DVD authoring

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DVD authoring is the process of creating a DVD video capable of playing on a DVD player. DVD authoring software must conform to the specifications set by the DVD Forum group in 1995. The complexity of these specifications results from the number of companies that were involved in creating them.

DVD authoring is the second step in the process of producing finished DVDs: Step 1 is the creation of the movie (or programme); Step 2, the authoring, is the creation of artwork, user menus, insertion of chapter points, overdubs/commentaries, setting autoplay and/or repeat options etc.;[1] Step 3 is the manufacturing (replication) process to mass-produce finished DVDs.

Strictly speaking, DVD authoring differs from the process of MPEG encoding, but as of 2009 most DVD authoring software has a built-in encoder (though separate encoders are still used when better quality or finer control over compression settings is required).

Most DVD-authoring applications focus exclusively on video DVDs and do not support the authoring of DVD-Audio discs.

Stand-alone DVD recorder units generally have basic authoring functions, though the creator of the DVD has little or no control over the layout of the DVD menus, which generally differ between models and brands.

The DVD specification[edit]

To develop a DVD application (software or hardware), one must first license the particular book of DVD specifications from DVD Format/Logo Licensing Corporation, a Japanese corporation. The different DVD formats have different books; each book contains hundreds of pages and costs approximately $5000. After obtaining this license, the developer must become a licensee — which requires an additional fee. Without becoming a licensee, the book can be used only for reference, not for actual creation of DVD applications.

The DVD specifications were written in Japanese and then translated to other languages such as English. This process has resulted in text that can be difficult to interpret, and to this day, many companies interpret various parts of the specifications in different ways. This is the reason DVD players from different manufacturers do not always conform to the same rules – each developer understands the specifications in a slightly different way.


Many different DVD authoring applications help create digital video discs. Many high-end authoring applications evolve in-house in companies such as Matsushita, Philips, Sony, and Toshiba. Such companies strictly forbid the sale of their systems outside each company: internal and DVD laboratories or movie studio partners use them to produce DVDs for customers.

Daikin, a large Japanese air conditioning and refrigeration contracting company, developed Scenarist, a high-end DVD authoring software package. (Daikin has partnered with Sonic Solutions for development and marketing in the U.S.) The software was translated to English and has since become the standard for DVD production in Hollywood amongst other places. Like the other high-end and very expensive systems, it conforms to the DVD specifications more closely than other software. In 2001, Sonic Solutions acquired the DVD authoring business, including ReelDVD and Scenarist, from Daikin and now sells Scenarist.

Sonic, a U.S. corporation, has a major share in the market for selling DVD-authoring tools. They previously manufactured computer based audio recording applications. They soon realized that at some point DVD recorders would become as widely available as CD recorders and that there was no affordable application for the home market or that DVD recorder makers could license as an OEM. At that time, all DVD authoring applications cost many thousands of dollars.

Sonic developed DVDit, an application that started selling below $500.[2] It used only a small part of the whole DVD specification and it presented it in a form that didn't require any knowledge of internal DVD structure. Later, this form became the building block of many other simplified consumer DVD applications. OEM licensing allowed Sonic to very soon become a major player. Sonic is now part of Rovi Corporation.

For a short period of time around 2000, Spruce Technologies emerged as another major player in the market. They created DVD Maestro, a software and hardware system in the same price bracket as the Scenarist system but with a much more user friendly interface. While Scenarist could require months of learning and training, DVD Maestro could be used productively in a much shorter time. DVD Maestro implemented almost all of the DVD specifications like Scenarist, however unlike Scenarist it borrowed an abstraction layer from the consumer oriented applications such as ReelDVD or DVDit. Creating DVDs became a far easier task, yet it only sacrificed a bit of Scenarist's universality. When Spruce started selling SpruceUp, a watered-down consumer incarnation of their DVD Maestro far below the price of Sonic's DVDit, and very similar to Sonic's MyDVD, there was obvious competition between Sonic and Spruce. Both companies were trying to address the very same market, but the market was not big enough. A surprising resolution of this conflict came from Apple Computer, who bought Spruce Technologies for an undisclosed sum. Apple was at that time already marketing its own DVD authoring system after acquiring German software developer Astarte, but decided to go with Spruce for their next incarnation of DVD Studio Pro. This also required Spruce to stop selling and developing applications for PC.

Since then, many other companies — including Adobe Systems, Mediachance, and Ulead — have developed prosumer and home-authoring tools.

Various software tools also exist for managing the workflow process of creating DVDs, such as the Ceiton workflow system.[3]

Various free and shareware utilities exist which allow end-users to modify existing DVDs. DVDAfterEdit reads and writes DLTs for manufacturing. Other applications include replacing copyright or corporate logos, and changing region coding and/or copy protection, for example. Rights-holders must grant permission to make such changes.

See also[edit]