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Converting Anything to DVD on Mac Using Burn

For those of you who have been following along with this site, you may remember that I promised you some Mac tutorials to go along with the abundance of Windows tutorials that I have published. Well, here is my first Mac-based tutorial!

It’s about the use of the free software Burn and it’s uses in converting media files to DVD.

Getting Started

Okay, so first off make sure that you have a fresh copy of Burn. Install it, and open it. You will see a window like the one below. Now, as some of you may have noticed, I have the “Video” tab selected. This is the tab that we want if we want to use Burn’s DVD conversion features.
Main window

Setting Preferences

Now right off the bat, Burn’s defaults can be a little…paltry. So, let’s spice things up shall we! First off, in the dropdown menu just to the right of the project name, select “DVD-Video”.

Output format selection the in the main window under the Video tab.

Now, let’s edit Burn’s internal preferences. Open up Burn’s preferences by either pressing “Command + ,” or going up to Burn’s context menu and clicking “Preferences”.

The location of Burn's preferences menu.

Now, you should see Burn’s preferences window. Again, click on the “Video” tab. You will now see the window below.

The general preferences for Burn.
Set the “Region” setting to your specific DVD region (rule of thumb: US = NTSC, Europe = PAL).

When you have finished click over to the “DVD” sub-tab. You can leave most of these settings at default, but I went ahead and changed my audio codec to use AC3 (when is greatly more used than MP2). Feel free to change any of the other settings that you desire, such as looping the DVD (when the main movie finishes, it starts playback from the beginning) or forcing a specific Video/Audio bitrate (aka. quality).

In addition, you can preview what your output menu will be like using the dropdown menus and preview button at the bottom of the preferences window. I left mine at default, but feel free to experiment. When you are finished, simply close the preferences window.

DVD output specific preferences window

Adding Media

Okay, now that we have everything properly configured, it’s time to start adding our media files. You can do this in one of two ways: drag and drop, or using the ‘+’ button found in the bottom left hand corner of our main window. Navigate to your file and add it to the compilation. In this case, I added an MKV file.

Burn recognizes that MKV files are not compatible with the DVD spec, and offers to convert the file for us. Go ahead and click “Convert”.

Conversion Warning

You will be prompted for a location to store the temporary files. I went ahead and told it to use my Desktop, but use whichever location you prefer. Once you are finished, click “Choose”.

Output Selection

You will be presented with a progress bar like the one below. Simply wait for it to complete. The amount of time necessary for conversion depends on the power of your computer, along with the length of you media file. I converted a media file that was about 45 minutes long in about 7 minutes. Your results may very.

Encoding Progress

Rinse and Repeat

Once you have added one media file, you can go back and add more media files if you so desire. I just wanted to convert one, so I’m going to go ahead and click the big “Burn” button in the bottom right hand corner.

You will be presented with a burning settings window like the one below. The defaults should be fine, but again, feel free to adjust to your tastes. When you are done click “Burn”, wait a few minutes, and enjoy your fresh new DVD disk!

Burning Settings Window

A Quick Note

As some of you may have noticed in the comments below, it appears that Perian must be installed in order to convert MKV files to DVD.  It is also probably necessary for several other media formats as well. Perian is recommended in any event, as it allows you to play AVIs, MKVs and other video clips in any Quicktime-based media software.

  • Paul

    Just downloaded Burn after seeing this guide, but it doesn’t seem to like my h264 MKVs. When I go to select my files, the *.mkvs are greyed out. Dragging the flie to the UI does nothing.

    Am I missing something? Running version 2.4.1u and also tried g3.

  • Adub

    Paul, I’m able to convert h264 mkvs just fine. I also have Perian installed. Do you have Perian installed? I don’t know if that would be the reason why, but it’s a thought. I am running 2.4.1u

  • Paul

    I did not, I installed it and now it works great, thanks! Please amend your guide :)

  • HNW

    What’s Perian?

  • HNW

    Disregard. found and installed Perian

  • PorkPieHat

    Are we able to add separate, individual audio and video elementary streams to Burn? Can it decide on its own whether it should mux an H.264 video elementary stream and an AC3 audio elementary stream into whatever kind of container file is appropriate before converting that to an MPEG2, or instead to convert the individual streams to individual MPEG2 video and MPEG2 audio elementary streams (if there are such things), and then mux them into one MPEG2 file?

    I’d love to know if there are any Mac applications that can take individual unmuxed video and audio elementary streams (and perhaps subtitles) as inputs and mux/convert or convert/mux them into an MPEG2 before finally turning that into a DVD? Or do all apps that create DVDs require the input file to be a single previously muxed file of one kind of container or another (say, .mkv or .mp4, or whatever)?

    The few apps I’ve seen and used seem only to be organized around transcoding one filetype (say, .avi or .mp4) into a different filetype (say, .mkv or MPEG2 DVD). However, I just downloaded a free app called Datura ( that’s a front end for ffmpeg which is focused more on either muxing elementary streams into the final desired filetype or demuxing one filetype and then remuxing its streams into the final desired filetype, which seems like a very different philosophy. I assume that such a demux-remux process would completely avoid the loss of a whole generation of resolution/quality that is inherent in transcoding. However, I’m still a noob to this game, so I might be misunderstanding this entirely. Plus, I haven’t had time yet to try Datura, but I can’t wait! We should all download it and play around a bit to see if it’s practical.

  • Adub

    Okay, done!

  • Adub

    I’m afraid I don’t really know how to do this with burn. I believe that it is possible, considering that there is a “Mux separate audio and video files” option in the Burn Preferences. However, I have not had time to test it/see if it will do what you desire. That is the one thing about free Mac video tools. There aren’t that many, and many lack features that are available in abundance in Windows-based tools.

