DVD Studio Pro and Motion 2

Apple Final Cut Studio (part 2)

By Carlos Garza

With all the new outlets for music video these days, it almost feels like 1981 all over again. Music and video artists have more outlets than ever before and greater need for an integrated set of audiovisual postproduction tools.

Apple Computer has combined the three previously available applications and one new application into an integrated postproduction suite. Final Cut Studio comprises Final Cut Pro 5, DVD Studio Pro 4, Motion 2 and Soundtrack Pro. DVD SP4 is available within the $1299 Final Cut Studio product suite, or separately for $499 US. Upgrades are available for $199 US. Motion 2 is available separately for $299 US. Upgrades from Motion are $99.

In part one of this review, I looked at Final Cut Pro 5 and Soundtrack Pro. In part two, I will focus on new features in DVD SP 4 and take a quick look at Motion 2. Part 1 of this review appeared in the October 2005 issue. We reviewed DVD Studio Pro 3 in  2005.


Looking at the box that Final Cut Studio is packaged in you will notice a few things. First, it’s a heavy box with Final Cut Pro 5 documentation in four separate volumes and the DVD SP4 manual taking almost 700 pages by itself. The next things you’ll notice are the big letters, “HD” on the side of the box.

The message is simple: HD is here. You may have already noticed this from Apple’s support for the H.264 codec in QuickTime 7. H.264 is mandatory in both the Blu-ray and HD DVD specifications.

DVD SP4 can be used to author standard definition titles for release on single-layer, DVD-5 and dual layer, DVD-9 media. DVD SP4 can also write the HD DVD format to conventional red laser recordable media.

Authoring for dual layer SD titles includes control of the break point between layers. Authored titles can be burned (space permitting) to dual layer DVD-9 or written to DLT. DVD SP4 supports the following red laser recordable formats: DVD-R, -RW, +R, +RW and +R DL.

DVD SP4 continues to support DDP 2.0 and 2.1, CMF 1.0 output formats. Video title set files can also be written to disk for SD and HD DVD. HD content can be previewed in full screen on an Apple Cinema Display using Digital Cinema Desktop.

Extensive scripting may require extended memory registers that Apple provides through partitioning of General Purpose Register Memory (GPRM). Complex DVD titles can use up to 112 register partitions for advanced interactive authoring.

The new VTS editor allows authors to create additional Video Title Set (VTS) folders and move assets between folders to optimize disc performance. VTS allocation provides a way for disc authors to combine audio or screen formats on the same disc.

Final Cut Pro 5 and DVD SP4 can take advantage of networked G4 and G5 computers for distributed encoding. The updated encoder, Compressor 2, provides encoding in H.264 (aka MPEG-4 Part 10), which support HD content.

Previous versions of DVDSP used a separate utility, A.Pack, to encode AC-3 (Dolby Digital) audio files. Compressor 2 now includes Dolby Digital (AC-3) encoding, and is Dolby certified. Video compression includes 2-pass VBR encoding. In addition to a growing number of presets, DVD SP4 allows the user to create droplets — drag-and-drop desktop objects pre-configured for specific encoding or format conversions (for example, NTSC to PAL).

Motion 2 boasts a Real-Time Design Engine that is scalable across available CPU, graphics processors and RAM. Motion 2 can address memory above 4GB and supports GPU-accelerated 32-bit float rendering. The ability to work in larger address spaces means less rendering during project creation.

The Replicator tool, well, replicates graphical objects, shapes and movies. The Key Frame Editor offers greater precision over the previous implementation. Object movement along a path can now be controlled with finer detail.

If you’ve worked with audio applications under OS X, you are probably aware of Apple’s “Core Audio” architecture. Core Audio provides a framework for third party development of effects plug-ins and software synths. Apple extended the concept to a broader set of Core Media technologies.

Motion 2 includes over 500 filters, particle presets and effects. New filters include 3D Rotate, Extrude and Vignette. Apple has opened the door for third party effects developers through their FxPlug architecture, which includes parameter automation.

