[Windows] Best free DVD authoring program (i.e. create movie DVD with menu from MP4, AVI, WMV, FLV, MOV, etc.)

Who knows the difference between burning DVDs and authoring DVDs? Burning DVDs consists of two things; you can either burn a data DVD (i.e. you put files, movies, music, etc. onto a DVD and it is only viewable on your computer — like a USB drive) or you can burn a movie DVD. The catch with burning movie DVDs is the movies you are burning to DVD must already be in DVD compliant format (i.e. DVD folders or .VOB) and burning movie DVDs does not allow you to have DVD menus. If you burn a non-DVD format video onto a DVD with a DVD burning program, the DVD you create won’t be a movie DVD — it won’t be able to be played on most DVD players. Rather, you will be creating a data DVD that is only viewable on your computer.

Authoring DVDs, on the other hand, allows you to create a movie DVD (a DVD playable in any DVD player) from any video format (AVI, MP4, WMV, FLV, VOB, etc.). DVD authoring programs convert videos into DVD compliant format and then burn them to DVD to create a movie DVD that is playable on any DVD player; DVD authoring programs also create DVD menus, with most even allowing you to customize that menu.

DVD burning programs are a lot more popular than DVD authoring programs. In fact, the programs featured in dotTech’s review on best free CD/DVD/Blu-ray burning program for Windows are all DVD burning programs, not DVD authoring programs. So we decided it is time for us to research, review, find, and list the best free DVD authoring programs for Windows. Interested? Read on!

This review is part of our Best Free Windows Software section. Check out more articles on the best free Windows programs from here.

Table of Contents [WinX DVD Author vs AVStoDVD vs DVDStyler vs DVD Flick]

Best Free DVD Authoring Program

2013-04-12_213039Program Name: WinX DVD Author

Developer: Digiarty Software

Download Size: 10.6MB

Version Reviewed: 6.2.4 Build 20130118

Supported OS: Windows 98/NT/2000/2003/XP/Vista/Win 7/Win8

Pros

  • Allows users to create movie DVDs (aka DVDs that can be played on any DVD player) from almost any video format: VOB, MKV, M2TS, M4V, AVI, ASF, MP4, MPEG, MOD, MOV, WMV, FLV, RM, RMVB, Xivd, DviX, H264, 3GP, OGG, and QT
  • You can include multiple different videos in one DVD; you are not restricted to creating one DVD out of one video only
  • Will burn to DVD disc from within the program; you don’t need a third-party program to do the burning
  • Creates DVD menu for DVDs (including title menu chapter menu), allowing users to customize: background image, buttons, background audio, and background text
  • Can create NTSC and PAL DVDs
  • Can create DVD-5 and DVD-9 DVDs
  • Allows users to pick if they want 4:3 or 16:9 aspect ratio, and automatically adds letterbox for input videos of different ratio
  • Input videos can be trimmed to only include a specific portion of video in DVD
  • Allows users to add subtitles (SRT) for each input video
  • When burning to DVD disc, allows users to pick if they want high video quality (slowest burning speed and largest size), normal video quality (medium burning speed and medium size), or lower video quality (fastest burning speed and smallest size)
  • Has a standalone built-in video-to-VOB converter for those that want their videos in DVD compliant VOB format but don’t necessarily want to burn to disc
  • Has a standalone built-in VOB-to-DVD-folder converter for those that want their DVDs to be in DVD folder with DVD menu but don’t necessarily want to burn to disc
  • Has a built-in standalone DVD burner that burns DVD folder and VOB (i.e. files already in DVD compliant format) to DVD disc
    • Note: This feature is intended for use with the video-to-VOB converter and VOB-to-DVD-folder converter. The idea is you can use this feature to burn to disc at a later date, if you wish, after using one of those two features
  • Extremely easy to use
  • Performs well; relatively fast and good output

Cons

  • Is unable to output DVD as ISO
    • Note: You can use freeware ImgBurn to create an ISO after creating DVD-folder, if you really want an ISO
  • It would be nice to be able to do video-to-DVD-folder instead of having to do video-to-VOB and then VOB-to-DVD-folder if you want to have DVD folder output
  • No ability to automatically shutdown computer after processing
  • No 2-pass encode
  • No offline help (although the program really doesn’t need it — it is very straightforward and easy to use)
  • Has a built-in YouTube videos downloader. Some people may consider having a YouTube video downloader as a plus but this is a DVD authoring program, not a online streaming video downloader. A YouTube downloader is an extra feature that is not related to the core functionality of WinX DVD Author. While the dowonloader works just fine, it just adds unnecessary bulk to the program; users who want to download YouTube videos can easily use other programs intended for that purpose.
  • Unable to resize program window
  • No ability to add custom sound tracks to videos in DVDs

Discussion

I came across Digiarty Software a few years back. Back then, they were a relatively unknown outfit with OK products; not too bad but not great either. Since then, however, Digiarty Software has matured and grown; if you ask me, their products are, simply put, the best in business. WinX DVD Author, one of the handful freewares offered by Digiarty Software, is no exception — it, too, is excellent.

