|Creativecow.net Product Review
©2005Alex Alexzander and Creativecow.net. All rights are reserved.
Many DVD authors are familiar to some degree with the various DVD authoring applications that exist. Most of these authoring applications allow the author to add DVD-ROM content. DVD-ROM content is typically how the author provides additional assets to the viewer. In this article, Creativecow's Alex Alexzander takes a thorough look at Sonic's eDVD 3 Web Enhanced DVD.
Many DVD authors are familiar to some degree with the various DVD authoring applications that exist. Most of these authoring applications allow the author to add DVD-ROM content. DVD-ROM content is typically how the author provides additional assets to the viewer. An example would be a manufacturer that wishes to showcase its products through a DVD-based presentation. The manufacturer may wish to give the viewer additional materials such as a PDF-based catalog of other products, or higher-resolution images that simply go beyond what the DVD video itself can display through a television.
Adding DVD-ROM content is easily enough accomplished, but the viewer might not be aware that such content exists on the DVD. The viewer is often left having to traverse the DVD through the normal file system browser, looking among the many DVD files for the content they are interested in.
Authors have long since looked for a way to integrate this content through a process called "Linking" from directly within their DVD's contents. This way, the viewer of the DVD need only navigate through the simple controls of the DVD itself to find the content of interest.
By now you are painfully aware that DVD authoring applications themselves typically do not include a process for linking to additional DVD-ROM content. However, this can be done with applications such as Apple's DVDAccess (DVD@CCESS) or Macromedia's Director. I'll write a little bit about those two subjects in the review notes at the end of this article.
Sonic's eDVD is a third-party application that provides linking enhancements to your DVD project. In addition to simply providing links to DVD-ROM content such as PDF and graphic files, eDVD can further enhance the DVD to include access to outside communications such as web pages if the computer itself has an internet connection. Best of all, eDVD has a far stronger toolset then Apple's DVDAccess, and it is much easier to use then Macromedia Director.
If you have watched the Warner Brothers sci-fi film, The Matrix, on a personal computer you may have noticed such additional functions. In The Matrix, a special DVD-ROM-based menu activates, offering you additional content which is tied to the DVD itself and the Warner Brothers web site for the film.
Sonic's eDVD is a very simple application to get accustomed to. There are a few considerations when using it, and I'll cover them all. Most of all, I hope to give you an idea as to what it offers you, the DVD author. This article is a little bit of a tutorial at the beginning with review notes following closer to the end. I'll explore the eDVD application first to give you a good idea of how it works and what function it provides. After that, I'll add my review comments and final conclusion.
Sonic's eDVD has an incredibly simple interface. It is designed to show each chapter point in each title-set you have created within the DVD authoring application via loading the VIDEO_TS folder of an already-built product. I'll show how you'll load the VIDEO_TS folder a little later on, but for now I want to give you an overview of what the interface's function is so that you will better understand how this application is used right away.
The toolbar is used to preview, build, open, save, and simulate any VIDEO_TS loaded into the interface. In this image I am previewing Title 1: Chapter 1. This shows that the first track (title-set) I have created in my DVD authoring application is a title-set I intended to use with eDVD. This title-set is only 4 seconds long and contains a chapter at the 2-second mark. Sonic's eDVD views this as two chapter points. The first one is at the start of the track, and the second one is the one I have just described at the 2-second mark. Later I will add enhanced eDVD functions at the second chapter-link using the eDVD application.
This is the largest section, which contains all the chapter points of all the title-sets I have created. If you look carefully, you'll see I have five title-sets. The left side of this screen shows a number of fields, the first of which is the Title. This is followed by the Chapter, the Chapter Name, the Link Type, the Link Target, the DVD Action, and the Link Destination.
You'll notice that for now, I have the Link Type set to none. Therefore, the Link Target, DVD Action, and Link Destination are all completely empty. This area is indicated by the purple color designation.
When you use the toolbar to preview your eDVD project, the Preview section will show a simulation of the work you have done so far. This will act like a software DVD player and will show fully working menus. If you have set a link target for a web page or a PDF target, you'll see those items opened, and loaded as well. This way you are fully able to test the web address or file structure and behavior you have created.
The status window shows the current status of each action you perform. In simulation, you'll see the status of a simulated build, for example.
In order to start a new project, you should have two items prepared on the hard drive. You should have a finished DVD built to the hard drive in the form of a VIDEO_TS and AUDIO_TS folder. You should also have a destination for the additions you will create with eDVD. My VIDEO_TS folders are contained in a folder called "sample DVD", and the additions I plan to make I will save in a folder called "DVD-ROM". With those two folder created, I am ready to start enhancing a DVD.
