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  1. Introduction.

    This tutorial will show you how to make an AVCD (which is basically a VCD 2.0 with added CDDA tracks). The resulting CD will act as a VCD in a DVD Player, home computer or standalone VCD player - but also play audio when played in a CD Player.

    It's widely acknowledged that VCDs are becoming a redundant technology, but so long as people still use CD Players to play music, an AVCD has an obvious benefit over DVD. An AVCD is also preferable to a CD+ (or Enhanced CD) as it doesn't require a home computer to play its video data - just a regular DVD Player.

    The AVCD may just be the last gasp of a previously dying format.

    Note that when played on a CD Player, you may have to skip past the data tracks, dependant on the CD Player's firmware. Some CD Players will recognise the VCD tracks as data and automatically play the first audio track, but in many players the data tracks will be played as silence. It appears that even commercially produced AVCDs require you to skip past the first one or two tracks on a CD Player. Here is an example from an AVCD currently for sale on eBay. Note the tracklisting of the bonus AVCD disc. To search for other AVCDs on eBay, use the search term "AVCD -VCD".

    Make sure that when you make cover artwork or labels for your disc, you clearly mark out the data tracks.

    Many people have reported buying commercially-provided AVCDs which do not display the data tracks as audio tracks, but at the time of writing this cannot be clarified. If anybody can add to this tutorial, explaining how to "hide" the data tracks from a CD Player, please feel free to add to this thread.

    The tools I will use in this tutorial are:

    Adobe Photoshop;
    VCDEasy (last freeware version);
    TMPGEnc (freeware version);
    svcdstl (freeware);
    Fireburner.

    You don't have to use Adobe Photoshop to create your images but I will be referring to it repeatedly, within this tutorial.

    Fireburner is commercial software and I have been unable to find a freeware equivalent which has the same features.

    The last freeware version of VCDEasy can be downloaded from here;
    The freeware version of TMPGEnc can be downloaded from here;
    svcdstl can be downloaded from here.

    It will be assumed that you already know how to extract WAV files from CD and already know how to make a VCD-compliant MPEG file using TMPGEnc.

    In this tutorial, I am going to have three audio tracks which will play on a CD Player and also have the same audio tracks accompanied by an on-screen menu image on a DVD Player. In addition to this, I'm going to add a title screen and video. You don't have to have the same audio tracks as CD and VCD items. You could have an artist's singles as the CD audio but then add remixes, live versions or B-Sides to the VCD part of the disc. Be creative!

    Creating VCD Menu Images

    Firstly, create your menus for the VCD.

    Regardless of whether you are making a PAL or NTSC AVCD, always use a size of 720 pixels wide by 540 pixels height with a resolution of 72 pixels an inch. 720x540 is exactly 4:3 ratio.

    You need to ensure that your images will not be cropped when displayed on a TV screen. The best way to avoid this is to use a guide like this one:



    Download the full-size 720x540 "TV Safe Guide" here.

    I'm not going to go into all the ins and outs of design, except to say that garish colours will bleed when displayed on-screen and heavy plain fonts work better than thin decorative fonts. Many imaging programs have an "NTSC Safe" filter which will replace garish colours with the nearest safe colour - this feature is also useful for PAL televisions - not just NTSC. A good tip is to just burn a jpeg of your work in progress to a rewriteable disc every time you make an alteration and view on your television.

    In Photoshop, create a new image sized 720x540 and with 72 pixels an inch resolution (or resize and crop an existing image) and then copy and paste the TV Safe Guide over the top.







    On Photoshop's Layers Menu, slide the opacity of the layer with the guide, about halfway.





    Remember when adding to your menu image, to highlight the Background layer on Photoshop's Layer Menu!



    When you're happy with your design, either delete or hide the layer containing the guide.





    Now, here comes the most important part of menu creation... Before saving your images you need to resize them without constraining the aspect ratio - in other words they're either going to get stretched (for PAL) or squished (for NTSC).

    Take the tick out of the "Constrain Proportions" box and adjust the height to 480 (for NTSC) or 576 (for PAL). In this tutorial, I am making an NTSC AVCD, so the image will be squished. Whether you choose to make a PAL or NTSC AVCD is of course dependant on the source-encoding of any video clips you may add.





    Always save your images as bitmap (BMP) files! Choose Photoshop's "Save A Copy" function and change the file extension in the drop-down box.

