How to Make a DVD on Mac OS for Free

For anyone who has enetered the video prodction industry in recent years the craft of authoring a DVD can seem an arcane skill, but it is something we are still asked to do from time to tome so it’s as well to know how to do it.

A young relative of mine is making her way in the world of video production. She’s a very talented photographer but inevitably there are times when she is in need of a bit of advice or some extra audio or video equipment and I’m always very happy to help if I can.

Recently she had a project which had to be delivered on DVD. Some may regard this a dead format but it still has it uses for areas where broadband speeds just don’t support streaming, or for communities with members who don’t feel comfortable with the latest technology; in my experience it remains a valid format for churches to distribute recordings of their services to older members who can’t get to services all the time. I’m sure there are many more applications where it is still used.

A Dying Art

Anyone entering the industry in recent years would probably not have had to author a DVD, and so it was when Hannah emailed me in a bit of a panic about delivering her project. She had tried various things with no success and needless to say there was no budget left for buying professional authoring software.

Not unreasonably, Hannah had thought it would be like adding an MP4 to a flash drive, but soon discovered this didn’t work! DVDs only supported standard definition video and so anything acquired in HD needs to be ‘muxed’ to a format compatible with DVDs, usually MPEG2 or a VOB file.

At the time of her email I was in Shrewsbury for a shoot and so could only offer soothing words that DVD authoring was something I was very familiar with and I was sure I could help her deliver her video in the required format.

That night I sat down to think how best to approach this. In days gone by I would have used a dedicated authoring software such as Apple’s DVD StudioPro or Adobe Encore, but neither of these were available to Hannah without considerable outlay.

Enter Libre Software

Fortunately I’ve developed an interest in open source software in recent years and keep a keen eye on what is happening in the open source video community. Applications such as Kdenlive and Blender offer tremendous creative power to anyone who can take the time to learn them.
One of my personal favourite ‘libre’ or ‘open and ‘free’ video editors is Shotcut which has a lot in common with Kdenlive and I tend to use it as an encoder to create MP4s for YouTube etc.

Shotcut uses the FFMPEG encoding engine and I new it would create the MPEG2 file we needed to be able to author the high definition edit master onto a DVD.

Authoring a DVD Disc


From there I just needed a way to burn the MPEG2 to disc. I used to be very keen on Burn for OSX as a no fuss tool for authoring audio CDs, and I knew it could also author DVDs. This was the final piece of the jigsaw!

I decided to test out the route I had mapped in my mind to resolve Hannah’s problem before sending her the details, so I felt confident it would work for her. I was also wondering how best to communicate the various steps to her without having to write a very long email, which would potentially be tricky to follow.

Recording my steps as a screencast saved me from having to write the long email and Hannah from having to read it! Hopefully the video is easier to follow.

It subsequently struck me that this might well be a siuation others find themselves, so I’m happy to share it here!

If you’re not in a PAL Region Take Note …

It’s worth noting that we were making this DVD for the U.K. so we needed the file to be at 25 frames/per second for a PAL region. If you live in an NTSC region (North America etc.) you will probably want to select an NTSC export preset in Shotcut.

Here are the links to the software used in this video:

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00:00:00.000 The first thing we need to understand is that DVDs are only standard definition

00:00:04.140 so even with your 720p file then Wondershare is ‘muxing’ that down to

00:00:10.950 standard definition to get it on a DVD, so we may as well take control of that

00:00:15.750 and create the mpeg-2 for the DVD ourselves because that’s the format you need.

00:00:22.140 You need a standard definition mpeg-2. So if you just stick that on my timeline,

00:00:31.610 this is my chicken Fletcher, and I’m just going to export that so if we go ‘Share’

00:00:37.410 we’re going to export this in the highest quality we can so I’m going to

00:00:42.210go to ‘File’ and we want ‘Quality’ > ‘Best’ > ProRes whatever ProRes file and go to ‘Next’

00:00:59.719 ‘Chicken Timeline’: I’ll just stick it on the
desktop and ‘Save’.

00:01:05.500 So that file has rendered it’s a ‘Chicken’ which we can see here

00:01:13.320 that’s up high quality progress in HD we now need to get some software to turn

00:01:19.229 that into an mpeg-2 so the software I use for that is called ‘Shotcut’.

00:01:25.049So you need to go to and click on there; download the Mac version.

00:01:31.020 Download and install that, you might need to change your privacy and

00:01:38.360 security settings to enable you to run it so if you go to Security and Privacy

00:01:43.700 here in the System Preferences here allow apps downloaded from the App Store

00:01:49.950 or App Store and identified developers because they’re not identified

00:01:56.070 developer you win the first time you run it you will have to right click on it

00:01:59.880 click on open and then it’ll run and while we’re online there’s another bit

00:02:04.350 of software we need to get which is at

00:02:10.190 and it’s a bit of software called ‘Burn’ so ‘Burn OSX’ usually brings it up.

00:02:20.750 That’s the one there so click on that, and click on download and install that and the

00:02:27.230 same thing will apply you’ll have to right-click on it; don’t worry about the

00:02:30.950 kind of security thing there perfectly good bits of software that I’ve used for

00:02:34.520 years so that’s all cool. Okay, so that’s that, so in Shotcut… so I’ll assume I’ve

00:02:43.670 just installed it so I need to right-click on it like I was saying

00:02:47.690 click on open you’ll probably get a security prompt there to confirm opening it

00:02:52.800 then we want to take ‘Chicken Timeline’ ProRes – open that up.

00:03:00.000 Okay, so now we need to click on ‘Export’ there and it brings up all these

00:03:05.150 stock presets for export formats that you can use. We need to find the DVD presets

00:03:11.900 and we need a DVD PAL in widescreen which gives us a 720×576 image

00:03:21.54016×9 aspect ratio 25 frames per second which I assume is what your video is,

00:03:26.930It’s an mpeg-2 which is what we need
audios ac3. Okay so that’s all good some

00:03:33.709 click on export file and we have to leave that file extension in place and

00:03:39.440 we have to call it, whatever we want really, I’m just gonna call it ‘Fletcher’,

00:03:46.870 and click on ‘Save’. You can see it’s now turning that ProRes into our MPEG-2.

00:03:57.080 Okay that’s done, so there it is on the desktop. You can open that up with something like VLC.

00:04:04.400 There we go so there it is standard definition for our DVD.

00:04:11.050 But what we need to do now is to make
our DVD. So in order to do that we need

00:04:20.720 ‘Burn’ which at the moment is sitting in my Downloads folder. So I’ll open that up

00:04:27.640 and so you’ve got several different types of discs you can make audio discs

00:04:32.840 data discs etcetera , or you can copy a disc with this. We obviously want the

00:04:36.620 video tab and on this section here we want to select ‘DVD video’, okay

00:04:44.180 Now there are a number of options in preferences for DVD where you can have a theme which

00:04:51.290 gives you a menu, which is kind of the default setting when you install it.

00:04:56.510 I suggest you select ‘wide’ rather than ‘normal’

00:04:59.510 otherwise you’ll get a 4×3 menu instead of a 16×9 menu.

00:05:06.740 Okay so we just add our Vob file into there and it checks it, hopefully it’ll be happy and

00:05:15.590 you click on ‘burn’.

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