A Swiss Army knife is a very good pocket knife with a lot of novel, if sometimes rather unusable, gadgets. A multi-tool, on the other hand, is more often than not just a collection of unusable gadgets. Multimedia suites tend to be more like Swiss Army knives than multi-tools, but thankfully in Roxio’s 2011 version of Creator most of the add-on gizmos are actually useful and usable.
The headline new feature is, perhaps predictably, the addition of 3D video and photo support. Most 3D formats are supported, including anaglyph (red/cyan or red/blue), side-by-side and top-bottom. RealD content can be imported and created, but Fuji 3D MPO files can only be imported. You even get a free pair of budget cardboard red/cyan glasses to get you started (this applies to download purchases too), but for other formats you’ll need the appropriate viewing hardware.
Creator can convert 2D movies to 3D on the fly, but not HD videos, which is disappointing. The results are surprisingly good, although we were only able to try out the anaglyph mode. Adding 3D to existing 2D photos is fun and very easy, and you can also generate true 3D images by combining two photos taken from a few inches apart. Creating 3D DVDs (standard or AVCHD) from 3D or 2D videos and photos is just as easy, and discs can be created in anaglyph or RealD format. 2D and 3D content can be mixed in the compilation.
Blu-ray isn’t supported at all in Creator Standard. The Blu-ray authoring plug-in costs £14.99 (included for free in the Pro version), while the Blu-ray playback plug-in (for both Standard and Pro versions) costs £19.99. Although frustrating, at least it keeps the price down for those without Blu-ray drives. You can create AVCHD discs, however, which are DVDs containing up to an hour of HD content. The video editing module, VideoWave, gains video stabilisation and one-click video rotation capabilities. It can now also import MKV files.
The interface is almost identical to the 2010 version, complete with the same programs. As well as the core disc burning and video editing programs, there’s a competent photo editor (PhotoSuite) and the PhotoShow Express online sharing service. BackOnTrack, a commendably simple backup tool, gets a much better revamped interface, plus the ability to create full disk images. Only the Pro version can do bare-metal restores, though; in Standard you can only restore files and folders from an image.
The Pro version has some other extras, such as the ability to burn encrypted discs. It includes SoundSoap for cleaning up audio files and the Sonicfire Pro music creation package.
Another big addition this year is media streaming. Roxio Streamer (actually a licensed version of Axentra’s Hipserv media server) provides DLNA-compatible streaming and remote access for media files. The server must be installed on a PC with a wired LAN connection (it doesn’t have to be the same one as Creator is on), but clients can be wired or wireless. It’s all very slick and works well, although it’s limited to three authenticated users unless you upgrade to the Premium service for £14.99 per year. This also unlocks a couple of other features, such as remote access from mobile phones, but the Standard service appears perfectly adequate for most users.
Finally, few software packages these days can afford to ignore Facebook, so uploading of photos and videos to this service is now added to the existing YouTube integration. There are plenty of templates and samples included, and there’s a great collection of well-produced tutorials in both video and step-by-step PDF formats.