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The Blank DVD may be one of the most important inventions since that of paper. It allows people to not only back up professionally produced content for which they own the rights, but also make their own discs containing original material made by themselves. For a blank DVD is just that, blank, until filled with data, and it takes authoring software to create the most interactive discs.

A blank DVD can be much more than paper, then, if used with a powerful piece of software that fulfills all the potential of the format. One of the most fascinating sub-topics in the wider matter of DVDs is that of authoring, or how DVD content is actually created. In this tenth installment in a series of articles on anything DVD, we will take a quick look at what DVD authoring is all about.

The first thing to know (besides that you need a blank DVD!) is that DVD authoring is distinct from MPEG encoding, though most authoring software now offer built-in encoders, though better quality encoders may still be used for even finer tuning. These applications are also unlikely to offer DVD-Audio authoring or encoding, focusing exclusively on video.

DVD authoring software for the average home user is relatively simple to use but do not offer the degree of control found in the proprietary packages used by industry; industrial-strength authoring software are actually closely-guarded secrets. Many consumer-grade applications do not conform as closely to the specifications as industrial varieties do (or conform only in certain respects but not others), yet there is also some disagreement as to what those specifications are, exactly, because they were originally developed in Japanese and various translations into American English exist.

Industrial authoring software also varied in the learning curve involved in their use, though all were very steep when compared against publicly available packages for average users. Whereas software for the consumer market may only take days to learn, those used in industry can literally take months of learning and practice. But while such a distinction in sophistication still exists between consumer-grade tools and industrial-strength ones, the line has been steadily blurring with the acquisition of industrial technology by personal computing companies bent on the home market. There are now even a range of free and shareware utilities that may be downloaded which allow non-experts to create simple DVDs or modify existing ones. When using such software, it is advisable to be aware of the limitations involved, due to licensing restrictions or the philosophical outlook of the programmer or programmers involved, with missing features like encryption and region-coding making them unsuitable for mass production. Examples of such applications include DVD Flick, DVDStyler, AVStoDVD, QDVD, DeVeDe, and DVD Slideshow, which are all open source software. On the opposite end of this spectrum lie the top-end packages of Sonic DVD Creator and Sonic Scenarist. Professional studios may also use Sonic DVDit Pro, Adobe Encore, and Apple DVD Studio. Popular home-authoring packages are Pinnacle Studio, Ulead DVD Movie Factory, and even Windows DVD Maker.