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Video Workflows: Capture MPEG-2 for DVD

the Frequently Asked Questions…
  • Which computer capture card is best for making DVDs?
  • How do I capture videotapes onto the computer?
  • What do I use to capture video to MPEG files?

and The Digital FAQ Answers…

Capturing directly to MPEG-2 for DVD-Video format (“a DVD”) isn’t suggested anymore in the 2010s. But it can certainly be done if you’re looking to save time, and are willing to compromise quality in the process.

Technically, you can even capture to MPEG-1 for DVD-Video, but that’s never been suggested.

In the days of analog cable, “digital” satellite (also analog output!), and analog antenna TV, it wasn’t a terrible method. You could record a clean source through s-video on the cable box or satellite receiver. While it had some noise in the capture, maybe even some noise in the analog source, it was very tolerable. Especially since most TV sets were still the old-fashioned 4×3 CRTs, not the huge flat screen 16×9 HDTVs of today. Those older TVs hid quite a but of noise, too.

Capturing video tapes directly to DVD was never suggested, and is even more true now. Thanks to advances in video filters, using program like Avisynth and VirtualDub, you can completely eliminate tape errors. The caveat there is that it needs to be a lossless or uncompressed AVI file. Note that using a quality VCRs has always been suggested, and still is.

But if that’s what you want to do, and capture directly to DVD-ready MPEG, this is what we suggest…

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Prerequisite: Use Windows XP

Only the ATI 600 USB can be used with Windows Vista and Windows 7, and is currently the only (affordable non-pro) card suggest for MPEG capturing. Also note that the ATI 600 USB can be buggy when not used on Windows XP.

All other suggested capture cards require Windows XP, including the high-quality and well-respected ATI All In Wonder card series.

SP2 is the most suggested, as it’s not cluttered with internet security tools like SP3. SP1 and the earlier non-SP is not suggested, and may not even work with some of the later cards.

As long as the computer has at least an Intel Pentium 4 with 2.0Ghz, it will be fine. Do not use a single-core AMD system, as it drops more frames than the Intel single-core systems. You can find dual-core an even quad-core systems that are compatible with Windows XP and can run the ATI All In Wonder cards.

Step 1: ATI AIW or ATI 600 USB Capture Cards

ATI All-In-Wonder cards come in PCI, AGP 2x/4x, AGP 4x/8x, and PCI express form factors. There are other cards, yes — anything from a professional Matrox hardware encoder cards, to Hauppage consumer hardware MPEG encode cards, to cheapo Leadtek consumer cards. But unlike the other , the ATI All In Wonder has stood the test of time. Building a capture system around an ATI AIW is done all the time by both pros and hobbyists.

While the cards are no longer sold new. They’re readily available in our marketplace, on Amazon used, eBay, Craigslist, etc — pretty much anywhere that you can buy used computer hardware. Just be sure that it’s working, and has all of the connection wires.

Using ATI Multimedia Center (ATI MMC), you’ll capture to MPEG-2. For DVD-Video, that means using bitrates between 1.856 Mbps to 10.08 Mbps. In reality, you’d want to capture no less than 3.4+ Mbps for 352×480 and 7.0+ Mbps for 720×480.

Technically, ATI AIW cards let you capture to MPEG-1. But again, that was never suggested. Just possible.

ATI MMC version 8.x, used by the AGP cards, also had VideoSoap, which was a realtime filter for cleaning up the quality some. Most of the settings were useless, both the “Salt and Pepper” setting at 18% was very effective at removing analog grain. It slightly blurred the image, but that’s another trade-off of doing realtime MPEG captures instead of using the more thorough AVI restoration workflows.

The newer (2009) ATI 600 USB cards — not the PCI version! — uses the newer ATI Catalyst Media Center (ATI CMC).

Step 2: Editing the Captured MPEG

We suggest Womble MPEG Video Wizard for quickly scrubbing the timeline, and removing unwanted footage. Womble will then re-save the MPEG without re-encoding. That’s the important part! No re-encoding!

Before Womble MPEG Video Wizard came along (now Woble MPEG Video Wizard DVD, actually), we used to suggest Womble MPEG-VCR. It’s still sold, and is somewhat cheaper, but it’s not as useful as Womble MVW.

VideoReDo and TMPGEnc — both TMPGEnc Plus 2.5 and TMPGEnc Smart Renderer 4 — are other options. We do use and suggest Smart Renderer for H.264 editing, so if you’re planning to do that as well, then buying just one program may be more to your liking.

Optional: Restoring Audio

Restoring the audio is a two-step process. (1) Demux. (2) Restore.

You’ll want to demux MPEG either in TMPGEnc Plus 2.5 or BatchDemux. Although TMPGEnc Plus 2.5 costs $37, it an almost essential tool for various workflows, well worth the small fee, and easier to use than BatchDemux. (It doesn’t batch demultiplex video, of course, as the name suggests.) An audio-only MP2 or MPA will be created, and a video only M2V or MPV will be created. The audio file, obviously, is what gets edited here.

Then comes the fun part … restoring the audio! The ideal method, which works for most audio (even the tougher ones!), is to use a mix of the professional payware Sony Sound Forge and the freeware Audacity. The way it works is Audacity removes most of the noise, but leaves a rough sounding waveform. Sound Forge is used for the finishing touches, to make it actually sound restored.

In a nutshell: Start with SoundForge, open the audio, find a small snippet of noise only, copy that to a new file, save it, and you have you noise print. Open both the noise print and the audio to be restored in Audacity, and use the Noise Removal filter. Save the semi-restored audio file, re-open it in Sound Forge and further filter it using the free digitalFAQ SoundForge Presets Filters Pack.

Optional: Case Artwork and Making DVD Menus

Technically, DVD case artwork isn’t part of a video/audio workflow but it can be convenient to do when the video is on the computer. Why? Well, most good artwork of DVDs contains screen caps on the back if the case — sort of a preview of the contact inside. We suggest Photoshop for DVD case artwork.

DVD menus are also optional, as you can make menu-less discs. But if well done, it can really add to the aesthetic appeal of a disc.

Step 3: Authoring the DVD

In the 2000s, there were many DVD authoring programs — everything from cheap and terrible, to professional and confusing. By the time we got to the 2010s, not much was left. Most all of the junky authoring programs disappeared, and even many of the professional ones disappeared. The best program for a Mac is the still-in-use DVD Studio Pro. And for Windows, it’s the now-defunct Ulead DVD Workshop 2. DVDWS2 is still available in the unofficial nether regions of the internet. As a second choice, the current TMPGEnc DVD Authoring Works 5 is pretty decent.

Import the muxed audio + video, or the demuxed video with the demuxed audio, and make your DVD.

Burn with the freeware Imgburn.

Final Notes

Remember that this guide is just the workflow. While it may give some brief tips on using various programs, it’s not a how-to guide for those programs themselves. Some are already linked, and other will be linked to as more guides are added or revised on this site.

You can still capture SD channels from digital satellite services, such as DirecTV or DISH Network in the U.S., and use this method. So for that reason, it’s not entirely outdated, or entirely not suggested. It should create a nice standard definition DVD, and still look fine on modern HDTVs with playback filters that remove MPEG noise.

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