Ulead’s original DVD Workshop was a program we quite warmed to. Its objective, of helping you put together a DVD with relative ease, was easily managed. And, save for the occasional bit of clunkiness here and there, it was hard not to like it. High hopes, then, for version 2, which follows a similar principle.
You kick off with a blank canvas, with five broad sections identified by the menu structure at the top of the screen. This breaks the program down into Start, Capture, Edit, Menu and Finish, which gives an accurate flavour of the job that DVD Workshop 2 tackles. The Start section is simply where you choose to open up an existing project or start a new one; here you can determine whether you want to use VCD, SVCD or DVD, along with picking between PAL, SECAM and NTSC TV systems.
Once you’re in, you first need to pull in the video, audio and images that you wish to burn to your disc. Various stock footage is included with the program, but to get your own video in, there are a couple of approaches. Firstly, assuming you have the correct hardware installed already, you can capture direct from a video source. Likewise, if you have TV capabilities, you can capture direct from there too.
Your other options are to pull in footage from an existing file, or to take it straight from a DVD (with the usual copyright caveats). Once in, your media sits in a library on the left hand side of the screen. From there, you can drag it onto the bar at the bottom of the screen, which will gradually build up the content of your disc. It’s a genuinely straightforward process, although one that will happily gobble up system resources and slow your machine down if your PC isn’t top spec.
It should be noted that the Edit section doesn’t let you chop and change your content around in the way that, for instance, Pinnacle’s Studio 8 does. No, this is all about arranging content into order, adding extra audio and subtitle tracks (with eight of the former and 32 of the latter supported), switching between 4:3 and 16:9 aspect ratios and including chapter stops.
Incidentally, most of these decisions are optional, as the program is happy to work with its defaults to keep things nice and simple. However, it’s good to have more advanced choices at hand.
Once all that’s done though, it’s on to menu creation, which was one of the weakest segments of the original program. Fortunately, things have improved here, with the option to use templates, a wizard, or to simply get on with it yourself. Here you can add, edit and manipulate text and buttons, and add in background music to taste. In fact, it’s quite easy to create a professional enough opening screen, with simple graphical and textual tools that take little figuring out.
Finally, it’s on to the burn itself (stopping for a preview of your project on the way, which is handled without having to render everything first), and this is what really eats up the time. This is not only where you find out if everything will fit onto your disc (and that goes for hard drive space too – a good 10-15GB can be used temporarily in the compilation of a disc); you can also enable copyright protection, change the output quality and give your disc a name. Once the burn button is hit though, the program can spend several hours converting and rendering footage before getting your burner working.
Yet you can hardly blame DVD Workshop 2 for that, as this is a factor with most such packages. From start to finish, the program is a breeze to use and it generates excellent results. Its major downside, though, apart from the ease with which it gobbles up system resources, is the price.
Those who didn’t buy the last edition are looking at just shy of three hundred pounds here, while those who did can get an upgrade for a friendlier £129. That means this is a package very much out of the reach of the casual user. Which is a shame, for DVD Workshop 2 is a strong piece of software that deserves a wider audience.
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