All the DVD authoring programs featured in this review can create movie DVDs out of DVD and non-DVD video formats; after all, that is the whole point of this article. So WinX DVD Author’s ability to do that is not what makes it the best. Rather, out of all the free DVD authoring programs I tested to find the best, none come close to striking the extremely important balance of user-friendliness, customization, and good performance as much as WinX DVD Author. True, WinX DVD Author doesn’t provide deep customization options that you find in AVStoDVD (the runner up). But WinX DVD Author provides the customizations that the average Joe needs when creating a movie DVD (and, frankly speaking, understands — AVStoDVD has a lot of customizations but you really need to know what you are doing to use them) while still maintaining ease-of-use. Indeed, it only takes a few clicks to author a DVD with WinX DVD Author.

The best part? WinX DVD Author works very well; it is relatively fast with good outputs.

Really the only gripe I have with WinX DVD Author is the fact that it is unable to output DVDs as ISO. With WinX DVD Author, you can either burn directly to DVD disc or output as DVD folder by using the video-to-VOB and VOB-to-DVD-folder features. On the bright side, you can use another freeware — ImgBurn — to create an ISO after you output as DVD folder, if that is really important to you.

Overall, if you are looking to author DVDs then WinX DVD Author should be your first stop. Excellent program.

Runner Up

2013-04-12_195638Program Name: AVStoDVD

Developer: avstodvd

Download Size: 40.6 MB (installer), 27.2 MB (portable)

Version Reviewed: 2.6.0

Supported OS: Windows 95/98/ME/2000/XP/Vista/Win7

Discussion

If you are looking for a feature-filled DVD authoring program, look no further than AVStoDVD.

AVStoDVD is an open-source DVD authoring program that leverages the power of other free/open-source libraries and programs to provide a DVD authoring program jam-packed with features and customization options. AVStoDVD is able to create movie DVDs from pretty much all video formats (AVStoDVD uses FFmpeg, among other libraries, so it supports most, if not all, formats: MP4, AVI, WMV, FLV, MOV, VOB, MPEG,, MKV, etc.), allows you to include multiple videos in one DVD, and can burn to DVD disc, output as DVD folder, or output as DVD ISO.

Furthermore, DVD-5 and DVD-9 are supported; NTSC and PAL are supported; you can add subtitles; you can add custom audio; DVD menu is automatically created with you having the option to customize; 2-pass encode is supported; you can customize aspect ratio; you can customize bitrates; and more. Best of all, AVStoDVD has a portable version, can do 2-pass encode, plus supports batch processing: you can queue up multiple movie DVD creations and AVStoDVD will create them one after another.

The biggest problem with AVStoDVD is it has a poor user-interface and has so many customization/options, it isn’t very user-friendly. I’m not saying that the program is unusable; it is useable. I’m saying that it has a learning curve.

The other issue with AVStoDVD is it has four dependencies. You need to install AviSynth, Haali Media Splitter, and ffdshow; all three are freeware and come bundled with AVStoDVD installer, so you can easily install them if you don’t have them. (NOTE: Because of the common industry practice of bundling crapware with freeware, some people may think these three programs are unnecessary crapware and may decline installation of them. You need to install these three, so don’t decline the installation.) The other dependency is ImgBurn, which is also freeware; you need ImgBurn installed otherwise AVStoDVD is unable to burn to DVD disc or output as ISO; it can only output as DVD folder if you don’t have ImgBurn installed. ImgBurn does not come with AVStoDVD, you have to download it separately.

Overall, AVStoDVD has a learning curve but it is the most feature-filled and allows the highest amount of customization among all free DVD authoring programs I have used. It will take you a bit to learn how to use it, but it is a viable option for authoring DVDs.