    But again, the option is still there. I however, cannot seem to find any documentation on its use.

  • PorkPieHat

    Well, I twice tested Datura’s different approach to making MPEG2 files for use in single-movie DVDs (mentioned above) by remuxing one each of the h264 video elementary streams and AC3 audio elementary streams that I had demuxed out of two different high quality Matroska (.mkv) movies using the latest versions of MKVtools (a very good tool) and MPEG Streamclip (one of the very best Mac video apps available — free or commercial!). I tried this two different ways with two different movies using instructions from two different How-To articles from two different high quality Mac-only video websites, each of which were replete with laudatory comments from advanced users. These tests (which at the same time are attempts to make good on promises made to my 5-year-old son) took two full days and nights and two of my last five nerves. Both failed. (And yes, I do have the Apple MPEG2 Component on my Macs, which both run OS 10.6.5).

    I may try one more time, in which case I’ll again report here on the results. Why would I again risk one of my last remaining nerves on such an experiment? Because most of the thousands of DVDs and Blu-ray Disks that are freely available via BitTorrent are not offered in a form that can be immediately re-imaged back into useable DVDs or Blu-ray Disks, and remuxing their unmolested audio/visual info back into imageable MPEG2 files of one type or another is the only way I can think of to reap BitTorrent’s bounty WITHOUT LOSING A GENERATION OF RESOLUTION, and I have already spent way too much of my children’s inheritance on a tits-up home entertainment system (which is why that loss of a generation of quality is so noticeable)!

  • Andy

    has anyone had any issues with the audio and video output after using burn? on my computer the video quality is great and the audio is perfect. But after i use burn on play the dvd on my tv the picture is zoomed in so you cant see the entire picture, and the audio is delayed (lips moving but no sound). I will try changing the audio codec to AC3 as per above, but still wondering about the picture.

    Thanks in advance

  • Adub

    Any luck?

    Usually if the DVD works correctly on your computer, but incorrectly on your DVD player, chances are that there is a problem/incompatibility with your standalone DVD player. Your idea of switching to AC3 was a good one.

  • Adub

    I can understand your pain. And what you desire is certainly attainable I know, through the use of Windows software. Mac is somewhat lacking on this front.

    So, did you have any success or tips to share?

  • terryj_videohelp_mac

    @ PorkPieHat:

    If I understand correctly, you want to take h.264 video and AC3 audio,
    and then transcode them into a MPEG-2 file to burn to a Single Layer (DVD-5) DVD?

    The audio you could strip out intact, but video encoded with h.264 codecs would have to be transcoded to fit a Single Layer DVD, which would result in some generational loss, even playing around with the bitrate settings
    on the Application used to do the Mpeg-2 transcoding.

    This can be accomplished in MpegStreamclip on the mac.

  • RandyW

    The audio in some of the movies I have converted using Burn (ie: mp4-to-avi) is out of sync with the video. Any ideas why that happens? Also, how does one burn a video that has a subtitle (.srt) file?

  • RandyW

    Oops… Meant to say mp4-to-mpg, not mp4-to-avi…

  • Adub

    Hmm… You are not the first to say that your audio has been out of sync. However, are you testing the output on your computer, or on a settop box? And are you using MP2 or AC3 audio?

  • RandyW

    The video is not out of sync until after I burn it. I played the burned video on my computer, but I have also tried playing off-sync videos in my dvd player and it was also out of sync. After reading the instructions on this site, I changed the audio setting from MP2 to AC3 and I’ll try burning it again.

    Any tips regarding subtitles?

  • Andy

    Adub – the sound issue is fixed, but i am still having problems with the video. The video itself plays on the computer just fine (not the DVD). When i burn the video to the dvd and then try and play it in a dvd player its missing about a one inch border on the video (like the camera is zoomed in), any way to fix that? i have 20 min videos that are in 720p mp4, when i convert them to avi the file size goes from 150-200 MB to 750-800 MB.

  • Adub

    The filesize sounds about right, maybe a little high but certainly not unheard of.

    I can’t be sure what is causing your cutoff border issue. What is strange is that it plays back just fine on your computer. When you say 1 inch border, do you mean around the entire video? Or just the top, bottom, top and bottom, left, right, etc?

    Did you use Burn to burn your disk, or another software program?

    And it is good to know that your audio issue is fixed!

  • Andy

    Yes – one inch border around the entire video, like the camera is zoomed in or something.

    Yes – i used burn to convert and burn

  • Adub

    Hmm… This is sounding suspiciously like a problem with your hardware player. Have you tried the disk on a separate player, like one at a friends house, or Best Buy for example?

    Also, make sure that you are using the correct frame format for your country. NTSC for the US, and PAL for Europe.

  • Andy

    No not yet, but not a bad idea, i will try that. I def have the format as NTSC.

  • vini

    I’m a newbie. I made a slideshow in IPhoto with pictures and music from my iTunes. The dvd plays nicely on my computer, but when I play it on the dvd player It cannot read it. what did I do wrong? My dvd players are quite a few years old could that be it. is there a version of burn I should have? I put the slideshow on my desktop and it says large.m4v what is that…help.

  • Adub

    .m4v files are not compliant with hardware DVD players. You didn’t actually make a DVD, you just encoded a M4V file, and then burned that data to a disk. You need to actually format it for DVD, which is where Burn comes in.

    Try following the tutorial above, and you should get the results you need.

  • Shill

    Any reason that the video, when played on the dvd player is black and white, but color on my computer?

  • Adub

    Hmm, the only reason that I can think of has to do with the connection between the set top box and the TV. Have you double checked your connections to make sure all necessary cables are fully plugged in?


  • Julia

    When BURN converts to an mpg from .mov, the quality reduces too much. My original mov file looks so much better. Are there settings in Burn I needed to change for optimum output?