Creating an HD disc in plain DVDs for free

Oh, the irony: now that the HD-DVD format is dead, now there IS a devised freeware way to burn your own HD video on plain DVD media discs. This method is attributed to um3k, I just put it together in a (hopefully) more comprehensive tutorial so everyone can follow the method easier, while I included a workflow that is more consistent with the way people work and edit their footage. The difficulty of carrying out the tutorial is “intermediate”, but after you are successful once, it should be a piece of cake from that point on. Basically, this method allows you to use a common DVD burner and common DVD disks to burn HD video. But you will still need an HD-DVD *player* to play that video back.

The interesting thing about this method is that it does not use EVO files, but plain VOB files that happen to be HD. This means that you can mix 480p and 720p and 1080p VOB files in it, and thus making it compatible with every DVD player out there (plain DVD and Blu-Ray players will be able to recognize the 480p VOB files and play them back, while HD-DVDs will play back their HD versions of the clips on the same disc).

You don’t need to use this method if you own the latest Pinnacle video editor, or the latest Ulead+Nero utilities as these apps can create 3xDVDs on their own. But if you use a different editor, e.g. Vegas or Premiere, and you are the unlucky owner of one of these 1.3+ million HD-DVD devices sold so far, this is the way to go. The method works with the A3 and A2 Toshiba HD-DVD devices (I tested it), and very possibly with their other HD-DVD models too (not sure about the XBoX360 though, you gotta try it yourself). The created HighDef DVDs also work with VLC and Media Player Classic on the PC. Don’t try these discs on the PS3 if you don’t also offer 480p versions of your videos on the same disc, because it will crash (I had to reboot my PS3). Other Blu-Ray players might, or might not work, let us know of your findings. Here is a similar tutorial for Blu-Ray video on plain DVD discs btw. The funny thing is that 80% of both these methods are identical for both HD architectures: from the moment you have completed step #7 (which takes care of the mutual mpeg2 encoding), creating a Blu-Ray and an HD-DVD disc should take 10 minutes for each from that point on, it’s that fast!

The following method is for Windows. For Linux, use this tutorial.

1. Install the stable 2.5.7 version of the AVISynth application. Follow the default options during installation. Once it’s installed, you can safely delete its downloaded installation file.

2. Download the plain version of Mplayer for Windows and unzip it somewhere that you can find back easily, e.g. c:\video\mplayer\

3. Download the Huffyuv lossless codec. Unzip the .zip file on your desktop, right click on the huffuyv.inf file and select “Install” (note: Vista might not give you that option, in which case manual registration of the codec’s DLL file must happen via the DOS prompt, google it). After about 15 seconds, you can delete these files from your desktop, as the Huffyuv lossless codec is now installed on your system. Open a DOS prompt and navigate to the mplayer folder (e.g. “cd c:\video\mplayer\”, without the quotes). There, run this command: vfw2menc -f huff -d huffyuv.dll -s settings.mcf and on the new dialog that pops up select: “Predict median (best)” from the first drop down menu, and “<-- Convert to YUY2" from the second drop down menu, while leaving unchecked the other options. Then click "ok" to discard the Huffyuv configuration dialog. This action only needs to be done once for your system and it helps us by forcing the Huffyuv codec to create smaller files. You can now delete the c:\video\mplayer\ folder and the Huffyuv files from your desktop. 4. Capture, set up the right Project Properties for your footage, and edit your HD or HDV footage as usual with Premiere or Vegas or other editor. Thorough exporting example under Vegas follows: To export, click "File" and "Render As". Select .avi for the "Save as type", and the "HDV 1080-60i intermediate" template (or 50i if you are on PAL). Then, hit "Custom". On the first tab select "Best" quality. On the video tab leave everything as is except the video format, select there "Huffyuv v2.1.1". Then, hit "Configure" and a new dialog pops up. There, make sure that "Predict median (best)" from the first drop down menu, and "<-- Convert to YUY2" from the second drop down menu are selected (leave unchecked the rest of the options there). Then click "ok" to take that new dialog away. On the Video tab make sure you export as progressive, with the right frame rate as the original footage and 1440x1080 and aspect ratio 1.3333 (if this was HDV footage, that is). Leave unchanged the "Audio" tab, and then hit "ok" in the "custom template" dialog. Then, you must give a name to your .avi file (e.g. "huff.avi") and hit "save" to a predefined folder (e.g. C:\video\huff.avi). The encoding procedure will start. Regarding Premiere/AE, I heard nightmare stories about not being able to export correctly in Huffyuv, so you might want to try a frameserver technique instead.

