Higher-End DVD-Authoring Enhancements

You may be itching to "burn" your first DVD, but I want to pause a moment to consider what your DVDs someday may be like. With DVDit! LE you have a product that is a cut above consumer-level DVD-authoring tools but a far cry from the software used to create Hollywood movies.

Nevertheless, at its center is the same core technology that drives those high-end authoring tools. Sonic Solutions, the developer of DVDit!, is virtually the only provider of DVD-authoring tools to major film studios. DVDit! LE is a subset of those very expensive and powerful tools.

Those top-flight authoring products mean most film studio DVDs offer some of the following features:

  • Scene selection

  • Director comments

  • Wide screen

  • Subtitles

  • Foreign language audio track(s)

  • Dolby AC-3 digital surround sound

  • DVD-ROM content

  • Animated menus with audio

  • Animated menu buttons

Some DVDs let you view scenes from more than one angle. Others have links to Web sites. Still others offer up features such as Easter eggs, games, deleted scenes, storyboards, production notes, making-of featurettes, actor bios, and character development sketches.

DVDit! LE is designed as an entry-level bundled product that focuses on basic DVD creation. You can, however, take advantage of some of the more advanced capabilities DVDs have to offer. All it takes is a cash infusion.

Before I cover those higher-priced opportunities, I want to give you some specific examples of cutting-edge titles. I'd suggest you give these DVD movies a critical look to see what's possible:

  • The Matrix. This is the breakthrough DVD that shook things up in Hollywood and in the PC world. Although it's now available as a two-disc set, the original single-DVD release caused technical problems for some set-tops and PCs. You could opt to have a white rabbit occasionally appear onscreen (shades of Alice in Wonderland), admonishing you to momentarily break away from the movie and follow it to a separate, how-we-made-this scene. Creating that rabbit and staying within the DVD specifications was a huge challenge. But it worked, and it demonstrated that many DVD players did not completely meet those DVD specs.

  • Shrek. Pop this in your PC (it won't work in a Mac). It is loaded with games that will not show up on your TV using a standalone set-top DVD player. The 12 games and activities include coloring pages, Shrek pinball, and bowling with gnomes. Topping the technological gee-whiz list is Shrek's ReVoice Studio, which lets you record your own voice and insert it in Shrek scenes.

  • Moulin Rouge. This engaging film features high-energy dance scenes shot from multiple angles, presented with rapid-fire edits. The DVD offers an option to watch some of those musical numbers from user-selected camera angles. It's a great way to take it all in.

  • Terminator 2: Judgment Day. If you want to learn about the art of filmmaking, view this DVD. It includes the complete original screenplay text, 60 behind-the-scenes clips, various audio commentaries, multiple audio tracks detailing the sound design process, storyboards, and an interactive film-school-on-a-disc explanation of the making of the film. Plus, there is a complete additional cut of the film hidden as an "Easter egg." To view it, open the Special Edition menu, enter 82997 using your remote, pressing Enter after each number (August 29, 1997 is Judgment Day in the movie), and then click Play Extended Special Edition.

  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. If your kids (or you) are into Harry Potter, this two-DVD set will hold their interest. With a nod to Shrek, it offers some rudimentary DVD-ROM games and features. But it breaks new ground by including a self-navigating virtual tour of the Hogwarts Castle (if you've seen QuickTime VR?it works like that). Also, you can attend classes to learn and then try out potions as well as bone up on Quidditch. To see the seven deleted scenes requires solving a series of mini-puzzles.

Until recently, renting movie videos was the norm. Now, DVD features like these create compelling reasons to buy movies. Although adding DVD elements like these to DVDs may be out of reach for most of us, they do demonstrate the power of DVDs.

    Part II: Enhancing Your Video