Price: £357 plus VAT
Dazzle is best known for its range of consumer and hobbyist products, but its new Real-Time Video Producer is an attempt to step into the professional market. It couldn’t really be described as an original product as it’s essentially a bundle of existing editing tools, based around Adobe Premiere 6.5. However, it’s excellent value for money, and provides an interesting plug-in that enhances Premiere’s real-time capabilities. Costing just over £350, Real-Time Producer comprises a full version of Premiere 6.5, along with Dazzle’s own DVD Complete software for DVD authoring, a copy of Boris FX Ltd, and Dazzle’s Native Video Pipeline plug-in for Premiere. The final element is a piece of hardware – a breakout box that provides both analog and digital video input and output. You’d normally pay more than £400 for a copy of Premiere alone, so there’s no doubt that the Real-Time Video Producer represents good value for money. Premiere 6.5 already has real-time capabilities, but the Native Video Pipeline plug-in complements these by allowing Premiere to work with video files in their native YUV format, so you won’t need to convert video from YUV into RGB and back again. One of the main benefits of this is that you can use breakout box to connect to an external monitor and get improved playback of your Premiere project. When you install the Native Video plug-in, you install new transitions and effects that can be played back in real-time. There are about three dozen of these, divided into four categories: page turns, wipes, pushes, and covers. These features aren’t a major innovation, but they do enhance Premiere’s existing real-time capabilities – and the low cost of the bundle means that they’re effectively thrown in for nothing, so we can’t really fault the Real-Time Video Producer for providing good value for money. And of course, there are even more effects and transitions on the bundled Boris CD. Our only real criticism here is that the manual provided with the Real-Time Video Producer does a poor job of explaining how the Native Video plug-in works, and we had to get some help from Dazzle’s technical-support department before we were able to configure our modified version of Premiere properly. The other major component in this bundle is the DVD Complete authoring program. This doesn’t offer the high-end features you’d find in a program such as Apple’s DVD Studio Pro, but it does a good job of helping you to quickly produce competent DVD titles. The program includes a series of wizards that allow you to produce DVDs with different levels of complexity. Select the basic Home DVD Wizard and the program will create a simple DVD with a menu and an option to design and print your own labels. A dialog box lets you select video clips, and the wizard creates a suitable menu for you. There are some nice touches such as a prompt that explains how to divide clips into chapters so that you can jump directly to one. More complex templates include the Business DVD and Hollywood DVD wizards. The Business DVD wizard includes the ability to add an ‘overture’ – an introductory clip that automatically plays at the beginning of your DVD. The Hollywood DVD wizard goes all out with options for creating the kind of ‘special features’ you get with many commercial DVD titles, such as trailers, outtakes, and a gallery of stills. These wizards all work well, and DVD Complete is a good introduction to authoring for people who don’t already have a preferred tool. Admittedly, there isn’t much about this bundle that can claim to be particularly innovative, apart from the Native Video plug-in. However, the combination of Premiere, DVD Complete, and the breakout box does mean that the Real-Time Video Producer provides a good all-in-one introductory package at a very attractive price.