Final Cut Pro-to-iDVD Chapter and Widescreen Woes

idvdFor goodness’s sake, will the people at Apple responsible for iLife go talk to the Pro Apps folks so that iDVD and Final Cut Pro actually works together? You’d think that Apple would ensure both their video applications work seamlessly together, especially when such interoperability is touted in the Help section of both applications. Well, you’d be surprised at how broken it is.

I learnt that the hard way earlier this week, when I had to master a DVD for a client. My intention was to export five segments from the timeline, each of which would have chapter markers, while the segment would itself become a ‘Play All’ clip. 

Having finished the edit in Final Cut Pro, I placed the necessary chapter markers in the timeline and exported each segment of the timeline as DV PAL 16:9 Anamorphic QuickTime clips. I chose this format since it was what the acquired footage was shot in. 

Once I’d imported the clips into iDVD, two problems surfaced: the 16:9 clips remained anamorphically squashed in the 4:3 ratio, and iDVD could not see the chapter markers in any of the clips. After some Googling, it turned out that the problems I was facing are known issues, according to two Apple support articles. 

In the first, Article TS2179, titled “iDVD: DV widescreen 16:9 workflow from Final Cut Pro”, warned that “if you export an anamorphic 16:9 DV sequence from Final Cut Pro with the intention of burning a DVD-Video of that sequence in iDVD…. Final Cut Pro does not include the widescreen aspect ratio information that iDVD looks for.” 

Great. Prior to discovering the support article, I had figured iDVD would be smart enough to unsqueeze 16:9 clips back into their original anamorphic aspect ratio since QuickTime Player did exactly that. 

The second problem is acknowledged in Article TS1233, titled “Final Cut Studio: “All Markers” option does not include DVD Chapter Markers”. The symptoms described in it goes: “When you export a QuickTime movie from Final Cut Pro, choosing the “All Markers” option does not include chapter markers that will function in DVD Stidio Pro or iDVD.” 

Right. 

Look at the screenshot of Final Cut Pro’s export dialog box above. You can see various types of markers listed. Any user would naturally assume that choosing “All Markers” would include all the types of markers. Why this is not the case for DV clips is a mystery only the FCP or iDVD folks at Apple would know, since the support article offers no explaination. 

If your editing workflow comprises exporting 16:9 clips from Final Cut Pro for DVD mastering in iDVD, you’ll have to avoid using the DV Widescreen format until this is fixed in a future release of iDVD or Final Cut Pro. In the meanwhile, if your workflow involves DV Widescreen, I recommend that you export your clips as ProRes 4:2:2.

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