When we speak of "convergence" in these parts (and trust me, we at EMedia try to do so as little as possible), we mean something that's simultaneously specific and maddeningly vague. It's specific in the sense that of all the things that might converge (and I have it on good authority that everything that rises must), we are most likely referring to desktop computing and consumer electronics. The two have reportedly been on a collision course for some time now, though the details of the journey—and the place and time of their meeting—seem to change with each step. DVD creation's main contribution to the convergence cause has been the VR format, which was initially developed to allow set-top DVD recorders to set disc parameters on the fly (and immediately after the fact as needed), enabling them to make legal DVDs from live feeds. The +RW Alliance brought VR to the desktop as +VR, and VR capability soon showed up in all the consumer-oriented DVD authoring tools that were designed to work indirectly with set-top recorders (allowing on-disc editing of VR discs), and thus said entry-level tools got into the convergence game.
But there's a more interesting sort of convergence going on with these tools, which makes the old categorization—specifically, grouping them under the umbrella of "entry-level DVD authoring tools"—a poor fit. Tools like Sonic MyDVD 5 Studio Deluxe and the latest to outgrow the title, Ulead's DVD MovieFactory 3 Disc Creator, are no longer simply DVD tools. Nor are Ahead's Nero or Roxio's Easy Media Creator 7 (née Easy CD) just CD burning products. But as these tools transcend the old categories, they're also defining and rapidly redefining a new species of all-purpose disc creation tools, consumer in orientation but valuable for pros who need to get discs done quickly and cleanly. Each has its own signature strengths.
MyDVD got to simplified DVD creation first, and on that count they're tough to beat, as you might expect, given their dominance in DVD authoring at all levels. Sonic bundles a fine CD recording engine with MyDVD, but in a limited version that pales in comparison to the those offered in Nero and Creator. And it's no surprise that as Ulead beefed up its popular MovieCreator software with CD recording and a DVD player application (as well as specific enhancements to existing capabilities across the board), they've delivered an application that's both rich in versatility and best-of-breed in one particular area: video editing.
Ulead is a company that boasts strong products in both the video editing and DVD authoring spaces (MediaStudio Pro and Video Studio on the NLE side, MovieFactory and the Editor's Choice-winning DVD Workshop [see Ozer review in April EMedia, pp. 31-34] on the DVD side). They also have strong opinions about how to mix NLEs and DVDs on both a prosumer and consumer level. Ulead's direct competition in consumer NLEs is Pinnacle's Studio, which ushered in NLE-DVD convergence (if we can again extend the term) with version 8, offering DVD authoring direct from the timeline. As Ulead product manager Travis White told me (and it was roughly a year ago, so I'm paraphrasing), Ulead considered that approach and rejected it, based on the company's understanding of their users' workflow. I'm on record as a staunch supporter of the Studio approach, at least when significant editing precedes authoring. However, consumer content creation happens at so many levels now—thanks to the ubiquity and cheapness of fast computers, big hard drives, and DVD recorders—there's clearly room for multiple approaches, including automatic movie creation at the low end, ambitious entry-level editing in the Studio/Video Studio zone, and, somewhere in the middle, the mildly ambitious DVD making that prizes attractive, clear menus and doesn't worry a whole lot about editing.
That doesn't mean all your raw footage ends up on DVD, but you also don't want to think about storyboards or timelines. Ulead's Multitrim window, in which users can identify multiple segments of individual clips to retain or discard, has me flat-out convinced that there's a middle ground for non-editors with clips to trim, and that Ulead's way is the flat-out right way to do it. Every other no-frills clip-trimmer has missed the mark, but Ulead has nailed it. Triage We're getting ahead of ourselves here, moving from the general to the specific way too soon.
One of the nice things about DVD MovieFactory 3 Disc Creator is that it takes users along that narrowing path in a logical way. It begins with a sort of triage screen that gives you five options for disc creation (video, slideshow, music, data, and copy), plus Edit Disc, for working with discs previously created in MovieFactory 3, and DVD Player, for software playback of DVD-Video.