Authoring a surround sound DVD

In the previous Audio Here's How coloumn, we looked at the requirements and fundamental methods of mixing audio in 5.1 space, using Sonic Foundry's fantastic Vegas 4+DVD software (See the article here). Now we round things off by burning our 5.1 audio mix onto DVD - ideal for showing it to others or using it yourself. For this, we'll be using the Vegas 4+DVD package, DVD Architect 1.0.

Rendering

When we left things last time, we had just finished using keyframes to automate the panning of separate instruments/channels in 5.1 space. When you're happy with the status of your mix, you'll want to save your work. Remember that going to File-Save As saves the project settings, whereas pulling down the File menu and selecting Render As exports the finished product to a specified file type. Enter a file name and drop down the Save as type list to select Dolby Digital AC-3 (*.ac3). This saves the mix in the Dolby Digital surround format. Ensure that the Template type is 5.1 Surround DVD. This is important, so use FIGURE 1 as a guide. As advised last month, you'll need Vegas's +DVD add-on (DVD Architect) to be able to encode to this surround sound file format.

Writing to DVD

Our next step is to place the surround sound AC3 file onto DVD. Open DVD Architect and go to File-New. From here you can elect to create a menu-based video DVD, a music compilation, a picture slideshow, or a single movie DVD. For our purposes, select Music Compilation. Next, ensure that the Project video format drop-down list box is set to PAL (720x576, 25.000 fps) and click OK. Now pull down the Options menu and select Show Title Safe Area - this will allow you to see which area will be viewable on screen when the DVD is being watched.

You'll see a main stage area on the left, and on the right is a column you can use to insert your tracks - in any audio format. For the purposes of this tutorial, right click in the right column, select Insert Track then find and select the AC3 file you rendered earlier.

Next we'll add a very simple background image and text description that viewers will see when they watch/listen to the DVD. Do this by right clicking in the left area before selecting Set Background Media... Note that you can also include video to be seen as your song plays back, something that can produce interesting results. Usefully, you can elect to import just a video - without any of its audio - from most common video file types. At this stage, you should see something similar to FIGURE 2.

Now it's time to preview the DVD by pressing . Click the Play icon to begin playback of the project, and you can preview it as though it was already a DVD. When you're done, click Close to exit. Once you've made any changes and you're happy with your results, click the Make DVD button in DVD Architect's tool bar. Click on Prepare DVD and Burn and you'll then be able to see how much of the disc your roughly-4GB DVD project will occupy. Click Next, choose a preparation files directory, and click Next again. Finally, place a blank DVD into your DVD writer drive, select the drive's name in the Device drop-down list box, and click Finish to start the burning process.

Place your DVD into a DVD player and view/listen to the results! TIP: for the widest device compatibility, use DVD-R discs.

Other distribution media

Vegas 4 is such a powerful program (especially if you want to integrate audio and video) that you can render/export in a variety of file types. These include some great compression file types ideal for Internet distribution, including MP3 audio (which we all know) and formats such as QuickTime MOV, OGG vorbis, Real Media 8 or 9, and Microsoft's WMA (audio) and WMV (video).

There's also a tricky way to get your surround mix onto a standard CD-R, but it requires more explanation than space here allows. Take a look at www.kellyindustries.com/diy_5_1.html for the full low-down.

Requirements

  • Dolby Digital 5.1-compatible sound card, such as those available from Terratec and Creative as well as many more suppliers
  • Dolby Digital 5.1-compatible speaker system such as those available from Creative, Altec Lansing and Logitech
  • 5.1 mixing software such as Vegas 4 or Acid Pro 4 with 5.1 encoding add-on

Vegas 4 minimum system

  • 400MHz processor
  • 128MB RAM
  • DVD burner
  • 30GB hard disk

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