Pros: Simple to use and uncluttered. Offers semi-professional features at a reasonable price. Timeline editing, encoding and menu tools speed up DVD creation.
Cons: Not completely professional. No subtitle features. Limited language support. Some features orientated towards NTSC market. Some limits to import options.
DVDit 5 is the latest mid-range DVD authoring tool from the only remaining member of the old guard of DVD developers – Apple, Pinnacle, or Sonic itself has bought everyone else. While competitors have meshed technologies together to create single applications, Sonic has a mess of different product lines aimed at tasks from home movies (MyDVD) to Hollywood blockbusters (Scenarist and DVD Producer).
DVDit is a step above MyDVD, but it’s no DVD Studio Pro. It used to be available in three versions at prices up to a grand – but severe competition from DVD Studio Pro and Encore DVD (which is based upon Sonic’s underlying technology) have required Sonic to drop the price dramatically to £145 plus VAT.
The upgrade offers a new simple interface, some interesting characteristics such as Easter Egg button creation, and fairly advanced audio features.
More than anything else, the new interface resembles DVD Workshop 2 from Ulead, with four windows – Projects, Edit, Author, and Finish windows – to lead you through the DVD authoring process. Creating a new project and selecting the TV standard (PAL or NTSC) that you require will move you into the Edit window where you import and assemble assets. DVDit supports the usual swathe of compressed video files. However, there is no support for DivX, though it can import DVD-compliant Microsoft Recorded TV Show files.
The timeline that sits at the base of the Editing window allows you to add and change chapter points. It’s possible to trim footage and audio in the main timeline as well as the timeline in the preview window. Slideshow creation is supported, and made simple through a Get Pictures option, or by dragging images in from Windows Explorer. Transitions between slides can be set to random to add variety.
Any DVD-compliant format can be imported from third-party software, with the application transcoding the rest during the burning process. The updated MPEG-2 encoder features variable bit rate (VBR) control for video and Dolby Digital (AC-3) for audio compression (though only stereo Dolby audio is supported) both of which make for smaller project files. In common with some other packages on the market, you can import footage from a DVD+VR disc. However, in the import stakes the similarly featured DVD Workshop scores over the Sonic application with its ability to capture from external sources such as DV cameras. It’s double the price though so unless you need to use this feature, there’s no point paying for it.
The DVD+VR support definitely makes this product worth a look. DVD recorders can record a supplementary audio track sometimes used in NTSC TV programmes for adding another language (known as SAP or secondary audio program), so DVDit can support the SAP track on assets imported from DVD+VR discs. While this would seem to be of little use outside North America and Japan, the ability to add bilingual support to a project will definitely come in handy for international discs and corporate DVDs. This is enabled in the Audio Options for the timeline, where you set the DVD Language preference – only English and Japanese language support is available in this version.
DVDs need an interface to control playback and give access to the content, so facilities for menu creation have become a key differentiator between DVD authoring packages. If you drag media in the form of video onto the Menu List, the Menu type in the Author Tab changes to Motion Menu. You can set the duration and choose the end action for this and other assets – whether it should loop, settle as a still image or jump to another menu at the end of the sequence.
Just as in Encore DVD and other higher tools, you can set colour sets for button subpictures (the button highlight) and import buttons created using layered Photoshop files. Object alignment is another useful addition to the feature set, and there’s an overlay grid for snapping to when moving menu elements. Safe area overlays are another new addition.
Another professional feature is button routing, where you determine the highlighted path that the user follows through the button list when selecting menu items with a remote control. This should be done in a logical manner for best usability and so you can let the application set an automatic route, wrapping the selection back to the start when it gets to the end, or you can manually define the routing for individual buttons. By setting a button’s opacity value to zero per cent, the DVD author can set the button to be hidden, though such ‘Easter Egg’ features can be activated on reaching the end actions of menu loops and other project elements.