Professional DVD Creation & Burning on the Mac, 2017 Edition
Can it be done on MacOS Sierra (10.12.x), that is the question.
tl;dr version: It depends on your standards.
Really helpful answer, I know, but it’s true. Read on for a detailed rundown of software and results.
While Steve Jobs declared the DVD dead many years ago, and I don’t completely disagree with him, there are still many of us (we?) creative professionals who have to burn DVDs to make money. In my case this is due to my doing event videos with music copyright issues which prevent us from being able to make things available online (it’s legal the way we do it, but complicated).
So despite Apple attempting to kill both the DVD and their DVD creation software, I and many like me have been limping along still using iDVD and DVD Studio Pro (DVDSP) because frankly, they still worked and did a good job.
Below is a rundown of the various software programs I have used/tried to use in the last month in an attempt to complete a professional looking DVD of one of my big annual money-makers (and I use the term big very loosely): Peoria Ballet’s annual production of The Nutcracker.
I do my editing in Final Cut Pro X (FCPX) and if you want to fight me on that I’m happy to; yes the program was released early, but if you’re basing your opinion on its initial release and have ignored everything that’s happened with the program since then, you’re missing out.
iDVD & DVD Studio Pro
While Apple stopped updating iDVD & DVDSP five and eight years ago respectively, they have continued to work and Mac users (me included) have continued to use them. I’ve tended to focus on using iDVD after a bad experience with DVDSP after it was cancelled, but many people continued to have success with both programs.
Until the latest Mac OS “upgrade”, MacOS Sierra (10.12.x). Unbeknownst to me, this latest upgrade seems to have broken both programs, but in ways that, if you’re unaware of the problems, will encourage you to keep using them until you try and export your final project.
Both programs open fine, you can create you projects and use all their functions, until you try and export either a disk image for later burning or burn directly to disc. In both cases, both programs fail, consistently and reliably.
Research has confirmed that Sierra seems to be the problem, and the solution many Mac professionals are using is keeping an older Mac around to do their DVD work. As my iMac was released before Sierra and thus I know I can, one way or another, roll it back to El Capitan, and I know I produced DVDs on El Capitan, I’m seriously considering rolling it back (I work alone and can’t afford to keep a whole separate computer around just to do DVD work, unless it can also run Caesar III which would make my wife very happy). Sierra hasn’t offered me anything compelling, and I make a couple thousand dollars a year making DVDs, so there you have it. A fun project awaits.
But wait, you say, surely someone has stepped in to fill this obvious and potentially profitable gap Apple has left in the professional software department.
Ha! You and I both wish. Well maybe not you, but certainly I. Herewith, my struggles over the last weeks with other software. I’m only covering actual reliable software here; if you go on the App store or search you’ll find several program, most of which seem to be the same software under different brands, all of which are at least a bit shady and none of which are adequate to my needs. Enough said for now.
Oh don’t get me started on Toast, because many others have beaten me to it. Oh, ok, here goes. Toast now comes with two different versions of DVD burning software. There’s the actual Toast program, with which you can burn a very basic DVD that does contain chapter markers you can set individually, but which will have no animation or audio on the menus and not very pretty templates. It’s serviceable, but not what I would call professional.
But Toast now comes bundled with a variety of, shall we call them, sub-programs, one of which is called Toast MyDVD. While this program (I believe it’s a piece of software that was bought and “integrated” into Toast, but it essentially functions as a separate program) does allow much more advanced DVD authoring, I, and it seems most everyone else who has tried to use it, have been unable to burn a DVD or disc image from it, making it essentially useless. (Nice run-on sentence, eh?) Except as a way to waste hours of time before realizing you can’t actually export anything successfully.
I tried working with tech support to no avail; nothing they offered made any difference, and they act as though they’ve never come upon anyone with these problems before, even though as far as I can tell everyone who has tried to use this program has had these problems.
Adobe Premiere Elements
Now this one surprised me a little, first because I didn’t even think of it until I saw it mentioned as an option for people in similar straits as myself, and second because it actually looked like it might work. Ok, it did work, but there were issues more of my own making than Premiere’s.
Short version, everything worked fine, though I had to do some workarounds to make the DVD look the way I wanted, but the quality of the final video was poor. After working with people on the forums I eventually realized the problem was I had to export my edited files from Final Cut Pro X first, then import them into Premiere Elements. This in itself isn’t the problem; the problem is that Elements couldn’t import uncompressed files, so my video was being compressed twice, leading to inevitable quality issues. For the record, Toast was able to import my uncompressed files, and you’ll see the effect of this below.
If I was willing to all my work in Elements, things would probably be fine, but I can’t do that due to Premiere Element’s limitations. That’s not a criticism; Elements is what it is, and what it is is more consumer focused. What it does at that level is actually pretty impressive, but doesn’t work for me in the work I’m doing.
So am I completely screwed? Maybe, maybe not.
For The Nutcracker, I ended up going with the regular Toast version: ugly DVD but good video quality because it could import the full quality exports from FCPX. For our spring show of The Sleeping Beauty I’m hoping that our new MacBook Air running the old El Capitan will be able to work with iDVD and/or DVD Studio Pro, and I have to admit I’m hopeful. I won’t go into the steps I took to try and make this work with Nutcracker, not realizing our new laptop was running an old OS; suffice it to say that is so often the case I made something that may actually be quite simple, impossibly (literally, it seems) difficult. Had I checked the OS version of our Air, I would have realized the solution was to do my work there.
So stay tuned, I should have a test report soon.
Do you make DVDs on the Mac? If so, let me know what software you’re using and how it’s working out of you.