MIDI devices, including mix controllers and keyboards can be used to control parameters such as filters and transforms. Knobs, faders and music keyboards can all be used as real-time performance controllers.

Round-trip editing is possible using other Final Cut Studio applications as well as Adobe After Effects. For example, Motion 2 particle effects can be linked into Adobe After Effects projects.

Motion 2 has a built-in browser for iTunes playlists and iPhoto albums. Native HDV is supported in Motion 2 and can be passed between Motion 2 and Final Cut Pro 5 and DVD SP4.

In Use

You’re probably wondering why anyone would want to make an HD DVD when (at the time of this writing) there are no HD DVD hardware players. Simple answer is that you CAN play red laser recordable discs authored with HD content on a G5 with Mac OS X v 10.4 and Apple DVD Player 4.6. In fact, with DVD SP4 you can author discs with both standard and high definition content on the same disc so they would be compatible with today’s DVD players and play HD content on a suitably equipped G5.

As of this writing, the standard capacities for HD DVD are 15GB for single layer and 30GB for dual layer replicated discs. However, a fully compliant HD DVD title set can be written to lower capacity DVD-5 and DVD-9 media. In theory, these discs will play on HD DVD hardware players when they become available. You can also take your HD content and create an SD title with it now, then substitute the HD content later.

All of the applications in Final Cut Studio sport a familiar look and feel. The user interface remains unchanged, and that’s a good thing. Anyone familiar with Final Cut Pro timeline will feel at home with DVD SP4.

In DVDSP3, I found myself wishing that I could view the DVD at a larger size in the Simulator. With DVD SP4, the user can now preview HD content and SD content scaled to HD on a G5. The Simulator in DVD SP4 now supports external monitors, which allow previewing the picture at the intended resolution in a YUV color space.

I’ve been thinking about putting some of my film scores out on a DVD. Yes, they are already on a DVD, but I want to make a music project — perhaps a CD and DVD with high quality PCM audio. The DVD-Video spec allows for stereo PCM audio tracks at resolutions up to 24-bit/96kHz. Some of my recent recordings have been at this resolution and I was anxious to hear how they sound on hi-fi systems outside of my studio.

My first task was to find my 24/96 Pro Tools project. The Spotlight feature in OS X Tiger came to the rescue. I’ve accumulated project files spread across three FireWire drives. Fortunately, I always try to put the name of the project in the file name somewhere. The Smart Folders feature of Tiger is simply a saved search for a keyword. But Spotlight looks inside of files too so it’s like having a search for file name contains your keyword plus a Unix grep command searching for the word inside of files. The best part is the fact that the smart folder stays up to date as you add files that match the criteria to your system. Pretty smart.

Adding the 24/96 WAV file assets into a DVD SP4 project was a piece of cake once I found the file I was looking for. Next, I found some images to match my video, and dropped them into the slideshow window. I then added the 24/96 file to the audio track in the slide show.

This isn’t as obvious as you would think. Looking for a timeline? You won’t find one. Slides are stacked vertically top to bottom in sequence order in the Slide Show Editor. Audio files are added by dragging and dropping them from the Asset Manager into a little “bucket” at the top of the slideshow editor.

It’s not difficult to use but there is no graphical feedback on the duration of each slide. A waveform display would also be a big help when using DVD SP4 for music projects. As I said in my last review, some basic support for audio levels and fades would also enhance the experience for those of us who use DVDs to showcase our music. By the way, if you are doing work in 192 kHz stereo or high definition audio in surround, you will need to find another program. This is a DVD-V world only.

Here’s a tip for graphic artists using Motion 2:  Get a USB MIDI controller! A two octave MIDI keyboard like the Midiman Oxygen 8 that I used, works fine and you don’t need piano lessons. All you need is an animation subject — a graphic or image — and some time to play. I’m not kidding here, tactile control of graphics can be a lot of fun.

