Guided Tour

Welcome to DVDAfterEdit. The aim of this page is to get you "up and running" as quickly as possible with a guided tour of the program's interface. If you aren't yet a licensed owner, please feel free to download the Demo Version and try it out on one of your DVDs.

Throughout the tour, click on the images and then "View original" to examine the interface in detail.

1 - Introduction- what does DVDAfterEdit do ?

Main Window - Katatonia Live

What does DVDAfterEdit do ? The short answer is - almost everything your current authoring application doesn't.

Since DVDAE allows editing of almost any aspect of the DVD spec, there are very few things it can't accomplish. It is known throughout the industry as the most reliable pre-mastering solution available, writing both DLT tapes and DDP images for replication. Here are just a few ideas of the many possible uses for DVDAfterEdit.

  • Replace a copyright message, ident or logo on a DVD for re-release
  • Change the region code of a previously released DVD
  • "Trace" the DVD spec-commands of an existing DVD to learn how it was authored
  • Read a DLT tape back to hard drive and add CSS or Macrovision copy-protection
  • Make a "Play All" or "jukebox" playback option
  • Write fast, optimised code, indistinguishable from that produced by the most expensive authoring systems
  • Check project commands for build problems and navigation errors
  • Select or create a layer-break location and write DLT master tapes with complete confidence

  • These operations and many more are all possible after you finish authoring - so for example you can add CSS and Macrovision copy-protection to a DVD even if your normal authoring software doesn't support them. DVDAfterEdit can be used in combination with your normal authoring application, for example DVD Studio Pro, but is equally capable of working on titles which have been already been released. It is not necessary to have access to the original assets or authoring files. The program is so flexible that even now, five years after it was introduced, people are still finding new ways of using it to enhance their authoring methods.

    2 - Guided Tour - An overview of the interface

    This section will aim to give you a brief overview of the software and some of it's features. Much more detail is given in the many specific articles on the site- there are links to these in later sections. If you haven't already, please feel free to download the Demo Version and open one of your own DVDs to see how it works, if you like. If you have already bought a license and plan to save any changes, we always recommend you work on a copy of the original files.

    Opening a VIDEO_TS folder

    After running DVDAE, you are asked to browse to a VIDEO_TS folder ( a "project" ) to open. This can be generated by any authoring application, or from any non-encrypted commercial DVD you have copied to your hard drive. You can select either the VIDEO_TS folder itself, or the folder it is contained in - the "enclosing folder". DVDAfterEdit uses the name of this folder as the project name, and stores individual preferences for it. You can even mount a disc image and open that, if you like. It's also possible to open several projects simultaneously, and copy and paste elements from one to another - for example, navigation commands - see below. Once you have chosen the disc to open, DVDAE's Main Window will open.

    The Main Window

    DVDAE's main window is divided into two "panes". The Left Pane is the Browser, where you select which aspect of the DVD you want to examine, and the Right Pane is the Editor, where almost any detail of the DVD can be modified. The Editor also includes the Preview window. The preview window shows any video contained in the Left-Pane selection, and is probably the quickest way to "get your bearings" in a DVD. Structural edits, which change the actual layout of items on the disc, are carried out in the Left Pane, while more detailed edits to these elements - like command editing, or changes to menu buttons - are carried out in the Right Pane.

    To begin our tour, in the Left Pane select the item labelled Video Title Sets. Each VTS corresponds to a different Video Object or VOB file in the VIDEO_TS folder. Each can have unique video, audio and substream properties - exactly how the assets are allocated to each VTS depends on the authoring application and author. For example, DVD Studio Pro automatically allocates each "track" it's own VTS.

    Click the small arrow to the left of this node - the arrow is called a "twirly", and unfolding a node in this way is known as "twirling". Next click on the VTS 1 twirly. You'll see one or more PGCs. PGC stands for Program Chain, and is a basic building block of all DVDs. Roughly speaking, the PGC determines which chapters in a VTS will play back, and in which order. If you use "playlists" or "stories" to play chapters in a different order, then each of these will have it's own PGC.

    The Preview window

    Main window with button command editor

    Make sure you can see the preview window at the top of the Right Pane ( by twirling it open ) and select a PGC node in the Left Pane. Any video contained in the item you just selected will be displayed in the preview window. There is a good chance it will be black, since this is how most pieces of video on a DVD begin, but if you click the Play button or drag the slider under the Preview window you should soon see something familiar. VTS 1 typically contains either the "main show" of the disc, a copyright message or an ident, although every disc is different. Seeing how other authors choose to create their discs is a great way to learn about the details of DVD authoring at the specification-level, and it is knowledge like this which will take your authoring skills to the next level.

    Try unfolding a PGC node - this will reveal any chapters present. They will be listed as PTT 1, PTT 2 etc - PTT stands for "Part Of Title". Clicking on each will cause the Preview window to show only the selected chapter. If you can only see one chapter, try a different PGC or VTS. If you click a PGC's twirly, you will see any cells which make up that chapter. A cell is simply a section of video. ( In DVD Studio Pro, adding a marker to a track but unticking the chapter button creates a cell. ) Unfolding a cell reveals the navpacks - these are the smallest elements of the spec that we can access. Each one corresponds to a GOP ( Group Of Pictures ). GOPs are usually half a second long, although this is determined by the MPEG-2 encoding settings. When a navpack is selected, the preview window will only show the few frames of that GOP.