The first prompt I will see when starting eDVD is a prompt asking if I wish to start a new project, open an existing project, or simply, cancel.
I will select New, which assumes the folders I have described are ready.
Here I need to name my project, which you see in the first cell. In the second cell, I select the browse button to pick a destination for the project. This is not the same location of the VIDEO_TS. You will not be adding any files to that folder. I'll show you how to add additions later, but for now just know that two separate locations are needed. Again, my additions will go into a folder I have called "DVD-ROM".
Once that is selected, I need to select the VIDEO_TS folder of my existing DVD project already built.
As you can see from the above image, and save locations, I now have a project name, a location set for my additions, and the location set for the source VIDEO_TS files. As a side note, these VIDEO_TS files are not modified in any way.
Once those three fields are accepted, you will be brought into the eDVD application. Take a look at the status section of the interface, and you'll note that the status shows the location of the project and the VIDEO_TS.
Each time you save your project, the contents of the destination folder are updated. This is not the VIDEO_TS folder. Both the project files and the data I will add to the DVD-ROM portion of the DVD are stored in the destination folder at two varying levels. First, in the root of the folder that I made destination, is a folder which carries the name I assigned to the project. Within that folder are project files, which are what you are saving. To reload the project, you will select the file I have shown below marked with the top arrow.
The arrow at the bottom points to a folder called "image" which holds the contents of what I must later add to the DVD-ROM portion of the project I am enhancing. I'll illustrate exactly how you add your DVD-ROM content a little later on.
Sonic's eDVD works by enhancing the structure of your DVD. The chapter markers you have set in the track assets you have defined within the DVD authoring application are the trigger points that eDVD uses. Because of this, there are a few considerations you should make when designing your DVD with eDVD enhancements in mind.
From the DVD authoring point of view, I created a sub-menu within my DVD authoring application that looks exactly the same as a small track asset I have prepared. Sonic's eDVD cannot assign actions directly to a menu; therefore, what I have done is created a menu and a track asset with a chapter point that will act like a seamless trigger for the enhancements I will add.
This is my menu editor with the authoring application. I wish to define to web links later on with eDVD. Note the three buttons I have created within the menu editor. The top button will take the user to the Creative Cow web site, while the second link will take the user to the eDVD product page.
Because eDVD uses chapter points as triggers, I have set up two different 4-second tracks within the DVD authoring application that will later serve as the trigger point. I want it to look as if the user is still within this menu, however, so I have created the two tracks with the same source material as this menu.
Here is my timeline within the DVD authoring application. It's only 4 seconds long, and I have two of these tracks within the DVD application. I have imported these two assets before I imported any other .mpv (also known as .m2v) assets, thus making them title-set 1 and title-set 2.
From within the DVD authoring application, I have set a target for the first button in the menu to this track, and chapter 1. As you'll see in eDVD, I am going to add an enhancement to chapter 2 of this title set. So two things are going to happen here.
First, the viewer of the DVD is going to see my menu. When the viewer selects the Creative Cow link, the DVD will play title 1: chapter 1 as I have set up with the DVD authoring application. As 2 seconds pass, title 1: chapter 2 is reached, and the additions I will create in eDVD will become active.
Now, within the DVD authoring application, I have also set the End Action property of this 4-second track to return back to this web link menu, and highlight button #1, but before the viewer reaches the End Action property I'll have created a detour.
Enhancing DVDs with eDVD requires that you have access to the VIDEO_TS folder. This happens when you build the project directly to the hard drive, or copy an existing VIDEO_TS from DLT or a DVD-R media. In any case, we will need to add DVD-ROM content to the DVD, but before we can do that we need to define what that DVD-ROM content will be within eDVD. This adds an extra step to the DVD authoring process. Rather than building directly to DVD-R or DLT, you first build to hard disc, then enhance through eDVD. That gives us DVD-ROM content, which we can then add back to the DVD project either through the authoring application or through Sonic's RecordNow application.
Once you have built to hard disc, or have access to the VIDEO_TS by some other means, you're ready to start enhancing.
Below is the track with chapter I created in the authoring application.
This is title 1. When I call this up in eDVD, I can double-click this title to watch it in the simulation preview window to make absolutely sure I have the correct title. As shown in the graphic above, I have two chapters, and I wish to add a link to chapter 2 that will send the viewer to the Creative Cow web site home page.
