Compressor: DVD Compression Settings

[NOTE: I’m just finishing a complete training series on Compressor 4.1. Currently, this is available to subscribers only. After the first of the year, it will be in our store.]

One of the most common compression questions I get is how to compress files for a DVD. I’ve covered this a lot in my video training, but haven’t written about this for several years. This article explains what you need to know using both Compressor 4.1 and Compressor 4.0.

NOTE: DVDs are always and only standard-definition video. Compressing HD media for a DVD always converts it to standard-def. If you need to burn HD media onto an optical disc, you need to create a Blu-ray, or AVCHD Disc. (The HD-DVD format listed in DVD Studio Pro is a dead format that can only be played on a Macintosh, and nothing else.)



A new feature in Compressor 4.1 is Destinations. A Destination combines both a compression setting and a job action that does something with the file once compression is complete. In this screen shot, the Create DVD destination is highlighted.

The benefit of Destinations is that they compress and burn a single movie to a disc with one setting.

To apply a Destination, drag the “Create DVD” destination on top of the job.


This applies two compression settings and a job action to burn the actual disc itself:

Authored DVDs use MPEG Elemental files, which means that the audio and video are separated into different files during compression, then combined during the final building process of the DVD; a process called “mixing.”

Open the Inspector by clicking the icon (blue in this example) in the top right corner of Compressor, or type Command+4, then click the Audio text button at the top.

All the audio compression default settings are fine, except for three (unless you mixed the audio in a Dolby-certified environment, in which case, leave these on):

This turns all three of these settings off.


Select the MPEG-2 for DVD setting applied to the job, then click the Video text button at the top.

A new feature in the 4.1 update is Automatically select bit rate. This setting is on by default. What this does is automatically set the bit rate for the video file to get the highest quality based on the available space on the disc. However, this setting assumes you are only burning one movie to a DVD. This is the best choice when you are burning a single movie, but not a good choice when authoring several movies to a disc.

NOTE: Keep in mind that if you want to burn multiple movies to a disc, you need to use an authoring program like Adobe Encore or DVD Studio Pro; you can’t use Compressor.

My recommendation, when you need to compress multiple movies to burn to a disc, is to change the compression settings to:

NOTE: These settings apply to both PAL and NTSC media.

The rest of the video settings are fine. This allows up to 90 minutes of media on a single-layer, single-sided disc, or up to 3 hours on a dual-layer, single-sided DVD.


In Compressor 4, the changes are similar, but the interface is different.

In the Settings window, inside the Apple folder is Disc Burning. Drag the Dolby Digital Professional and MPEG-2 for DVD settings on top of your clip in the Batch window. (The H.264 setting is only used for Blu-ray Discs.)

In the Batch window, select the MPEG-2 for DVD setting that is applied to the clip, then click the Encoder tab in the Inspector. Click the dark Auto-Sensor just to the right of the Average Bit Rate entry box. (This is only useful when burning one movie onto the DVD.) When this sensor is dark, it is on. When it is light gray, it is off. In this screen shot, it is turned on (dark).

Then, make the following changes:

NOTE: These settings apply to both PAL and NTSC media.

As with Compressor 4.1, this allows about 90 minutes of material on a single-layer, and 3 hours of material on a dual-layer DVD.

Next, go back to the Batch window and select the Dolby Digital setting applied to the clip. Then, in the Inspector > Encoder > Audio tab, set Dialog Normalization to -31.

NOTE: Yes, I know. This is weird number. But the explanation of how this works would require another article.

Click the Preprocessing tab…

And change the Compression preset to None. This disables light audio levels compression that is being applied by this encoder.

And that’s it.

To learn more about Compressor 4, I invite you to become a subscriber, or check out the Compressor 4 training in our store.


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55 Responses to Compressor: DVD Compression Settings

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  1. Willy says:

    Hi Larry,

    When I burn a DVD with Toast, the M2V and the AC3 file don’t mux, I dragged them both into the DVD option. I’m sure I’m missing something obvious but I can’t figure it out. Any ideas? Thanks.

    • Larry says:


      Hmmm… I’m not sure Toast actually muxes. Whenever I use Toast to create a DVD, I’ve already created the DVD image using DVD Studio Pro.

      Check the Roxio website and make sure that muxing is part of its plan.


  2. Skip Hall says:

    Oh good grief, Larry! Please tell me that I didn’t just buy ANOTHER $50 worth of software that won’t meet my needs!
    Am I to gather from this exchange, that Compressor 4.2 will not create compressed files that I can import into DVDSP? It yields a .m2v video file, and a .ac2 audio file, just like I have always used for import into DVDSP in the past, right? Surely Apple isn’t trying to put my company COMPLETELY out of business here! What am I doing wrong?
    Skip Hall
    Homeworks Video Productions
    Suffolk, VA.

    • Larry says:


      Hmmm… You are misunderstanding. DVD Studio Pro needs the .m2v and .ac3 audio files, same as always. It then combines them during the process of creating the DVD into the final form burned onto a DVD.

      In this regard, Compressor 4.2 works the same as all earlier versions and should create exactly the same files. What problems are you seeing?


