Price: £650 plus VAT
Complexity is not always a good thing. The power and precision of today’s top authoring tools means that you can create stunning pieces of all-singing, all dancing multimedia in 15 different formats in 12 languages with more knobs on than the entire DFS bedroom furniture range. However, this doesn’t matter if you’re putting together all-style, no substance pieces like enhanced CDs (eCDs – music CDs with small amounts of CD-ROM content such as music videos, band bios and pictures).
This is where Xenturi Studio One comes in. Aimed at creating interfaces around high-quality MPEG-1 video for placing on CD singles and promo giveaways, Xenturi keeps things simple so as to be much faster to use to create such interfaces than the likes of Macromedia Director. In this, it’s much more like a DVD authoring tool, where the emphasis is on production values rather than ground breaking interactivity.
Central to Xenturi, then, is the use of video. The application can work with MPEG-1 or AVI video – although there’s no MPEG-1 encoding software, which is disappointing for a professional-level package. Even multimedia creatives that have all their video delivered to them can’t guarantee that it will always be in
MPEG-1 – so this is an obvious hole.
MPEG-1 allows a large amount of decent quality video to be put on a conventional CD, even when the usual ten minutes of audio is included as well. On average MPEG-1 video takes as much space on a CD as CD audio on a second-for-second basis. It also runs well on slower machines – so overall, it’s the best format for eCD.
Creating multimedia interfaces in Xenturi feels much like using PowerPoint. Interfaces are made up of separate pages that you can place text, images (JPEGs or Windows bitmaps) and video (MPEG-1 or AVI). A properties palette gives instant access to controls such as resizing and beginning a video clip in its middle. Turning these objects into interactive elements is also easy using an event builder that uses a quick visual construction technique for buttons and suchlike. Even front-to-back layering and visibility of elements is easy to manage using a simple top
As well as the quick-&-simple stuff, Xenturi has a few tricks that you’re likely to use over and over again. The main one is sculptured video, which allows you to place an image over a video clip, with the video peeking through a mask. The masks can be as irregular and have as many holes as you like, and are easy to create in any imaging tool, as they’re just B&W BMP files. Other useful tools include automatic publishing with an executable and an autorun file and a plug-in for Director that lets you use Xenturi to improve Director’s video-handling ability.
Xenturi would be an excellent solution for eCD creation if it weren’t for the cost. Users from a DVD authoring background may see the £650 product as a cheap solution for making eCDs – but it’s only £300 cheaper than the industry leader, Director, and is missing most of that products functionality such as Flash support, 3D support, a programming language, a particle system, and even a timeline.
The £250 per quarter payment option sounds better – with regular updates, support for MPEG-2 and encryption and rental systems. Overpriced now, the future for Xenturi could be very interesting indeed.