|A CreativeCow.net Book Review
©2004 by Nick Jushchyshyn and Creativecow.net. All rights are reserved.
One of Creative COW's Ulead Media Studio Pro's leaders, Nick Jushchyshyn takes a look at DVD Workshop 2 from Ulead and concludes with..."Given its very competitive pricing, powerful feature set, and ability to create truly professional DVDs, this software gets a solid 4 1/2 cows."
As consumer acceptance of the DVD format continues to expand, the need for video professionals and artists to have access to advanced DVD authoring tools is becoming increasingly critical. After viewing hundreds of 'Hollywood' DVD titles, potential clients and audiences have grown accustomed to dynamic, animated menus, multiple audio and subtitle options, and extensive 'extra' content and copy protections. Ulead's DVD Workshop 2 seeks to empower its users with the tools needed to deliver the same high-end DVD experience.
Listed at $495, DVD Workshop 2's street price is generally $50 to $100 less than Adobe Encore and as much as $200 below Sonic's ReelDVD. With support for numerous image, video and audio formats, (including Dolby AC-3), built-in media capture, multiple audio and subtitle tracks per title, motion buttons, motion menus, menu transitions, hard disk output, burn to disc, author to DTL (single and dual layer), Macrovision protection and CSS encryption, DVD Workshop 2 is well equipped to go head-to-head with its competitors on functionality.
Ulead's marketing efforts are aimed directly at creative and artistic professionals looking to create engaging and dynamic DVDs. DVD Workshop 2's low price, short learning curve and rich feature set, make it something that every video professional should consider having in his or her tool kit.
The user interface is divided into four modes, (Capture, Edit, Menu, and Finish). These are easily selected via tab-like controls at the top of the Workshop window. Each mode features a large video display that presents a what-you-see-is-what-you'll-get view of your work. All the tools and controls required for each operating mode are located around this central display, along with a flexible media library.
Having grown quite comfortable with Windows menus and timeline interfaces, I was initially surprised by this layout and it did take a minute or two to find my way around. There is no standard Windows menu bar. Instead, menus and commands are located 'within' graphical buttons. There is, however, a comprehensive list of hot-key combinations that allows most commands to be accessed directly from the keyboard.
Despite this deviation from familiar standards, the interface is very intuitive and easily learned. Within minutes of installing, my first project, (a nine-chapter event coverage video), was ready to burn. In fact, more time was spent picking out fonts and colors for the menu than finding the commands I needed to build the DVD. DVD Workshop 2 has a rich set of tools for creating textured and stylized menu text, as well as robust utilities for including motion buttons and backgrounds.
One of the most valuable tools in the authoring process was the automated scene detection feature, which scans a selected video file for scene changes based on frame content or breaks in DV time code. Detected scenes can be quickly merged and/or split as needed into DVD chapters. What could have been a tedious job, identifying chapters markers within a long event video, became a simple, nearly automated, point-and-click operation.
Creating a slide show DVD was equally intuitive. DVD Workshop 2 easily handled the 130 or so 3 Megapixel JPG images I imported into the project along with an audio track. One nice feature to mention here was the ability to include an 'extra folder to disc' in the project. This feature allows for the creation of an extra file folder on the finished DVD that can be browsed when the disc is used in a computer. This way, in addition to having the slide show video, the original, hi resolution JPG source images could be included right on the DVD. While handy for a slide show project, this feature is a fantastic opportunity to include additional, computer readable content, such as PDF documents, software, data files and more, for use in sales demos, training projects and entertainment DVDs.
One feature that I would have liked to have found in the authoring process was an indicator as to the final encoded size of the project. DVD Workshop 2 permits authoring to hard disk so that a project can be checked against capacity prior to writing to a DLT or DVD, but the encoding process does take a significant amount of time. Final output to DLT or DVD after hard disc authoring doesn't require re-encoding, but having at least a good estimate during the design phase would be useful.
The real key to DVD Workshop 2's ability to author dynamic DVDs is the 'Playlist'. A Playlist is effectively a mini script or program that will be executed by a DVD player in response to events such as a menu button being activated, pushed, or even a menu time-out. 'Commands' within a play list can instruct the DVD player to switch to different sound or subtitle tracks, play a title at a specified chapter marker or proceed to a new menu.
A basic Playlist might simply contain a 'change audio track' command to activate a different language or commentary audio for a DVD 'setup menu'. A more complex Playlist could initiate a transition video to smoothly 'navigate' from the menu into a sequence of several titles, followed by a motion menu which, in turn, executes yet another Playlist if it times out.
The real treat for DVD Workshop 2 users is the fact that Playlists require no scripting, programming or coding at all. Playlists are constructed entirely with drag-and-drop operations and are displayed in a clear and concise list window.
There is still much more to DVD Workshop 2 that could be covered in this review. Ulead's web site includes several tutorials for expanding on the considerable built in menu building tools by directly integrating menu designs from PhotoImpact or Photoshop. There is also an extensive library of pre-designed menu templates, animated and still image backgrounds, and moving and static menu buttons.
Even with its few quirks, this software was extremely easy to learn and, most importantly, quickly put to work producing dynamic DVDs. Given its very competitive pricing, powerful feature set, and ability to create truly professional DVDs, this software gets a solid 4 1/2 cows.
- Nick Jushchyshyn
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