Review: Pinnacle InstantCOPY
Posted Jul 1, 2003

July 2003|Roughly a year ago, with little fanfare, Pinnacle Systems ( purchased Instant CD+DVD from a German company named VOB. Instant CD+DVD was a deceptively simple utility for backing up DVDs. In early 2003, Pinnacle released its version of the VOB software under the name Pinnacle InstantCOPY ($49.95). InstantCOPY enables users to copy virtually any non copyright-protected DVD onto DVD-R/RW or DVD+R/RW—even DVD-9s, which ordinarily wouldn't fit onto a 4.7GB writable DVD. InstantCOPY also promises "bit-for-bit" backups of DVD-5s and CDs.

What InstantCOPY does not do is break copy protection like, say, 321 Studios' embattled DVD X Copy, so you won't likely see the MPAA coming after Pinnacle anytime soon. But what InstantCOPY has in common with X Copy is the rather esoteric technology that enables it to "unpack" the VOB files at the heart of dual-layer DVD-Video discs, access the MPEG-2 files, and re-compress them based on a DVD-R's or DVD+R's lower bit budget. Which is all pretty interesting, algorithmically, if you're into that sort of thing.

What's also interesting is InstantCOPY's positioning for "at home" use. The interface is certainly consumer-friendly. It's wonderfully easy to use, and as long as you know where your source DVD (disc or image) is, and where to find the drive and disc to which you want to copy it, you're a scant few clicks away from duping it. It's not as fast as Pinnacle claims; "copying" an 8GB+ DVD image from the Ultra ATA/100 hard drive of my 2.4gHz Pentium 4 Sony VAIO with 512GB RAM and a 533mHz bus to the on-board 2X DVD-R took about 2.5 hours. But the quality was impressive; the movie looked about the same to me on my TV.

Pinnacle carefully distinguishes itself and its product from those who would break encryption and test the murky waters of Fair Use and alleged copyright violation. Which is all well and good since the program will refuse to copy any DVD—5 or 9—with CSS intact. But how many "consumers" have uncopyrighted DVD-9s sitting around "at home"? That said, InstantCOPY doesn't really enable anything that CD burning and backup tools haven't enabled for years—just extended it to DVD—and those tools have always had more than enough "non-infringing" uses to satisfy me.

Pinnacle also offers the $49 InstantCOPY as part of their $99 InstantCD/DVD bundle, along with the entry-level Expression authoring tool (reviewed January 2003: multipurpose consumer DVD package currently without parallel.

Pinnacle's minimum system requirements for InstantCOPY include a 500mHz or faster Pentium III or Athlon with 64MB RAM running Windows 98 SE/2000/ME/XP with 100MB of free hard drive space to install the software and a DVD-R/RW, DVD+R/RW, or CD-R/RW drive. We recommend a faster system—at least 1gHz—to get the kind of speed results indicated above.