Sonic MyDVD 3.5
Roxio VideoWave 5 Power Edition
Ulead DVD Workshop 1.3
How do I author DVDs? Let me count the ways
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
As the father of a two-year-old, I am of course duty-bound to record and catalog every shining moment of his antics—all of which naturally point to his innate genius and likely future as a physicist, neurosurgeon, rock star or some combination thereof. And we can't rule out the possibility of all three.

The obvious choice was, of course, to make a DVD of his exploits. (Videotape is so twentieth-century.) With DVD recorders becoming ever more affordable, I put a few packages through their paces, all with the same objective: to see if I could make a disc that looked so professional that people would think that Max was starring in a Hollywood movie (until they saw the bit with him running through the house naked) using an application that costs under $500. To this end, I recorded 53 minutes of raw footage on a Sony MiniDV camera, and transferred the first 35 minutes to my PC through a FireWire connection using Windows Movie Maker.

At the lowest end of the price spectrum was Sonic Solutions' MyDVD, version 3.5 of which came bundled with the Hewlett-Packard 200i DVD+R/RW drive I used for my tests. (I should state at the outset that I chose the 200i because when I looked at other packages earlier in the year, some manufacturers had problems with DVD+RW drives. I'm happy to report that all of the programs tested here write to DVD-R/RW and DVD+R/RW discs—and all except DVD Workshop even write to DVD-RAM.)

MyDVD doesn't offer anything too fancy—the goal is to convince you to upgrade to the more recent, feature-packed version 4.0—but it's not too bad. All you need to do is select a prefab menu background, then drag and drop AVI, MPEG or QuickTime files onto it. You also have the option of recording a clip directly from a DV camera or through a capture board, but you can't edit the clip. Furthermore, you have to hope that your capture board can keep up; when I tried capturing full-frame (720 x 480) video with an All-in-Wonder Radeon on a 733-MHz Pentium III, the video stuttered along at a jerky 10 fps or so. The benefit is that you can add chapter points while recording, either automatically (at preset intervals) or manually (by pressing the spacebar as the preview video plays onscreen).

Throw in the ability to replace a clip's soundtrack using any audio file, and you've hit the limit of MyDVD's customization options. It's incredibly clear and easy to use, but you have to have edited your clips beforehand, and you can't insert chapter points unless you take a chance with capturing video.

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