DVD Movie-Creation Software

At this nascent stage, DVD movie-creation software is as immature as you'd expect, but I saw some exciting upcoming products at the COMDEX Fall trade show and expect this market to heat up in the coming months. In the meantime, I've looked at several titles that are available today and have a few recommendations.

  • Sonic MyDVD: Essentially a "light" version of Sonic's DVDit software, this consumer-oriented product ships with the Pioneer DVR-AO3 drive I use and other recordable DVD drives. It's a bare-bones package but works well, letting you add menus that include background images, buttons, and textual links. "Bare bones," frankly, isn't much of an issue at this stage; it's unlikely that many home users will want or need to create the type of fancy animated menus Hollywood's big budget DVD movies contain. The main problem with this software is that it transcodes AVI to MPEG-2 during the DVD-burning process, which can be time consuming on Pentium III systems. So unless you're patient, you might want to look into some sort of utility that will perform this task ahead of time.

  • Sonic DVDit: Available in Standard and Professional Editions, this software uses the same interface as MyDVD but is geared toward event videographers, corporate users, and home enthusiasts, according to the company. DVDit supports DVD+RW, DVD-R/W, Windows XP, and realtime transcoding (if your hardware is up to the task). It also offers more and better-quality menus than MyDVD. Standard Edition costs about $300; the $500 Professional Edition adds widescreen (16:9) video support, Dolby Digital import, Dolby Digital stereo-encoding capabilities, and output to DLT. If you don't receive MyDVD with a new recordable DVD drive, DVDit Standard Edition is worth purchasing if you need any of its features, such as XP compatibility or realtime transcoding.

  • Ulead MovieFactory: An inexpensive ($45) package aimed at beginners, Ulead MovieFactory uses an overly simple wizard-like interface that seems limiting after the free-form interface in MyDVD and DVDit. But MovieFactory has two things going for it: You can download a free demo to try it out, and it offers a handy transcoding feature that lets you convert AVI to MPEG-2 before burning a DVD. For me, this makes MovieFactory an indispensable tool and one I'll keep handy, if only for transcoding.

  • Pinnacle Express/Pinnacle Express DV: Available in a software-only version (Express) and a version that includes a Maxtor FireWire card (Express DV), Pinnacle's DVD-movie-recording software is a cross between the Sonic and Ulead solutions. It has a simple interface, reminiscent of MyDVD, but uses a wizard-like step-through process similar to MovieFactory. As with the other products, Express offers a series of simple menu themes, and you can create and import your own; it also includes DV camera-capture facilities. But because you can't transcode video until the DVD burning stage, it doesn't offer much of an improvement over MyDVD or DVDit. On the other hand, it's significantly less expensive than DVDit: Express costs about $50; the DV version is $80.

    Sonic MyDVD
    Sonic DVDit
    Ulead MovieFactory
    Pinnacle Express

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