5. On Vegas, export again, but this time the audio alone: click “File” and “Render As” and from there select the “AC3” filetype. Name the audio file “audio.ac3” (or something like that) and export it on the C:\video\ folder again. If you can’t see an AC3 option on Vegas it’s either because you are using a pirated version of it, or because you forgot to install DVD Architect, the companion Vegas application. If you are not using Vegas, or if your video editor does not support exporting in AC3, you can use a freeware called BeLight to do the job. Try exporting the AC3 audio with a bitrate of 128 kbps, or 160 kbps and 192 kbps depending how much space you want to waste on audio versus quality.

6. Open notepad.exe or other text editor and add this line in it:
DirectShowSource("C:\video\huff.avi")
Save the text file as “avisynth.avs” on the same folder: c:\video\
If you get error messages, or you are using a frameserver, use this two-line code instead:
AviSource("C:\video\huff.avi", false)
ConvertToYV12()

Alternatively, you can also try this (in other words, use whatever works for you):
AviSource("C:\video\huff.avi", false).ColorYUV(levels="PC->TV")

7. Download and install the HCEnc utility. Load the HCEgui.exe and make it look like this. Leave the rest of the tabs of this app as is. If you are using a 24p Huffyuv AVI file instead of PAL 25p or NTSC 30p, use an “autogop” of 12 instead of the suggested 15 and also check the “3:2 pulldown” option too. When everything looks like the above screenshots, select “encode” and wait for the encoding to complete. Just a note, you might want to use more bitrate for the video than the 12000/15000 kbps suggested, maybe at around 15000 kbps average, 18000 kbps maximum. Don’t use more than that though, as the video will stutter during playback. Besides, the less bitrate you use, the more HD footage you can fit on a plain DVD disc, so find a golden balance between bitrate and video duration.

8. Download Avidemux2 and install it somewhere. After installation, load its avidemux2_gtk.exe executable. Load in it the output1.m2v file that HCEnc created on the previous step on the C:\video\ folder. When it asks you to index it, say “yes”. From the Audio menu option on the top menu bar select “main track”. Select “audio source” to be “external ac3”, and then using the “external file” browsing option tell it to load the “audio.ac3” file you created on step #5. Click “Ok”. On the sidebar on the left select “copy” and “copy” for both audio and video, but from the “Format” option select the “MPEG-PS (A+V)” option. Then from the main menu, select “File”, “Save”, and “Save Video”. Give it the name “output2.mpg” and export it on the C:\video\ folder again.

Note: If you want your 3xDVD to have separate videos clips instead of a single video, you must follow steps #4 to #8 for each of your clips.

9. Download and install the DVDAuthorGUI utility, and then load the application. Select NTSC or PAL from the right side of its window, depending what your footage is. Select “add title” from the toolbar and change the “files of type:” to “mpeg with NAV packets”. Then load the “output2.mpg” file you exported in the previous step. If you have exported more than one clip above, you will have to load the rest of these .mpg files the same way, one by one. Now you can continue authoring the DVD the way you want to, with menus and other beautifications, or go straight to the meat and select “Author DVD” from the toolbar. Select “folder” as the “Save as type”, navigate to c:\video\ and give it the file name “dvd”. DVDAuthorGUI will create a folder called “dvd” inside the c:\video\ folder, and inside that “dvd” folder it will create the HD DVD files and folders as required by the DVD spec.

10. Download and install ImgBurn. Go to “Build” mode, select the C:\video\dvd\ folder from the “Browse for a folder” icon on the vertical toolbar. On the “Destination” option select c:\video\hddvd.iso as filename. In the “options” tab on the right side select the ISO9660+UDF filesystem. Then click the big button that “builds” the DVD ISO file. When this is done, change to “Write” mode. From the “source” select the “browse for a file” and seleect the “hddvd.mds” file found on the c:\video\ folder. Then put an empty DVD-R or DVD-RW disc on your burner (warning: avoid dual-layer discs, not very compatible). When you do this, the big button will be enabled, and then you can start burning the disc! Enjoy!


