Sonic MyDVD 3.5
Roxio VideoWave 5 Power Edition
Ulead DVD Workshop 1.3
Ulead DVD Workshop gives you complete control
MyDVD 3.5
Sonic Solutions
Windows 98 and higher

VideoWave 5 Power Edition
Windows 98/NT/2000/Me

DVD Workshop 1.3
Windows 98/98SE/Me/2000/XP
Because my goal was a meticulously designed disc from top to bottom, I favoured the control offered by Ulead DVD Workshop and Roxio VideoWave 5 Power Edition. Before starting, I worked out a rough idea of how I wanted the DVD to look. I envisioned a black-and-white image crossfading into a colour one, with a short music clip playing; then the main menu would appear, with options to either play the disc from the beginning or go to a title selection menu. Each title would have several chapters, starting with a short introductory screen and some music. I collected my raw materials—the downloaded DV clip, the DV camera, title images I'd created in Photoshop, and ripped CD tracks—and got to work.

With DVD Workshop, I almost got the job done exactly as I wanted. The title bar divides the authoring process into five steps: Start, Capture, Edit, Menu, and Finish. Start defines the project parameters and Finish burns the disc, but once you get started you can move between the other three steps any way you please.

On the lower left of the DVD Workshop screen is a library of video clips, audio clips, and still images. I skipped Capture and went straight to edit, where I dropped a series of clips onto Title List strip at the bottom of the screen, creating a sequence of thumbnails. The first spot in the strip is the First Play clip—the animation that will be played when the DVD is first placed in the player. The rest are the video clips and still images that make up the titles on the disc. Double-clicking on a thumbnail brought it up in an editing window, where I could mark in and out points or replace the soundtrack with an audio clip.

DVD Workshop is fairly intuitive, and I was able to get everything arranged in short order. (Things went even faster when I discovered I could play only the marked-off segments of a video clip by holding Shift while clicking Play. It would have been nice had that tidbit appeared somewhere onscreen, rather than exclusively in the part of the manual no one will read because they already know how to use VCR controls.) When I needed to grab some clips I hadn't downloaded, I captured them through the DVD Workshop easily. There was one hitch, though: I couldn't control how long still images would stay onscreen. The control was ghosted no matter what I did.

Everything comes together in the Menu step, which was a pleasure to use. The level of control was simply astonishing. I was free to have animated or still backgrounds and hotspots. For that matter, I could use a thumbnail other than the first frame of a clip for a hotspot—or just use text alone, if I was so inclined, which was a welcome change from most programs I've tried. Copying styles (for example, text and highlight colours, drop-shadow settings, and font size), between hotspots was simple and quick. I could select different audio clips to accompany different menus. And menus could easily be linked to each other with text or graphic hotspots, making intricate menu structures a snap to create.

When I was finished, I used DVD Workshop's preview function to make sure the menus worked as planned. Oddly enough, I couldn't use the onscreen remote to skip back and forth between chapter points; in fact, I couldn't do anything but play, pause, stop, or return to the previous menu.

Chapter points turned out to be the most frustrating aspect of DVD Workshop. I'd forgotten that chapter points have to be set within a single video clip; because the titles I created were largely assembled from different clips, I couldn't set chapter points at scene breaks as I'd intended. In effect, I'd have had to put the clips together with a video editor before ever bringing them into DVD Workshop.

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Originally printed in The Computer Paper (December 2002)
Eight people - eight lives - one universal groove