Forum Question: How do I get good quality photos when burning a DVD?

I take a lot of photos. I like to make slideshows of them, burn them onto a DVD and send it to family. The photos look fantastic on my new Macbook Pro, but the photo quality isn’t as good on the DVD as the Mac. When I play back the photos on an HD TV, they look fuzzy.

What gives? Does burning to a DVD through IDVD lower the quality? I am using IMovie and IDVD 09.


— David Holmes

Comments: 29 Responses to “How do I get good quality photos when burning a DVD?”

    1/14/10 @ 12:56 pm

    Remember a DVD is standard definition video. That means 640×480 — that is all a DVD player is capable of showing. It is standard definition TV. Even if you have a HD television, the DVD player can only show you 640×480, because that’s all DVDs are. But when you look on your Mac, you are seeing it in a much higher resolution. Perhaps your monitor is 1280×1024, for instance. That’s much greater than 640×480.

      David Holmes
      1/14/10 @ 2:16 pm

      Thank you for your answer. But, is there a work around? Is is possible to burn a higher quality DVD? If it were played on blue ray device, would that improve its appearance on an HD TV? I am disappointed because photos (and video) look fantastic on my Mac.

      I don’t want to be tedious, but store bought DVD’s look great and I don’t understand why mine are different.

      Thanks again.

        1/14/10 @ 2:19 pm

        It is not a matter of what you can burn, but a matter of what DVD players can play, and what “standard definition” tv is. A blue ray player will play back a DVD as a DVD, like it was a DVD player.
        So you are saying that the picture looks worse than a video DVD? Then make sure you are producing the movie from iMovie at a high enough resolution. How does it look when you play the movie you product from iMovie?

    david Holmes
    1/14/10 @ 2:31 pm

    The picture does look worse that a video DVD I have purchased. I will verify that I am using the highest resolution when in IMovie and IPhoto. I have a Nikon D40 and Canon ACVHD video camera. What I import is very good quality. I just cannot get it to look as good as I want if I burn it to the DVD.

    david Holmes
    1/14/10 @ 2:33 pm

    BTW: I am new to the Mac and I am learning to use it through your podcasts, answers and forums. Your information is very good.

    Wayne Little
    4/2/10 @ 11:20 am

    Hey David I can appriciate what you are saying as I am having the same problems. When I drag and drop pic’s onto a DVD (not using iDVD) the pictures turn out better but not a professional looking slide show. Surley if commercial companys can do it why can’t we??????

    Eean Crawford
    4/13/10 @ 8:56 am

    David and Wayne,

    I have exactly the same problem. Nikon D40. iMac purchased in Mar. 2009. We tried making a slide show in iMovie ’08 (adding transitions, titles, music), and the quality looked fantastic when we played the slide show in iMovie previews. Then, I exported out of iMovie to iDVD and the picture quality was fuzzy and degraded.

    This has nothing to do with DVD quality or Standard TV. Like you said, a DVD video that you rent from Blockbuster can play in sharp quality on a standard TV. So a DVD of a slideshow of high quality pictures should play in sharp quality as well.

    The problem is iMovie itself. It degrades the quality of any project upon exporting it. That’s why it looks great in iMovie preview BEFORE you export it, but why it looks terrible on DVD AFTER you’ve had to export it to iDVD.

    I have tried every possible quality setting on iMovie exports to no avail. The program is simply not written with the capability to produce normal quality DVDs. It is geared toward producing videos for web-based sharing or iPod viewing. iPhoto has the same quality-loss problem when it comes to exporting slideshows created in iPhoto.

    I cannot even begin to tell you how frustrated I am about this, since what I thought would be easy-as-pie-movie-and-slide-show-making was one of the major reasons we switched to the Mac.

    Know this, if you can bypass iMovie exporting between capturing content and authoring it in iDVD, you won’t lose quality. But then you lose all of the editing capability of iMovie. So it’s a no-win situation right now.

    I don’t know what a better alternative is. So right now I’m not making any more slideshows. I’ve looked into going back to iMovie HD (’06)–but Mac stopped supporting it and you have to find a “pirated” download somewhere on the internet. I’m considering Final Cut Express, but am not sure I want to fork out the $169 or whatever it costs, and I don’t yet know if it will make normal quality DVDs or if it suffers the same export quality loss problem.

    In the meantime, I’m frustrated. If anyone has an effective solution to this basic problem, please advise at will.

      4/28/10 @ 10:02 am

      The problem isn’t iMovie. It is iDVD. Try this: Create your slideshow in iMovie. Export using the “Share” function as “HD” quality. Save that file.
      Then quit iMovie and start a new project in iDVD. Import the movie file that you saved out of iMovie. Use that as your slideshow.

    7/15/10 @ 4:12 pm

    has anyone tried Final Cut Express for Mac? There has to be a solution to burn good quality slideshows! does Dell’s have this same problem?

    9/27/10 @ 8:26 am

    this is really frustrating, i have the same problem, im a photographer and i need to show the photos on a dvd as the proofs. they look like i have shot the photographs out of focus. i have a new mac but may have to resort to moving the edited pictures onto my old lap top and burning them on NEro 8 which i never used to have a problem with. Called Apple Care but they could not offer a solution. am about to try garrys solution and fingers crossed.
    i may have to try getting additional software so if anyone finds any that works please let me know as these are the main things i needed this for.

    4/4/11 @ 3:16 pm

    I am here reading these comments because I am also looking for a solution for this same problem. I just created this great home movie in imovie . I published it on itunes it looks great on my iPad but when it reached in iDVD I tried best quality and then professional and both are barely acceptable.

