Compressor: DVD Compression Settings

[NOTE: I’m just finishing a complete training series on Compressor 4.1. Currently, this is available to subscribers only. After the first of the year, it will be in our store.]

One of the most common compression questions I get is how to compress files for a DVD. I’ve covered this a lot in my video training, but haven’t written about this for several years. This article explains what you need to know using both Compressor 4.1 and Compressor 4.0.

NOTE: DVDs are always and only standard-definition video. Compressing HD media for a DVD always converts it to standard-def. If you need to burn HD media onto an optical disc, you need to create a Blu-ray, or AVCHD Disc. (The HD-DVD format listed in DVD Studio Pro is a dead format that can only be played on a Macintosh, and nothing else.)



A new feature in Compressor 4.1 is Destinations. A Destination combines both a compression setting and a job action that does something with the file once compression is complete. In this screen shot, the Create DVD destination is highlighted.

The benefit of Destinations is that they compress and burn a single movie to a disc with one setting.

To apply a Destination, drag the “Create DVD” destination on top of the job.


This applies two compression settings and a job action to burn the actual disc itself:

Authored DVDs use MPEG Elemental files, which means that the audio and video are separated into different files during compression, then combined during the final building process of the DVD; a process called “mixing.”

Open the Inspector by clicking the icon (blue in this example) in the top right corner of Compressor, or type Command+4, then click the Audio text button at the top.

All the audio compression default settings are fine, except for three (unless you mixed the audio in a Dolby-certified environment, in which case, leave these on):

This turns all three of these settings off.


Select the MPEG-2 for DVD setting applied to the job, then click the Video text button at the top.

A new feature in the 4.1 update is Automatically select bit rate. This setting is on by default. What this does is automatically set the bit rate for the video file to get the highest quality based on the available space on the disc. However, this setting assumes you are only burning one movie to a DVD. This is the best choice when you are burning a single movie, but not a good choice when authoring several movies to a disc.

NOTE: Keep in mind that if you want to burn multiple movies to a disc, you need to use an authoring program like Adobe Encore or DVD Studio Pro; you can’t use Compressor.

My recommendation, when you need to compress multiple movies to burn to a disc, is to change the compression settings to:

NOTE: These settings apply to both PAL and NTSC media.

The rest of the video settings are fine. This allows up to 90 minutes of media on a single-layer, single-sided disc, or up to 3 hours on a dual-layer, single-sided DVD.


In Compressor 4, the changes are similar, but the interface is different.

In the Settings window, inside the Apple folder is Disc Burning. Drag the Dolby Digital Professional and MPEG-2 for DVD settings on top of your clip in the Batch window. (The H.264 setting is only used for Blu-ray Discs.)

In the Batch window, select the MPEG-2 for DVD setting that is applied to the clip, then click the Encoder tab in the Inspector. Click the dark Auto-Sensor just to the right of the Average Bit Rate entry box. (This is only useful when burning one movie onto the DVD.) When this sensor is dark, it is on. When it is light gray, it is off. In this screen shot, it is turned on (dark).

Then, make the following changes:

NOTE: These settings apply to both PAL and NTSC media.

As with Compressor 4.1, this allows about 90 minutes of material on a single-layer, and 3 hours of material on a dual-layer DVD.

Next, go back to the Batch window and select the Dolby Digital setting applied to the clip. Then, in the Inspector > Encoder > Audio tab, set Dialog Normalization to -31.

NOTE: Yes, I know. This is weird number. But the explanation of how this works would require another article.

Click the Preprocessing tab…

And change the Compression preset to None. This disables light audio levels compression that is being applied by this encoder.

And that’s it.

To learn more about Compressor 4, I invite you to become a subscriber, or check out the Compressor 4 training in our store.


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55 Responses to Compressor: DVD Compression Settings

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  1. Good morning Larry,

    Toast Titanium accepts my 16GB quicktime .mov file to turn into a Blu-Ray. However, it first says it will compress it into a 2.75GB file, rather than leave it at 16GB or something close to that.

    Why such a high compression? With so much blank space left over? The whole idea is to maintain quality.

    Please advise.



    • Larry says:


      One of two things could be happening here.

      1. Blu-ray video requires that your video be compressed into an MPEG/4 (H.264) file. This is very compressed, when compared to ProRes, yet still retains high image quality.

      2. A setting is incorrect in your compression software and the file is being compressed for a DVD, which requires MPEG/2. This is not only more compressed than MPEG/4, but also converts your image into Standard Definition, rather than HD.

      In both cases compression must occur.

      The way to determine which format your file is in is to select it in the Finder and type Cmd+I. The file format will be displayed on the Get Info screen.


  2. R. Delay says:

    Thanks! Careful though if your DVD Studio Pro is in PAL definition, set Compressor to make a PAL video format !!

  3. Ian says:

    When I use Compressor to burn a DVD, it keeps setting the output to Hard Drive. I try to change it to the external Super Drive (DVD Player on my Mac) but it keeps changing it back once I hit Batch. Thoughts?

    • Larry says:


      I would suggest building the DVD to your hard drive, then testing it with DVD Player to make sure it works.

      If the DVD plays OK from the disc image, then use either Disk Utility or Roxio Toast to burn it to a DVD disc.


  4. Jonathan says:

    I’ve recently upgraded to Compressor 4.3 and am having issues with burning a DVD. I used Compressor repair as you suggested to fix the Qmaster missing file thing. When the job is processing, my one hour video (.mov) normally takes about 90 minutes with two pass VBR, but now is taking over 2 hours and it is still saying it’s on the 1st pass? I’m outputing to the DVD drive, not the Hard Drive for a disk image. Any help would be appreciated.

    • Larry Jordan says:


      I’m getting reports that Compressor 4.3 is about 25% slower than Compressor 4.2 in burning DVDs.

      I recommend two things:
      1. Try burning in 1-pass mode, rather than 2-pass
      2. Create a disk image first, then use either Roxio Toast or Disk Utility to burn that image to a DVD.

      I know Apple is looking at this problem, but I don’t know when a solution will be delivered.


  5. Marty Vermillion says:

    I need to put a little over 90 minutes on an authored DVD. What average and max bit rates would you suggest for say 2 hours for best results?

  6. Michael says:

    Is there a way to force 16 x 9 monitors to display 4 x 3 standard video in 4 x 3 non stretched?
    If I play a 4 x 3 Dvd that is connected to my samsung 16 x 9 monitor, it stretches it rendering the video ugly.
    Yet, when watching AT&T Uverse ME TV (which are all the oldies from the 70’s), the program is not stretched. This is without any monitor setting changes.


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