Creating DVDs in Linux 1. Basics

I bought a Contour, to record some videos of myself struggling to surf, and now I decided it would be fun to splice the good parts (all three seconds) into a DVD I can give people I don’t like for Christmas. But how do I go about it? Are there any good DVD authoring tools in Linux that take the video formats I have and easily burn them onto a DVD? This article is a survey of the apps I found, and of my experience using them.

I am not measuring the absolute quality of the application, only its effectiveness for the single purpose of creating a DVD of random clips, organized according to a structure I apply arbitrarily (maybe time, maybe type, maybe source). My criteria in evaluating the software include:

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  • stability: an application does me no good if it crashes all the time! Crashes may be mitigated by save files, but an application that does not crash in the first place is what I am going for
  • ease-of-use: if I have to spend days reading manuals to solve what is really a simple problem like the one described above, I am not going to be happy. Some Linux apps tend to favor power over ease-of-use, but most of the time I don’t need that power. For instance, it’s great that I can blend a dozen videos into each other in Kdenlive (a non-linear video editor), but just figuring out how what works is such a pain, I’d rather not use it (for this purpose).
  • compatibility: no matter what software I use, I want to know for sure that the DVDs produced will work fine on my DVD player and my computer’s DVD drive
  • flexibility: there is a part of me that says, I just want to give you a list of video in random formats, maybe structured in the file system so you know what goes where, and call me back when you have a DVD I can watch or an ISO file I can burn. On the other hand, I also would like to be able to specify the background image on the DVD menu, and whether I want to have autoplay
  • performance: I just want to set up the process, leave the room, and come back in a reasonable amount of time to enjoy the finished product. That means I don’t want software that requires constant hand holding, and it has to be reasonably speedy

The process of generating a DVD consists in many components:

  1. gathering: get the videos from the respective sources
  2. editing: select the parts of the video I actually want, removing all the extra noise (like waves splashing on me)
  3. curating: deciding which videos should go with which other ones, generating a structure, adding a sound track (particularly important with trackless videos, like surf clips), adding subtitles and captions
  4. formatting: selecting the configuration for the DVD. Menus, intros, outros, structure, etc.
  5. converting: turning the raw videos into something suitable for burning on DVD
  6. creating: taking all the raw material and turning it into an ISO file ready for burning
  7. burning: take the ISO and make it a disc
  8. covering: OK, I made that up. It’s the process of designing a DVD cover, in case you want one

I will review software for each component listed above separately, which means that software spanning several categories will be reviewed multiple times. At the end, I’ll give you a short summary of the process I chose, and the tools that go with it.

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