I took one of the sample objects provided in the Motion 2 tutorial, a little alien character. I found that I could easily animate his arms and legs and make his eyes pop out (anything for a laugh). The magic started with I synchronized the character’s motion to a piece of music I wrote. With a few background effects, I ended up with a very catchy piece for my demo reel.

I intend to return to Motion 2 and use some of the generous supply of particle animations, including smoke, sparkles and fire effects for another demo reel piece. The license free text animations are another big plus. LiveType, which is included in Final Cut Studio, has some very fun text animations and some very dynamic and modern royalty-free fonts. I was able to create a bouncing version of my band logo using LiveType and had plenty of time left over to create some video loops for the menu.

When it was time to put it all together, the new Motion templates were there to get me started. I added two short video clips to a Motion template and instantly had a very professional looking loop for my DVD menu, complete with moving graphics and text.


Once again, Apple is one step ahead of the game. HD disc players are just around the corner. No one knows which format will win the public’s favor but Apple has developed an authoring tool that puts HD DVD authoring in your hands today.

While I’d like to see more features designed for audio-only titles, I also have to say that it works quite well for video and is a worthy investment. The added power of VTC editing, advanced scripting and combination SD/HD titles will be of use to commercial DVD authors as well as musicians, composers, visual artists and filmmakers.

The price for DVD Studio Pro 4 is the same as version 3. With all the added features, DVD SP4 is well worth the price — either separately or bundled with Final Cut Studio.

Motion 2 has some stunning effects and unique features, such as MIDI control that make it a standout application. The support for HD video and the integration of products for workflow improvement make Final Cut Studio an extremely valuable set of tools. At a price of $1299 US, that’s going to be hard to beat.

At a Glance

DVD Studio Pro 4
Applications: SD and HD DVD authoring for professional applications, including films, episodic video, music videos, industrial/educational films and commercial event videography.
Key Features: HD DVD authoring, professional templates, distributed encoding, advanced scripting and VTS editing.
Price:  $499 (US), upgrade $199 (US)

Motion 2
Applications: motion graphics, special effects, text animation, broadcast, DVD
Key Features: Real-time design engine, MIDI control, native HDV support, templates, particles
Price: $299 US, upgrade $99
Contact:  apple.com (800-MY-APPLE)

Product Points

DVD Studio Pro 4

– HD DVD Authoring
– VTS allocation
– Advanced scripting
– Powerful Drag and Drop Authoring

– No filmstrip view in track editor
– Support for DVD Slideshows (i.e., music titles) could be expanded

Motion 2

– MIDI control of animation
– Advanced particle generator
– Templates

– none

The Score

Both applications are intuitive and pack enough features to satisfy professionals. Both products are an excellent value, especially when purchased in the Final Cut Studio bundle.

(c) 2007 Carlos Garza

Final Cut Pro 5 & Soundtrack Pro

Apple Computer Inc.

Final Cut Studio Part 1

By Carlos Garza

Originally Published in Pro Audio Review


Video post production has never been easier or more challenging than it is today.  Easier because of all the tools available, but also more demanding in terms of the complexity.

Broadcast video and optical discs are making strides towards High Definition (HD). TV shows are increasingly being produced in HD with surround sound with more and more network affiliates broadcasting in digital. Motion graphics are everywhere from DVD menus to the evening news.

Apple Computer looked at the workflows involved in video post and integrated a suite of products to address the escalating demands. Final Cut Studio ($1299) comprises three upgraded products, Final Cut Pro 5, Motion 2, DVD Studio Pro 4 and a new product, Soundtrack Pro (all products available separately).

This review will focus on Final Cut Pro 5 and Soundtrack Pro. The remaining products will be covered in part 2.


Final Cut Pro 5 (FCP5) supports editing in a variety of formats from DV up to uncompressed 8-bit and 10-bit HD video. Native editing is supported for long GOP MPEG-2 (HDV), DVCAM, DVCPRO HD, DVCPRO050, Panasonic P2 and Sony IMX.  SD and HDV can be transferred to DVD Studio Pro 4 with markers.

