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Review: EDITOR'S CHOICE--Sonic DVDit! 5
Posted Aug 3, 2004 Print Version     Page 1of 3 next »

Synopsis: After skipping a couple of generations, DVDit! hits the comeback trail with a new version well-equipped for videographers looking to jump into pro DVD authoring and users looking to move up from MyDVD and the run of entry-level tools. It's also well-positioned to compete head-on with other prosumer contenders such as DVD Workshop2 and Encore 1.5, thanks to powerful and accessible navigation customization features such as first play, routing, and end-action control, VBR transcoding, A/V sync, and forced selection controls that deliver many of the functional hallmarks of professional DVDs.

My genetecist uncle used to have a saying about the type of pseudo-genetics that seeps into popular discourse—when people talk about this or that trait "skipping a generation," they only say so with such confidence because whoever they heard it from "skipped the explanation." In other words, there was generally quite a bit more to the genetic principle at hand than whoever happened to be passing it on knew.

Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule. Take Sonic's DVDit! 5, the just-released successor to the eons-old (in DVD years) DVDit! 2.5. You're right if you think Sonic skipped a few generations—there was no DVDit! 3 or 4—but there's less to the backstory than you might think. According to the folks at Sonic, they jumped DVDit! to version 5 simply to bring it into generational accord with MyDVD 5, the company's ubiquitous consumer DVD tool.

Those who know some of the history of DVDit! probably recall that in the days before MyDVD, DVDit! was Sonic's "consumer" DVD tool—the first sub-$5000 DVD authoring product with any visibility, in fact. Today, DVDit! is a mid-range tool, aimed at videographers and corporate-level users looking to add some professional sheen to their DVD projects; its direct competitors include relative johnny-come-latelies Ulead DVD Workshop, Adobe Encore DVD, and Sony DVD Architect. Did DVDit! get more challenging, or more sophisticated since its "consumer" days? No, the wave of $100 DVD tools that MyDVD ushered in simply lowered the bar, or opened the doors to a new generation of DVD authors with little if any pre-existing knowledge of the format.

So that's a bit of DVDit!'s history in the DVD authoring field. But what about its future with videographers looking to work DVD creation into their workflow without starting at the bottom? That is, to start making commercially viable DVDs that match the quality of their shot and edited product? It's interesting to see Sonic position DVDit!—via the generation skip—in relation to MyDVD. It also makes sense, since everyone knows MyDVD these days; a key target demographic for the new DVDit! is would-be pro DVD authors who know MyDVD because it shipped with their burners, but want to distinguish themselves from the hoi polloi of the entry-level crowd, and elevate their DVD work over the kind of thing their clients could produce. To Sonic, that means several things: allowing control over first-play clips and end actions for all videos, button customization and alignment, Easter Egg creation, full link management, Dolby Digital support, and VBR encoding.

The Edit! Window
When DVDit! first came out, DVD authoring tools were terribly task-specific; that is, things like asset preparation, video editing, and slideshow creation happened outside of DVD tools. All-in-one products like MyDVD have created different expectations. Pro tools don't necessarily have to meet those expectations, of course, but given that Sonic is pursuing an upgrade market, they've made several concessions to multipurpose use in DVDit! 5.

One important new aspect of DVDit! is the Edit window. There, video editors will find a familiar timeline setup and a two-pane arrangement for bringing media into an asset bin and importing them into a project. DVDit! can import both elementary streams (video- or audio-only files) as well as files with both audio and video components. DVDit! identifies files with both audio and video components with a speaker icon in the lower right-hand corner of the thumbnail. You can also identify a file as a multiplexed A/V file in the Properties window, which contains all sorts of useful information, from resolution and aspect ratio to format, video and audio bit rates, field dominance, and the asset's location on your hard drive.

When you import a media asset from the asset bin (which DVDit! calls the Palette window) into your project, it opens in the timeline. There you can set chapter marks which will be recognized at the authoring stage. The timeline has two tracks, one for video and one for audio. If the imported file has no native audio track, you can add an elementary audio stream to the audio track and DVDit! will multiplex the A/V components at the "burning" stage (which includes transcoding, menu rendering, multiplexing, etc. as well as burning the DVD).

Whether it's the media file's native audio or an imported stream, you can right-click on the audio track to open the Audio Options menu and add bilingual support or sync up your audio and video using the Audio Offset controls. During testing, this came in handy right away; I had a couple of video clips languishing on my hard drive with audio sync problems dating back to capture and once I learned the mechanics of the offset controls, got everything properly re-aligned.

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