Test Bench:Avid ePublisher Interactive Content Software
$550, $625 for USB edition

Avid Technology, Inc.

One Park West

Tewksbury, MA 01876

(800) 949-AVID (2843)

www.avid.com



Avid’s new ePublisher, its entry into the interactive content production tool market, is a fairly easy-to-use yet powerful tool. Although clearly designed to integrate video with static images, Web pages, and more, ePublisher also offers decent video-editing capabilities.

Aimed at video producers who want to branch out into interactivity, or who want to jazz up their Web presence, ePublisher is painless to learn; even a complete novice could see results quickly. With ePublisher, Avid has expanded its corporate portfolio towards the consumer. Competing with the proprietary Flash product from Macromedia, ePublisher is definitely not a "flash in the pan."


Getting Started

One thing about ePublisher that is worth noting; it’s a bit demanding in its system requirements. We tried installing it on a Pentium II 400MHz with 60MB of RAM, and its pre-install system check told us we lacked the requisite 64MB. We then installed it on a Pentium III 600MHz with 256MB RAM. Following the de rigueur system check, ePublisher installed without a hitch. Another important note: we installed this on a system that had built- in FireWire ports. If you are using a different capture device, you may need to follow a slightly different installation procedure; Avid gives you full details in the included "Start-up Guide."


Five Easy Steps

Avid built ePublisher around a "five easy steps" interface. Along the top of the work area, there are five tabs, one for each of these steps: Storyboard, Capture Video, Edit Video, Link & Sync and Publish. Obviously, while you are working on a project, you may go back and forth between these tabs. However, when you start a new project, you always start with a storyboard.

You can select one of the included storyboard templates included with ePublisher, or you can design your own. The storyboard contains the elements of your presentation, and a general structure of how you want it to look. While planning your presentation in the storyboard, you can create graphics and HTML (Web) pages in advance, or wait until you edit your video.

The second step is capturing video. If you are using DV as we did, then you can control your DV source from within the "Capture Video" tab. Once you capture each clip, you assign it to a spot on the timeline. Which leads us straight into step 3: editing video.


Editing Video in ePublisher

The Editing Video tab has five of its own sub tabs: Viewer, Effects, Titles, Sound and Library. Viewer is just what the name implies: a place to play and trim clips.

The Effects tab allows you to choose special effects for transitions between clips, and to preview how they will look when applied to your video. In the Titles tab, you can add text, static or scrolling, superimposed over a video clip or over black. You can lay your titles directly onto your video, so you can place them exactly where you want them.

The Sound tab allows you to record audio from any source plugged into your sound card’s line input and from audio CD played in your CD-ROM drive. Alternately, ePublisher allows you to more quickly "import" audio files from audio CDs. On this tab, you can fade clips, mix audio sources, or record narration directly through your microphone.

All the clips you create through the Capture Video tab, or the Sound tab, as well as all clips you import into ePublisher are shown on the Library tab. It keeps detailed information about a clip, lets you import clips and import URLs for use in your presentation and more.

The basic video editing capabilities of ePublisher still permit transitions, two audio tracks, and keyed "events" to be moved anywhere on the timeline.


Link & Sync

The heart of the multimedia presentation capabilities in ePublisher, the Link & Sync tab, allows you to create "events," which are then linked to clips, so that events are synchronized with whatever is happening in the video. These events could be the appearance of HTML (Web) pages, animations, graphics or titles.

Link & Sync makes ePublisher an enormously powerful tool for making presentations. And because you can create choices for your viewer, these presentations become interactive.


Last Step: Publish

After you complete your masterpiece, you can publish it: to the Web, DVD or CD. Also, you can publish it to RealMedia, WindowsMedia, QuickTime or MPEG file formats. You can encode multiple bit rates in a single streaming file, or create multiple versions. You can publish it directly to the Internet, or to an Intranet.

ePublisher is not the most sophisticated video editor, but it wasn’t meant to be. It was meant to be a useful tool for making multimedia presentations and it succeeds. If you need to create eye-catching, useful presentations, take a look at Avid’s ePublisher. You may find a whole new creative medium in which to play.

TECH SPECS

Platform: Microsoft Windows 98, 98SE

Minimum System Requirements (Digital Video capture):

Operating System: Windows 98SE

Processor: 450MHz Pentium II, Pentium III, Intel-equivalent processor with MMX (AMD Athlon) or Celeron with 128k cache.

RAM: 64MB

Sound card: Sound Blaster or compatible

Video capture option supported: Microsoft OHCI compliant IEEE-1394 (“FireWire”) port

Minimum System Requirements (Analog Video capture) Operating System: Microsoft Windows 98/98SE

Processor: 233MHz Pentium II, Pentium III, Intel-equivalent processor with MMX (AMD K6-III) or Celeron with 128k cache.

RAM: 64MB

Sound card: Sound Blaster or compatible

Video capture option supported: Osprey-100 PCI video capture card (Composite video and S-video)

Accessories: Optional USB video capture device (Composite video or S-video)

STRENGTHS

  • Five-easy-step interface
  • Capture from either DV or Analog
  • Can output to Web, DVD or CD

    WEAKNESSES

  • Making the most of it takes a good bit of practice

    SUMMARY

  • A great product for creating interactive content.
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