Honorable Mention 1

Program Name: DVDStyler

Developer: Alex Thuring

Download Size: 22.4MB

Version Reviewed: 2.4.3

Supported OS: Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X

Discussion

2013-04-12_193828DVDStyler is another open-source DVD authoring program that uses FFmpeg for video encoding.

DVDStyler allows you to create movie DVDs from pretty much any video formats (AVI, MP4, WMV, VOB, FLV, MOV, MPEG, MKV, etc.), supports NTSC/PAL DVDs, DVD-5 and DVD-9, allows you to control 4:3 or 16:9 aspect ratio, creates DVD menus, allows users to optionally control video/audio bitrate, and can burn to DVD disc or output as ISO or as DVD folder. All that and it is very easy to use; not as easy as WinX DVD Author, in my opinion, but still little to no learning curve.

The main attraction to DVDStyler is its ability to customize DVD menus. Out of all DVD authoring programs featured in this review, DVDStyler allows users to customize and modify DVD menus the most. From using different menu templates to modifying menu background (Note: adding your own image as a custom background cannot be done from within the program. You need to add the image you want to use to C:\Program Files\DVDStyler\backgrounds) to adding custom buttons, DVDStyler allows you full control over the DVD menu.

2013-04-12_193307The biggest downfall to DVDStyler is the crapware it comes bundled with. While installing DVDStyler, I noticed it comes with two crapware. During installation, you need to specifically select ‘Custom Installation’ and uncheck the box for SweetPacks toolbar and click ‘Next’. You are then asked to confirm that you don’t want to install SweetPacks; the kicker is you are asked if you want to install SweetPacks, so if you click ‘OK’ at this window SweetPacks will be installed — you need to click ‘Cancel’. After that you need to uncheck another box to not install DefaultTab Search. So not only does it have crapware but it has multiple crapware with tricky methods to make you install the crapware. Ugh.

The other issue with DVDStyler is not something I personally faced but a not un-common complaint about DVDStyler. A good number of users have complained that DVDs created by DVDStyle play fine on computers but are “blocky” when played on DVD players and are unable to be played on Blu-rays. It isn’t entirely clear what is causing this, if this is a program bug or a user error.

To conclude, DVDStyler has its pros and has its cons but overall can be used to author DVDs if you are unhappy with WinX DVD Author and AVStoDVD.

Honorable Mention 2

2009-09-15_174852Program Name: DVD Flick

Developer: Dennis Meuwissen

Download Size: 12.4MB

Version Reviewed: 1.3.0.7

Requires: Windows 2000/XP/Vista/7

Discussion

Like all the previously mentioned programs, DVD Flick allows users to create movie DVDs from many video formats (MP4, AVI, WMV, VOB, MOV, MPEG, FLV, MKV, etc.), supports NTSC/PAL, 4:3/16:9 ratios, DVD menus, burn to DVD disc or output as ISO (using ImgBurn, which comes with the program — you don’t have to install it separately), etc.

DVD Flick has been a dotTech favorite for a long time, since we reviewed it back September 2009. Unfortunately, DVD Flick is seemingly no longer actively developed; its last update was in, well, 2009. In DVD Flick’s defense, the process of authoring DVDs has not changed too significantly since 2009, so the program still works today and doesn’t necessarily need updates. However, it is hard to recommend a program that hasn’t been updated in roughly four years when there are viable options that are being regularly updated. In fact, I have only included it in this review for comparative purposes.

On top of that, although I’ve never had an issue with it, various people have told me the audio and video on many DVDs created by DVD Flick are out of sync. Seeing as the program is no longer updated, I doubt this will every be fixed.

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48 comments

  1. AT

    [@stefan] By default most DVD authoring will compress the mp4 down to a smaller size during the conversion process. I personally prefer to let the DVD authoring software use unlimited size to generate the initial DVD files. Then I would use my favourite DVD compressing software to compress the files down to standard DVD sizes.

    If the mp4 file already has the audio type you desire, you can do an audio copy instead of a convert. This will preserve the audio of the mp4. Please note that not every player can support the audio you may have chosen and thus forcing you to redo the DVD again.

  2. stefan

    Hi everyone. Does someone know if it is possible to decrease the overall size of input video (MP4 format) in order to fit it on regular DVD -/+R disc? Is it possible to convert MP4 video with dolby surround stereo audio track into different format with smaller footprint/size without quality loss? What alternative format would that be if any? Thanks

  3. AT

    [@Veronika] When you load the subtitle into Subtitle Edit, on the toolbar has a setting called Encoding. You can select the language type from the dropdown menu. When you save, keep the file format SubRip (.srt). That’s the format supported by the majority of DVD authoring software. See if that works.