    Next try unfolding a Menu node. These are found in two places - the Video Manager (VMG) and the VTS Menus (VTSM). DVD Studio Pro usually puts all it's menus in VTSM 1. First you will see any languages which are present - unfold one and you are likely to see something new - dummy PGCs. A dummy PGC is simply a PGC that contains no video. However they are almost certain to include commands of one kind or another - see the next section. Opening PGCs will again reveal the navpacks - static menus will probably only have one, motion menus will have more. If you select one of the navpacks in the left pane you will be able to see information about it's buttons in the lower part of the Editor pane.

    Hopefully by now you're getting a feel for how DVDAfterEdit displays the different elements of the DVD structure. Next we'll see how those elements are linked together, but before moving on, please take a moment to try clicking around and previewing other items in the DVD structure. For example, see if you can find all the menus and important video elements of the DVD you are looking at. DVDAE is a tool which genuinely rewards experimentation and exploration - in fact, the details it reveals can be invaluable, both for troubleshooting and learning how to author better DVDs.

    The Command Editor

    As we have seen, PGCs tell the DVD Player which pieces of video to play, and in what order. Spec commands tell the player what to do before and after playing each PGC, using jumps, links or calls. They also allow control of DVD streams - audio, angles, subtiles and so on - and registers for more complex interactivity. We refer to them as "spec" commands because they are defined by the DVD Specification, and to distinguish them from the kinds of "scripting" commands you may already be used to from using other authoring systems.

    If you select a PGC in the Browser, you will probably see sections for pre-commands, post-commands and/or cell-commands in the Editor pane. As their names imply, pre-commands are executed before the video in the PGC is played, and post-commands are executed after all the video has been played - at the end of the PGC. Cell-commands are a little different in that they can be assigned to a specific cell in the PGC - often a chapter, as we saw above - which means they can be executed in the middle of the PGC's video playback. If you can't see any commands, try clicking on another PGC - or, if all else fails, on the First Play PGC, at the very top of the Left Pane. If there aren't any commands there, the DVD simply won't do anything when you put it in a DVD player !

    It's beyond the scope of this tour to look at spec commands in much detail, but it's worth looking at the Command Editor before we move on. There are two different ways to edit the commands of a PGC - either by simply clicking on a command and typing ( the command will be highlighted in pale blue ) or by using the contextual editor. To access this, click the twirly to the left of an existing command. ( If the pre, post or cell-command area of a PGC is selected, you can add a new command by pressing Apple-K ) The command editor will open, showing various drop-down menus for command options. Play around with this - notice how it ensures you enter a correctly formatted command, and how different options become available depending on your choices. Alternatively, if you choose to type your commands directly, they will be parsed as you type, and error messages will be displayed if appropriate. All of which means it's near impossible to enter a spec-invalid command, or one that doesn't make sense in your project.

    Tracer, the DVD Player and Debugger

    DVDAfterEdit includes a fully featured DVD Player simulator and debugging tool called Tracer. It is a key part of most users' workflow, and a powerful tool for testing your work and learning about high-end DVD authoring.

    If the disc you are looking at was authored in a "spec" application like Scenarist or DVD Creator, then pre and post commands can often be quite sparse and straightforward. If, on the other hand, it was created using DVD Studio Pro, Spruce Maestro or any of the other "wysiwyg" style authoring systems, then the commands may well be very numerous and difficult to interpret. This is because applications like these use an Abstraction Layer approach to authoring. ( See Section 3, below ) How do you find your way through the maze of commands you are presented with ? The answer is Tracer, DVDAE's built in debugging and emulation tool. You can start it from the Tracer menu, or using the shortcut Apple-G.


    Tracer packs a great deal of information into a small space, so to begin with let's concentrate on the bottom left-hand corner. The black rectangle is where button highlights will be displayed. Directly above it are a set of buttons which determine the different "modes" Tracer can operate in. To begin with, drag the trace speed slider across to the right ( "fast" ) and click Run. In Run mode, Tracer emulates a DVD Player. You will see an arrow moving quickly through lists of Pre and Post-commands in the window above the buttons, and video previewing in the lower right-hand corner. All being well, you will see navigation proceed through to the DVD's main menu, if there is one. You can use the arrow keys in the Remote area of the window to control the DVD - notice that the button highlights displayed as white outlines in the smaller window, and the currently selected button is solid white. At the top of the Remote area of the Tracer window you can see the various Menu keys - the one labelled Root corresponds to the normal Menu key on a DVD remote.

    There are several immediate uses for Tracer - most obviously being to test if commands that you have written or edited work as you expect, but another one is simply to quickly find a particular sesset. So for example, while Tracer is previewing a piece of video you would like to know the location of, click the Find button. This will automatically highlight the item Tracer is currently displaying in DVDAE's Main WIndow. This can be very useful - rather than having to click through all the items in the Browser to find what you need, simply navigate to the one you want in Tracer and Find it.

