Stepping Up to Mid-range DVD-Authoring Products

For a bundled add-on, DVDit! offers powerful functionality. Even going up against some competitors' products, retailing for several hundred dollars, it comes out on top. Before giving you some specifics, here's a rundown on just who those competitors are.

The universe of DVD-authoring software firms is very limited. These days, Sonic Solutions (www.sonic.com), the makers of DVDit!, absolutely dominates the industry. Until 1999, about a half-dozen companies created DVD-authoring software and charged thousands of dollars, sometimes tens of thousands of dollars, for their products. That's when Sonic, primarily an audio production software and hardware developer, introduced DVDit! for $500.

Consolidation quickly followed. Sonic purchased the rights to Daikin's Scenarist DVD-authoring tool, and Apple bought two DVD developers, Spruce and Astarte, and soon began shipping DVD Studio Pro for the Mac. The only other "name" players currently offering prosumer-level products are Ulead Systems, with its DVD Workshop, and Pinnacle Systems, which entered the DVD-authoring market by buying Minerva's Impression DVD-Pro authoring software.

Your bundled, free copy of DVDit! LE offers several more features than the $300 Ulead DVD Workshop and is nearly as feature rich as the $600 Impression DVD-Pro. In either case, DVDit! stands out from this prosumer crowd because of the following extra characteristics:

  • The ability to create thumbnail image buttons using movie frames and stills

  • Button and text color, shadow, and transparency adjustments

  • First Play navigation properties

  • The ability to link text "buttons" to clips

You may never need any more than DVDit! has to offer. But if you want to incorporate into your projects some of the elements I listed at the beginning of this hour, you'll need to spend some money.

You can take one of three routes to step up from DVDit! LE:

  • Upgrade to Sonic's DVDit! SE (Standard Edition) or DVDit! PE (Professional Edition).

  • Migrate to mid-range products such as Sonic's ReelDVD and Pinnacle's Impression DVD-Pro for Windows or two products for the Mac: Apple's DVD Studio Pro or Sonic's DVD Fusion.

  • Move beyond mid-range to Sonic's higher-end products, including ReelDVD, DVD Producer, Scenarist, and DVD Creator.

Sonic offers two retail versions of DVDit! SE and PE. When we went to press, the SE upgrade from LE was $200 and the PE version was $500.

SE offers these additional features:

  • AVI and QuickTime file import and encoding to MPEG

  • Movie- and menu-navigation properties

  • Timed menus and still images

  • Chapters with frame image thumbnail buttons

  • Adding DVD-ROM data to the disc

  • Timed menus

  • Audio menus

PE is geared more to higher-end productions. It has all the SE features plus the following:

  • Dolby Digital audio import and encoding

  • Wide-screen (16:9) support

  • Output to DLT (Digital Linear Tape) for mass duplication

Pinnacle Impression DVD-Pro (www.pinnaclesys.com) lists for $600. It has a couple features missing in DVDit! PE but lacks quite a few more. Here are the elements it has that DVDit! PE doesn't:

  • Eight audio tracks versus DVDit!'s one

  • Thirty-two subtitle tracks versus DVDit!'s one

  • Motion menus

  • Two video angles versus DVDit!'s single-video viewpoint

On the other hand, DVDit! SE and PE's menu and button properties and DVD-ROM features outshine Impression DVD-Pro.

Mac owners with Apple's bundled, consumer-level DVD authoring product iDVD can turn to two mid-range authoring products: Apple's DVD Studio Pro (www.apple.com) and Sonic's DVD Fusion. The minimum platform that can accommodate these products is an 800 MHz iMac ($1,900) or a 933 MHz Power Mac G4 ($2,300).

On a feature-to-feature comparison, DVD Studio Pro and DVD Fusion are in a virtual dead heat. They offer the same number of audio tracks, subtitle tracks, camera angles, and support for DVD-5 and DVD-9.

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DVD-5 is the standard DVD we're used to: single sided, single layer. DVD-10 is double sided, single layer and is usually used for DVDs with wide-screen format on one side and regular 4:3 on the other. DVD-9 is single sided, double layered. And DVD-18 is double sided, dual layered. DVD-18 discs are rare. Some DVD-18 discs were produced for the Terminator-2 DVD set.


What may give DVD Fusion an edge over DVD Studio Pro is price ($800 versus $1,000), a timeline interface that will seem very familiar to Premiere users, and full DVD interactivity options.

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The DVD specifications permit up to 16 general parameters (GPRMs) to store and manipulate values to create interactivity.

DVD Studio Pro offers only eight. DVD Fusion makes all 16 GPRMs available to the user. In addition, DVD Fusion's Command Editor simplifies advanced navigation programming and allows users to readily create highly interactive titles such as those referred to in the "Creating Interactive DVD Fun for Children" sidebar later in this hour.




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