  4. Veronika

    Thanks for the quick answer. I’ve installed Subtitle Edit, but can you tell me wich format is unicode? When I select Save As, some of the choices are UT Subtitle and UTX. Is some of them? There isn’t a format called “unicode”.
    And in this case do I have to set the Subtitle Propertis in the WinX DVD Author, or not?
    Thanks again.

  5. AT

    [@Veronika] In my experience, most DVD authoring software including WinX DVD Author have a had time with non alpha numeric characters. The subtitles have to be saved in unicode. Subtitle Edit can do this. Now you can import the subtitle into your movie. This method allows for softcoding subtitles. Alternatively you can hardcode the subtitle into the movie before creating the DVD.

    As DVD Flick is able to handle the subtitles I can suggest you use WinX DVD Aurthor to convert the video into the video format. Then import the video into DVD Flick and add subtitles as usual. Now click on Project Settings at the top. Click on Video. Now click on Advanced. Now check the box next to Copy MPEG-2 Stream. By doing this, DVD Flick will only sync the subtitles to the movie without converting a DVD ready video. Saves alot of time especially considering how slow DVD Flick is.

  6. Veronika

    Ashraf, thank you for the useful review. I’ve downloaded WinX DVD Author and it works very fast, but I have this problem – I am adding bulgarian subtitles (cyrillic) and the outcome is just some meaningless symbols. However, the same subtitles are OK with DVD Flick – but there I have other problem. So, can you help me with the bulgarian subs? Thanks.

  7. William Carter

    I agree Winx dvd Author is the best I have seen. I have used it many times and it has proven to be excellent.It has a simple interface, and practically no learning curve.I have tried the others mentioned here but was not satisfied with the results. I am using win 7, and it also works well with win xp

  8. kakistan citizen

    [@kakistan citizen]

    And WinX DVD sux also–ran thru various aspects of the conversion process and it continually gave me some sorta crap about the MUX table….

    the computer/software/&c arena is getting to be like the “fast food” scene — they take your $$ and then tell you to go wait in that parking space over there til the fries are ready….
    at least Mickey D’s dont ‘whelm me with all the useless pop-up ads at every turn.

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  10. kc4cop

    A very nice explanation of the difference between “DVD burn”, and “DVD authorship”.

    Prior to reading your article I completely had the wrong idea of just what “DVD authorship” meant. I previously thought that DVD authorship referred to putting bits and pieces of your own design or that of others into a single file to be burned onto a DVD.

    Am I the only one that needed your explanation? Other comments don’t mention “DVD authorship” and make it seem so.

  11. AT

    [@Ashraf] [@jacal] I can confirm that. When you press [BURN] you can now set a folder as the temporary storage folder. DVD Styler will then generate several sub-folders. The folder named dvd-out is the folder where the finished DVD is stored. I alluded to this in my first post but failed to mention the specifics. My bad.

  12. jacal

    With WinX DVD Author there _is_ a (rather hidden) way to do video-to-DVD-folder directly. The program offers this, if you give it no blank disc.
    On the other side, it seems it didn’t like my clips (taken with Canon DSLR). Video was distorted at the bottom and audio out of sync. Schade.
    (It is true though I don’t remember when I have been using DVD player for the last time. It must have been more than a year ago. All DVDs I buy go directly to hard disk.)

  13. mukhi

    [@AT] this is why i simply dislike boombox now-a-days! got a bose w/ wireless support (they use dedicated USB receiver, not my wifi connection), and both for video and audio in my computer, i stream it to bose boombox. love the sound it generates (very few competitors may generate that good at this size)!

  14. AT

    [@Mr.Dave] I was curious about adding more files to DVD Styler. The short answer, “Yes”. You will have to manually copy and paste the menu page and then edit the individual properties of the second page including the movie titles. You can right click on each menu item to access the properties as well as re-positioning the menu items.

    [@BadLuckLuke] DVD Styler saves in .dvds project files. I’m not sure who else uses this file extension.

