Previous versions of Windows could rip data from CDs and burn data to recordable CDs, but they had no support for ripping and burning DVDs. (The exception was XP Media Center Edition, which offered support for DVD burning through the Media Center program.) Windows Vista changes that by building DVD-burning capabilities into the following applications:
- Windows Photo Gallery
- Windows Media Player
- Media Center
- Windows Movie Maker
But what about authoring actual DVD discs, complete with menus, chapters, and elements of a typical DVD disc interface? Until Vista, you needed to use a third-party program to author a DVD. Now, however, the Home, Premium, and Ultimate editions of Vista come with a new program called Windows DVD Maker, which you can use to author DVDs.
The beta version I used had some rough edges but was clearly functional. As you'll see in the section, it's also very easy to use. (Windows DVD Maker is only available in the Home Premium and Ultimate editions of Windows Vista.) Before you launch the program, insert a recordable DVD disc in your DVD burner (DVD Maker won't work without a disc in the drive).
Then select Start, All Programs, Accessories, Windows DVD Maker to get the program started. (Alternatively, if you see the AutoPlay window after inserting the disc, click Burn a DVD Video Disc using Windows DVD Maker.)
DVD Maker operates as a kind of wizard: You work through a couple of windows to add content, create menus, and then burn your DVD. The opening window is named Add Pictures and Video to the DVD. Click the Add Items button to display the Open dialog box, where you select a video or image file for inclusion on the DVD.
When you have several items added, you can use the Move Up and Move Down buttons to rearrange them, and the Remove Items buttons to remove them. You can also double-click any video file to play it in Media Player. When you've added your content, enter a Disk Title and then click Next.
The next window enables you to choose and customize the opening DVD menu. You begin by choosing from one of several predefined menu styles. From there you can perform the following tasks:
- Menu Text Click this button to configure the text that appears on the menu, including the Disc Title, Play Button, and Scenes Button. You can also change the font.
- Customize Click this button to add your own spin to the built-in style you chose. In the window that appears, you can change the menu font, add foreground and background images, specify an audio file to play while the menu is onscreen, choose either Motion Menus or Still Menus, and select a style for the Scenes Buttons. Click Save to update the style, or click Save as New Style to create a custom style.
- Slideshow Click this button if your DVD is a slide show of digital photos. In the window that appears, you can add one or more music files to play in the background, specify the number of seconds to display each photo, select a transition between photos (Cross Fade, Dissolve, Wipe, and so on), and choose whether you want the slide show to pan and zoom the photos.
- Preview Click this button to see an onscreen preview of your menu. You can also use the preview window to play the DVD contents.
When the DVD menu is set up the way you want, click Burn to start the process of your burning the menu and contents to the disk. DVD Maker displays a progress window while it encodes the disc.