High definition video can be previewed on a high definition monitor or it can be downconverted to standard definition for previewing on SD monitors. External video output devices, such as a second Apple Cinema Display, permit previewing of HD video with real-time effects. The primary monitor remains available for editing windows.

FCP5 supports frame rates ranging from 23.976 to 60 fps. The timeline can display timecode as well as frames and feet for film projects. Audio waveforms with level overlays are displayed in the timeline.

FCP5 allows real-time editing from multiple clip sources. Up to sixteen clips can be viewed at one time and a total of 128 clips can be edited on-the-fly.

Real-time effects processing minimizes the need for rendering and is supported for DV, SD, HDV, DVCPRO HD and uncompressed HD video. Playback quality and frame rate are adjusted dynamically to scale performance based on CPU availability and user settings.

FCP5 supports up to 24 channels of audio for input and output at resolutions up to 24-bit 96kHz.  Each track has level, pan, mute and solo controls.  More than 25 audio filters are built-in.

Many of the products in Final Cut Studio (FCS) are integrated by “round-trip” processing. For example, audio can be sent from FCP5 to Soundtrack Pro for non-destructive editing. Likewise, video clips can be sent from FCP5 to Motion or Shake for non-destructive processing.

FCP5 can control FireWire devices and supports various capture modes. Video clips can be captured on a single workstation and shared by editors with access to an Xsan consolidated storage pool.

FCP5 supports film editing through Cinema Tools 3 and includes support for 35mm 3-perf, 35mm 4-perf, and 16mm-20. 24-fps Edit Decision Lists (EDL) can be converted to and from 29.97 fps. Output includes cut lists, change lists and audio EDL.

FCP5 uses an XML interchange format to export projects to other editing environments, asset management systems and other post production applications.  Audio tracks can also be transferred to Apple’s Logic Pro with XML metadata or other systems using OMF.

The bundled, Compressor 2, provides distributed encoding for MPEG-1, MPEG-2, and MPEG-4 and H.264 encoding and performs 2-pass variable bit-rate encoding.

Up to 99 audio and video tracks are supported in addition to 99 levels of undo. Window arrangements and keyboard commands are customizable. The included LiveType application provides animated text and includes a royalty-free animated content library.

Soundtrack Pro (STP) is designed for editing, processing and mixing of multi-track audio sets.  It can be synchronized with MIDI but it is not a MIDI sequencer.  Soundtrack Pro also supports audio resolutions up to 24-bit, 96kHz.  Multi-take recording is possible but with only a single mono or stereo track at once.

Its real-time processing and audio editing features can be applied to mono/stereo files and multi-track projects.  The interface has a timeline view, a global waveform view, a frequency spectrum view, actions list and a waveform display that features animated waveforms. Both FCP5 and STP provide a console mixer interface and support control surfaces using Mackie Control protocol.

Soundtrack Pro uses flexible “action lists” for non-destructive signal possessing. Actions can be rearranged, bypassed or removed from the processing sequence. There are over 50 effects plug-ins, including the Space Designer convolution reverb, Match EQ and a multi-band compressor. Both products accept Audio Units plug-ins.

Other features include time compression/expansion without pitch change, and audio restoration features, such as broad-band noise reduction and “find and fix” for clicks, pops and power-line hum. Room tone can be copied and pasted into or added to sections to maintain consistency.

A library with 5000 or more sound effects and musical Apple Loops is provided. The effects were licensed from third party libraries include Foley effects and ambiences from mostly real-world environments. An Apple Loops browser is included.

In Use

I tested Final Cut Pro 5 (FCP5) and Soundtrack Pro (STP) on a Dual 2.7 GHz. G5 with 4 GB of RAM and Mac OS 10.4.  The control surface testing was performed with a Mackie Control Universal and an Unitor8 MKII MIDI interface. I monitored through a pair of Mackie HR-824s and Sony MDR-7506 headphones.

