|Ulead's DVD Workshop is a solid, easy-to-use program with which you can quickly get up and running, burning DVDs without a steep learning curve. The new Version 2.0 of the software does not alter the solid foundation; yet, it does add many new, professional features that make it well suited to any design studio.
DVD Workshop 2 is divided into five different screens: Start, Capture, Edit, Menu, and Finish. The program does not follow a standard Microsoft Windows menu/toolbar layout, so it can take a few minutes to figure out where everything is. In the Start screen, you can not only create a new project, but also save multiple versions of a job.
|Despite a wealth of high-end features, Ulead's DVD Workshop Version 2 has a gentle learning curve.
In the Capture screen, you can grab video directly from your camcorder. Al-though the program was rock solid otherwise, I experienced some trouble with the program finding my FireWire device and capturing correctly. Upon first try, the program couldn't locate my device, and then once it did, it would start to capture, a process I could not stop. After a reboot, capturing with the program worked fine. Capturing can be the most challenging element because many variables with different devices are involved.
The Edit page is where you can tweak and chop up your video clips and title screens. You can add transitions between images; add in a narration, music, or commentary; and type in subtitle tracks.
The program can make automatic slideshows, a significant benefit. Simply drag in a stack of stills and the program arranges them as a slideshow on the DVD with a default transition. You can add music or alter the transitions. More than 100 options are offered, including wipes, peels, slides, and 3D effects—all very professional and varied. The subtitle feature is one of the most robust I have seen in a program of this type. You can add multiple subtitle tracks in many languages, typing them in and cueing them to appear at specific times during the video. You can also add in a preexisting text track that has metadata synced to your footage, all while adjusting such subtitle attributes as border, background, font type, font color, and location on screen.
On the Menu page, you can add full-motion menu screens and animated buttons and text. A wealth of options are available for jazzing up text and graphics with drag-and-drop templates. The Finish screen helps burn your final project to a DVD, an ISO disc image, or a DLT device.
How did Ulead improve upon an al-ready solid program? It packed it with new features. It now supports the use of up to eight audio tracks. It will automatically fade in and out of each, if you wish, and provide control over the audio levels. Subtitle tracks can number up to 32, each with its own dedicated language code. Metadata, such as time code information from DV footage, can be displayed in a subtitle track.
In Version 2, menus can be multi-layered with image masking, transparency, and video motion buttons. Input and output options have been enhanced to include a wider variety of options. For example, you can now import Dolby Digital 2.0/5.1, Photoshop PSD, GIF animation, CD audio, Sony MICROMV, and WMV files. As for output options, you can produce dual-layer DVD-9 format discs and add Macrovision and CSS copy protection. The program will also take two-channel audio and simulate surround sound on your final DVD.
DVD Workshop 2 also is much more efficient. A new MPEG Direct feature captures video and converts it to MPEG on the fly and saves it to your hard drive. Smart Rendering enables you to render only that which needs to be compressed when going to disk. Instant Burning can create a DVD without the need to render out an ISO image or temporary file to your hard drive.
Ulead has raised the bar on an already polished program by adding more useful features. Although the software is easy to learn and use, don't be misled. It is a professional-level DVD authoring tool that can be used to create high-end productions. You can dive into it easily, adapt to it quickly, and use it to produce high-quality DVDs with graphic and text attributes that are sure to leave your clients impressed.
Frank McMahon (www.fmstudio.com) is a graphics professional with more than 15 years' experience testing high-end software and hardware tools for the creative community.
Price: $495 for the full version, $295 as an upgrade
Minimum System Requirements: Windows 2000 or XP, Intel Pentium III 800mhz or higher, 128mb of RAM, 500mb of hard disk space for program installation, 14gb hard disk space for video capture and converting, Microsoft DirectX 9, DVD-ROM drive, at least a Pentium 4 2ghz or equivalent for real-time preview, and 512mb of RAM.