  15. BadLuckLuke

    Very useful review, a big thanks from all of us amateur PC users bro!!! One question, I have used in the past one of those programs you mention in your review and I made a pretty good project for my music collection called myname.dvds… The problem is I can ‘t remember which one it was, and now after re-installing my XPs after a virus problem, I would like to know if anyone of you guys reading these comments coould help me out!!!!!! Thanks again…

  16. Ashraf
    Author/Mr. Boss

    [@Donna] Try Ashampoo Burning Studio Free — it should do the job: http://dottech.org/93745/windows-best-free-burning-software-review/#runnerup

    Take note I’m not sure if Ashampoo Burning Studio Free converts audio files to the applicable MP3 or WMA format or if you need to use a audio converter (see http://dottech.org/97790/windows-best-free-video-and-audio-converter-program-review/) to convert to the proper format first.

    [@Alfred E Neuman] Nope, first time hearing about it. However, it seems to only work with a limited amount of formats: Avi/Ogm/Mkv/Mp4/Wmv/Dvd

    [@weylin] Sothink Movie DVD Maker looks nice; if I update this review, I may include it. One question: Does it make ISOs and DVD folders, too or just DVD discs?

    @Everyone: You are welcome! And thank you all for the comments and feedback, much appreciated.

  17. AT

    [@mukhi] Yes, I agree with you on that. Donna needed to to use it on a boombox. As far as I know most boomboxes today still support only CD audio. Some do have USB input from flash drives and/or MP3 players. Donna did not say anything about having MP3 support on the boombox. If MP3s are support, by all means convert to MP3 and burn.

  18. AT

    [@o(o.o)o] Converting to mp3 are fine but the burning software I have used still creates temporary .wav files prior to burning unless the source file was a .wav to begin with. Why do the same thing twice when you don’t have to?

  19. AT

    [@Donna] Use your favourite file converter and select an audio.format preferably .wav files. At this point most of the major burning software can take over and burn an audio CD.

    [@Mr.Dave] By default both will start in play all mode.

    DVD Styler has a template that can hold 9 videos. You can hold more but the videos afterward won’t get displayed. I think you can do a menu copy but I’m not sure. I never had to do more than 3 videos.

    DVD Flick can add more. It automatically adds a new page when one gets filled, I think. I have not used DVD Flick in some time. The new pages don’t appear until the DVD is generated. Again, I think.

    DVD Flick allows for menu customization and creation through a macro language. Poorly documented but if you take a look into the supplied templates, you can experiment with different items.

    DVD Styler allows for easier menu creations but you have to know how to link each menu item with it’s corresponding video or action. I never tried because the supplied menu templates were more than enough for my needs.

    WinX DVD Author is very similar to DVD Styler. Almost a mirror of each other. The menu creation system is similar. They even have similar menu templates. I use DVD Styler because it has slightly better subtitle support than WinX DVD Author when non alpha numeric characters are used. That was when WinX DVD Author was version 4 or 5.

  20. Mr.Dave

    Thanks Ashraf, this is a nice addition to your Best Free Windows Software series. Each program has it’s own strengths, and I thank you for the warnings as well. You’ve given me a couple more good programs to try out!

    Are any of these especially good at allowing menus of 30 or more choices, in addition to a “view all” option? I would like to put lots of short videos on one DVD and then watch the whole set or pick the ones I want. The programs I’ve tried either limited me to 8 or 10 choices, or I had to make a long “everything movie” and also add each movie again if I wanted a way to jump to it.

    AT: good workarounds, thanks!

  21. Donna

    I have a question that I hope someone can answer with a FREE software alternative. Maybe even Mr. Ashraf?

    I have several Youtube music videos that are in mp4 format, and just two in flv format. I would like to convert these to a CD that would just play there audio (so I can play them on my boombox). Any ideas? I tried just burning them to a CD and it didn’t work. Thanks for any help.

  22. AT

    I have used DVDStyler and DVD Flick.

    The audio sync problems that is reported can be eliminated by converting the video files into VOB files first. Then add these files into the project. Now instead of having the software re-encode, you can do a video and audio copy. If the video(s) is larger than the DVD size selected, you can do unlimited size and the software will encode in a larger size. After encoding you can use you favourite DVD compressor to reduce the size back to DVD sizes. This also eliminates the blockies and speeds up the authoring time.

    Both DVD Styler and DVD Flick support additional audio and subtitle tracks. I have not tried it with additional video tracks.

    One thing about DVD Flick. Never use MKVs as a source file. It will take forever to encode. I did one disc that took 48 hrs.+ on an i5-750 machine. Learned my lesson the hard way.

    Now you can burn the finished DVD with your favourite burning software. I personally never use the built-in burning software so I can’t comment on how well it burns DVDs.