    A good tip to align text options in your menu screens is to do the following:

    Write out the full set of options in a vibrant colour;
    Write out each individual option on it's own layer;
    Drag the separate text layers over the vibrant text to align neatly and then delete the underlying vibrant text.







    Save the resultant image as a PSD file at least as many times as you have menu items (i.e. if you have four menu items as I have, save four uniquely-named PSD files). Save more times if you want to add other options (such as a gallery or "Play All" function).

    This will enable you to change the colour of each menu item's font whilst keeping them in place! On my AVCD, I want the text to display in white whilst that item is being played.



    Of course, you don't have to use text-based menu items or even use the same background image for each. It's completely up to you.

    Creating MPEG Stills With Music

    One of the great aspects of VCD and SVCD is the fact that MPEG Stills look as good as they do on DVD. It's also quite easy to embed audio into them.

    I'll assume that you've already ripped (or converted) your chosen audio track to a WAV file.

    Open up TMPGEnc and a "Project Wizard" may appear. If it does, just cancel it.



    Choose the Radio Button which states "ES (Audio Only)" and browse to your chosen WAV file. Once you have done this, press the "Setting" button.



    To make your AVCD's audio fully-compatible with all DVD players, choose the following options:

    MPEG-1 Audio Layer II
    44,100 Hz
    Stereo
    224 kbits per second
    Error protection enabled.



    Press the button marked "OK" and then the button marked "Start".

    By default, TMPGEnc saves converted files into the same folder as their source. So, you should now have a similarly-named WAV file and MP2 file in the same folder.

    Repeat this procedure for all of your menu items' audio tracks.

    Close TMPGEnc for the time-being and open VCDEasy.

    Within VCDEasy, choose the icon from the left menu, marked "Tools". Then, choose the button from the top menu marked "Mpeg Stills". Browse to your chosen Bitmap image and ensure you choose the following options:

    MPEG Still Type: VCD 2.0; High; The correct TV display format for your AVCD (PAL or NTSC);
    TV (Aspect Ratio Correction): Unchecked
    TV Cropping: 0%
    Mpeg Size (Quality): Max
    Resize Filter: "Do not maximise small images" should be checked.



    Once you're satisfied that you have chosen the correct options, press the button marked "Generate".

    Repeat this process for each image and then close VCDEasy.

    Open TMPGEnc once more and cancel the "Project Wizard" if it appears again.



    From TMPGEnc's top menu, choose "File", then "MPEG Tools..."

    Within the MPEG Tools sub-menu, click the tab marked "De-multiplex", browse to one of your MPEG Stills and then double-click each video stream. Click the "Save" button when it appears each time.



    You'll now have three similarly-named files within the same folder, one with a file extension of ".mpg" and two with a file extension of ".m1v". You can delete the ".mpg" file to avoid further confusion.

    As before, you need to repeat this process for all of your MPEG Stills.

    In basic terms, all "multiplex" means is "to join" and all "de-multiplex" means is "to split".

    Within the MPEG Tools sub-menu, click the tab marked "Multiplex". Change the type to "MPEG-1 Video-CD (non-standard)". Browse for one of the m1v files you made, choosing the filename with the suffix "-01" and add it. Next, browse for the matching m1v file which has the suffix "-02" in it's filename and add it. Finally, browse for your chosen MP2 file you made earlier and also add it. Press the "Run" button to save your MPEG Still with audio.

    Note that it's highly important that the m1v file with the smallest dimensions is added first in the list!



    As before, repeat the process for all the MPEG Stills you wish to embed with audio and then close TMPGEnc.

    Next, open up the svcdstl program, highlight one of your multiplexed files and click the button marked "Create". This program somehow patches the mpg file to make it VCD-compliant. The program will save the patched file in the same directory as the source file with the prefix "new." in it's filename. I'd recommend that you delete the original file and rename the new file to avoid confusion.



    The resultant file will be about the same size as a 256kbs mp3 file of the same length. As you can imagine, you could add a huge amount of still images with music to your AVCD, whilst still leaving room for a video clip (or two) and a handful of CDDA tracks. MPEG Stills without embedded audio take up barely any space and are great for band biographies, tour schedules, contact information, lyrics and so on... In addition to this, your finished AVCD will also play audio tracks on a CD Player.