Below is a graphic of how this is accomplished with eDVD.
Note in the graphic above I have selected Title 1: Chapter 2. There are three pull-down menus, each offering various choices. Link type allows me to link to an outside web page, or a DVD-ROM-based PDF or graphic file. In this example, I am going to send the viewer to an external web address, so I have selected web.
The Link Target I have set to Popup. This actually loads a browser in addition to the InterActual player that is playing my DVD in the background. If I selected Replace, the same window used to display the video would be replaced with the web page. Selecting New would result in more than one new window, aside from any prior window popups or new windows that may have been left open already. In this example, I want the web browser to popup a window that is separate from the DVD video window, and I want future web browsers to use that same window.
Notice the DVD Action pull-down options. I have selected Play, which means after chapter 2 has been processed and the web page loads the window, the DVD in the background continues to play. Remember earlier I said we were really creating a detour. This web page is the detour, but in fact eDVD is smart enough to allow me not to detour the viewer completely. Instead, I can create this option, and leave the DVD still playing normally in the background.
The last option here is the Link Destination. Here I have simply typed in the URL destination. At this point, I am ready to simulate with the InterActual player. The InterActual player is a software application that is part of eDVD. Think of this as a wrapper of sorts. It acts as the DVD player to the viewer.
Once I have made my additions, it's a good idea to save my progress and then simulate with the InterActual player. I do this by clicking on the InterActual icon on the toolbar as shown below.
Once the simulation starts, a prompt box will open and will then be covered by the simulation itself. I like to leave this prompt open until I have finished simulating the DVD because it asks if you are finished as soon as you start the simulation.
Take a quick note of what this prompt states, however. The second line says your ROM image can be found in the folder you specified for this project.
The ROM image this prompt describes is the image folder as shown in the graphic above.
Let's go back to the simulation now. The simulation has started, a prompt is up, and you understand the prompts function. Now the InterActual application is running, and it opens your DVD Video, thus acting as a software DVD player.
Here I have the menu I created which targets an ordinary title from within the DVD authoring application. When I select the Creative Cow link, the enhancements I set in the title 1: chapter 2 title link will take effect, and the InterActual player will popup a web browser with the web page target.
And there we have it. You can see that the InterActual player also acts as the web browser.
Meanwhile, chapter 2 has finished playing in the background, and the End Action I set within the DVD authoring application now carries out its jump target, which is to return to my enhanced menu, thus allowing the viewer the opportunity to click on the other link in the DVD player application.
At this time, I am satisfied with the results, and so I want to add the DVD-ROM enhancements to my DVD now. I'll close the simulation, and reveal the prompt box behind it.
I will select Done Editing, which then will open a prompt to select the license I wish to print.
The default package of eDVD allows for up to 20,000 units per project for the one-time rate of the cost of the application. Additional costs start at $499 for larger distribution.
Let's take a look at the tool bar one last time before adding the DVD-ROM content to the DVD.
The hammer icon as shown above is the build option. Each time you simulate, you'll notice that the build actually takes place in order to run the simulation. You will notice that the build option cannot be selected again unless changes are made again. The contents of the image folder are ready to be included into the DVD-ROM area of the DVD now.
This is the ROM image folder I have created as a result of using eDVD. You can see it has a .DMG file, which provides a Macintosh installer for OS X 10.3 users.
We want to be careful to only add the contents of this Image folder. This folder resides within the project folder where all the work is saved and used inside the eDVD application as you saw earlier.
You have two options here. One would be to simply add the DVD-ROM content directly within the DVD authoring application itself. The other would be to use a third-party DVD burning application. I'll go over both since the eDVD application comes with RecordNow DVD burning software.
Find your DVD authoring application's DVD-ROM (DVD-DATA) property and select Add ROM Data.
I'm using Sonic Producer, so for me that is Edit in the pull-down menus, then Projection Settings.
Use your authoring application to select the ROM image file location.
Once selected, choose OK.
Now you're ready to burn your DVD just as normal.
Open Sonic RecordNow, and select the yellow folder, then select the Data Disc option.
Drag and drop the VIDEO_TS folder (and AUDIO_TS folder if your authoring application created one) to the empty area.
Next, locate the ROM image folder and open it so you see its contents.
Drag and drop the contents of the Image folder into the area where the VIDEO_TS folder now resides.
The VIDEO_TS and the contents of the ROM image folder now share the same area within RecordNow.
