Customize your DVDs

Apple’s iDVD software (included with the $79 iLife ‘06 suite) makes it almost ridiculously easy to turn home movies and other videos into visually stunning DVDs. In fact, the program does almost all the work for you. But there are also plenty of less-obvious ways to customize your DVDs, so you can create something a little more distinctive or add useful features.

Create video chapters

Unlike a videotape, a DVD is a random-access medium: your DVD player can access any part of the disc almost instantly, with no rewinding or fast-forwarding. To take advantage of this instant access, professional DVD creators break movies into chapters —markers that viewers can use to jump quickly to scenes, no matter when they happen in the video. And with the help of iMovie and iDVD, you can do the same thing for your DVDs.

Any movie with more than one scene is a candidate for chapters. In a vacation movie, you might create a separate chapter for each day or each major destination. In a wedding movie, create chapters for each of the big day’s milestones: the bridal preparations, the cere-mony, the reception, the cake cutting, and so on.

Making Chapters iDVD can create a menu of your movie’s chapters, but you must tell it where each chapter begins. To do that, create chapter markers in iMovie HD before you import the movie into iDVD.

Open your video in iMovie HD and switch to the Timeline Viewer. Position the playhead at the point where you want the next chapter to begin and then select Markers: Add Chapter Marker. A yellow diamond will appear in the timeline.

You can also create chapters while watching the movie: simply press Command-shift-M whenever playback reaches a point where you’d like a marker.

Naming Chapters iMovie names each chapter marker after the clip it appears in. That means you’ll end up with a lot of meaningless chapter names, such as Clip 02. To give viewers a better sense of what they’ll find at that marker, give it a more useful name, such as Arrival in Paris or Cutting the Cake. Later, when you create your disc, iDVD will use these marker names to create menu buttons for each chapter.

To rename your chapter markers, switch to the Chapters pane in iMovie and then double-click on a chapter’s name to select it (see “From Markers to Menu”). Since the text will also be used as a menu button, limit the new name to just a few words.

Building Your DVD Menu To add your chaptered movie to an iDVD project, simply drag the movie from iDVD’s Media Browser into the menu area.

When you do this, iDVD creates two buttons for the movie: Play Movie and Scene Selection. The first lets someone viewing your DVD play the movie from the beginning. The Scene Selection button leads to a submenu page that contains a button for each chapter in your movie.

Each of iDVD 6’s menu themes provides multiple submenu designs, including one for a chapter submenu. (To see a theme’s submenu designs, make sure you have 6.0 selected from the Theme pane’s pull-down menu, and then click on the gray arrow to the left of the theme’s name.) If you use one of these themes for your disc, the program automatically applies that theme’s design to your chapter submenu. This adds visual consistency to your DVD design.

Many chapter submenu designs include a video still for each chapter (taken from the frame where you placed the chapter marker). To choose a different still for the chapter, click on the image and move the playhead that appears to a new position. If you have more chapters than will fit on one submenu page, click on the right arrow to move to the next page.

Customize your menus

iDVD comes with a stock of slick and visually impressive menu designs. But there are some easy ways to add a little personal flair to your DVDs:

Change the Background You can use your own photo or movie as the background of a menu screen. To replace a background, simply drag a photo or movie from the Media Browser into the menu area. If the menu includes drop zones (the animated areas that display photos or movies), you can remove those as well, by holding down the Command key while dragging your photo onto the background. In the pop-up menu that appears, choose Replace Background And Drop Zones.

Change the Buttons As any clothes lover will tell you, an easy way to perk up a shirt is to replace its buttons. To perform the same makeover magic on your DVD, open the Buttons pane. From here, you can select a new button shape, such as a stamp, a frame, or a filmstrip; change the button’s size; or adjust the font and color of the button’s label.

You can also rearrange the buttons; simply select Free Positioning from the Arrangement section, and then drag the button wherever you wish. To avoid having part of a button get cut off when your menu is displayed on a TV screen, choose View: Show TV Safe Area, and then make sure all your buttons fit within the dark rectangle that appears.

To apply the same settings quickly to other buttons, select the customized button and choose Edit: Copy Style. Then select a different button and choose Edit: Paste Style.

Add Text You can add text to a DVD menu by selecting Project: Add Text, and then typing the text in the box that appears. For example, you might create a tagline, such as “Sights and Sounds of Paris,” to go with your vacation movie. For long passages of text, you’ll need to press the return key at the end of each line—iDVD won’t wrap text automatically. Later, if you find a typo, double-click on the text box and use your arrow keys to navigate the text passage.

To create an entire screen of text—for example, to offer some background on the places you visited—choose Project: Add Submenu. Double-click on the new submenu button to access the screen, and then add your text. Use the Menu pane to customize the text’s formatting.

Reuse Your Work If you’ve customized the DVD’s main menu and want to apply its design to submenus in the same project, choose Advanced: Apply Theme To Submenus. Conversely, if you’ve customized a submenu and you want to apply its design to the main menu, choose Advanced: Apply Theme To Project.

You can also save your customized design to use in other iDVD projects. Choose File: Save Theme As Favorite, and then give your new theme a name. The next time you start a project, you’ll find your design under Favorites in the Themes pane’s pull-down menu.

Add bonus material

Your DVD can hold much more than just movies. If you visited an interesting tourist spot, for example, you could include PDFs of Web pages describing your destination. If you’re making a training DVD, you might want to put in a copy of the employee handbook or other relevant items.

To include these types of files, select Advanced: Show DVD-ROM Contents and then drag files from your hard drive into the DVD-ROM Contents window. When viewers insert the DVD into a computer, they’ll find the documents under the disc’s DVD-ROM Contents menu.

[ Senior Contributor Jim Heid is the author of The Macintosh iLife ‘06 (Peachpit Press, 2006). He offers iLife-related advice at www.macilife.com. ]

From Markers to Menu: Use iMovie HD’s Chapters pane to name your movie’s chapter markers. When you import the movie into iDVD, the names will appear in the chapter submenu.Do It Your Way: You can customize almost every aspect of your DVD menus. This scene-selection menu, generated from chapter markers created in iMovie HD, sports a background photo from iPhoto and customized menu buttons.
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