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Working with stories in Final Cut Pro/DVD Studio Pro

Figure 1. Setting an End Jump in the Inspector. Click image to enlarge.

Figure 1. Setting an End Jump in the Inspector. Click image to enlarge

This is an introductory-level discussion for DVD Studio Pro newbies on using stories. (Hey, newbies need love, too!) I''ll cover inserting chapter markers in Final Cut Pro (and why you want to add them there, rather than in DVD SP), what stories are and why you need them, and then how to create and deploy them.

I decided to write this story while in the middle of my morning yoga practice. I was working through one of the practices in the excellent “YogaTherapyforBackPain,” and I started thinking, “Wow! What a cool use of stories. I''ll bet they produced that in DVD Studio Pro.” Then I chastized myself for not focusing on the exercise, and finished up. Namaste!

A few days later, I chased down the DVD''s producer, Sean Riehl of Real Body Work (www.realbodywork.com), and confirmed that he did produce the DVD in Final Cut Studio. We chatted for a bit, and he had some interesting tips on shooting and editing for production in stories, which I''ll present in the next edition of “Final Cut Pro Insider.”

About stories
Here''s another bit of history that will set the stage for why I like stories so much and how useful they can be. The first DVD that I produced in DVD Studio Pro was a 90-minute concert video of a local Galax group named No Speed Limit. As with many up and coming groups, they played a mix of covers and original music. When producing the DVD, I had several goals:

• First, to include links to all individual songs, and to return the viewer to the menu after each song.
• To include a Play All button that would play the entire concert in order.
• To include a button that would play only the original songs.

I quickly discovered that if I linked a button to the chapter marker placed at the beginning of a song, the video would continue to play onto subsequent songs unless I added an End Jump back to the menu, which you can do in the Inspector, as shown in Figure 1.

Of course, once I did that, this hosed the Play All button, because playback returned to the menu at the end of the first chapter.

While I was scratching my head over these issues, the only way I could figure out how to play only the original songs was to drop them on a separate track in DVD Studio Pro. The problem with this approach was that DVD Studio Pro would have to encode the track separately, adding about 40 minutes to the already crowded 90-minute DVD. Ugh!

Figure 2. How stories converted about an hour''s worth of video into 300+ minutes of instruction. Click image to enlarge.

Figure 2. How stories converted about an hour''s worth of video into 300+ minutes of instruction. Click image to enlarge.

It was right about then that I discovered stories. According to the DVD Studio Pro 4 manual:

A story is simply a way to rearrange the playback of the track cells defined by the chapter markers. You may want to create a version of a track that skips some objectionable content, or you may want to use a short piece of the track as a preview. A story does not increase the amount of disc space the track requires because it is simply playing the track''s markers in a different order.

In other words, a story is another type of content that you can link to from a button on the menu. A story can contain one or more chapter markers from a single track. The key difference between linking directly to a chapter marker in a track or linking to a story that contains the same chapter marker is this:

When you link directly to a chapter marker, the video continues to play through all subsequent chapter markers in the track (in the absence of an End Jump back to the menu).

When you link to a story containing the same chapter marker, the video returns to the menu after playing all video up to the next chapter marker — in essence, acting as if you had added the End Jump back to the menu.

So, to create links to each song that returned to the menu after playback, I created a story for each song and linked each respective menu button to each respective story. To play the entire concert in order, I linked the Play All button to the track itself, and because there were no End Jumps, it played straight through.

To create a link to only original songs, I created a story that contained the chapter markers for the original songs. During playback, the video would start at the chapter marker, stop after that chapter finished playing, and then jump to the next chapter point. This jumping is totally seamless when previewing in DVD SP, but it will introduce a second or so delay when played from the actual DVD because the player has to seek to the next chapter point on the optical disc before it can play.

Stories in my yoga DVD
Back to the yoga DVD that spawned this story, producer Sean Riehl was kind enough to share some screens from the actual production DVD, including Figure 2. Though it''s a bit hard to see, the details are these.

Figure 3. The Edit Marker dialog. Click Add Chapter Marker to add the chapter marker. Click image to enlarge.

Figure 3. The Edit Marker dialog. Click Add Chapter Marker to add the chapter marker. Click image to enlarge.