If you would like to test this method but you have no HD footage of your own yet, feel free to download my favorite HD clips found on Vimeo.com (if you have a Vimeo account and you visit their respective pages, you can download the original uploaded HD video file):

29 Comments »

um3k/JPhillips89 wrote on February 19th, 2008 at 5:26 PM PST:

Wonderful, Eugenia! Thank you for adapting this to a more common workflow. I have the workflow of a lunatic, so I wouldn’t be so adept at adapting it.

I do have a few suggestions:

Step 6: In my experience, AviSource is generally preferable to DirectShowSource, since DSS doesn’t always output the video in the most straightforward manner. Use whatever works for you, though.

Step 7: If your footage is noisy, such as that taken in low light, it is advisable to run it through a noise reduction filter. These lowish bitrates are likely to turn noise into blocks and lines. Also, I get playable video at bitrates somewhat higher than these, but the 23000 max I tested with was a little too high. Experiment, if you don’t mind sacrificing a few discs for the sake of knowledge.

Step 9: Technically, this process doesn’t match any official specifications, it’s a bit of a hackjob, really. But it somehow works, and that’s what counts!

Step 10: This step can be shortened, if desired, by setting “device” as the target in build mode. This will burn the folders straight to disk, skipping the ISO file.

General: As mentioned above, don’t stick 3XDVDs you create using this method in a regular DVD player. Best case, it won’t work, worst case, it just might kill (or at least maim) your player. Just to be safe, you might want to make a warning menu, that requires you to confirm that your player can play the disc before it will play. If you’re really adventurous, and your footage is short, you could probably put SD and HD on the same disc, and have a menu to choose between them. I haven’t tried it, but I think it should work.

Also, I can confirm that this method works with my HD-A30.

Finally, I must say that my reply is ridiculously long. Sorry about that!


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Eugenia wrote on February 19th, 2008 at 5:30 PM PST:

Thanks for the suggestions um3k/JPhillips89. The DirectShowSource worked fine with the Huffyuv files btw. Could you maybe copy/paste here your avisynth script, for the record?


um3k/JPhillips89 wrote on February 19th, 2008 at 5:38 PM PST:

Oh, I forgot one thing: In step 7, if your footage is 24p, you should check the “3:2 Pulldown” checkbox.


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Eugenia wrote on February 19th, 2008 at 5:41 PM PST:

That is, true 24p (with pulldown removed already), not Canon’s PF24 that is in a 60i stream. However, this should not be necessary, as there are DVD players that can add pulldown during playback, there is no reason for the VOB stream itself to have the pulldown embedded in it.


um3k/JPhillips89 wrote on February 19th, 2008 at 5:42 PM PST:

Basically:

AviSource(“C:\video\huff.avi”)

to serve the same purpose as yours. I usually use more complex scripts, since I do my editing in AviSynth for the time being. AviSynth can do amazing things if you don’t mind slaving over a hot text editor for hours on end.


um3k/JPhillips89 wrote on February 19th, 2008 at 5:50 PM PST:

The pulldown checkbox in HCEnc adds pulldown flags to the video, which are required by both DVD and HD DVD specifications. Like you said, this is only applicable for true 24p with pulldown already removed for editing. If your video meets this criteria, then I urge you to check this checkbox. It’s really the best way to encode 24p for (HD) DVD.

These pulldown flags are the very thing that allows DVD players to properly add pulldown, and without them your disc might not work. This method is called soft pulldown, HV20’s method is called hard pulldown. Soft pulldown encodes the video as true 24p with flags, hard pulldown butchers the 24p and encodes it as 60i. Soft pulldown is by a considerable margin more efficent and higher quality than hard pulldown.


Richard Bourke wrote on February 19th, 2008 at 6:01 PM PST:

Is there any likelihood of getting this process to work with MPEG-4 encoded video (e.g. AVC or VC-1) instead of MPEG-2 encoded video?


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Eugenia wrote on February 19th, 2008 at 6:10 PM PST:

I don’t think so. DVDAuthorGUI will refuse to create DVD menus for a non-compliant-for-DVD mpeg2 file. You will have to “fool” the DVDAuthorGUI app somehow, and a simple renaming does not accomplish this.


um3k/JPhillips89 wrote on February 19th, 2008 at 6:12 PM PST:

Richard: Probably not, but if you can find muxing software dumb (obedient?) enough to put AVC or VC-1 in a MPEG2 program stream, we can give it a go. Alternatively, maybe we could find DVD authoring software that will author MPEG-4 files. Even if one or both of these software abominations were to be found and a disc authored, the likelyhood of it actually playing is slim to none. 🙁

