On the amateur side, MedioStream debuted the latest version of neoDVDplus, with new features like "Direct-to-Disc Recording" and "Smart Buffering," and announced new bundling arrangements for neoDVDstandard, including Sony's second-generation DVD+R/RW drives. Sonic Solutions, meanwhile, announced MyDVD 3.5, with a host of new features of its own.
Sonic maintains product offerings at all levels of the DVD authoring world, from the high-end Creator and Scenarist studio-ready hardware/software solutions to Fusion and the middle-range Producer and ReelDVD, corporate tools in the DVDit! family, on down to the MyDVD consumer software found in DVD recorder bundles. Given the growing complexity of the DVD creation market—a market complicated, ironically, by the proliferation of tools promising ever-increasing simplicity—Sonic general manager for desktop products, Mark Ely, took the occasion of the MyDVD 3.5 announcement to sketch out Sonic's definition of the emerging consumer class, and its distinction from "corporate"-type tools a rung or two up the ladder like the popular DVDit! He also explained how MyDVD has evolved, and continues to do so, in accordance with what Sonic believes consumers expect and desire from their DVD creation tools. It also represents a conscious move away from the "Hollywood model" followed in some measure from DVDit! on up. MyDVD 3.5, he says, "comes closer to how consumers use their video."
Sonic based its initial work on MyDVD's feature set, as a continued whittling down process from the higher-end tools, on a simple premise: "Most consumers don't edit video." Only one to ten percent, he said, of consumers they've surveyed have even tried, he says. "They'd rather just fast-forward past the boring stuff," he says, than confront the learning curve required to edit it. From this understanding emerged the "workflow model for MyDVD": plug the camcorder into the PC, put in chapter points, record it, and play it back on TV with a set-top DVD-Video player.
MyDVD 3.5 offers enhanced support for Sonic's OpenDVD and Edit-On-DVD technology, which enable the next step, in which users can then put the disc back into the PC, edit it as desired, and record it again. Users can delete unwanted footage, refine chapter names, move chapter marks, and re-configure menus and menu graphics. With rewritable media, such as DVD+RW or DVD-RW, users can re-record the newly-edited version on the same disc, with re-formatting handled behind-the-scenes by MyDVD 3.5. Another new feature in MyDVD is VideoCD support, which again reflects their estimation of the consumer market, or rather their expectation that "DVD" creation is expanding to a demographic that encompasses users who are equipped with camcorders, DVD players, and CD recorders, but haven't taken the DVD+/-RW plunge yet. While VideoCD delivers only "sub-VHS" and "less than one-quarter" DVD quality, it remains an attractive solution, Ely argues, for CD-R users who want to make discs that will play in their DVD-Video players.
MyDVD 3.5 also ships with a dozen "styles" for menu design, as well as a Photoshop plug-in for making custom styles. Sonic is also adding a "Style Swap" to its Web page, he says, where MyDVD users can trade menu styles they've created.
To give users access to fairly sophisticated video editing, Ely says, Sonic has entered into a partnership with ArcSoft to integrate MyDVD 3.5 with ArcSoft's ShowBiz product. Via a "Link to Video Editor" button, MyDVD 3.5 users can export their video clips into Showbiz, edit them, a drag-and-drop the edited clips back into MyDVD. While Sonic is not offering an off-the-shelf "MyDVD/ShowBiz" bundle, one of the reasons they chose ArcSoft as a partner, Ely says, is because their OEM partners in the DVD+RW drive business are shipping ShowBiz along with MyDVD in their spring and fall SKUs. While not as well-known in the market as, say, Adobe Premiere or Pinnacle Pro-ONE, it's more consumer-minded in its ease of use, according to Ely, and offers more suitable format support in that it takes MPEG input as well as DV. "It's emerged as an interesting, capable application to work with," Ely says. "We're looking to add other support as well."