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Sonic MyDVD 3.5
Roxio VideoWave 5 Power Edition
Ulead DVD Workshop 1.3
VideoWave 5 is great, but works best as part of a team
MyDVD 3.5
Sonic Solutions
Windows 98 and higher

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

DVD Workshop 1.3
Ulead
Windows 98/98SE/Me/2000/XP
Roxio VideoWave 5 Power Edition (which is nearly identical to the earlier VideoWave 5) has the same limitation, but at least it has the benefit of including a fairly powerful video editor—in fact, VideoWave is a video editor, which happens to include a DVD authoring component.

You can approach DVD authoring in one of two ways in VideoWave: Jump straight into the authoring module, which limits you to importing only a handful of video and image formats and allows no editing (except for setting chapter points) but lets you jump right in; or edit your clips exactly as you want them—or just convert them, if necessary—in the video editor before they can be incorporated into the DVD. Fortunately, working back and forth between video editing and DVD authoring is fairly painless, and re-rendering takes little time as the SmartDV engine doesn't bother to recalculate unchanged frames. However, re-rendering will quickly eat up your free hard drive space.

Creating a menu and title/chapter structure is even easier than in DVD Workshop. Just create new menus on one of the strips along the top of the screen, then drag images, video clips, and audio clips from the library onto the preview screen to create menu backgrounds, titles, hotspots, and background music. Like DVD Workshop, setting chapter points is a matter of previewing a video clip, pausing on the appropriate frame, and setting a marker.

But for all the ease and convenience of the authoring module, it doesn't offer as many features as DVD Workshop. Backgrounds and buttons can't be animated; there's no provision for an introductory clip; you can't determine if the end of a title will automatically lead to another title or back to the menu; title thumbnails must be the first image of a clip.

In the end, all of the DVDs I produced looked quite presentable, though DVD Workshop's menus looked the most polished. The three programs created DVDs with about the same image quality (the differences were so minor I had to repeatedly view the discs to see them), so it really comes down to your needs and preferences. As someone who likes drag-and-drop simplicity, MyDVD is a dream. As a professional nitpicker, I like DVD Workshop's level of detail; the menus looked and sounded exactly as I'd planned. But by incorporating editing functions into the program itself, VideoWave gave me more options for tweaking my clips just the way I wanted—and since few (if any) DVD authoring programs give you real editing capability, VideoWave 5 is a great bargain. So much so, that if you just have to have DVD Workshop but have some spare cash, I would recommend getting VideoWave as well.

In fact, that's exactly what I did when I decided to make a fourth disc: I used DVD Workshop and VideoWave together, passing data back and forth. The end result was the exact DVD I'd wanted from the start, from top to bottom. The total cost of both packages would pass my $500 limit, but isn't my kid's imminent superstardom worth it?

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Originally printed in The Computer Paper (December 2002)
All prices quoted in Canadian dollars.