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Sonic Has the Solution
Sonic Solutions's DVDit Pro 6 software for Windows XP is an affordable way to prepare and master a professional-looking DVD with a variety of multimedia content.
The program, designed by a firm (www.sonicsolutions.com) that creates sophisticated high-end software for Hollywood and professional recording studios, is aimed primarily at the serious hobbyist and mid-range professional videographer who wants a user-friendly program that goes beyond the features of most low-to-midrange priced authoring programs. Retailing for $400, DVDit Pro 6 comes bundled with a powerful ancillary program called eDVD 4, (also available separately for $199), which makes creating the sort of multimedia discs we're used to seeing from Hollywood studios for its blockbuster titles. You know – the ones with not just the core movie, but also a PDF file of its script, an MP3 of the theme song, and JPEGs of the stars.
Specifically, eDVD 4 allows for the insertion of such nifty features as direct links from DVD menus to web sites, hi-definition video, high resolution stills, MP3s, Flash, auxiliary documents, extra presentations, spreadsheets, executables and many other types of files. While the eDVD 4 is quietly bundled as an ancillary addition to the core DVDit Pro program, it's arguably the most powerful program in the box. While there are a variety of authoring programs on the market, most aren't equipped to also create a professional looking multimedia disc. DVDit Pro 6 has a bit of learning curve, but with its tutorials and a little trial and error, you should be able to learn its powerful secrets.
These programs require a PC with Windows XP Professional, Home or Media Center Edition, with Service Pack 2. It should be equipped with at least a 800 MHz Pentium III processor, and 128MB of RAM, though Sonic Solutions recommends a two-gigahertz processor and 512MB of RAM for best results.
Straightforward Work Flow
Once you import video from a conventional editing program, DVDit's black and silver graphical interface is handsome and easy to use. Somewhat resembling Adobe's popular Premiere Elements program, the layout of its GUI is intuitive and should be easy for anyone with rudimentary experience with video editing programs to learn.
DVDit assumes that you have already done a certain amount of video editing and preparation, and you are using it to take the video onto the authoring stage. Its ability to quickly insert chapters and create menus is very impressive. It's possible to place chapter marks very quickly after you've arranged your assets. Then you can choose that starting frame, another more memorable frame, or even moving thumbnails for the disc's menu.
Its stock menu designs are slick and handsome looking, and easy to customize, or you can create your own unique menus from scratch using layered Photoshop files, individual images, buttons, frames, masks and other graphic objects. The help file even explains how to hide bonus features in the menus as "Easter eggs".
DVDit includes an integrated subtitle editor, allowing the creation of subtitle tracks from scratch. You can import subtitle scripts from third-party applications also. Subtitle color, font, size, style and position can be chosen inside DVDit, and any changes to one or all subtitles are applied simultaneously to instantly conform the subtitles to a consistent look and feel.
DVDit Pro also allows for the creation of multimedia slideshows. For example, it's possible to enhance a wedding DVD by including one or more photo slideshow albums of the happy couple featuring smooth dissolves and a tasteful soundtrack, which can be imported from existing .wav, MP3, or other types of audio files. Up to 999 pictures can be drag-and-dropped into the Project Window. DVDit will archive the original images in the DVD-ROM zone of the disc so viewers with a PC or Mac will have access to the original hi-res pictures.
One minor flaw I noticed when testing DVDit: there appeared to be a slight pixelization of moving elements in the video of our test footage when viewed in DVDit Pro 6's editing window, as compared to Adobe Premiere Elements (or simply viewing the video in Windows Media player). Fortunately, this is a very minor and easy to ignore glitch, and doesn't impact the finished video.
Once preparation is complete, DVDit Pro includes key professional mastering features such as DLT (digital linear tape) support, content protection and region coding. Other professional features such as jacket picture, dual-layer and hybrid DVD-ROM creation are also included with the program.
If you've never used an authoring program before, there may be a bit of a learning curve, but it's all pretty impressive stuff. After a short while, it becomes intuitive, and quick and easy to use.
Once you've arranged your assets, inserted chapters, and created menus, a simple one-click routine burns it to disc. I'd like to say, "which can then be viewed on any player," but that depends on the medium your DVD burner accepts, and whether it's compatible with your stand-alone players.
Just What the Mid-Level Producer Needs
I wouldn't recommend DVDit Pro to someone brand new to authoring and a serious pro might want some higher-end bells and whistles. But for a mid-level pro or serious amateur, wedding photographers and those who work in similar genres, and with a reasonable price tag of $400 retail, Sonic Solutions DVDit Pro 6, bundled with the accompanying eDVD program, could be–
pardon the pun–just the solution.
Operating Systems: Windows XP Professional, Home or
MCE (Service Pack 2)
Processor Intel Pentium III 800MHz or better
(2GHz Pentium 4 recommended)
RAM: 128MB (512MB recommended)
Hard Drive Space: 10GB (20GB recommended)
Trial version: Yes, 15-day
Audio: Dolby Digital support
Encoding: Dolby Digital, MPEG-2
MPEG audio support: Yes
Accepts pre-encoded MPEG-2 files: Yes
Accepts DV files: Yes
Built-in MPEG-2 encoding: Yes
Scene Detection: No
Authoring Wizard: No
Pre-formatted Templates: Yes
Motion Buttons: Yes
Motion Backgrounds: Yes
A powerful, easy to use and comprehensive authoring program for intermediate video producers.
Ed Driscoll is a freelance journalist covering home theater and the media for the past decade.