When I took piano lessons all those years ago, they didn’t tell me I would one day be editing films and producing DVDs. That was a long time ago and I guess one thing leads to another. Thanks to our friends at Film Preservation Associates and Image Entertainment, our scores appear on two surround sound DVDs of classic silent films. We also have an upcoming CD and a film score demo reel.

In addition to the classic silent films I’ve scored with my group, Silent Orchestra, I’ve also become an experimental video producer – in fact, we are producing new silent films for live performance and DVD.  The Final Cut Studio (FCS) suite of products is ideally suited to my demo reel project and to cleaning up the audio of student film projects that were shot on my Canon Elura II mini-DV camera. I love the compact size of this camera but the built-in mic picks up a lot of motor noise.

My first goal was to add some pizazz to an abstract video that we’re scoring. The new 3-way color correction effect was intended to fix colors that aren’t quite “right” and it does a good job of it. In my case, I wanted to actually turn my footage into something that was not quite right. The results were stunning. My muted black and white imagery was bursting with color. If you remember David Bowie’s Ashes to Ashes music video, you’ll get the idea. Of course, it also works well for less dramatic uses, such as making snow look really white when it’s “kind of blue” or, um, yellow.

Next, I chose a set of colorful clips of roughly similar length and made a working “multiclip.” While the sequence ran with my music track, I dropped video onto the timeline by clicking in the frames of the multiclip. Once the editing pass was complete, I tweaked the edits and added some artistic cross fades.

I was pleasantly surprised to see my cross fades without rendering. The improved real-time processing, and the dual-processor G5 cut my work time drastically.

Other work flow improvements in FCP5 include “edit overlays” or contextual menus similar to what I saw in the previous version of DVD Studio Pro.  Now when you drag a clip onto the canvas and hold the mouse button you will see a menu of things to do with the clip — insert, replace, fill to fit, etc.

Using the multiclip editing feature is an efficient way to cut video to audio, especially rhythmic audio. Editing a music concert or sporting event footage locked to a common timecode is another great use for multiclip editing.

I added some sound effects tracks and launched the console mixer. The on-screen controls and vertical meters are simple but effective. I had no trouble using my Mackie Control to mute and solo tracks, ride the volume and control the transport.

Soundtrack Pro is not designed to replace high-end DAW applications such as Logic Pro, Nuendo and Pro Tools. The limits on simultaneous track recording and the lack of MIDI support make this clear. But Soundtrack Pro fills a void. First, it’s a resource-friendly waveform editor for mono or stereo files with a boatload of DSP.

Secondly, it’s a multi-track editing and mixing utility — a valuable tool for video post production. Editors dealing with multiple dialog tracks, Foley, ambiences, sound effects and music stems are frequently faced with more than just a mixing challenge.

Apple has made round-trip transfers fairly straight forward. Here’s how it works: A set of audio clips is selected in FCP5 and “sent” to STP as a multi-track project. After editing and processing, the mix is exported (bounced) to a new mix file (usually mono or stereo).  The new mix is imported into FCP5 and added to the timeline, replacing the original clips. When you want to edit the mix again, you just control-click the mix file in the browser and FCP allows you to open the multi-track project that created the file. Individual audio clips can also be sent to the STP waveform editor for editing and cleanup.

I tested Match EQ by recording a few sentences with an AT4033 large diaphragm condenser and again with a Shure SM58 microphone. The recordings were done on a Pro Tools HD|1 with a 96 I/O and transfered as 24-bit 96KHz audio files to Soundtrack Pro. I used the Match EQ in STP to set the template EQ based on the AT4033 recording and then let the Match EQ learn the characteristics of the SM58.

I then played the SM58 recording using the match button and sure enough, the complex EQ curve that was drawn caused the SM58 recording to sound much closer to the AT4033. Obviously, there is more to matching a mic sound than the EQ but this is a very valuable tool.

The spectrum display is a useful way to visualize the effects of EQ and can show parts of the signal that you can’t hear. For example, I saw bands of high frequency sound above 22kHz in my 24-bit 96KHz Pro Tools recordings.

