Creating a video DVD from an iPhoto slideshow

Introduction

It is very easy to use the ShareSend to iDVD menu item to turn an iPhoto slideshow into a DVD, but the results are not as good as they could be. This command exports H.264 video with a resolution of 853×480 at 30fps, which is different from the resolution and frame rate that you really need for a video DVD. A standard definition PAL DVD contains 720×576 at 25 fps MPEG-2 video. A standard definition NTSC DVD contains 720×480 at 29.97 fps MPEG-2 video. When compressed video is rescaled, resampled, and reencoded into MPEG-2 some quality is going to be lost.

This article describes how I create video DVDs from iPhoto slideshows using iDVD. I'm using iPhoto '09 (version 8.1.2).

The process tries to improve the quality by generating the video at the correct resolution and frame rate. However, the reencoding operation cannot be avoided, because iPhoto cannot create MPEG-2 video and iDVD cannot import MPEG-2 video. To work with MPEG-2 video, you will need more professional-oriented software which is more expensive and harder to use.

Step 1: Configure the slideshow aspect ratio

Select the slideshow and open the Settings panel for the slideshow (by clicking on the gears icon, which is next to the Themes and Music icons, at the bottom of the window). Set the Aspect Ratio to either TV (4:3) or HDTV (16:9) depending on if you want to create a DVD for a full frame traditional TV or a widescreen TV. Since most people have LCD or plasma televisions these days, you'll probably want to set it to HDTV (16:9).

Step 2: Export the slideshow as a video

Export

Select the slideshow and click the Export button at the bottom right side of the iPhoto window.

Uncheck the "Automatically send slideshow to iTunes" option.

As a test, you can first select the "Mobile" size and export it. This is a small video file that is much quicker to export. Use it to check contents of the video is what you expect. And you can put it on the disc as an iPod/iPhone version. Then return to this dialog to do the full size export.

To do the full size export, click on "Custom Export".

Custom export

Enter a file name to save it to.

Change the Export to "Movie to QuickTime Movie".

Select on the Options button.

Options

The options dialog has buttons for settings, filter, size, and sound.

Turn off Prepare for Internet Streaming.

Select the video Settings button.

Video options

Change the Compression Type to H.264.

Change the Frame rate to 25 (for PAL) or 29.97 (for NTSC).

Set Key Frames to Automatic.

Select OK and then select Size.

Size options

For the export size settings, change the Dimensions to "HD 1920×1080 16:9"

Check the Preserve aspect ratio using Letterbox, but if the slideshow aspect ratio matches the exported video's aspect ratio, then this will never be required.

Select OK and then select the sound Settings.

Sound options

The sound settings do not have to be changed.

Select OK.

Options

This is the movie settings you'll end up with for PAL. If you are using NTSC, the frame rate will be 29.97 fps instead of 25 fps.

Select OK to start the video exporting and then wait until it is finished. This will take a long time.

These settings create a HD (high definition) version of the slideshow so it can be included as a file on the DVD-ROM, for playback on a computer. We will also use this HD version for the video DVD, and let iDVD downsample its resolution to SD (standard definition) and reencode it as MPEG-2. This will result in a slight loss of quality, but it is probably not noticible since it is taking a much higher resolution HD frame and scaling it down to SD resolution.

If the ultimate quality is desired, then also generate an SD version by setting the video compression to "DV - PAL" (or "DV/DVCPRO - NTSC") and the size dimensions to 720×576 (for PAL) or 720×480 (for NTSC) at either 4:3 or 16:9. As before, the framerate is 25 fps for PAL and 29.97 for NTSC. The DV video format is used because it does the least compression so that very few artifacts are introduced when iDVD recompresses it into MPEG-2.

If an iPhone version is required, simply use the mobile size export.

Step 3: Create an iDVD project

Create the iDVD project

Create an iDVD project and import the video into it.

Set the iDVD project settings

Go to ProjectProject Info and set the project's video mode (PAL or NTSC) and the aspect ratio (4:3 or 16:9) to be the same as the exported video.

Add other files

Go to AdvancedEdit DVD-ROM Contents and add any extra files to include on the disc. I usually add:

Export as disc image

Export the DVD as a disc image. That way you can test the DVD first (with the DVD Player application) before burning it to a physical disc. If you are satisfied with the disc image, then burn it to a physical disc using the Disk Utility application.