    Another important role for Tracer is the "detective" work needed when first starting a project where changes need to be made. For example, to simply insert a new logo or ident in a disc, the procedure would be something like:

  • Identify the piece of video which will be after the new ident
  • Click the Back button - Tracer will display the last command executed.
  • Click the Find button and move to the Main Window. The correct PGC will be selected - you can now add commands to re-direct navigation to the new ident

  • For more complex titles, you may need to identify exactly which GPRMs are used to keep track of which variables in a disc - choices or scores in a game, for example, or selections in a "jukebox" feature. The two windows at the very top of the Tracer window display the contents of the GPRM registers on the right, and SPRMs ( System Parameters ) on the left. As you may know, SPRMs contain important parameters such as the current chapter, audio stream, angle and so on. When a change is made to an SPRM or GPRM, it's value is highlighted in red. If you click the Step button, Tracer moves slowly and carefully through the commands of a project one at a time. Stride moves quickly to the end of the current block of commands, and Alt-Stride jumps the video preview to the end of the current cell if you don't want to wait for the preview to complete.

    Take a little time now to experiment with Tracer an find out how it works. To finish this section of the tour it might be worth mentioning that since it displays all the button highlights in their own window, Tracer is also a great way of finding Easter Eggs !

    Editing Functions

    Hopefully by now you are feeling fairly confident with the DVDAE interface. However so far we have only just scratched the surface, because almost everything the interface shows can be changed. This access to almost any aspect of the DVD Spec is what makes DVDAfterEdit such an immensely powerful tool.

    There simply isn't enough space in this guide to give a full description of everything that DVDAfterEdit can do, however some of the most frequently used editing features are:

  • Replace VTS- use this to swap in a new ident, remove an FBI message or an edited version of a major asset.
  • Copy and Paste Project Commands - copy and paste all the commands in a project at once. This can be used to author a DVD in minutes, if the assets are laid out in a suitable template. Copying and pasting the commands from only a certain project element allows navigation to be preseved when replacing a VTS, for example. The commands can be exported to a text file for archiving or further editing.
  • Change the Region Coding
  • Enable or prohibit User Operations
  • Paste button commands to all the cells in a PGC at once using Paste deeply into, or change button colors.
  • Use the Program Map Editor to change the playback order of chapters in a PGC, or add new alternative playback "stories".
  • Project-wide validation - "Check All Commands For Errors", "Reset Seamless Playback to Rule", and "Validate and Regenerate Time Maps".
  • Import video objects (VOBs) from different DVD's, or from your favorite authoring application.

  • The Format/Copy Window

    DVDAfterEdit is known throughout the industry for it's robust, reliable pre-mastering capabilities. It can write both layers of a DVD-9 to DLT at the same time, restore tapes and disc images ready for alterations, add CSS or Macrovision, and verify it's own out put after writing for complete peace of mind. Go to the File menu and choose Format/Copy to open the mastering window. Notice that as well as easy access to all the copy-protection options, setting the layer-break is as easy as choosing the right location from a pull-down menu. Only legal choices are displayed, and blue indicator arrows in the Left Pane show all the possible locations - you can even add a new cell if there isn't a suitable one already, and double-check it's location using the Preview window. The current choice is shown with a red arrow.

    Here are some links to get you started using the mastering capabilities:

    DVDAfterEdit Pre-Mastering Introduction

    Format/Copy Dialog
    Disc Layout Graph
    Layer Breaks "in-context"
    Enclosing Folder names
    Project Files
    Step by step procedure for writing to DLT

    Important Notes:

    Why Adaptec SCSI Cards should not be used
    Adaptec and ATTO Drivers
    ISO, Joliet, and UDF
    Unix Permissions


    Hopefully by now you will have a good feel for the DVDAfterEdit interface, and some of it's capabilities. There are many excellent articles on the site with illustrations of different techniques and methods in the Articles and Tutorials section. The best advice we can give to new users is to just "dive in" - the best way to learn is to expore other DVDs, try things out, and ask questions in the Discussion Forum. We hope you enjoy using DVDAfterEdit and look forward to talking to you in the forums.

    Further Resources

    Here are some suggestions about what to look at next to gain a rounded view of all DVDAfterEdit's features:

    Introductory Articles

    Simple Spec Re-authoring Using DVDAfterEdit - An outstanding introduction to DVDAE's features by Ben Weinrach, showing how to create "lean, mean" and lightning-quick DVD Spec command navigation. A great place to start for both users of "Abstraction Layer" applications like DVD Studio Pro, and for experienced "Spec" authors alike. Highly Recommeded !

    Tracer Tutorial - A detailed examination of the Tracer interface.

    Simple Changes For Advanced Features - A different way of using DVDAE - rather than re-authoring from scratch, describes how it's possible get the best of both worlds by authoring with an "Abstraction Layer" application like DVD Studio Pro, and adding extra features using DVDAE. Contains a wealth of useful information for new users.

    Advanced Techniques

    Manipulating Menus

    Spec-Authoring Menu Transitions & A Multi Stream VTS