Test Bench:Sonic Solutions DVDit!
$499

Sonic Solutions

101 Rowland Way

Novato, CA 94945

(415) 893-8000

www.sonic.com

Sonic Solutions has long been at the apex of professional digital audio editing systems, audio mastering and audio CD authoring. Sonic Solutions’ audio systems are used on a vast majority of popular music CDs and they have a reputation for excellence in their product family. Now out of this award-winning lineage comes a fresh youthful software title. DVDit! has no preference when it comes to user level: anyone who has a desire to put video onto a DVD disc – beginner or pro – can benefit from spending a little quality time with DVDit!.

DVDit! is fun, easy to use and fast becoming a DVD authoring ware of choice for many video hardware companies. Many turnkey systems and capture device kits are showing up with DVDit! on their arm.


Pretty Face

DVDit! has an attractive look and, as soon as we opened the rather thin manual, we realized there is not much to learn before getting under way with your first DVD authoring project. Made for those who have no experience with DVD authoring and don’t want to get frightened by file flinging jargon, DVDit! also gives you enough flexibility and complexity to keep you producing inspired DVD titles for some time. The interface is easy and intuitive, with a Theme palette that lets you move through lists of backgrounds, buttons, fonts and footage. There are many stock backgrounds buttons and bangles that come with DVDit!, but that does not mean you are restricted to using only the files provided. You can make DVDit! your own by importing all the elements to create the look you want your DVD to have. The main DVD video format is MPEG-2, a compression technology that dramatically reduces the amount of disc space required. You can put over two hours of broadcast-quality video on a single DVD disc. DVDit! encodes video to MPEG-2 from .avi or .mov files.


Author, Author

DVD authoring is a lot like the old Steve Martin joke, which goes something like: "I can tell you how to not pay taxes on a million dollars. OK, first, get a million dollars." Right. Thanks for the tip. Until recently small-scale producers could only dream of authoring DVDs. There is good news for all potential-DVD creators: DVD authoring is no big deal with a product like DVDit!. In fact, it’s fun, easy and very intuitive. The term "authoring for DVD" gives some technophobes the heebie-jeebies, but that will be completely dispelled with the first caress of this software. Basically you are laying out graphic menus with photo or texture backgrounds adding on-screen buttons and text which you will link to media files (photos, video, audio, etc.). The process couldn’t be easier.


Just DVDit!

For our test of DVDit! we captured a few segments of instructional video from Videomaker archives on lighting, camera techniques and production audio. Using the themes that come with DVDit!, we chose a background for our opening page, wrote a text title intro "Videomaker Instructional DVD" and tweaked it to our liking. DVDit! has image tools to adjust the hue, saturation and brightness and text tools to change font, color, size and shadow. All the standard title tool fare with an easy to navigate interface. The title page comes up automatically when the finished DVD is inserted into a drive. The duration of its appearance is user definable. The next page is the main menu. After choosing a background, you place buttons from the button palette and/or text, which you link to your media files, or other menus. In this case we sized small buttons with sub-titles of "Lighting," etc. and linked both the button and title to our footage by dragging and dropping the clip from the media menu onto the button and text. Poof, they’re linked! Now when you mouse over the text or button it highlights and is armed for clicking. You can, at any point, play back the results of your progress so you can check links, move menu items, etc. Nothing is written in stone, so even as you move on to other menus and levels of your presentation you can return to fine tune.


Ready to Burn

With our test project finished to our liking, the final step was to create a DVD Volume, which is a directory of all media files and navigation information. If files are not already in MPEG-2 they will be converted by DVDit! at this time. Select Make DVD and you’ll be prompted to choose the quality setting and compression type based on bit-rate. For rates lower than 2 Mbps MPEG-1 will suffice. For anything above 2 Mbps, you’ll use MPEG-2. All that’s left is to choose the output device.

Now that you have your DVD project ready, with media files linked in easy-to-navigate menus, what do you do with it? DVDit! lets you build a Player Application that you can play off your hard drive or write to removable media like CD-R using .avi or MPEG-1 files, but when it comes to burning an actual DVD-Video with MPEG-2 the options are slim. If you have a project that you are going to mass-produce, then having a master DVD burned for duplication may make sense. But if you’re thinking about making DVDs to send out to friends you’re just going to have to wait for an affordable DVD-Video recorder like the rest of us. In the meantime you can compose your projects and get them all cued up for when you own that DVD recording device.

TECH SPECS

Minimum System Requirements:

300MHz CPU /128 MB RAM

18 GB hard disk

24-bit color graphics display, 1024 x 768 resolution

Direct Show 6.0

Operating system:

Windows 98/2000/NT

Recommended Peripherals:

Audio monitors

CD-R or DVD-R recorder

DVD-ROM drive

STRENGTHS

  • Easy to use
  • Converts files to MPEG-2
  • Readily available in many product bundles

    WEAKNESSES

  • Fun to create with but not much use until DVD-R is more available

    SUMMARY

  • An easy-to-use software that takes the mystery out of authoring DVD titles
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