Changing Default Compression Settings for DVD

Posted on by Larry

[ This article was first published in the December, 2010, issue of
Larry’s Monthly Final Cut Studio Newsletter. Click here to subscribe. ]

I’ve taught this technique in my classes for a long time, but recently discovered that I have not written about it. When you are compressing a QuickTime movie for a DVD, the default settings for video and audio compression may need to be tweaked.

Well, more accurately put, the audio settings are optimized for audio mixed for theatrical distribution using a Dolby-certified mixing stage. This means that, for most of us, the settings will yield unexpected results.


This technique only applies to Compressor, though this will work for all versions of Compressor.

1. Open Compressor


2. Click the Add File button in the top left corner and locate the QuickTime movie you want to compress.


3. Go to the Settings tab > Apple bin > DVD bin and select the FOLDER containing the DVD compression settings you want to apply. Select the folder who’s running time is closest to, but longer than, the total amount of video you want to put on the DVD. For example:

* For a 3-minute video, select DVD Best Quality 90 minutes.
* For a 60-minute video, select DVD Best Quality 90 minutes.
* For a 91-minute video, select DVD Best Quality 120 minutes.
* For a 121-minute video, select DVD Best Quality 150 minutes.

The best image quality is created by the 90-minute setting, but this also creates the largest files which, for longer movies, may not fit onto the DVD.


4. Drag the entire settings folder and drop it on top of the clip you just imported. Notice that TWO settings have been applied, one for video and one for audio.


Click the video compression setting applied to the clip in the Task Bar at the top to select it. While the video settings are basically OK, there are two you may want to adjust.

In the Inspector, click the Encoder button at the top, then the Quality tab.

There is a direct relationship between Bit Rate, image quality, and file size. The lower the Bit Rate, the smaller the file, AND the lower the image quality.

While you would think that the solution is just raise Bit Rate to the max (9.0 mbps), you would be wrong. That rate is so fast that it chokes many DVD players. The sweet spot is between 6 and 7 mbps, though this can vary between projects.

My starting settings, when compressing video for a DVD, is to set the Average Bit Rate at 5.5 mbps and the Maximum Bit Rate at 7.2 mbps. At NO time will I ever raise the Maximum Bit Rate above 8.0. Nor will I ever raise the Average Bit rate above 6.5.

These settings have, over the years, given me excellent results.

Also, when compressing for DVDs, I don’t generally add any filters. The MPEG-2 codec does a fine job all on its own.


Next, click the Audio compression settings attached to the clip in the Task Bar to select it.

Since the default AAC compression settings assume you are mixing to Dolby specs, we need to reset the audio codec so that it compresses your audio so that it sounds exactly the way you mixed it.

In the Inspector, click the Encoder button at the top, then click the Audio tab.

At the bottom, notice the Dialog Normalization setting. This is designed to adjust the levels of your dialog so that as your viewer switches from one DVD to the next, the dialog levels sound the same.

This may be true when mixing to Dolby specs, but is not true when doing a general mix for a DVD.

To disable this setting, set it to -31 dBFS. (Yes, I know, it’s a weird number. Trust me, this really does turn this setting off.)

Next, go to the Preprocessing tab.

Change the Compression Preset to None.

In this case, “Compression” does not refer to reducing the file size, but, instead, to adjusting the dynamic range of your audio. In other words, it messes with your mix.

Changing this setting to None disables this feature.

Now, when you compress your audio, it will sound exactly the way you mixed it.


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2 Responses to Changing Default Compression Settings for DVD

  1. Magda Kruger says:

    I have found this article very good. I just have a question: I have added my files into Compression and set all the settings according to the article, but when I press the submit button to start compression, it show sme a menu with name, cluster & priority – and it doesn’t matter what info I put in, compression won’t start….

    Thank you very much!



  2. Larry, Thank You !
    Your description of correcting the factory default error in DVD Studio Pro that puts edited audio at an unacceptably low level included crucial information that others have left out:
    Specifically – That one must put a clip into DVD Studio pro, select the video to adjust the video encoding characteristics in the Inspector window. Then select the audio and adjust the encoding characteristics for audio in the Inspector window.
    Everyone else just shows a piece of the Inspector window without identifying where those tabs are, or they leave out that you must first load a clip, or they leave out both.
    Pressing SAVE allows one to save the video and the audio settings under slightly different names, they show up under CUSTOM in the Settings window of DVD Studio Pro for quick use next time.
    Thank you for a solution to a problem that has dogged some of us for years.
    You, Larry, are a superior instructor, and a fine friend to Editors Everywhere !

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