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Review: Sonic MyDVD 5 Studio Deluxe
Posted Nov 4, 2003 - June 2005 Issue Print Version     Page 1of 3 next »

Synopsis: MyDVD is the best all-purpose CD/DVD creation software I've seen, offering as near to the best of DVD authoring and CD creation as you'll find anywhere these days, and with its video editing features, it essays competence in areas that others don't even attempt.

As a callow assistant editor at my first trade show (the late and occasionally lamented intermedia), I stuck close to the EMedia (then CD-ROM Professional) booth, hawking the magazine, tongue-in-cheek, as "all things to some people, and nothing to others." In a way, that was more true then than it is now—if that makes any sense—since the 1995-vintage CD-ROM Professional, though beginning to broaden its purview and diversify its appeal, was a stuck-in-the-stacks, niche-within-a-niche, library-oriented publication, exploring the minutiae of mass-database applications for CD-ROM and the hardware that produced and played them.

Perhaps echoing the spirit of those bygone days, two recent reviews by Ron Miller have used similar "all things to all people" terms to criticize two long-standing CD recording tools, Roxio's Easy CD Creator and Ahead's Nero. In recent versions they've attempted to expand their appeal, both in terms of versatility— adding DVD authoring capability, in the main— and offering a surfeit of features for both the consumer and professional. The problem, Miller argued, came in the tools' tendency to spread themselves too thin, and offer too little to too many. That's putting it in terms more dramatic than Miller did—neither of these tools came up all that short, and both are powerful applications, particularly on the recording side, and admirable ones in their first efforts to throw DVD recording into the mix. But again, in the name of pro/am fusion, he argued that their identities aren't as well-integrated as they might be, and having worked with both tools, I agree.

That said, versions 6 of both tools (the latest, in both instances) have redefined the parameters for software previously known as "premastering" or "CD recording" tools. The old terms simply don't fit anymore, since so much of what these tools do pertains to DVD. Both tools also broke that new ground in much the same way, adding first-generation DVD capabilities to tools well-heeled in CD creation. And while both tools (Nero in particular) can stake a reasonable claim to pro capabilities on the CD recording side, they approach DVD from a decidedly consumer standpoint. Then there's Sonic, who invented DVD authoring "for the rest of us" with MyDVD, and arguably reinvented "the rest of us" as potential DVD authors, with help from Pioneer, HP, and Sony, who brought us affordable DVD recording. MyDVD, which is now in version 5, is bigger and more feature-enriched than ever. What's more, Sonic has added video editing and CD recording to the mix with this version, which is welcome news. But unlike Roxio and Ahead, which are combining the raw and the cooked, Sonic has an ace up its sleeve (mixed metaphors aside). With the acquisition of Veritas' MyCD recording technology in November 2002, they've got a seasoned CD application at their disposal—RecordNow Max, an Editor's Choice winner in 2002. Best of all, they've chosen not to dispose of it, but rather to bundle it with MyDVD in the newly released MyDVD 5 Studio Deluxe, released by Sonic in September and distributed by Adaptec. And if that sounds to you like a suite that could stake a legitimate "all things to all people" claim, you wouldn't be far off. What's more, if it sounds like a lock for Editor's Choice, the single best mass-market DVD/CD creation tool on the market, you'd be right again.

A Period of Transition
There's so much that's new in MyDVD, we'll go quickly over the familiar—and even the relatively mundane among the new—and progress right to the new and the cool. Part of the idea of an all-purpose consumer tool like MyDVD is that it should take care of everything you need to get your video to DVD, from capture to editing to authoring to burning. MyDVD 4 had a solid real-time capture utility, but it's much improved in version 5, with a facile new capture window, and the ability to set capture time and not have to worry about starting and stopping. You can also set MyDVD to detect scenes and make chapter menus from scenes, which is fairly handy, but given that there's more interesting stuff you can do later on, trimming video and customizing transitions and chapter breaks, unless you're in a hurry, you can make better use of MyDVD's rich feature set by holding off and inserting your own chapter points. Under Record Settings, MyDVD gives you a few options for scene detection, such as a slider bar for determining detection sensitivity.

There's no batch capture option or quick scan feature for surveying your source tape before capture, which is disappointing, but more importantly, capture proved fluid and clean in testing, yielding a nice 10-minute DV-AVI file with no dropped frames, which is what you really need to move on to authoring and editing.

Whether you capture new video or pull video from your hard drive (using "Get Movies" in the main authoring window), MyDVD will drop a thumbnail of your video in a working title menu with default text. Double-clicking on the thumbnail or right-clicking and selecting "Edit Video" from the pop-up will take you to Sonic's brand new video editing window. If you didn't enable "Detect Scenes" during capture, you can have MyDVD do it now, and have it place those scenes in a storyboard layout for editing. You won't find a timeline layout like those found in popular consumer video editors like Pinnacle Studio or Ulead Video Studio here; Sonic says customer feedback indicates their users were looking for something simpler.

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