  3. Marquita says:

    What is the best method to burn a Dual Layer DVD with a single movie file which is 2hours and 30 minutes?

    iDVD and DVD Studio Pro burned discs but both versions get stuck in the middle of the movie playback on my clients DVD Player (stand alone unit and on their Mac laptop)

  4. Emad says:

    Hi I have problem my receiver show automatically Dolby digital sign if I played or connect it with movie stream

    But when I played any authorized DVD I don’t get this
    Even my subwoofer not get any audio

    I used compressor I did the right setting for audio
    With 6 audio files and get the final AC3 file

    And I authorized the DVD using DVD pro
    But all the tests of the final DVD makes the receiver turn to pcm mode .

    Where is the problem ?

    Thank you for your help

    • Larry says:


      I’m not sure I have a definitive answer. My first thought is to be SURE the AC3 file that you are creating is surround, and not stereo.

      Verify your DVD connections work by playing a commercial DVD containing surround sound. This will make sure that all your connections, amplifiers and speakers are working properly.

      Finally, PCM means uncompressed audio. You can verify that you have the proper file by checking the extension of the audio file created by Compressor. If it has an AC3 extension AND the file size is about 1 MB per minute of presentation, you have an AC3 file. If the file size is about 10 MB per minute of presentation, then you have a PCM file.


      • Emad says:

        Thank you Larry

        Yes I am very sure about it is AC3 file 5.1
        But it is like there is no header to switch the receiver
        To the Dolby digital

        I repeat the encoding in Vegas pro 10 but I got the same problem with the final DVD .

        Can DVD pro made this problem in formating the DVD ?

        Is there any special setting for it to format video DVD with 5.1 audio ?

        The receiver works fine with play station Netflix
        But when I use it as DVD player to test the DVD
        Only I have 5 channels and no lfe comes out .
        And the receiver turn to pcm

        I will try other commercial DVD as you advised me .


  5. horatiu says:

    Is it possible to make a DL DVD using compressor 4.2? Can I use Create DVD directly? Do I make my own preset?
    Thank you Larry

    • Larry says:


      Hmmm… I’m not sure. Theoretically, yes. Compressor should be smart enough to create a dual-layer DVD when you are burning your movie.

      However, I’ve never used Compressor to do this. My suggestion is to try it and see what happens – the worst that happens is that the DVD won’t play in a TV.


  6. Marlene says:

    Hi Larry, People had questions about Burning the files to a DVD disk.

    I just wanted to add that when using Compressor 4.1.3, I set up the “Create DVD” settings as you suggested and when I clicked “Start Batch” it asked for a DVD.

    I popped one in and it burned it right from Compressor, and it appears to work on a DVD player.

  7. I’m trying to burn a 2-hour film to a *single*-layer DVD. These settings, as you know/state, will only get me 88 minutes… What settings would I use to get 2 hours onto a single-layer? Am I looking at *massive* quality loss to do this?

    • Larry says:


      You’d probably need a data rate around 4 mbps and, while it won’t look awful, it also won’t look great. Dual-layer discs are a much better option with a data rate around 7.5 mbps.


  8. How do I save this Create DVD as a preset so I dont’ have to make this changes each time?

  9. Stuart Baker says:

    To my ear, and admittedly on just one TV system, the setting “film compression” seemed to help with the audio. “No compression” has a shrill echo sound to it. What is it that “film compression” is applying to the audio?

    • Larry says:


      Film compression changes the audio levels – not data compression – in a mix. It is similar to the hard limiter or multiband compressor. When applying it, you should hear a change in level and a somewhat “louder” feeling. The echoes you mention in “No compression” puzzle me. No compression means that your audio is not being processed at all.


  10. Michael West says:

    Good morning.
    I sent a project from FCPX 10.2.2 to Compressor 4.1.3 (via ‘Send To Compressor’) to create a DVD.
    Used information found in a video (#273) from to change the output video setting in Compressor to Two Pass VBR (Best).
    Worked beautifully. Made multiple copies with great resolution.
    I then later sent a different project (same play, different night) to Compressor and it wouldn’t burn a DVD, in fact just created an .m2v and .ac3 file.
    Other projects I have tried to send end up the same.
    Does anyone know why it would work once, but not again?
    Thanks for any help.

    • Larry says:


      I don’t have an exact answer – you may need to contact Apple Support.

      However, before you do, try exporting your movie from FCP X as a Master File. Then, import that Master File into Compressor and create the DVD. It may be that the problem is with the FCP X export, rather than the compression.

      If not, time to call Apple.


      • Michael West says:

        Made a Master File, but it still didn’t burn a DVD from Compressor.
        Guess it’s time to bother Apple.

        • Michael West says:

          I may have found something.

          When I bring the misbehaving project into Compressor from FCPX, make the settings to DVD, click on the ‘Create DVD” box containing the .ac3 & .m2v files, in the right column, under ‘Job” it says “Encoded 1920×1080, Display 1920×1080 px (1440×1080), Square, Top First, 29.97fps”

          For the one that works, under “Job” it says: “Encoded 1440×1080, Display 1920×1080 px (1440×1080), Progressive, 29.97fps”

          I see where to change the “Top First” designation to “Progressive” (File Properties/Field Order).

          Where would I change (or do I) the “Encoded 1920×1080…” for the bad one?

          Thanks for your patience.

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