The room tone repair feature is brilliant. It’s as easy as copying a sample of background sound and using it to replace a section of silence or merging it, for example, with a voice-over that was recorded in a dead room. This is a nice feature but I think it could be made even more automatic than it is.

I recorded myself speaking in front of a computer fan to test the noise reduction. I couldn’t use the G5 for this because, it was too quiet! Then I selected a bit of pure noise as the sample and applied it to the whole track for reduction. I listened closely on my Sony MDR-7506 headphones and the results were impressive. My voice remained full and natural sounding while the background was reduced significantly. Albeit, I only did one small test but from what I heard, this feature is comparable if not better than software costing far more than the price of Soundtrack Pro itself.

I tested time stretching with a rhythmic pop mix and slow legato strings. The new length can be specified in samples, seconds, frames or HH:MM:SS. One annoyance was having to change the default specification of “samples” to “seconds” each time I wanted to change the length. You can also drag the selected region with the stretch tool but this works better for shortening than lengthening.

The New Frontier by Donald Fagan served as my rhythmic test sample. After adding roughly 10% more time, I heard only the slightest warble in the tremolo electric piano part. Pushing the length to 150%, resulted in surprisingly listenable audio. The vocals were smooth and the tempo was even but some of the instruments were showing the tell tale warble of time expansion.

I then tried a four part symphonic string arrangement of my own music realized with Vienna Symphonic Library.  At 10% longer, there was almost no degradation in quality.  At 20%, I heard a bit of warbling grunge but it was very minor.  By comparison, time expansion of both pieces in Pro Tools was un-listenable at 10% longer.

I found that reducing the length of a stretched selection sometimes results in a stray tone at the end of the selection. Soundtrack Pro also crashed once when I was deleting an Action. I expect these to be fixed in a future release. (I tested version 1.0.1).

STP can export a multi-track project directly to AIFF with bit-depth and sample rate changes but no dithering. Using Compressor, you can export to AAC, AIFF and Dolby Digital 2.0 and 5.1 (AC-3). In the case of 5.1, you can map each track to a specific speaker. Very nice but why no support for exporting to the cross-industry standard, Broadcast Wave?

The sound effects files and loops provided with STP cover a wide enough range to be useful in many projects. If you are looking for a specific engine or gun sound or an unusual animal sound (bat sounds please), you may need to supplement the set but there are plenty of basics here. I really liked the ethnic music loops, especially the Gamelan loops and ethnic strings.


While it’s not something everyone needs (yet), Apple’s extensive support for native HDV in its products is already in demand. There are good reasons why FCP is so popular with film and video editors.  Version 5 brings support for a host of new HD formats. The enhanced real-time effects, work flow optimizations, multiclip editing and round-trip integration make Final Cut Studio a great value.

It should come as no surprise to anyone that Apple has come up with so many cool ways to interface with software.  From the pen-based gestures and MIDI control of Motion 2 (more on this in part 2) to the action scripts of Soundtrack Pro, Apple continues to innovate user interfaces that make complicated tasks easier.

I found Soundtrack Pro to be very useful for audio clean up tasks, especially the kind of problems I found in location productions. Noise reduction and other audio cleanup chores are quick and simple. The ability to view video in a small window was a plus when editing audio from FCP5.

This is a bountiful set of tools at a very reasonable price. The room tone filler, noise reduction, convolution reverb and multi-band compressor make Soundtrack Pro a real bargain.

So, yes, there’s more the think about but like I said, it’s never been easier.

(c) 2005 Carlos Garza

DVD Studio Pro 3

Apple DVD Authoring Software

By Carlos Garza

With all the buzz about Apple’s new hardware products, it’s easy to forget that Apple is also a software company.  Final Cut Pro is probably the best-known member of Apple’s family of postproduction applications that includes LiveType, Cinema Tools, Soundtrack, Motion and Shake.

