When Roxio introduced Easy CD & DVD Creator 6 in spring 2003, the company touted it as a full-featured, integrated media creation package, adding limited video editing and menu creation to the already established CD and DVD burning capabilities found in Creator 5. A year later, however, the company is the first to admit that Creator 6, while a fine consumer tool, didn't quite live up to its billing.
Turns out that Creator 6 was just a stopover on the road to Roxio's ultimate destination, one the company feels it's arrived at with Easy Media Creator 7, released on February 15. "It's really taken us two years to make the transition from burning to full media integration," says Vito Salvaggio, Roxio vice president of product management. The biggest change in Creator 7 is that it includes full versions of the VideoWave video editor and PhotoSuite—which sell on their own for $79.95 and $49.95, respectively—for an all-inclusive price of $99.95. "We really wanted the user to feel like they could come to Creator and compete all of their media creation in one place," Salvaggio says.
In addition to the engineering challenges inherent to such tight software integration, Roxio's biggest battle was on the design side. To that end, Salvaggio says, the design team achieved their goals first, then left it to the engineers for each product—Creator 6, VideoWave, and PhotoSuite—to "make each component as strong as any standalone program." Code-named "Godzilla," the project was Roxio's primary focus for the last year, and the result is a product that the company hopes gives users the feeling like they have control over their music, photo, video, DVD, CD, and data, all in one place.
You don't need to be an Apple acolyte to see that Roxio was inspired by iLife, both conceptually and from a design standpoint. In fact, Salvaggio freely admits that iLife's all-in-one approach influenced Roxio's direction, since there was nothing quite like it for the PC. "The difference, of course," Salvaggio says, "is that to use iLife you have to buy a $2,000 computer to go with it."
Creator 7's revamped GUI gets rid of the previous version's launch screen and replaces it instead with an Explorer interface with clear task lists for music, data, photo, video, and DVD. Under each heading is a list of several specific tasks within that category; under video, for instance, users will find capture, edit, auto edit with CineMagic--which uses scene and beat detection to automatically sync video and audio--and guided edit with StoryBuilder. Both CineMagic and StoryBuilder, which replaces Creator 6's Movie Creator are holdovers from Roxio's Cinematic NLE software, no longer in production.
Roxio has overhauled even simple tasks like DVD copying. The Disc Copier function (engineered by Roxio's CeQuadrat team) lets users copy a DVD's entire contents or simply the "single movie" portion of it (leaving out any menus and extra features), and Creator will then adjust the compression to increase the video quality on the duplicated disc. You can also select all the audio tracks, or just a single language. Of course, Creator won't copy encrypted discs, and—for now, at least—it doesn't offer dual-layer capability. "If and when we release an update for +R dual layer," Salvaggio says, registered Creator 7 users will be able to download it as a patch from the Web.
Creator Classic mode has added password encryption and scheduled backups with a wizard that literally asks what, when, and how users want to back up their data. Salvaggio says that Roxio's customer research revealed that basic data backup was the second most frequently used part of Creator, but that consumers don't want a full-blown package like Dantz's Retrospect software. "They just want something simple," he says. "They're not worried about organization as much as they are just knowing they have a copy of the data somewhere." To that end, Creator's Media Manager allows file searching by property, name, or date created, making it easy to pull together project elements even if they're scattered across a user's hard drive.
While burning a backup or audio disc, Creator Classic prompts users to make a disc label, then offers dozens of label templates to choose from (Creator 7 installs with two discs, one for the program and one for label, menu, and other template content), and the software comes ready to print to the Epson Stylus Photo 960 CD/DVD printer.
Whether a user wants to import photos or capture audio or video, he or she will begin with Creator's Capture screen. "Our idea is that you only need to learn the process once, and then whatever you're capturing, you'll go through a very similar experience whether it's photo or video," says Creator product manager Chris Taylor. During video capture, Creator's Smart Scan can do scene detection during preview, and then the user can select which of the scenes to batch capture, or the user can simply capture an entire clip and then edit it into scenes.
VideoWave 7 is a storyboard- or timeline-based video editor with a user interface that features a preview window, media selector, and storyline. It's designed to make it easy to combine photos and video into a single storyboard. Both video and photo editing can be performed in the VideoWave window--you don't need to go into a separate PhotoSuite window for cropping, redeye correction, or still-image panning. The first change to VideoWave in two years, version 7 also offers more effects and 157 transitions.
The DVD Builder function just might be the jewel in Creator 7's crown. It's got powerful menu and titling features, a slew of background images (still and motion), and the ability to create motion backgrounds from user-supplied video. Encoding options include Best (720x480, 9Mbps), Good (8Mbps), Medium (7Mbps), and Low (352x240, 4Mbps) for video, and LPCM or Dolby Digital AC-3 for Audio. DVD Builder also presents a "Fit to Disc" option that will assess the amount of data and select the highest possible encode rate. Advance settings within the DVD Builder let users select NTSC or PAL, as well as DVD-Video or +VR. The Plug & Burn function—similar to that in Toast, Creator's Macintosh counterpart—is for quick-and-dirty, no-editing-involved, get-your-footage-on-disc projects. Plug & Burn defaults to the highest-quality compression unless the user selects a lower bitrate. "Direct-to-disc is not about speed," says Salvaggio. "People want to get the video off the tape in as high quality as possible and with as few steps as possible. We think that if you can start burning at night, and have a finished-quality, Dolby surround DVD by morning, people will be happy."