The track contains about an hour of video, from which Sean created 15 different experiences, including a total of more than 300 minutes of instruction. Obviously, there is a great deal of repetition, but if you need a short 17-minute practice to work through your sciatica, it''s great to have that option. Ditto for those Sunday mornings when you have 44 minutes and want a good all around practice.

Here are some final points about stories before we actually create and deploy them. First, a story can only incorporate chapter markers from a single track, so all assets accessed by the story need to be on the same track. You can produce your entire project on a single Final Cut Pro sequence (which is how Sean Riehl works), or produce the individual sequences separately and combine them all on a single track in DVD SP, but they have to be on the same track to integrate into a story.

Figure 4. I''ve created stories, but I haven''t added content or linked them. Click image to enlarge.

Figure 4. I''ve created stories, but I haven''t added content or linked them. Click image to enlarge.

Finally, while this will only affect the most complicated of projects, DVD SP also has a limit of a total of 99 tracks, stories and slideshows per project.

Stories: the mechanics
To illustrate how to implement stories, I created a short project out of some footage I shot at Bristol Motor Speedway. (NASCAR needs love, too!) It''s about 50 seconds long and has six short clips.

Step 1 is to insert chapter markers in Final Cut Pro. To do so, drag the playhead to the desired location and press M to insert the chapter marker. Then, hold down the Command key and double click the marker to open the Edit Marker dialog shown in Figure 3.

Click Add Chapter Marker to add the chapter marker. I always customize the marker name (Qualifying) to speed operation in DVD SP, but that''s optional.

Figure 5. Populating the story in the Story Editor. Click image to enlarge.

Figure 5. Populating the story in the Story Editor. Click image to enlarge.

Why insert chapter markers in Final Cut Pro rather than DVD SP? First, between titles, applause in the waveform or other visual cues, it''s usually pretty obvious where the chapter markers go in Final Cut Pro, but harder to tell in DVD SP, where all you see is the flattened track. Second, and more important, in Final Cut Pro, you can insert the chapter marker on any frame in the sequence, enabling maximum precision.

In DVD SP, where you''re working with files already encoded into MPEG-2 format, you can only add chapter markers on key frames, which occur about every 15 frames. Sometimes when you''re working with a short dissolve between two songs, scenes or exercise routines, this means you can''t locate the frame at the precise middle point, when means a chapter starting with a chunk of the old song, scene or routine, or a few frames into the new one.

In DVD SP
Render the sequence as normal, and import it into DVD SP and insert it into a track. Then, create a story by right clicking in the Graphical tab and choosing Add > Story. I''ve added two - one called Even, which will include all even chapter markers, one called Odd, for odd chapter markers (odd chapter markers need love, too!), as you can see in Figure 4.

Click the story icon in the Graphical tab to load it into the Story Editor, which will show all available chapters in the Source list on the left. To include a chapter in the story, drag it into the entry list on the right. You can see the Story that I created for the even chapters in Figure 4. Then, repeat as necessary for additional stories.

Figure 6. Linking the buttons to the story as usual. Click image to enlarge.

Figure 6. Linking the buttons to the story as usual. Click image to enlarge.

Next, you link the button to the story as normal. (See Figure 6).

In my little project, the graphic view looks like Figure 7, showing the links between the menu, track (in green) and stories (in light blue).

Figure 7. Track and stories linked to their respective buttons on the menu. Click image to enlarge.

Figure 7. Track and stories linked to their respective buttons on the menu. Click image to enlarge.

Figure 8 shows how it looked in the Real Body Work yoga DVD, including the First Play and other content. The same color coding applies, with tracks in green and stories in blue.

To summarize:
• Stories are an efficient, flexible tool for modifying the presentation of content within a DVD. In addition to the uses discussed above, they''re used extensively for a number of purposes, including directors cuts, PG-13 versions of movies and alternative endings.
• Stories let you jump from chapter marker to chapter marker within a single track, so all content in the story has to be contained within a single track.
• Stories are another form of content that you populate in the Story Editor.
• Once created, you link to stories just like any other form of content.

Figure 8. Stories linked the Yoga DVD. Click image to enlarge.

Figure 8. Stories linked the Yoga DVD. Click image to enlarge.

That''s it for this time. Come back in a couple of weeks to hear from Sean Riehl on how to shoot and produce for story production.