However, the fact that the process detailed on this page works may mean that HD DVD’s are even more similar to DVDs than anyone suspected, and that open source/free HD DVD authoring may be all the more attainable. As they say, where there’s a will, there’s a way! Now all we have to do is find someone willing who sports the necessary talents. I’ll do what I can, but I can only do so much.


um3k/JPhillips89 wrote on February 19th, 2008 at 7:28 PM PST:

Extrapolating from this page. It seems that the following ED and HD resolutions should work with this technique:
704x480x60p – Tested, works in my A30
720x480x60p – Not tested
1280x720x60p – Not tested
960x1080x24p/30p/60i – Not tested
1280x1080x24p/30p/60i – Not tested
1440x1080x24p/30p/60i – Tested, works in my A30 and Eugenia’s A2 and A3
1920x1080x24p/30p/60i – Not tested

Seeing as the tested ones all work, the untested ones almost certainly work also. I’ll make a disc to test all of them when I have time.


Richard Bourke wrote on February 19th, 2008 at 7:58 PM PST:

Perhaps some (former) HD DVD tech. staff from Toshiba might be freindly enough to share technical information about the format!


um3k/JPhillips89 wrote on February 19th, 2008 at 8:07 PM PST:

If that were to happen it would make me very happy.


um3k/JPhillips89 wrote on February 20th, 2008 at 2:50 PM PST:

Update: Here’s the new resolution test stats:

704×480x60p – Tested, works in my A30
720×480x60p – Tested, works in my A30
1280×720x60p – Tested, works in my A30
960×1080x24p/30p/60i – Tested, works in my A30
1280×1080x24p/30p/60i – Tested, works in my A30
1440×1080x24p/30p/60i – Tested, works in my A30 and Eugenia’s A2 and A3
1920×1080x24p/30p/60i – Tested, works in my A30

Also, GUI for DVDAuthor can be used in place of DVDAuthorGUI. It makes menu-making a bit more convenient.

If you are planning to put more than one resolution on the same disc, I strongly suggest using GUI for DVDAuthor and checking “use titlesets” under the project preferences.


um3k/JPhillips89 wrote on February 20th, 2008 at 3:12 PM PST:

Also, forgot to mention: I created an ISO file of my test disc, if anyone wants to test it on their player, here is a rar archive of the file.

By some miracle of compression, this is a 865MB file in a 4MB package (!!!). It might take some time to decompress.

The test patterns are nothing special, their sole purpose is to demonstrate that the full resolution is being achieved. The first three videos have a framerate of 60p, the remaining four (1080p) are 30p.

Name your player and whether this disc works in it.

WARNING: I suggest you do not try this in anything that’s not meant to play HD DVDs. I don’t know exactly what it would do to a SD DVD player, but it might be very bad.


This is the admin speaking...
Eugenia wrote on February 20th, 2008 at 3:51 PM PST:

BTW guys, please use HTML for links on my blog, don’t copy/paste links like that.


um3k/JPhillips89 wrote on February 20th, 2008 at 3:58 PM PST:

Sorry. Guess that’s what that small red text above this box is referring to. *smacks his forehead*


um3k/JPhillips89 wrote on February 20th, 2008 at 6:05 PM PST:

Update: My cousin tried the test disc in his XBox 360 add-on. 480p60 (both), 720p60, and 960x1080p30 worked, but the higher resolutions caused the 360 to lock up. More tests to come at a later time.


viperdqn wrote on February 21st, 2008 at 6:08 PM PST:

I don’t this is the so-called 3XDVD which is defined by HD DVD (true HD DVD contents, ADV_OBJ and HVDVD_TS folders with XPL, MAP, EVO and VTI files on DVD5 or DVD9 media)


um3k/JPhillips89 wrote on February 21st, 2008 at 6:28 PM PST:

You’re correct, it is not true 3XDVD. But as I’ve said elsewhere, it is free and it works. That’s all that really matters.

I’ve decided to call it 2X DVD, to distinguish it from other techniques.

By the way, I take back what I said about GUI for DVDAuthor. It kind of works, but not as well as DVDAuthorGUI. 720p authored with GfD doesn’t display a time code on my A30, but 720p authored with DAG does. I think GfD mucks up the timestamps or something…


Michael wrote on February 21st, 2008 at 7:24 PM PST:

Quick comment in regards to bitrate. I was stupid enough to buy Ulead VideoStudio 11 Plus (utter piece of crap from UI standpoint), and I have burned several HD DVD – compliant disks on regular DVD blanks. Tested on my Toshiba A2.