      4/4/11 @ 3:19 pm

      The iPad has a 1024×768 screen (786,432 pixels). A TV showing a DVD produces, at best, 720×480 (345,600). So you are seeing twice the resolution on your iPad screen as you are on a TV picture from a DVD. See episode 440:

    6/14/11 @ 6:50 pm

    Hi Gary, great site by the way I just found you and will pass you on to all my mac friends. I understand your reasoning on the DVD resolution Gary but if that is the case then why do the DVD’s that I rent from the blockbuster/hollywood store look great on my tv/dvd player compared to the one I make in iDVD. Does the “SLIDESHOW” I made on idvd look worse because unlike a movie the pictures on the slideshow are “stills” which give us more time to view them hence revealing the inferior resolution of the DVD format? I know that when I “pause” my hollywood/blockbuster video the resolution looks about the same as on my idvd slideshow and then when I take it off pause I instantly can’t notice the low resolution. So is it just that pausing a single movie or picture frame for several seconds reveals to us what we can’t detect when each frame is flying by at many frames per second on a hollywood DVD? Am I on the right track here?

      6/14/11 @ 7:06 pm

      I think you are on the right track. I’m not a film/video expert, though. I’m sure some of those guys can talk more intelligently about it.

    Pam Taylor
    7/20/11 @ 3:05 pm

    Are there any software programs that could be used with a Mac that would produce better resolution? I tried playing with the resolution on the display (system preferences) but my DVD player wouldn’t accept the DVD’s made with 1280×1024 resolution or less.
    What about Aperture 3, does it help with the resolution? Husband suggested this….I don’t even know what it is. I have worked DAYS on a wedding slideshow with music and the DVD just shows fuzziness. Am SO disappointed.

    Pam Taylor
    7/25/11 @ 5:37 am

    Does it matter which type of DVD you use? Like DVD-R vs DVD+R? I have used the DVD+R…..didn’t know that there was a difference. Would resolution of slideshow be better on DVD-R using my Apple computer?

    1/13/12 @ 11:34 am

    I too am new to Mac. I create slideshows for high school sports teams. I spend 2-3 months on them, almost every day. I bought an expensive MacBookPro just for this reason. I love my first iMovie project that I just created. I cannot believe that after all that work I can’t make clear dvd copies for the kids. I am dumbfounded and just can’t understand how Mac could allow this to happen!! If any of you have found a solution, please publish it here. I feel so ripped off right now, I am in tears.

      1/13/12 @ 12:23 pm

      You can get them as clear as DVDs will allow, given that DVDs are standard definition video, not HD or the super-HD that you are seeing on a computer screen. It isn’t a matter of Mac, PC, iMovie or anything. It is just how DVDs are.

    1/13/12 @ 2:23 pm

    In order to get to the best quality that a dvd will allow- should I downsize my pictures? If so, is there a way to select all in the iMovie program and resize them? or do I need to resize each one in iPhoto, and then drag each of those pictures into iMovie? Are there any other settings that I should know in order to get to the best possible on a dvd?

      1/13/12 @ 2:29 pm

      No, that shouldn’t matter. Just make your video in iMovie, export at “medium” resolution, then use your DVD burning software to make the DVD.

    Denise Lopez
    2/10/12 @ 5:10 am

    Could the problem be resolved by using an external high definition burner to burn the DVDs (as opposed to burning the DVDs on the Mac)?

      2/10/12 @ 9:27 am

      DVDs are digital. All 1s and 0s. So there is no such thing as a “high definition burner.” A DVD burned by your Mac, or any DVD burner would have the same 1s and 0s that any DVD burner would use. Maybe you are thinking of a Blueray burner? That would still make DVDs the same way, but could make Blueray discs as well, which is a whole other topic.

    5/26/12 @ 12:51 pm

    I won’t rehash the problem because i am in the same exact situation. There HAS to be someone out there reading this who can help. What do Wedding Video guys use to edit their work? They also show high quality videos from weddings interspaced with photographs all HIGH quality. Please tell us how? What editing software are you using that photographers can use too ???? Would upgrading to imovie-pro make any difference??? Why is the poor quality happening???????

    7/1/12 @ 7:19 pm

    Same Issue here! Made a slideshow for my family reunion and I have finally given up being able to show it on a tv screen and have accepted that it will only be viewed on computer screens because the quality of the photographs is more important to me than seeing them on a big screen! I do wish there was a way around this though.

      11/18/12 @ 8:51 pm

      Hi all (Especially Caroline) Don’t know if anyone is even still watching this thread. I came upon it in my attempt to find a good DVD/BluRay burner compatible with my iMac. Also new to mac and finding it’s limitations expensive and frustrating. PC users (photographers) could be perfectly happy with Power Director, or Pinnacle i would think. I do Wedding videos (newbie)and they require either a different DVD, or a higher compression to get it all on the disc. That’s my question. I use Adobe Premier Pro CS6 which is the cats meow but can’t author or burn from there. Hence my issue (I think). What I come across are DVD’s that are not compatible with certain t.v.’s, skip around, bad quality etc. So I’m looking for a good quality mac compatilble DVD burner and the discs that will hold an hour and a half of footage. Anybody figure that one out per chance? thanks much.

    Elaine McDonald
    8/18/12 @ 6:56 pm

    I have made many slideshows with Iphoto and then exported them to IDVD. They have always been clear and sharp. Now, I have the latest program for each and I can not get a clear sharp DVD either. (Nikon D700) Does it have anything to do with the upgrades?

      8/18/12 @ 7:53 pm

      I’m not aware of any changes that would affect this — iDVD hasn’t been upgraded at all recently.

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