Whenever I burn a DVD at work here, whether its 20 mins or over 2 hours.. I simply import my (DV .avi) assets, lay them on my timelines, and let encore 2.0 do the rest. I use encore to encode and compress my videos.
However, there are people at my work that swear by pre-encoding their videos using Canopus Procoder, and even claim that Encore can't compress some large videos. I have yet to run into any problems with letting encore do all the encoding/compressing.
Is there any truth to their arguments? Is there a clear advantage to using ProCoder??
Procoder does create nice Mpegs, but I haven't noticed a great quality difference between it and Encore. One upside of Procoder is it's integration with Premiere. You can export elementary streams right off the Premiere timeline that can be authored in Encore with no additional transcoding, saving a render. I, unfortunately, am working on Avid now, so I have to do two renders every time.
It's horses for courses.
I've never had any joy with an early version of ProCoder as a demo, and as such didn't bother buying a full version.
Encore uses the MainConcept encoder, and generally does a pretty fine job when left at Automatic settings.
You can try external encoders, but you need to be very careful as it is extremely easy to produce a stream that is not DVD legal.