The recent upgrade of Apple’s DVD-Video authoring application, DVD Studio Pro 3, brings new features and new levels of integration.  With considerations towards workflow efficiency and a rich set of features, Apple has raised the stakes for professional DVD authoring on the Mac.


DVD Studio Pro 3 (DVDSP3) sports three customizable layouts.  The main windows are the menu editor, the track editor, the Assets tab, the Palette and a graphical project overview.  The product also includes two stand-alone compression applications.

The Palette has a collection of templates, styles and graphics that can be used in projects.  The pre-built interfaces are suitable for a variety of professional projects including industrial, wedding and entertainment titles for film, video and music producers.

The Menu Editor is where you arrange the buttons, text, background images and video clips that create the user interface for your DVD.  In some cases, multiple tasks can be accomplished in a single step.  For example, holding the mouse button while dragging a graphic yields a context-sensitive “Drop Palette,” or menu, where you can select options such as creating a button or simultaneously creating a button and a track and linking the two.  Graphical elements can be placed in drop zones to build a composite image for the menu background.  Buttons and drop zone graphics can be resized.

The Assets tab is simply a listing of graphics, video clips and audio that has been imported into the current project.  Audio clips can be added to your project via the Assets tab or pulled from the iTunes library via the Palette.  Apple Motion projects can also be imported and used for animated menu graphics or Alpha Transitions.

The bundled A.Pack application encodes PCM audio into AC-3 with channel configurations up to 5.1.  The Compressor program supports batch processing of video into several MPEG formats, including MPEG-2 with one and two pass encoding.  Compressor encodes HD video sources directly into MPEG-2 and stereo AC-3 audio with bit rates up to 256 kbps.

Audio can be imported into DVDSP3 from MPEG-1 Layer 2, AC-3, DTS, WAV and AIF sources.  Note that DVDSP3 does not provide a means for encoding DTS audio but it can be integrated in projects.

DVDSP3 imports MPEG-1, MPEG-2, D1 and QuickTime video formats.  Several new features are aimed at integrating DVDSP3 with Apple and third party applications.  For example, DVDSP3 can work directly with layered Photoshop files, it can import iDVD4 projects and chapter markers are read from Final Cut Pro/Express and iMovie.

Alternate languages are supported with up to 32 subtitle streams and up to 8 audio streams.  The “stories” feature provides alternative sequences for your video clips.  This could be used for alternate endings or selective scene skipping by the viewer.  DVDSP3 is compatible with PAL and NTSC video standards and supports up to 9 video angles.  It also supports dual layer discs.

Slideshows can be created with up to 99 still images.  The durations of each image can be set globally or on a per-slide basis.  Individual slide durations can be automatically set so the length of a group matches the length of an audio track.

DVDSP3 supports writing to DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD+R and DVD+RW.  Professional authoring formats, such as Data Description Protocol (DDP 2.0 and 2.1) and Cutting Master Format (CMF 1.0) can be written to DLT or hard drive.  Copy protection is supported through APS, which requires a license from Macrovision and CSS, which is applied by licensed replicators.

Thirty adjustable transitions are available for menus jumps, buttons, slides and still images in a timeline.  Graphics can be customized through direct launching of Motion and Photoshop.  Alpha Transitions, a new feature in version 3, add the use of video clips to the transition options.  The compositing engine can preview transitions without an extra rendering step.

In Use

I set out to create a film score demo reel using segments from my two commercial DVDs and a few short films I’ve scored.  I used DVDSP3 on a 1 GHz G4 Dual with 1.5 GB of RAM and OS 10.3.7.  The audio came from Pro Tools sessions created on my HD|1 system and Logic Pro 7.  The video clips were prepared in iMovie and Final Cut Pro 3 (FCP) and saved as QuickTime or MPEG-2.

The menus are very easy to set up especially with the Apple supplied templates.  The film-themed backgrounds and pre-made buttons saved me the trouble of trying to be something I’m not – a graphic artist.  I found it handy to be able to type text directly into the background of the menu and directly onto buttons.

