The ability to put hours of very high quality video and audio onto a single DVD disk is one of the most exciting interactive media technologies to come along in years. Paradigm Media has made a special effort to provide our customers with the ability take this next step to deliver their video assets on this new medium.
Our Spruce Maestro DVD authoring system is a state of the art combination of very high quality DVD encoding and pre-mastering (authoring) tools that will deliver DVD disks with the entire feature set available to DVD.
Then, we can write small quantities of playback disks on DVD-R media, or deliver the project to a mass replicator on DLT (Digital Linear Tape), or DVD-R for larger quantities, labeling and packaging.
Our market is normally professional, commercial projects that need first rate image quality and authoring that draws on the special features available through the DVD specification. You may find a company to do your project for less cost if it involves only encoding a relatively small amount of video and delivering it on DVD without interactivity and other features. To help you decide if Paradigm Media is a good fit for your project, you might want to look at the Paradigm Advantages section.
We pride ourselves on our ability to work together with our clients, and providing information is a part of that process. If you would like to know more about DVD and what it can do for you, please contact us, or read on to learn about the technology.
What's the Big Deal about DVD?
Here are some DVD basics:
A single disk can hold eight hours or more of very high quality video and audio. The video and audio quality is much closer to the original video than VHS, or other common distribution formats..
Very importantly, the video, graphics, audio and other elements can be highly interactive. This gives the viewer control over the large amount of material that can be delivered by a DVD disk. Many other powerful features can be enabled, including multiple camera angles, multiple audio tracks (for alternate language language voiceovers), and multiple sub-title tracks. All of these features can be accessed as the program is played, according to the needs of the viewer.
The disks can be played back on both "Set Top" consumer players (the modern equivalent of a VHS player), or computers equipped with a DVD drive.
Disks can be in several sizes, ranging from just under 5 gigabytes (about 2 hours of video and audio), to 18 gigabytes (about 8 hours of video and audio). This is because, unlike CD disks, DVD media can be written to one side only, or both sides of the disk. Then, an additional layer of media can be written two on both sides, giving a total of two sided, dual layered disks that hold almost 18 gigabytes.
Distribution copies of a DVD program can be written to 4.75 gigabyte DVD-R media with a recording process which is similar (but not the same as) writing with a CD recorder. These are called "one-offs", and used mostly for review copies of work in progress, or limited runs of under 50 to 100 copies. DVD-R is much more expensive per unit than pressing them from a "glass master", and is limited to 4.75 gigabytes of data. Occasionally, there are compatibility problems with these disks among various players, particularly older Set Top players. Also, some DVD-R burners on the market use a media which is only compatible with about 50% of the players in use as of late 2001.
For programs that exceed the 4.75 gigabyte limit of data (2 hours of video and audio), or for low unit cost, high volume replication, the "pre-mastered" files are sent to a mass replicator, where a master copy is created that can then be used to physically "press" the copies. Although the glass master is relatively expensive to produce, the copies can be very inexpensive in quantity.
The basics of creating a DVD program are as follows:
First, we work with you to determine the various elements of the program, the program flow and interactivity that make them work together, and begin to develope the labels and packaging.
To actually create the program, your videotape must first be "encoded" to a digital format called MPEG-2 (for the video), and Dolby Digital (audio). This can be relatively simple and done in real time, or quite complex, depending on the type of video being encoded and quality level that is expected.
These digital files are then imported into the Spruce Maestro system for analysis and authoring. Menu graphics, additional audio elements, and subtitles (if needed) are created by the appropriate software, and imported into the authoring system.
The menus, audio and video assets and sub-titles are linked together to provide cohesive navigation throughout the title. This process is difficult to describe, since it can be as complex as you want to imagine. Also included are other DVD functions, such as copy protection, regional codes and other features that are provided under the DVD specifications.
After initial authoring, the program is extensively tested in the authoring software to insure that everything works as expected, and then "compiled" into DVD compliant files that can be read by a player or DVD equipped computer. These files are then written either to a DVD-R for review (or a limited number of copies for distribution), or sent to a replicator for mass distribution.
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The Paradigm Media Advantage
Our equipment and personnel are positioned to take advantage of all the rich diversity of features that can be deployed through DVD. If you need to do more with your video and audio assets than just replace a VHS player, read on.
Creative Interactivity. Your programs can have both "Root Menus" and "Title Menus" that viewers can use to select what they want from your program, in addition to unlimited "Chapter" points to select within each title.
In addition, discreet registers reserved for logic control can be accessed to direct, or re-direct program flow according to your creative desires. For example, a viewers can be taken to a quiz that would then take them to different video segments or menus according to their answer. The possibilities of this feature are endless. It will be fun talking with you about how to engage your audience with the high degree of interactivity available.
Multiple Audio Tracks. Obviously, this feature is a natural for alternate languages in a single video program, and is widely used for this purpose. Take another step, and think about using the same video edit with a voice-over tailored for individual audiences. A single sales or marketing video could then address marketing people, technical personnel, management or purchasing, depending on what they want to hear while they see the images.
Multiple Sub-Title Tracks. Like alternative audio tracks, multiple selectable sub-titles are well suited for providing alternate language capabilities to a program. Sub-titles are less expensive to generate than creating a separate audio track for an alternate language, of course, but they also add another dimension to other capabilities for your DVD. Below are some other suggestions.
Sub-titles can be "forced" ( displayed automatically), or selected on or off by the viewer.
They can deliver technical or detailed information that doesn't properly belong in your video program, but can be brought up at the user's discretion.
Updated information can be added to releases of the DVD without re-editing the video.
Sub-titles can be graphics superimposed over motion video, and can be enabled as interactive buttons to direct program flow. Then, they can be "Agents", used in conjunction with the program registers mentioned above, to direct program flow according to user preferences, previous actions, or selections.
Large numbers of subtitles can be created off-line as text files with time code, then imported and automatically inserted into the program to save time and money.
"Motion Menus". Menus are an important part of the interactivity in a program, and we can turn motion video into menus with buttons just like the static graphics that you normally see. This means that you can have buttons that are comprised of individual video thumbnails, all playing simultaneously, ready be selected by the viewer. You may have seen this in feature movie titles, where the chapter points are indicated by video clips from the portion of the movie that is indicated.
Web links can be included in the program so that web pages can be brought up if the title is being played on an internet equipped computer.
Professional Encoding. Our Spruce MPX-3000 encoding board is designed to provide the quality and versatility to satisfy the most demanding, professional requirements. Our encoding equipment delivers very high quality MPEG DVD compliant streams just by virtue of the design and electronics. However, more in-depth features enable us to meet the real challenges.
"Variable bit rate encoding" (and multi-pass variable bit rate encoding) helps us to hold the image quality using minimum disk space. This can be very important when trying to hold replication costs down, or delivering a program on DVD-R (which is limited to 4.75 gigabytes of space).
SDI (Serial Digital) video and audio into the encoder, with Dolby audio.
Time code in our encoded MPEG streams allows us to work closely with you to identify chapter points and other elements in your videos to program the interactivity.
We can very accurately"re-encode" specific portions of video when needed. Certain types of video scenes can cause special problems and artifacts in the encoded stream, and we can give them special attention without having to re-encode the entire video. This will save us a whole lot of time, and you money.
Copyright protection. Macrovision and other copy protection regimes can be enabled on your title.
This is just an overview of the Paradigm Advantage. Go ahead and view a commercial title generated by a major film company and ask us to give you the same features. We can do it, but the real fun begins when we work together with you to create something that takes you a step beyond.
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