MacMost Now 721: iMovie Export Settings For DVD

Many people often wonder what export settings to use in iMovie in order to create the best DVDs. But DVDs are standard definition, and any video you export from iMovie will be re-encoded into a special DVD format. So it is merely a matter of exporting at the best settings available and then letting your DVD software use the best version of the video possible to create the DVD.

Video Transcript
Hi, this is Gary with MacMost Now. On today's episode I am going to answer one of the most frequently asked questions I get. What export settings are used from iMovie if I am going to be making a DVD?

So if you are making home videos and using iMovie or anything in Final Cut Pro for instance you may want to make some DVD's from them using DVD software like the old iDVD or something like Toast. So the question I get is "Okay I have my video done what export settings do I use to export the video in that step so that I can make a DVD?"

Well, the answer is not to worry about it so much. It seems a lot of people don't realize that when you make a DVD it is going to reencode all the video. You see DVD's don't use the compression format that you're exporting from iMovie. So whether you are using say MP4 set to H264 or some other format, that's not going to be used at all. That is just going to be taken as a source video and converted to a format that is standard across all DVD players that have ever been made. It is a version of MPEG-2. If you want to read about it you can go to the DVD video page at wikipedia and there is all sorts of details. But basically the most important thing to realize is that it's 720 x 480. It is standard definition, not high definition because DVD's were around way before high definition. So if you have high definition video which you most likely have in your iPhone or your camera whatever you've got now it's all high definition, it is really going to be much higher than what you are going to be able to put on a DVD.

Go back and take a look at Episode 440 of MacMost Now where I explain how DVD's are not high definition videos they are standard definition videos.

So, chances are you have something much getter than what you are going to put on the DVD. So how do you export it in the right setting so that you can then put it on a DVD. Well because the video is going to be recompressed no matter what setting you use, don't worry too much about getting the settings perfect. You should simply try to use the best settings you can. So for instance if I go to Share and Export Movie in iMovie, I've got all these different settings here at the bottom. What I want to do is that I just want to use the highest one so in this case I want to use HD 1080p. That's because the source video is 1080. If for instance I was only using 720p video then it won't give me this option because is wouldn't make sense to actually export to a higher quality than the source video so I would then choose the highest quality which would then be 720p. So you just want to choose the highest quality you can here and export it to give the DVD converter, whether it is iDVD or toast or something else, the best possible video to work with. So converting from the highest possible quality video to the DVD video will give it the best results.

Now, if I'm in a rush and I just want to get something done real quick and it is 1080p I just may do 720p anyway just because it will export my movie a little faster and will convert possibly a little faster because it is a smaller file size and I'm probably not going to notice the difference going from 720 down to 480 as opposed to 1080 down to 480. But if I was making a nice DVD and I wanted to make sure that I got the best thing then I would use the highest setting. Remember whatever you do, this is just a temporary version of your movie and you can actually use this to create the DVD then get rid of it because you are not using it for anything else. You have the original iMovie source project and then you have got your DVD which would be created with the other software. This is kind of an intermediate format to go from one to the other.

Now, some people mentioned that you can create these high definition DVD's, these special formatted things that you put then in Blu Ray players and they will read the DVD disk and show a high definition video. Remember if you are doing that it is not going to work in a standard DVD player. So anybody that has just got a regular DVD player in their living room is not going to be able to access that disk at all. You are going to need that special Blu Ray player or whatever supports that format that you are using. So if you want something really standard if its going to be DVD, it's going to be 480p standard definition video and you are just going to export from iMovie at the highest quality possible to give to your DVD creation software.

I hope you found this useful. Until next time this is Gary with MacMost Now.

Comments: 21 Responses to “MacMost Now 721: iMovie Export Settings For DVD”

    6/13/12 @ 10:55 am

    Great advice, as always, Gary. Just one follow up question, please. You say to choose the highest quality possible from the share menu. Since you can find many higher quality codec settings from the Export to Quicktime option, is that a better choice than from the basic share menu? What are the relatively new “Apple ProRes” codec to be used for? Those produce a huge file and, I wonder if that would make any difference in producing the highest quality possible DVD. Thanks.

      6/13/12 @ 12:01 pm

      Just use the highest quality in the Share menu. You can mess around with custom settings forever, but you’ll be going to standard def on DVD anyway, so I would think it a waste of time.
      ProRes would be for editing high def if you are creating professional video with really high-end equipment.

    6/13/12 @ 12:55 pm

    Thanks very much. The Mac discussion forums are full of endless and confusing back and forth on this topic. Your straight forward clarification is cut-to-the-chase solution and appreciated.

    6/14/12 @ 3:02 pm

    Unfortunately I have been exporting my movies in large format, since iDVD would burn them in standard anyway, not realizing that the 1080p would be the better option. Now I can delete all the videos I exported in standard (960×540) and Just hold onto the 1080p movies.

