How To: Make a Video DVD from Media Files with Free Software

Alex Castle

Time: 10 minutes of configuration, several hours of encoding time

What You Need

Although DVDs are quickly losing the limelight to their higher-definition Blu-Ray brethren, they’ve still got a lot going for them. They’re cheap, for one, as are DVD burners. And DVD players and drives are so ubiquitous that you know that if you burn data onto a DVD, you’ll be able to access it almost anywhere.

Plus, burning data onto a DVD is easy—there’re a dozen free programs that can do it for you without any hassle. But burning video to a disc so that you can watch it in a regular DVD player isn’t quite so simple. If you’re willing to pony up for commercial DVD authoring software like Nero Vision, the process is pretty user-friendly, but here at Maximum PC we’re committed to showing you how to do things using free software solutions, so we’re going to explain how you can use a free and powerful (albeit slightly confusing) program called AVI2DVD to create full-featured video DVDs from your media files.

First, a bit about how DVDs are formatted. Video DVDs are simply data discs that contain video files encoded a very specific way, organized in a particular file structure. If you put any video DVD in your drive and choose to explore its contents, you’ll see that it looks a lot like this:

Video DVDs generally contain two folders, AUDIO_TS and VIDEO_TS. The AUDIO_TS folder contains the files on an audio DVD. On a video DVD it’ll be empty, but the folder’s frequently still there for compatibility’s sake. Inside the VIDEO_TS directory there’s a collection of files named things like VTS_01_0.VOB, VTS_01_0.IFO, and VTS_01_0.BUP. The .VOB files contain the actual video and audio data, while the .IFO files contain scene and timing information for their associated .VOBs. The .BUP files are simply backups of the .IFO files. It is the main purpose of DVD authoring software to take media files and create all the supplementary files necessary for the DVD.

The DVD authoring software we’ll be using is AVI2DVD, a freeware app that can convert media files, create the necessary .IFOs and .BUPs, and even includes a rudimentary menu creator. It’s worth noting that AVI2DVD really likes to stretch its legs while encoding; it creates about 10 gigs of temp files during the process, so make sure that you’ve got the available space before you continue.

To get started, run AVI2DVD and click the “Load avi/ogm/mkv/wmv” button, and browse to the folder that contains the files you wish to burn to DVD. There are two very important things to note at this point: First, AVI2DVD doesn’t like any file with any special characters in its name or the name of its filepath, so you’ll need to make sure your file is named using only alphanumeric characters. Second, if you want to include more than one video on a single DVD, they need to follow a very specific naming convention—they must all have the same name, followed by a space, and then” CD#” where the # symbol is replaced with the sequential number of that file. For instance, if you had 3 files, they could be named “MyVideo CD1” My“Video CD2” and “MyVideo CD3.” If you follow this naming convention and select to load the first file, AVI2DVD will automatically load all subsequent files and join them during encoding.

Once you select a file, the program will stall for a second as it analyzes it, then will refresh itself with the video’s information. The first AudioStream dropdown menu should now have an item in it, representing the audio track of whatever file you loaded. Click on the second tab, marked “Output.”

In the output tab, you’ll see a host of options to define the file that AVI2DVD will create. Fill out the path where you want the DVD directory created and select if you’d like to create an ISO image of the DVD, and if so, what you’d like it to be named. You can set where the program creates chapters, either at a specific interval, or at times that you specify through a comma-delineated list of second markers.

You can leave the Encoders tab alone, the default values should work fine, and unless you want to add a subtitle file you can skip that tab, too. If you do want to add a subtitle track, it’s as simple as clicking the tab, clicking the “Subtitle 1” button, and browsing to the .txt or .srt file.

AVI2DVD has a built-in menu creator, which you can access from the fifth tab. Frankly, it’s pretty barebones, and if you just want your media file to play in your DVD player, you don’t need to make a menu. However, if you do want to create a menu, AVI2DVDs editor is pretty self-explanatory. You can set a background for your menu, add images to give it the right look, then add text buttons that control the basic DVD options such as audio language, subtitles, and chapter selection. In the DVD Menu tab, there are also functions to capture images from the video you’re planning to encode and to convert MP3s into DVD-menu-friendly MP2s. It’s easy to make a functional—if ugly—menu, and with a little creativity and design sense, you can make a more attractive interface.

Once you’ve got your DVD set up the way you want it, go back to the first tab, click the “Add Job” button, then click “Go.” This will begin the encoding process, which will involve a procession of mostly-inscrutable windows and progress bars popping up and then closing. You don’t need to know what any of these mean. Plan to do something else while the encoding goes on, because depending on the length of the video and the speed of your computer, this process can take several hours.

When all is said and done, you’ll be left with a folder containing the contents of the DVD, and an ISO (if you chose to create one). Either of these can be used to burn the disc. If you have a favorite piece of burning software already installed on your machine, such as Nero, feel free to use that to burn the DVD. If you don’t have a burner, you can use the free (of course) app CDBurnerXP .

To create the disk with CDBurnerXP, all you have to do is insert a blank DVD, run the app, select Data Disc from the first menu that appears and then either drag the ISO image or the contents of the DVD folder you created into the bottom window. Click ‘Burn’ and you’re finished.

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