    Authoring The VCD

    I won't go too in-depth here as VCDEasy is extremely easy to use. It may help to have a pad and paper handy though, to sketch out a rudimentary flowchart.

    I'll just point out the basics...

    Open up VCDEasy, click the icon marked "Settings" on the left menu, then the button marked "VCDEasy". Ensure that the Radio Button marked "BIN CUE" is selected.



    Next, press the button marked "(S)VCD Player" and ensure that your preferred TV system is chosen*.



    *This may be unimportant as it may over-ride every time you create a new project - but I always change this before starting a new project, just in case.

    Now, click the icon marked "(S)VCD" on the left menu, then the button marked "Main". Ensure that "VideoCD type" is VCD 2.0; no CD Writer is selected and the box which reads "Generate the XML file only" is unchecked.



    Click the button marked "Options" and check the two boxes under the "PBC" section. Change the "Time to wait after each Sequence/Segment by default" option to zero.



    You can leave the rest untouched here, unless you want to name your AVCD in the box marked "Album Name".

    I'm going to gloss over the buttons marked "Chapters" and "ISO Files" as this really is just a basic tutorial, but here's a brief summary of how each option could be useful:

    Chapters.

    If you wanted to add more than one video clip to your AVCD, the "Chapters" option would be utilised if you had (for example) three video clips lasting five minutes each... Every separate Motion MPEG you add will register as another data track on the finished AVCD (the MPEG Stills only register as one data track, regardless of how many you add). Instead of skipping over one or two data tracks on a CD Player, you would end up having to skip past four if you added three separate videos... So, what you'd have to do would be to join your three video clips using something like VideoRedo Plus (making one long video) and then use the "Chapters" button to "divide" into separate choices.

    ISO Files.

    If you wanted to ensure that your VCD content auto-runs when placed into a computer's CD drive, you could add this instruction to the AVCD's file-structure here.


    The button marked "Interactivity" is where you create the playing order of your VCD and how it responds to numerical key presses on a DVD Player's remote control. Choose an item from the "Play Item" drop-down box and then assign options to various key-presses. Ensure the "Use numeric keys" option is checked for your menu items and then check the box marked "Override this default assignment". You then simply click on the rows to the right of the screen to assign your choices. You'll soon get the hang of it.



    Back to the button marked "Main" at the top of the screen... This is where you will add your MPEG Stills and any video clip(s). You can simply drag your items to the window but make sure that you drag your MPEG Stills to the window first, whilst the button marked "Set newly added file as MPEG still, by default" is checked. Uncheck this box when adding any video clip(s). Always add your video last - you can rearrange the order under the "Interactivity" button once all your items are added.



    When you are satisfied with your VCD content's running order, press the button marked "Go" in the bottom right of the screen. VCDEasy will create an XML File, a Bin File and a CUE File. These will be saved in the location denoted under the option marked "Bin Output File".

    Close VCDEasy. You're nearly there!

    Adding CDDA Tracks and Burning To CD



    Open Fireburner, click "File" from the top menu and choose "Import Tracks from Cuesheet". Browse to the CUE File which VCDEasy generated and pick it. Click the "OK" button.



    You'll see the VCD content's Data Tracks listed. Note that the "Total Time" used by the VCD content is listed in the bottom-left corner of the screen. My example has only used approximately six minutes and 54 seconds of the CD's playing time, leaving space for seventy-three minutes and six seconds of CDDA tracks on an 80 minute CD.

    Click "File" once more and then "Load Tracks". You can basically add any regular CD-quality WAV files. There's no more special software required - thank God! Click the "OK" button.

    From the top-menu, click "Create CD" and then choose "Burn"...



    That's it! You've made your AVCD.

    Now, I would recommend that on your first attempt, you burn to a CDRW rather than a CDR, to ensure that the playing order and interactivity of the VCD content works as you expected on your DVD Player (as there's no point in wasting blank discs). If you're satisfied that the VCD content is fine, open your CUE File in Fireburner again and burn to a CDR. Many older CD Players will accept CDR but not CDRW discs. You may think that you've made an error if you try playing your AVCD in a CD Player and nothing happens, because you used a rewriteable CD. Always, always, always burn your finished project to CDR.
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  2. Member zeldAIS's Avatar
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    Just got around and searched my old topic regarding this and i found myself here - Wow! thank you! can't wait it to try this out!
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