Video CDs and Audio too
by Larry Lemm
Easy CD Creator 4 Deluxe
691 S. Milpitas Blvd.
Milpitas, CA 95035
CD-R and CD-RW drives are more popular and affordable than ever, but much of the software used with those drives is difficult to use. Adaptec is one of the most popular manufacturers of CD-R and CD-RW drives, so it makes sense that they would make utilities for these drives. Easy CD Creator 4 Deluxe is as appealing to beginners as it is to advanced editors. In an effort to make burning CDs as easy as burning your morning bagel, Adaptec made Easy CD Creator 4 Deluxe. Easy CD Creator contains many tools that will help videographers create music, data and video CDs. In this fourth incarnation of Easy CD Creator, Adaptec promises some new features including DirectCD, a hard drive backup utility called Take Two, support for .MP3 files, and a CD label-making utility with printable labels and a label applicator.
Installing Easy CD Creator 4 was simple. It includes many options, such as the SE versions of MGI VideoWave II and PhotoSuite II video and still image editing software. When you install Easy CD Creator 4, youll need to choose and install the software applications youd like to use. If you are already using a full version of a nonlinear editing software, youll be better off not installing the "light" version included with CD Creator 4. But, the VideoWave II software application will do a fine job for those of you new to nonlinear editing. If you select the basic installation, the whole process is nearly automatic.
Burning a Marley (or a Sinatra)
When you run Easy CD Creator 4, it gives you five options from the first menu: Audio, Data, CD Copier, Jewel Case Creator and Photo & Video.
The most basic feature is copying a CD. Using the CD Copier option is easy. For our test, we installed Easy CD Creator 4 on a Sony VAIO Digital Studio DS-518V (Pentium III 500MHz, 128MB RAM), and used the included 4x CD-RW.
For the first test, we copied an audio CD. Because the VAIO has only the CD-RW, Easy CD Creator 4 automatically prompted us to have the program copy the CD to the hard drive prior to burning it back on the CD-RW. It defaulted to the C: drive, but you could easily choose your own scratch drive and directory. After writing the audio files from the CD to the hard drive, Easy CD Creator 4 prompted us to insert a blank CD-R, and even opened the drive tray. After inserting a blank CD-R and clicking a continue button, the program automatically wrote the CD onto the disc, and finished the session. When you finish a CD-writing session, the CD-R disc is ready to be played on a regular audio CD player or CD-ROM. Using the CD Copier button for data CDs is just as easy.
If you choose the Audio button, Easy CD Creator 4 has you choose between Audio CD and Spin Doctor. Audio CD is a CD creation utility that allows you to enter tracks, one at a time. Then you can rearrange them, add crossfades or fade ins and outs, and output it your mix to CD-R. It also lets you copy .MP3 files that Easy CD Creator will decompress into audio CD format. This is particularly useful for wedding videographers who might want to use royalty-free .MP3s from the Web with their linear editing suite.
Spin Doctor is a utility that allows you to record music from analog tapes, vinyl or other sources onto CD. In addition to a basic automatic tracking feature that inserts track markers during long pauses in music, Spin Doctor includes some effects to sweeten tinny tracks and erase pops and scratches.
A quick note, although there are emerging artists who have put royalty-free .MP3s on the Web that you can use in your productions, there are illegal .MP3s on the Web too. It is just as illegal and unethical to duplicate copyrighted music from .MP3s as it is to duplicate copyrighted music from a CD.
Video Files and Other Data
Choosing the Data CD option on the first menu of Easy CD Creator 4 takes you to a screen that is very similar to Windows Explorer. This allows you to backup any type of file on a CD, including EDLs or entire Premiere projects. The interface allows you to simply drag and drop the files you want to transfer to the CD. When you have selected 650MB worth of files, you write the files to the CD-R. It is a basic drag-and-drop operation.
If you want to make a CD with RealVideo, NetShow, Video for Windows, MPEG or QuickTime files you can easily copy them to a CD in Data CD. Why would you want to use a CD instead of videotape or the Internet? Well, if you want to format and post Internet video files to a remote server, but have only a computer with a phone modem, it would be a good idea to send them to your server via CD instead. You could also mail short demo videos on CD a lot cheaper than using videotape.
Adaptec also includes a new utility called Take Two that quickly and easily backs up your drive. Your best bet is to use this right after you install Windows and your favorite programs on your hard drive. Of course, you might need to go buy a new pack of CD-Rs before backing up a large hard drive. Take Two also makes a bootable floppy disk to get your CD drive up and running if/when you wipe your drive. Nice touch.
Making a Video CD
In the Photo & Video option, Easy CD Creator 4 lets you create a Video CD for playing in your computers CD-ROM. Simply select the MPEG files you want to include on the CD, and use presets to make a menu structure for playing back the CD. Once again, the whole process is a snap. If you have your files in a format other than MPEG, such as Video for Windows or QuickTime, you can use VideoWave II SE to convert them to MPEGs.
Finally, Easy CD Creator 4 includes a utility for custom printing the covers for jewel boxes, and labels to put on the CD-Rs to give them a more-professional look. Both are simple to use, but the included templates are pretty corny looking.
Easy CD Creator 4 is a must-have for anyone who has a CD-R or CD-RW drive, but is afraid to use it. It makes using your CD-R drive as easy as using a floppy or hard drive. Good job Adaptec, were impressed. —LL
Minimum System Requirements