I'll test them, then I'll let you know if it worked out and change my review if necessary". They haven't gotten back to me yet, after 6 months.

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