DVD-RW and DVD+R work well up to about 13500Mpbs, then stutter. DVD-R, burned at 4x speed (that is, at slowest possible) works up to 25000Mbps with just small half-a-second stuttering in the very beginning. Tested both 1440 and 1920 using source files from HG10 and CX7.


hitek wrote on February 22nd, 2008 at 8:22 PM PST:

I was wondering if there was any way to compress the mpeg2 video so I can fit more HD video onto a regular dvd, more than the 25 minutes that i can barely squeeze in.


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Eugenia wrote on February 22nd, 2008 at 9:45 PM PST:

This is already discussed in the article. You simply use lower bitrate, so the filesizes are smaller. But with this, you end up with lower quality too. So you will have to find a balance.


viperdqn wrote on February 22nd, 2008 at 11:27 PM PST:

Questions for Michael: What software and burner did you use to burn your HD DVD compliant contents to DVD blanks that are playable with A2? If you use Nero, do you have to enable the “Xbox compliant” option and/or change the book type? Also which UDF version?

Thanks in advance.


Michael wrote on February 23rd, 2008 at 3:30 PM PST:

viperdqn, can you read? I wrote in the very first sentence, it is Ulead VideoStudio 11 Plus. I have no idea what low-level options Ulead uses. The only recording option I can choose is burning speed.

For lower bitrate one could try Nero 8, it can burn AVC. I have never tried it myself. Also, Sony Vegas 8 can output in AVC, I tried it, works well, but it always reencodes video, even if the source is AVCHD. I don’t know how to make it to not reencode AVCHD, seems that with VBR codecs this can be an issue, on the other hand Vegas could do a quick bitrate analysis and if clips are more or less compatible, just glue them together.


africanmarty wrote on February 23rd, 2008 at 7:40 PM PST:

hello just copied this from my log from dvdauthorgui and in the log it says:

INFO: Resolution: 720×576

what the ?? does this down res the file ??? as the file is 1440×1080 ! or is it tricking the software to run it ?

DVDAuthorGUI 1.014 – 7/10/2007
Send problems with DVDAuthorGUI to
***please wait while the titles are multiplexed.
*authoring title(s)…..
DVDAuthor::dvdauthor, version 0.6.14.
Build options: gnugetopt iconv freetype
Send bugs to

INFO: Locale=C
INFO: Converting filenames to US-ASCII
INFO: dvdauthor creating VTS
STAT: Picking VTS 01

STAT: Processing C:\Documents and Settings\Owner\Desktop\video\output retest.mpg…
STAT: VOBU 16 at 25MB, 1 PGCS

INFO: Video pts = 0.184 .. 12.504
INFO: Audio[0] pts = 0.184 .. 12.472
STAT: VOBU 21 at 36MB, 1 PGCS

INFO: Generating VTS with the following video attributes:
INFO: MPEG version: mpeg2
INFO: TV standard: pal
INFO: Aspect ratio: 16:9
INFO: Resolution: 720×576


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Eugenia wrote on February 23rd, 2008 at 7:50 PM PST:

No it does NOT down-res the file. DVDAuthorGUI gets *fooled* that this is a compliant DVD mpeg2 stream, while it’s HD. There is no re-encoding going on.


africanmarty wrote on February 23rd, 2008 at 8:35 PM PST:

ok cool, thanks for confirming.


viperdqn wrote on February 24th, 2008 at 10:50 PM PST:

michael, no need to get testy 🙂 not everyone knows how UVS11 works. It would still be helpful if you could use tools like DVDinfo to tell what the low level parameters are.


Kris wrote on February 26th, 2008 at 6:38 PM PST:

Quicktime HD files can also be turned into HD-ish DVDs this way. If you have Quicktime Alternative installed, simply create an AVISynth script with a single line, like so:

DirectShowSource(”C:\path\to\movie.mov”)

Note: I recommend using the “mov” extension, because for some reason I was having trouble getting files with the “hdmov” extension to transcode properly. YMMV.

This AVISynth file can then be loaded into HCEnc directly. It can also be loaded into something like VirtualDub to extract the audio into a separate file that BeLight can handle. Follow step 7 from there, and enjoy!


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