Monday, May 2, 2005
Widescreen In iDVD 5? Almost, Not Quite
After a LOT of re-rendering and re-burning a DVD-RW disc over and over and over, and a LOT of searching online, I finally found the solution to what is, ultimately, a pretty glaring bug in iDVD 5. I’m sharing this here so, hopefully, I’ll save someone else from the wasted time.
A big feature of iMovie 5 and iDVD 5 is the ability to work with and prepare 16:9 widescreen content. All’s well until you actually burn your finished iDVD project. Pop the completed DVD into your player and your pretty 16:9 picture suddenly has everyone looking like stick people, having stretched it (or squeezed, depending on your point of view) to 4:3.
Did no one on Apple’s iDVD development team take the time to actually burn a DVD from the beta versions of iDVD 5? The widescreen preview works just fine when you check your finished project within iDVD. The problem only happens when you either burn a project or save it to an image.
The reason this bug is present is because iDVD incorrectly sets a single binary value to 1 instead of 0 in the .IFO and .BUP files that correspond to widescreen .VOB titles. If this value is set to 1, it instructs a DVD player to prohibit shifting to widescreen mode, even though another binary value that specifies the 16:9 format instead of 4:3 is properly set.
The simple translation of how to fix it is to open the .IFO and .BUP files, change the value (you do it in hexadecimal, which means it changes from 4F to 4E), save, then burn to DVD.
The reality is, it’s a bit trickier because you have to first copy iDVD’s disk image to your hard drive, change the read-only permissions on both the files and the VIDEO_TS folder to permit writing, save the changes, then run the whole folder through DVD Imager which saves a new disk image to burn that will be recognizable by DVD players.
David C. Althoff Jr.—someone who knows a lot more about this kind of stuff than I do—wrote a complete storyline on his examination of the issue. If you want to get straight to the instructions, they’re at the very bottom of the page, but this “cookbook” is missing the part about changing the 4F to 4E that I described (and is mentioned up higher on Althoff’s page). Althoff also doesn’t specifically mention anywhere on the page that you’ll need to change the permissions on the files and the enclosing folder before you can save your edited files. He only alludes to it.
In addition, the first step involving Anamorphiciser can be skipped if your movies originated in iMovie 5. This step is only needed if you’re taking 16:9 clips directly from a raw file into iDVD 5.
So you know how much time you’ll be facing, I’ve just completed burning a DVD with a bit less than 90 minutes of widescreen content. My computer has been chomping on the various rendering, copying, importing, etc. tasks for nearly 15 hours. Perhaps just under an hour of this time could have been saved if I hadn’t needed to reimport part of the video back into iMovie to correct my own goof, but the time also includes the conversion of two DivX AVI files to DV format, which then had to go through conversion once again as iMovie turned those DV files into something it could chew on.
But all this doesn’t mean I’ve been busy for 15 hours to get the DVD made. The majority of it was simply unattended processing while I caught up on some movies and TV shows, paid some bills, and did a load of laundry. My actual babysitting time was no more than an hour—probably only about a half hour.
So there you have it—whether you’re converting HD DivX files (ffmpegX is a great tool for doing this task) or working with 16:9 content from your own DV camera—until Apple fixes this goof in iDVD 5, you now know what you’ll be in for to get a true 16:9 picture to show up on your television.
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