Newsletter #158 - July 14, 2007
ULead's DVD Movie Factory for Toshiba
on a Vista Home Basic System... without a DVD Burner

Splash ScreenThat's one of the software apps that came on my new Toshiba Satellite L35 laptop, a minimal system with Vista Home Basic.
The laptop has a combo DVD reader/CD burner, but no DVD burner. And it lacks the new Microsoft MPEG-2 codec and DVD Maker app found on the Home Premium and Ultimate versions of Vista.
But this DVD MovieFactory software can make the files for video DVDs. Once made to a hard drive, it's easy to take the files over to another computer that has a DVD burner and make discs. External hard drives are bigger, cheaper and handier than ever.
One reason for buying the system was to see how things looked in Vista at the opposite end of the spectrum from the Ultimate version... and things look surprisingly good.
DVD Movie Factory for Toshiba works exactly like the trial version of ULead's DVD Movie Factory that I was helping someone with by remote control last week.

My first small test was to make a DVD project and save it to the hard drive. It had all the usual VOB and other files.
I tried copying the DVD files to a data CD to see what happens when I put the disc in a stand-alone DVD player. I was surprised to see and navigate the file structure, but I didn't succeed at playing the videos.

For a bigger test I gave it 18 videos... mostly DV-AVI with a couple WMV story and movie files for good luck... a total playing time of an hour and 25 minutes. I notched the quality setting down to the SP setting of 3.6 Mbps to pull it from the red (won't fit) to the yellow (might fit), and then from the yellow to the green (will fit).
Change MPEG Settings   
It has two more lower quality settings that could pack even more playing time on a disc, and an option to customize the setting.
The help file says there's also a 'fit-to-disc' feature... which would do a better job of selecting the appropriate compression option.
It took 4-1/2 hours to 'burn' the project to an ISO file on my external hard drive (the laptop has a 1.86 GHz Intel Celeron M Processor 440). From there it was easy to unplug the drive and move it to my XP laptop with its DVD burner. Roxio's MyDVD Studio has a feature to take the ISO file and burn it to a DVD disc. That was only a 5 to 10 minute process. 
Burn ISO to Disc
Playing the DVD
Here it is playing in WinDVD on my XP laptop.
Before getting into details, here are...
... a few notes...

1&1 Website Host
My website was moved to Kansas on July 10th as planned. I uploaded almost a GB of files to it and the space limit issue has been resolved.
Now that I'm at 1% space usage (3 GB)... what to do with the other 99% (297GB)!!! I'll enjoy the newfound elbow room.
New Laptop
My first upgrade is to bump the 1/2 GB of RAM up to the max of 2 GB for the system... it's on order.
.... back to the main topic...

DVD Movie Factory
Starting Up
When opening DVD Movie Factory, you get 15 choices in 4 areas....
  • Video Disc (New Project, Open existing project, Burn video to disc, Burn DVD folders to disc, and On-disc editing)
  • Slideshow Disc (New project, Open existing project, Burn DVD folders to disc)
  • Disc Tools (Copy disc, Fit to disc, Format disc, Erase disc, Finalize disc, Burn from disc image)
  • Print Disc Label
ChoicesMy path was Video Disc > New Project.
That got me to 3 more choices. I knew I wanted a Standard Hollywood type of DVD, but the other choices made me stop and think a bit... what are the DVD+VR and DVD-VR options?
I'll add links to the Wikipedia pages I browsed...
  • make an editable disc in DVD+VR format
  • create an editable disc in DVD-VR format... with no menu
I found myself more deeply into the subject of DVD authoring and making than I expected to get with a new laptop without a DVD burner.
That selection got me to the main working window, in which there are three steps... or windows. Let's go through them.

Step 1 - add media... 
From a video device, video files on your hard drives, still pix from a hard drive (slide show), or files from a CD/DVD. I was surprised it doesn't accept jpg files, but takes JPEG2000 ones.
Edit media.... multi-trim video (crop the segments you want to keep), join (happens really quick)/separate video (undo the join), enhance video (with text overlays, adding audio clip, adding effects)
Add/Edit Chapters for video files.. includes auto-adding, Export selected clip to 7.2 Mbps to 1.6 Mbps.... exports to MPEG-2 DVD compliant videos... option to use the first video clip as an introductory video, before the menu shows up
A disc can have a mix of videos and slide-shows... and it'll take multiple slide-shows.
Step 1
Use the 3rd icon in at the top of this step to add a slideshow... then add transitions and effects to slides... but on my new laptop 
the app crashes or hangs forever when adding transitions

Set picture durations from 1 to 254 seconds... applies to all of them. This isn't as fully featured a slideshow as you can make with Photo Story 3.

Step 2 - select a menu style
... one of 7 styles... the Edit tab has options to add background music, motion menus, a background image or video, layout settings (pan & zoom, motion filter, menu in, menu out, and navigation buttons style).
Step 2

Step 3 - burn the disc
... sometimes it's to a disc in the drive... if you have a DVD burner, which I don't on this system.
If not to disc, then to a set of DVD folders and files, or to a single compressed disk package... an image (ISO).
Note the options to normalize the audio (nice touch but I didn't test it), and to archive the slide-show images... which usually means adding copies of the original pictures to the disc in addition to the smaller sized ones used for the slide-show. That lets you distribute your originals with the videos and slideshow.
Step 3
... first makes MPEG-2 files for the videos... 18 of them for my test disc. at a total duration of 1-3/4 hours.... that gets you to 50% overall progress
then it builds motion background files for the menu pages...  51 animated background files, each an MPG.... to about 55%
then builds 150 menu transitions... each an MPEG file....
finished in 4-1/2 hours

5 menu iconsThe 5 menu icons at the bottom left can be accessed when you're on any of the 3 steps.
from the first you can
  • Save the project
  • Save as a different project
  • Select preferences... lots of choices including an 'anti-flicker' filter, resample quality of good or best, slideshow image duration, video transition durations, and audio fade in/out duration
  • The setting for the 'TV safe area', as a percentage
  • A capture feature for DV... capturing into BMP images 

Project Settingsfrom the second icon (looks like a gear... a film projector sprocket) you can change the project settings
  • The MPEG Settings are all about compression... how much fits on your disc. The High Quality of 7.2 Mbps bitrate gets you an hour on a standard DVD... the lower bitrate choices get will let you burn more than an hour... I used the SP setting to have my full 1 hr, 25 min video on the DVD. You can see from the meter in the opening section of this newsletter that my disc was just a bit more than half filled, so it could have taken more than 2 hours of video. 
  • if the 5 built built-in profiles for MPEG settings aren't enough, you can customize a profile... frame size, aspect ratio of 4:3 or 16:9, VBR or CBR, audio format of
    • MPEG
    • PCM or
    • Dolby Digital 
  • audio bitrate 
  • an option to skip the conversion of MPEG files that are already DVD compliant
  • auto-repeat when the disc ends... lots of people ask for this feature

The third icon toggles between a standard 4:3 aspect ration and widescreen 16:9 for the DVD playing window.
The next is the print icon for a disc label printing... a full-featured authoring one to add images, icons, text (straight or curved to align with the disc), text shadows, the ability to save the disc label project file, etc. It's as good or better than stand-alone disc labeling apps.
The last icon at the bottom is for help, from a local help file on your computer.

Conclusion and Closing... and What's Next?
From newsgroup and forum posts, ULead DVD software has a very positive reputation... I can see why. With the exception of it freezing when I add a transition to a slide show, it worked flawlessly.
I know... freezing when adding a transition or effect is pretty important!!! And on an OEM installed app.
Have a great week and enjoy your summer fun and video work...