Issue: Volume: 26 Issue: 6 (June 2003)


If you're not already creating interactive DVDs, the chances are good that you soon will be. According to a recent report from Jon Peddie Research, the market for DVD technology is exploding. The study speculates that in 2006, the total market for all types of DVD systems (players, recorders, set tops, PCs, and the like) will exceed 420 million units, representing a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 31 percent. For DVD recorders alone, that growth rate will be an astonishing 271 percent. Further-more, the media production for DVDs will exceed 1.6 billion discs in 2006, a CAGR of 159 percent. "DVD has enjoyed the most rapid rise of any consumer electronics technology ever introduced," the report concludes.
Stephen Porter is a contributing editor of Computer Graphics World and a freelance writer who has covered video, graphics, and digital content creation technologies and applications for more than 15 years. He can be reached at sporter@gsinet.net.

With numbers like that, it's easy to understand why desktop nonlinear editing (NLE) system vendors Adobe Systems and Pinnacle are eager to get into the DVD business. Whether driven by a desire to create corporate marketing and training titles, demo reels, independent films, or advertising campaigns, video and content creation professionals of all stripes are going to be looking to add DVD authoring to their skill sets.

In fact, Adobe's own research indicates that more than 50 percent of Premiere customers expect to buy a DVD recorder this year. The company further estimates that the DVD authoring market will grow by a CAGR of 391 percent.

Adobe Encore DVD automatically converts video source files to MPEG-2 and audio to Dolby Digital, allowing users to begin working with files quickly.

Until now, the DVD authoring market has largely been dominated by Sonic Solutions, which offers a full range of DVD authoring tools—from its high-end Scenarist product, which is used heavily by the Hollywood film community, to its consumer-level MyDVD program, which is bundled with many of today's third-party DVD burners. In the middle of its product range sit ReelDVD and DVD Producer, two authoring programs that have proved to be popular with desktop video and computer graphics professionals.

At NAB 2003 in April, both Adobe and Pinnacle made it clear they wanted a piece of the DVD authoring action with the announcement of tool sets that would be tightly integrated with their video editing software. Interestingly, while both Adobe and Pinnacle are clearly of one mind in terms of seeing a market need for an integrated NLE/DVD product, they've adopted different approaches for meeting that need.

Adobe's entry into the market comes in the form of Encore DVD, a stand-alone application that is integrated with the Adobe product line. According to product manager Giles Baker, such an integrated product is an important addition to the market because of the close relationship that already exists between the authoring process and the content creation process.

"People are using Adobe products in the current authoring work flow now," Baker says, which includes Photoshop for still menu creation, After Effects for motion menu creation, and Premiere for video editing. "So it makes sense for us to create a DVD authoring application that can take content from those applications and tie it together in the final authoring process."

Demos of Encore indicate that it promises to be a robust product, offering a relatively high level of functionality that's comparable to Sonic's DVD Producer. Features include support for multiple languages, multiple audio and subtitling, and sophisticated project-management tools and navigation controls. But its biggest selling point is the way it works with the other Adobe products.

Encore's highest level of integration is with Photoshop, thanks to the fact that the Photoshop rendering engine is built right into Encore. "We can take a PSD file and show it in Encore exactly as it would show up in Photoshop," says Baker. "We can also manipulate all the elements within that PSD in the same way as you would in Photoshop."

Though the integration with Premiere and After Effects isn't quite as tight, users of those programs will have the ability to export an AVI file, for example, without first having to convert it to an MPEG-2 file. Encore will do that automatically before final publishing. Moreover, says Baker, if you want to make changes to that file after you've already started working with it in Encore, you can click a menu button and Encore will launch the appropriate program and open the project that was used to create the AVI file. Once you've made the changes, you can export the file and Encore will pick up those changes automatically. Scheduled to ship in the third quarter of this year, the program will sell for $549 and will be available for Windows machines only.

Pinnacle's approach promises to be a little different. Rather than offering a stand-alone DVD program, Pinnacle plans to embed its DVD authoring right into the new video editing program it plans to launch this month. Called Edition 5, the new program includes, among other things, real-time effects, transitions, and trimming. Patrick Beaulieu, product manager for Edition 5, claims that it's meant to be an "Adobe Premiere replacement."

Pinnacle Edition 5 lets editors author DVDs right from the editing timeline, omitting the time-consuming process of exporting and importing MPEG files to a separate authoring application.

As for the DVD authoring tools, Beaulieu notes, those will be embedded in the program's timeline. What that means, he says, is that there's no need to import and export files. Instead, you work with a menu editor that offers drag-and-drop interaction. There's a DVD wizard to offer assistance and 40 templates that users can work with.

"Having everything integrated inside the editing application enables you to save a lot of time," Beaulieu says. "It will allow more people to create quality DVDs more easily. And when working with things like animated buttons, having the authoring application integrated within a real-time editing application allows you to make changes faster because you get the benefit of that program's speed."

Adobe's Baker admits that Pinnacle's approach does offer some nice integration between the authoring and editing programs, but argues that the approach limits the kind of DVD authoring functionality you can offer users. "We think the DVD authoring process warrants a separate application because it can be very complex," he says. "So we see the workflow as possibly more fragmented than they do. Maybe you have one person doing the video editing and one person doing DVD authoring, in which case the integration works nicely between the two applications. Or maybe you have a single person doing all the tasks. But, in either case, having the DVD authoring and the video editing in two separate applications makes more sense."

Indeed, Adobe's Encore does seem to be shaping up as a program that will offer more authoring functionality than Pinnacle's Edition 5. For example, the former offers support for multiple languages while the latter doesn't.

But Beaulieu is convinced that Pinnacle's taken the right tack. The authoring functionality in Edition 5, he says, will meet the needs of 90 percent of users. Those who need more functionality can always buy a stand-alone package, such as those offered by Sonic. In addition, although Pinnacle's approach might sacrifice some functionality, it also commands a lower price: $699 for the complete package.

And what about Sonic? Is it worried that the days of the stand-alone DVD authoring program are coming to an end? Not in the least, says Rolf Hareley, vice president and general manager of Sonic's special products division. "I think what Adobe and Pinnacle are doing simply validates what Sonic has been talking about for a long time, which is that DVD creation is just massively exploding," he says. "It makes sense that those guys would be interested in DVD creation as part of their story.

"But Sonic is focused solely on DVD creation," Hareley adds. "And for most of those folks coming into the market, Sonic technology will be the place where they get their first taste of DVD production. Also, with the upgrade opportunities that we offer, as their business grows they can grow with Sonic products. I don't think you can have 'one size fits all.'"

Certainly it's a valid point. And if the DVD authoring market takes off the way the experts say it will, there'll probably be more than enough business to go around.