There really is no competition for eDVD. While it is true that Macromedia Director could be used, the learning curve would easily prove to be monumental for the average DVD author just looking for a simple way to add a few DVD enhancements. The next closest competitor is Apple's DVDAccess (DVD@CCESS) function, which is a built-in function that works internally with DVD Studio Pro to provide ROM linking functions to internal ROM-based PDF documents or external web pages. DVDAccess is wholly dependant on existing applications capable of viewing these documents or URLs, as it doesn't contain its own player software as Sonic's eDVD does with the InterActual player application.
An example of this would be the browser function using DVDAccess. DVDAccess simply attempts to call your own browser by loosely calling a URL which should "spawn" whatever application is used to view a URL. Sonic's eDVD instead provides a rich toolset allowing you to use the InterActual player as both the DVD video viewer and a browser. Because eDVD uses this InterActual player, it is far more capable of viewing graphics as well, whereas DVDAccess simply links to graphics but contains no player at all.
DVDAccess works internally with DVD Studio Pro, so only DVD Studio Pro users can author DVDAccess functionality. These additions can be viewed with a PC DVD software player, but again, it's a spawn technique without a player. Sonic's eDVD on the other hand works with the existing VIDEO_TS folder, thus allowing it to work with almost any DVD authoring application whether it be Macintosh or PC-based. Sonic's eDVD also has its own player application which is available for both the PC and the Macintosh.
One of the biggest drawbacks of Apple's DVDAccess is that the application doesn't come with an auto-install function. Only a simple .EXE application is included, leaving many DVD authors, who wish to inform their audience, with the problem of how to tell their viewers that the extra features exist.
This is where eDVD really shines. Sonic's eDVD informs PC viewers that don't have the InterActual player already installed that the DVD they are viewing has special features that can be viewed if the player is installed. In contrast, there is no such capability on the Macintosh with DVDAccess. It's entirely up to the DVD author to inform the audience in some way that extra enhancements beyond the normal DVD playback exist, and that an additional application is required to enjoy those enhancements.
In addition to this, the InterActual player provides an easy-to-use preference setting allowing the PC viewer to make the InterActual player the default player.
Macintosh users will unfortunately have to install the InterActual player manually. When a DVD is inserted with enhanced eDVD functions, the Macintosh user will not be notified.
In addition the Macintosh user will have to choose the Apple preferences for CDs & DVDs and set the default DVD player to InterActual Player in order to take advantage of DVDs that have eDVD features built in at startup. The one problem this presents is that the InterActual player on the Macintosh doesn't include many of the features that Apple customers have with Apple's own software DVD player.
The PC version of the InterActual player affords many of the functions needed for an on par experience with other software DVD players. The Macintosh version, however, lacks many of those functions, and thus using the InterActual player on the Macintosh as the default player might feel like you have lost functionality.
Still, considering the experience the InterActual player and eDVD enhancing application provides the vast PC-based DVD authoring and viewing community, eDVD is more then a welcomed application where otherwise enhancing and providing DVD-ROM linked features to the novice user was a challenge. In addition, because eDVD works with the VIDEO_TS folder, it can be used to enhance Sonic Scenarist, Producer, ReelDVD, DVD Fusion, Creator, DVDit, MyDVD, Adobe's Encore DVD, Avid DVD by Sonic, Spruce Maestro, Sony DVD Architect, Apple's DVD Studio Pro projects as well as most any DVD authoring application, even Apple's iDVD, according to Sonic.
If most of your clients are using set-top players or PCs for enhanced DVD playback, then eDVD is simply a must-have application. It's priced low, easy to use, and works with most authoring systems. It informs PC users that extra content exists automatically, and offers to install and properly set preferences. Nothing on the market that I know of is as easy to use.
Price: $899* | Special Offer $599
Compatible Player Platforms: Windows98SE, ME, 2000, XP, MacOS X 10.3
- Windows XP Home, Pro / Service Pack 1
- Microsoft DirectX 9
- Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.0 or later
- Macromedia Flash Player 7
- Software DVD player or working DVD Decoder Software such as Sonic CinePlayer
- DVD Authoring software (VIDEO_TS)
- DVD Burning software (DVD Authoring with DVD-ROM function or DVD burning software such as Sonic RecordNow)
- 1 GHz Pentium 4 or better
- 100 MB for eDVD plus any required space for VIDEO_TS
- DVD-ROM Drive, DVD-Burner, Monitor with 1024x768 resolution, 24-bit color or better. 32 bit recommended.
- Printer or Print to PDF for printed license for replication.
|(C) Copyright 2005 Alex Alexzander and CreativeCow.net
All Rights Reserved
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