My Demo reel became more complex as I added sub-menus for specific types of projects and a slide show with biographical information.  The Graphical View is helpful for visualizing the hierarchy of menus and relationships between menus and tracks (and the graph can be printed).  I also found the graphical view was the easiest way to navigate the project while I worked on different sections.  Follow the tree, click on a menu or double click on a track and it comes up in the menu editor.

Occasionally I hear complaints from people about the lack of a second button on Apple’s factory supplied mouse.  A second mouse button could, for example, put a contextual menu on the screen where you are pointing.  DVDSP3 answers this call to a certain extent through the Drop Palette.  Once I set the preference for the Drop Palette to appear faster, and got used to holding the mouse button, I found this feature to be a real time saver.

Aside from the standard dissolves, wipes and fades, DVDSP3 also has transitions that fade through color, a water splash effect and a generous assortment of spinning, flipping, melting and zooming effects.  The new Alpha Transitions feature adds some nice eye candy.  One of my favorites was a short clip of scratchy old film that makes a perfect lead in for a classic film title.  I found that judicious use of transitions made my project look far more professional.

I wanted to test the menu navigation before burning a DVD.  After dealing with video editors that require rendering with each little change, it’s a pleasure to see that you can see moving graphics and transitions in the Simulator without the extra step of rendering.

The DVD-Video format allows surround audio only in compressed formats.  I used the bundled A.Pack utility program to encode my surround stems into AC-3.  My source files were 24-bit, 48 kHz WAV and DVDSP3 supports up to 5.1 channels of 24-bit, 48 kHz AC-3.  I fed the 5 stems of the 75 minute score into A.Pack and had a 5 channel surround AC-3 file in no time at all.

While the DVD-Video specification does not allow for surround mixes in PCM formats, it is possible to incorporate stereo PCM with sample rates as high as 24-bit/96 kHz.  I took advantage of this to sweeten a slide show with a dropped in section of high-resolution audio from Logic Pro.

DVDSP3 is not intended to replace the audio and video editing features of programs like FCP and Logic but you can trim audio and video to an extent.  There are restrictions to keep in mind.  For example, video trimming is restricted to Group of Pictures, or GOP boundaries.

I feel that a bit more attention could be given to the features and information in the track editor.  For example, the ability to fade audio streams in and out would avoid a lot of outside editing.  It would also be nice to be able to set a level for an audio stream, at least when PCM audio is involved.

The video display in the track timeline is an opaque blob with a single thumbnail image at the beginning and a solid color indicating the length of the video.  The inclusion of a filmstrip view such as found in Logic Pro and FCP would be a big help in placing subtitles and audio clips.


Apple has taken the user-friendly interface to a new level with the addition of contextual Drop Palettes.  Once I got the hang of it, I was able to work much more quickly than I would have otherwise.

Apple’s extensive support for the DVD video specification and the ability to create professional authoring formats make DVDSP3 well suited to professional applications.  Considering the rich visual features, the batch encoding and the ease of use, I have to say that Apple has come up with a winning solution at a great price.

At a Glance

Applications: DVD authoring for professional applications, including movies, shows, music videos, industrial/educational films and commercial event videography postproduction.

Key Features:  streamlined workflow, templates for professional applications, Alpha Transitions, batch encoding, familiar interface, supports DDP and CMF writing to DLT

Price:  $499 (US), $199 (US) upgrade from DVD SP 1 or 2
Contact:  apple.com (800-MY-APPLE)
Product Points

– Workflow enhancements
– Professional Templates and graphics
– Batch encoding of MPEG-2 and surround AAC
– Extensive support for DVD specification
– All standard writable DVD formats supported

– No filmstrip view in track editor
– No audio level controls or audio fade options

The Score

A very well designed application that streamlines complex DVD authoring chores while providing a very extensive set of options for authoring.

Carlos Garza is a film composer who produces and engineers surround scores for broadcast and DVD and is a regular contributor to Pro Audio Review.

(c) 2005 Carlos Garza