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Review: Sonic MyDVD 5 Studio Deluxe
Posted Nov 4, 2003 Print Version     « previous Page 2of 3 next »

MyDVD includes five categories of between-scenes transitions (Fades & Dissolves, Iris Wipes, Pushes, Slides, Splits, and Wipes), which run the gamut from the straightforward to flashy and goofy stuff that screams "consumer editor," but makes the process more fun, which is certainly part of the goal here. Pick the transitions you like and drag and drop them into the storyboard, or ask MyDVD to generate random transitions. MyDVD also gives you four categories of options for altering the look of your video (Filters, Frames, Image Adjustment, and Orientation). This type of hokey foofaraw was the trademark of ArcSoft ShowBiz, the "only try this at home" video editing software that Sonic bundled with the Deluxe edition of MyDVD 4. Some of it is kind of fun (like "Alien TV Overlay" under Frames, and the "Scratchy Old Film" and "Sepia" filters), and some of the Image Adjustment tools will have practical use if your source video is a little too dark or bright, or needs its contrast adjusted.

You can also add titles in the video editing window, and most importantly, trim unwanted segments of scenes by double clicking the thumbnail in the storyboard and (as it opens in the trimmer window) dragging the slider bar to new in- and out-points. You can pinpoint these points digitally by specifying them in the clock, then preview your new scene. Here you also have the option of adding soundtrack audio, with audio features accessed by clicking the "Add Audio" speaker icon from the vertical panel at the left side of the screen. Again, very simple and straightforward and accessible to the novice. Nothing unfamiliar or shocking here, but it's a big advantage to have it available within the MyDVD application itself.

Back on Top
Once you've got your video trimmed and transitioned, it's time to head back to the DVD authoring windows, and help MyDVD do what it does best. There's less to note that's new here. MyDVD was always pretty accomplished in the entry-level DVD arts. Chapter and menu creation—automatic, by scene, or customized—is simple and straightforward as can be and, as always, MyDVD gives you a nice selection of background options. You can make motion menus of all your chapter buttons here, too, check your button links (using the on-screen DVD remote-like preview control), and add chapter titles as desired. Then it's just one click to burn—red button, lower right, can't miss it.

Also new in MyDVD 5 is the ability to choose AC-3 as your audio format. This is a nice space-saving feature (as in, leaving more space for video), since AC-3, unlike PCM (the CD-Audio standard that was previously your only option), is a compressed format. And it's a much more appealing option than the "MPEG audio" format available in many tools, which is also compressed, but much lower quality than AC-3.

But the real distinguishing feature of the latest MyDVD as a DVD authoring tool involves OpenDVD and Sonic's CinePlayer software playback tool. CinePlayer never seemed like any great shakes to me in past versions, and Sonic itself admits that for most playback tasks it's more limited than leading competitors like WinDVD and PowerDVD.

For those who don't know, OpenDVD is proprietary Sonic technology that places project information on a recorded disc along with the DVD-Video title itself (this information is invisible to a DVD player). By doing so, Sonic allows users to re-open their MyDVD project from the disc, provided source media like AVI files, images, and MP3s or WAVs used for soundtrack music are still available or you don't intend to re-edit your original video. Arguably, OpenDVD has limited appeal for many applications, since it requires a pretty convoluted scenario to be worthwhile: How likely are users to keep hefty AVI files close at hand but trash their DVD project files while they're still potentially revising a disc? OK, I admit it, I've done that and regretted it, but I still wonder if that's terribly common. Of course, given timecode consistency, it's easier to capture and replace AVI files than re-create DVD project files, so maybe they've got something there.

In any event, OpenDVD (like CinePlayer) never seemed all that great to me until I learned that with version 5, you can actually launch MyDVD from CinePlayer as you review your work and discover something you'd like to correct, and thanks to OpenDVD, re-open your project file and jump in right where you left off, more or less. And because all DVDs created with MyDVD are "OpenDVD-compliant" (which means they include the project files), this applies to any disc you create in the software.

Into the Music
The other keynote of the MyDVD 5 Studio Deluxe bundle is RecordNow, the all-purpose CD and DVD recording application based on technology acquired from Veritas last November. Sonic has made some interesting cosmetic changes to RecordNow, and a few less apparent ones. First and foremost is casting the whole application in a Wizard that looks quite a bit like CinePlayer.

I wouldn't say all the changes have been for the best, but it's certainly a powerful and usable tool. Getting started with RecordNow (a discrete application that installs along with MyDVD) is simple—choose one of the four iconic project tabs (Audio, Data, Copy, or VideoCD) from below the main player window, and RecordNow will launch one of these categories with its several attendant choices. In Audio, for example, these include "Audio CD for Car or Home CD Player," (you can also jump straight to this option from the main window), "Exact Copy," "Convert Audio CDs to MP3s," and more.

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