Using DeVeDe to create DVDs on Linux
Your daughter's birthday was beautiful and you have lots of videos and pictures from the event that have to be organized in a nice-looking way. Your graduation party was a blast and you want to remember it properly. Whatever the occasion, whatever the content, a custom-created DVD will pack your memories nicely and will spike your geek cred because you created it and hey, it looks so cool. But what tool should you use? There are professional, paid-for programs that can help you in creating a DVD, but why use another OS and pay when you have free OSs and free software to do this? You can use the command-line approach from start to finish, but sometimes a GUI that will wrap around these utilities looks like a nicer solution. Such a solution is DeVeDe, and it even has a Windows version if you insist, but I will focus on Linux (of course!) in this article. If you have minimal video/multimedia knowledge, you can easily use DeVeDe. Let's see how to get it and be efficient with it.
2. Installing DeVeDe
The test machine I worked on is a Debian testing/unstable laptop, and I must say DeVeDe isn't in the official repositories. So what to do? You have two choices: use the Debian multimedia repository, where you actually will find DeVeDe, or go to the downloads page on the project's web and get the deb file and install it. If you choose the latter option, make sure you have some other packages already installed, as you will see immediately. Of course you can always build from source if you want to, which gives you some more options at configure-time, for example. But my choice was to install the deb file from the download site, with these commands:
$ wget -c http://www.rastersoft.com/descargas/devede_3.21.0-1~rastersoft1_all.deb
# dpkg -i devede_3.21.0-1~rastersoft1_all.deb
The latter command ended with an error, for not having all the packages needed installed, so I also had to do
# aptitude install python-gtk2 ffmpeg mencoder dvdauthor genisoimage vcdimager \ libavformat-extra-53 libavcodec-extra-53
I repeat: this works on testing/unstable, and I don't really have that many Linux systems at hand so I can test every flavor of Debian.
FreeBSD offers the software we're interested in in multimedia/devede, so does OpenBSD, but I couldn't find it in NetBSD, so this is how it is for the BSD side. On other distributions, Fedora has DeVeDe if you use RPMFusion, in Ubuntu you can use the deb I used earlier, OpenSUSE offers it in the Packman repository, and Arch Linux has it if you use community, and you probably should. Now that the program is installed, let's see some screenshots and some instructions as well.
3. Using DeVeDe
Upon starting it, the program offers me a choice as to what kind of disc I wanted to create. Inspired by the name, probably, I chose Video DVD. Oh, I forgot to mention: in all honesty, I'm not at all a multimedia god or anything, I have only a basic knowledge about these things. Why I say this? Because it looks like the interface, although simple, helps the user, regardless of expertise, create the disc wanted in record time.
Before moving on, and if you're not as informed about video standards and acronyms and stuff like that, you will need to read this and decide if you should select PAL or NTSC (see image above), depending on where you live. Hopefully this image will shed some light about the problem, and it is important, because if you for example, live in the USA, your home DVD player won't play my DVD if I created it as conforming with the PAL system, because I live in Europe.
Now, I found some videos on my laptop's drive (nothing copyrighted, of course) and I want to include them in my disc. I will put a video in my introduction, so I can move on with the titles and finally, the conclusion. I just selected the video for the intro (by browsing my hard drive), then started editing the options. Note that you can set the play volume at above 100%, but choose to alter that figure only if the video has faint sound, or you'll have distortions when playing.
Right, let's move to the advanced options, which appeal better to any geek. The General tab deals with A/V rate, but I won't touch since I don't have any reason to. DeVeDe "reads" the file's properties and shows them, but if you feel like experimenting and altering the settings, no one is stopping you. Going to the video format, you can again try and customize, as you won't write the first iso to physical media (would you?), since there is always loop mounting (mount -o loop). Some things are "hardcoded" in the video file, like the aspect ratio, and changing the ration to 16:9 for a 4:3 file will get you rather odd results. A very useful tab we find under "Video options".
This tab actually has a strong relation with the previous one and it will influence the aspect of the end product. Moving on to the Quality settings, I must admit I have no idea what the Trellis Searched Quantization (right, looked it up: it's an algorithm for improving data compression) is, but remember you can't get the next Miss Universe from the ugliest girl in school (I made that up right now). That meaning that if your video is poor quality, no algorithm in the world will make it better, maybe just make it seem better, like using tons of makeup on the ugly girl above. Another essential aspect is processing power. If you have a wedding ceremony filmed with your cell phone, you won't get Hollywood-quality from it ever. And if you use DeVeDe/mencoder on an underspec'd machine, chances are you'll have to wait quite a bit. Video processing requires a decent CPU and regardless of the number of FLOPS you have available, the stress on the system is considerable, unless you work at Cray or something. This is what I'm about to find out , especially since my laptop has the tendency to overheat.
The audio tab is short but offers enough options for a newbie like me (delay, 5.1/AC3...), so I think I'm ready to move along: creating a simple menu.
This part appeared to me as dead simple, but since I'm not much of an artist, I inserted a picture at random, same for audio, and went on with it. If you're feeling artsy and want animation and stuff, maybe those professional tools would help better. So I push the Forward button, choose a location for my "work of art" and press OK. Twenty minutes and some extra degrees in my room and voila! the iso is ready. Now, if I'm content with the result I can burn it to a disc, or start editing some more.
DeVeDe also offers the option to create DivX discs/files for compliant home players. I usually did this with a DVD burner, by writing the video and subtitle files on a data disc, but DeVeDe's option seems simpler, although more time-consuming. This depends on your DivX player as well, so if yours is older and doesn't read "plain" data CDs, DeVeDe is your best bet. With this option I created a 419 MB file from a 175 MB one, but, in all seriousness, I have better chances to get it read and played on my old-ish player now.
I won't say this program is a all-stop-shop in terms of DVD creation. In software there is rarely such a thing as a universal solution that answers to all the prayers and satisfies all the needs. So if you need more complex options (and consequently have the appropriate hardware configuration), you probably would look elsewhere. But for simple needs and simple input data, I personally found DeVeDe to be a good and solid solution.