    6/16/12 @ 2:19 pm

    I have just exported from iMovie using the share button at 720p (recorded from iPhone at 720p). When i put it into IDVD and play it back the blacks are all pixalated. Have you any solution? Also, some dvd players like my PS3 will not recognise the DVD. Gary, where have i gone wrong on this? Thank you.

      6/16/12 @ 5:12 pm

      Not sure what you mean by “the blacks are pixalated” — perhaps have a video pro take a first-hand look at what you are doing?
      As for it not playing back in some DVD players, perhaps it is the media you are using? Some are better than others.

    6/20/12 @ 8:14 am

    Gary, sorry for the late reply. Thanks for your comment. I fixed the media issue. Appears the burning folder is not as good as sending straight from Idvd. As for the “Blacks are Pixalated” issue, when there is a night scene, the video looks like the TV is smudgy/& blocky, but a day scene looks fine. For example, a firework display would have most of the screen blocky apart from the fireworks themselves. Hope that explains. Thank you Brendan

      6/20/12 @ 10:15 am

      Right. You need to create a video DVD. Simply burning a DVD with a burn folder would create a data DVD. I’m surprised it worked in any DVD player at all.
      As for the quality issue — very hard to make a suggestion from afar on that one. Too many factors.

    7/16/12 @ 9:46 pm

    Dear Gary,

    I have been working on a long project that I knew very little about how to accomplish at the start. I found many, many of my questions answered through your videos. You are a very nice person to take the time and trouble to do all these. My thanks for your efforts.


    10/8/12 @ 10:46 am

    iv had my mac nearly since xmas but now getting into imovie i have found that depending where the movie is widescreen or not that determins if i can choose 1080p stting can you clarify this as i want the best quality movie, my aim is to burn hopefully a couple movies to a disk, size permitting, and also back them up on a spare hdd

      10/8/12 @ 3:17 pm

      You can only export using a quality that is equivalent to, or less than, your source video.

    10/24/12 @ 3:50 pm

    Hi Gary.

    I’m making a documentary and bought a Sony Digital HD Camcorder (Sony HDR760V). I filmed everything in the highest form of HD possible and at 24fps. I’ve edited everything in iMovie 11. What is the BEST possible quality I can get when burning this to a DVD? When I’m transferring the videos from the camera to iMovie, should I use the original size option or does that matter? It tells me that I may lose some playback quality that way. And when I burn this to DVD, is iDVD the best way to go or is there a better way/better software? I want it to look as great as it does when I plug my camera directly into the TV for playback. Thanks!

      10/24/12 @ 4:11 pm

      Use the highest quality allowed when going from the camera to iMovie.
      Can’t say if iDVD is the “best” way to go as that is subjective. But with DVDs on the way out, there isn’t much out there to choose from.
      Unfortunately, all of this focus on quality goes out the window when you plan to burn it to DVD. DVDs are not HD, they are standard definition (1980s-style). It is impossible for it to look as good on a DVD as it does on your camera. You are comparing 1920×1080 (your camera) with 720×480 (a DVD). So 1/6 the quality.

        10/24/12 @ 8:02 pm

        Thanks for the input, Gary! So if I want to show this documentary to people, what would be the best way of going about that? I have a gala coming up at the end of next year where I’d like to debut it. Is there a different form of technology used in doing something like that? (Sorry – I know that’s a bit of an extension from what you’ve been answering…) Thank you! Really appreciate it!

          10/24/12 @ 10:29 pm

          Many options. You can present it from a Mac (output to HDMI). You can present it from a Mac through an Apple TV. You can upload it to YouTube and then present it on any computer or anything that can play YouTube. You can burn it to Blu-Ray disc, which does support full 1080p, of course. Even if you don’t want to invest in Blu-Ray hardware and software, you can take a 1080p HD movie file and have a production company turn it into a Blu-Ray.

            10/25/12 @ 8:43 am

            Perfect!!!!! Thank you SO MUCH! Looks like I’ll be able to continue the editing on my own, then. You have no idea how much I appreciate the help. Thanks!

    11/22/12 @ 10:06 am

    Have tried burning an imovie project DVD but when I try playing it on the TV it comes up as incompatible disc? Am I using the wrong format?

      11/22/12 @ 10:14 am

      What DVD creation software are you using to make the DVD?

    2/14/13 @ 9:10 pm

    I made a project in iMovie with professional photo stills only. I used titles, transitions, and have had numerous crashes exporting. It is exporting now. I am going to create the DVD in iDVD and burn to DVD. If I am supposed to export at the highest quality of my media, without videos, how do I gage that. Do I still export at the HD1080P?

      2/14/13 @ 9:25 pm

      Yep. I would. But if 720 is faster and gives you less problems, it probably won’t be a noticeable difference.

Comments Closed.