iMovie chapters as individual iDVD clips

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Reader Bob Flint seeks capabilities in iDVD that don’t exist. He writes:

I use iMovie and iDVD to make DVDs of family video clips. I like both programs for their ease of use and versatility but haven’t been able to find a way to build a DVD that allows easily watching only one chapter of the DVD.

I would like to be able to map the DVD chapters so that each plays and then returns to the DVD menu where the chapter was selected instead of continuing on to the end of the DVD. Is there a way to do this, either as part of the iMovie building process or in iDVD? The mapping in iDVD appears to change where the chapter title shows up in the menus but not the linking of one clip to another.

What you’ve observed is iDVD’s natural behavior. iMovie’s description of chapter designations as “markers” is apt. They don’t do anything to divide the media, they’re simply bookmarks within the media that point to a particular position within the video. Although you can select one of the markers (known as chapters once they’re imported into the iDVD project) to begin playback, just as with commercial DVDs, playback doesn’t end with the beginning of a new chapter. The video continues to play on through succeeding chapters.

I understand that iDVD’s map view gives hope that, when you move a chapter up the hierarchy, you can isolate a chapter so it works as a separate video, but I’m afraid this is a false hope. As you’ve discovered, you can muck all you like with the map and chapters continue to play into the next chapter regardless of what the map’s tree looks like.

Hope is not completely lost, though getting the results you seek is kind of a pain. Here’s what I do:

Return to your original iMovie project and select the contents of your first chapter—this can include the opening title, scenes and transitions, and any extra audio tracks you’ve included. (Note that if you want to include both video and extra audio tracks, you’ll need to click and drag over all the tracks with a selection rectangle as iMovie doesn’t allow you to select multiple tracks by Command-clicking.)

Press Command-C to copy the selected material. Create a new iMovie project and press Command-V to paste the selected material into the new movie. If the pasted material ends without a transition, add a fade-out transition so that the chapter doesn’t end abruptly. If it ends with a transition other than a fade-out, remove the current transition and replace it with a fade-out transition.

Choose Share -> QuickTime. In the Compress Movie For pop-up menu choose Full Quality and click Share to save the movie. Repeat this copy/paste/share process for each chapter, giving each a descriptive name as you save it. It’s also not a bad idea to add a fade-in transition for succeeding chapters so their beginnings seem a little smoother.

Launch iDVD and, from the main page, choose Project -> Add Submenu. My Submenu will appear on screen. Edit its name to reflect its true contents—call it Individual Scenes , for example. Double-click this new submenu to move to its screen.

Locate the movie files you created and drag them, in order, into this screen. When you burn your DVD you will now be able to access the individual chapters from your Individual Scenes screen.

If you have enough room on the DVD, it’s worthwhile to include these individual scenes as well as the original movie with its chapter marks. That way you can navigate your video in the traditional way—playing it through from the beginning or selecting a chapter and playing from there to the end—or selecting individual chapters and, after playing them, be taken back to the DVD’s menu screen.

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