Learn about the products that convert your videos to streaming formats or to files that can be burned to CD and DVD.
Digital distribution of video is more prolific than ever before. However, in order to ride this technology tide it takes some software and a little bit of know-how. Fortunately, for beginners, the manufacturers of streaming, CD and DVD video authoring software have made it as painless as possible. To do the more advanced stuff, it takes more learning, more money and more time. This buyer's guide is an introduction to the products in all three of these categories.
The Web Video Authoring Software grid (page 82) lists software-only solutions that author videos so that they can be streamed on the Web (some will require additional software to publish to the Web). The CD, DVD Authoring grid includes software that prepares your finished video project for burning onto CD or DVD. The actual burning may require additional software and hardware. So read on and learn about the latest cutting-edge distribution tools and what it takes to use them.
Cheap and Easy Streaming
In an effort to make video publishing on the Web as simple and inexpensive as possible, several manufacturers have made available extremely user-friendly programs that are free.
Apple's iMovie 2 is included on all new iMac DVs, PowerMac G4s and G4 Cubes. If you have an older PowerMac, you can purchase a downloadable version for $49 on their Web site. iMovie 2 has some nice basic editing tools and is extremely beginner-friendly. It accepts clips directly from your DV camcorder and changes them into QuickTime (.mov) format.
To take it the last step and publish your video to the Web, you can download iTools free from the Apple Web site.
Earthnoise.com is a site designed to be a communication center for Web video producers. Once you upload your video files (or mail a VHS tape for them to encode and upload) you can perform edits, publish it to their Web site for hosting and send video postcards to friends. When you become a member, the first two months are free. After that, the basic membership is $25 and you get 25MB of disk space. If you want more space, their premium service costs $50 per year and you get 100MB of disk space (approximately 1 hour of video).
Similarly, Javu Technologies offers the same three functions: editing, publishing, and video email from their consumer site, www.videofarm.com. JavuNetplay is a simple wizard style editor with very basic editing functions and has 100MB of disk space for free. The beefed up version, JavuNetwork, has advanced editing features and ranges from $20 to $90 a month and offers 200MB to 1GB of disk space.
Media 100 has recently widened its focus from the professional end of the streaming market to produce products for the entry-level consumer. Uniting with Digital Origin and Excite@home, they developed IntroDV MovieMate. Like the other companies, they make two versions available and you can publish the finished work on their Web site.
More for the Money
If you're looking for more advanced Web video authoring software, you can find a variety of products that go from $100 up into the thousands. What do you get for the extra cash? Among the features are more extensive editing tools, often multiple layers of video and audio, greater variety of input and output formats, more effects, titles and transitions as well as greater control of sizes, frame rates and resolutions. With Sonic Foundry's Vegas Video ($699) you can use multiple file formats in the same project or on the same track, and crossfade them on the same track roll without the need for conversion or rendering.
At the high end, in-sync's SpeedRazor 2000 X ($2,000) is geared toward professional video producers that wish to work on projects with large numbers of clips. It's mainly a video editor with very advanced editing capabilities and QuickTime output. At the less expensive end is MGI Software's VideoWave 4 ($99). It's features include chromakey, 50+ transitions, animations, photos, titles and text effects. Avid's ePublisher (under $600) can author video for the Web and create a file ready to burn to CD. ePublisher has a trademarked Link & Sync editing feature that synchronizes and hyperlinks graphics and HTML* media to create interactive HTML-based presentations. Then you can view the presentation through any browser via the Web or burn it onto a CD or DVD.
Authoring for CD and DVD
Archiving, publishing, and writing your completed video project to a CD or DVD require the appropriate hardware and software. You can use this buyer's guide to help select software that will author the content of your final disc. Then you need to decide whether you'll be making your own CD or DVD (which requires special hardware) or if you're going to get someone else to do the burning for you.
There are several good reasons to hire a professional service to burn your disks for you: 1. If you don't want to get overly enmeshed in technical configurations or 2. if you are making a large number of copies of your disc or 3. you're burning a DVD Video file onto a DVD disk. To use a professional service, you need to determine what sort of medium to transport it on (optical disk, removable hard drive, DLT*, or perhaps FTP* across the Internet) and what sort of data format (VOB*, MPEG*, Disk Image* etc.) to encode your project into. To decide these factors, you would need to find out which mastering medium your DVD duplication service and you have in common.
If you are going to "burn" your own CD or DVD, youll need the appropriate drive for mastering. For CDs, it would typically be a CD-R drive (which allows you to write to CD-R discs, once only) or a CD-RW drive (which allows you to rewrite, just like a floppy drive). For DVDs, you would need a DVD-RAM drive or Digital Linear Tape (DLT) drive to hold the master copy for your DVD.
MultiMedia Technology Center offers a variety of CD and DVD creation products. CDMotion CE and SE ($100, $500) have a drag and drop user interface and template wizards to guide you through the Video CD authoring process. DVDMotion ($100, $500, $2,000) has three configurations. The CE version is geared toward beginners who need only simple non-interactive or single menu interactive titles. The SE edition is oriented toward the needs of the business DVD developer who want a bit more interactivity and the Pro version is capable of professional DVD production.
Also offering a range of products is BernClare Multimedia. DVD Quick Builder is their introductory product that compiles MPEG* video with MPEG* audio into VOB* files so that a DVD duplication house can burn it to disk. BernClare's DVD Wise ($2,000) creates DVD contents on your hard drives then records on either DVD-R, CD-ROM or to a DTL*.
VITEC Multimedia's DVD Toolbox ($399) can perform simple edits that allow you to trim frames, cut, paste, and mix clips from other steams. As long as your video source is DVD compliant, it will output the completed project to a UDF* image or a VOB* file ready for burning to DVD.
Sonic Solutions' DVDit ($499 and $999) has a user interface that includes icon-based storyboarding, drag-and-drop editing, and visual DVD scripting. It has the ability to save and re-use project templates and a feature they call "DVD proofing" which allows real-time playback of DVD projects as you are creating them.
If you've been standing back and just enjoying the view on the shore of the digital video distribution sea, it's time to get out there and ride the wave. The cheap and easy Web video authoring programs are so intuitive and beginner-friendly, it makes learning the latest streaming technology fun and affordable. And there's always plenty of room to grow as the more advanced products continue to offer increasingly sophisticated features.
CD and DVD authoring is still in its infancy, but more accessible than ever before. With the products listed in the CD, DVD grid, you can author your completed videos into a CD or DVD file format. Some will allow you to burn them on your own computer or you may take them to a DVD video authoring service and have them burned for you with the menus, chapters and the interactivity of the pros. So go ahead and try it. I dare you.