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More iDVD Tips

Copy and Paste Drop Zone Contents

If you’ve assembled a great set of photos for a drop zone and you’d like to use that same set elsewhere in the project, it’s easy to duplicate it. Control-click the drop zone and choose Copy Drop Zone Contents from the shortcut menu. Then, go to the destination drop zone and choose Paste Drop Zone Contents from the shortcut menu.

Browsing Other Folders

You can use the Preferences command to tell iDVD to search other folders and hard drives when displaying its movie browser (page 258). You can expand your browsing options for audio and photos, too. Just drag a folder from the Finder into the appropriate media browser.

This also works for the movie browser—and it’s a handy alternative to the Preferences dialog box.

Hacking iDVD Themes

Previous versions of iDVD stored the themes within the application itself, but starting with iDVD 6, Apple moved them to a more sensible location: Computer > Library > Application Support > iDVD > Themes.

Each theme (which ends with the text .theme) is also a package—to explore it, Control-click on its icon and choose Show Package Contents from the shortcut menu. Double-click the Contents folder and then the Resources folder, and you’ll find background movies and audio loops. To extract an item—for example, to grab the background audio from the Revolution-Main theme—press Option while dragging the item’s icon out to the desktop. This makes a duplicate of the item, leaving the original theme unchanged.

Take care to not throw away or alter any resources whose purpose you don’t understand, lest you have to reinstall the iDVD application.

From PDF to DVD

An iDVD slide show isn’t restricted to the JPEG image format. A slide show can display numerous graphics formats, including PDF.

iDVD’s PDF support means that you can display just about any document in a slide show. Want to put a Microsoft Word document or a Web page in a slide show? Create a PDF version of the document: choose Print from the File menu, then click the Save as PDF button. Drag the PDF into the iDVD slide show editor, and iDVD creates a slide containing the contents of the PDF’s first page. (If you have a multi-page document, save each page as a separate PDF or use the Preview application to extract specific pages, as described in the following tip.)

Before making a PDF of a document, you might want to choose the Page Setup command and click the landscape-orientation button. That way, your PDF will have the same horizontal orientation as a slide. If you make the PDF in portrait orientation, your slide will have black borders on either side of the page.

Think twice about using a PDF that contains lots of text, especially in font sizes below 14 point. Small text looks fuzzy on a TV screen.

From iPhoto Book to Slide Show

On page 141, I discussed a method for saving an iPhoto book as a PDF and then extracting pages for printing. Here’s a variation of that technique that lets you include iPhoto book pages in iDVD slide shows.

After saving your book as a PDF, open the PDF in Mac OS X’s Preview program. Next, open Preview’s sidebar (choose Sidebar from the View menu). In the sidebar, locate the page that you want to turn into a slide. Select the page and choose Copy from the Edit menu.

Next, choose the New from Clipboard command from the File menu. The Preview program creates a new document and pastes the page you copied into it. Save the page as a new PDF file.

Making Custom Motion Menus

You aren’t limited to the motion menus that accompany iDVD. You can make any QuickTime movie a motion menu background: just drag the movie to the Background well in the Menu pane.

If your motion menu movie is smaller than full-screen, iDVD enlarges it to fit. For the best video quality, use a movie whose dimensions are 640 by 480 pixels or 720 by 480 pixels.

As for what to put in your own custom menu, that’s up to you. If the star of your DVD is an iMovie production, you might use a two- or three-minute excerpt of your movie. Copy and paste a few clips from your movie into a new iMovie project. Then, use iMovie’s Video Adjustments tools to increase the brightness and make the footage appear faint. That way, buttons and text labels will still be easy to read. Share the movie to the Media Browser, return to iDVD, and drag the movie from the Media pane to the Background well in the Menu Info window.

Smooth looping. A motion menu loops until a user chooses a menu option. To avoid a visually jarring loop point, try this: In iMovie, create a still frame of the very first frame of your menu movie. Add this still frame to the very end of the movie, and put a fairly lengthy (say, two-second) dissolve between the end of the movie and the still frame. Finally, trim the clip to make the remainder of the still frame as short as possible. (In the trimmer, drag its right edge to the left until it’s right next to the dissolve in the timeline.) Now, when your movie loops, its last frame will appear to gradually dissolve into its first frame.

If you’re after something more abstract, you can buy royalty-free libraries of animated backgrounds that you can use as motion menus. Two sources are ArtBeats ( and Digital Juice ( If you have Final Cut Pro or Final Cut Express, you can use its LiveType program to create rich animated textures.

A motion menu in iDVD can be up to 15 minutes long. But keep in mind that menu video uses disc space just like any other video clip.

Automating iDVD

iDVD provides thorough support for AppleScript, the automation technology that’s built into Mac OS X. iDVD’s AppleScript support enables you to create scripts that automate the creation and layout of DVDs.

In Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard), you can use the Automator program to build workflows that put iDVD on autopilot. For example, you could create a workflow that prompts a user for a movie and some photos, then builds a DVD containing the results.

To learn more about Automator, visit

Back to the Top

If you have a DVD containing several levels of submenus, you might want to offer your viewers a button that lets them get back to the uppermost, or title, menu. To do so, choose Project > Add Title Menu Button.

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