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Sonic DVDit Pro 6 + eDVD 4: 
    Corporate Authoring with Pro Features   (11/2005)

    by Douglas Dixon

Basic Editing
Advanced Editing
DVD When You Need It
Interactive DVD on PCs -- Sonic eDVD 4

So you want share your new production on DVDs, but you're not sure which software to use? Especially for enthusiasts and corporate users, the template-driven "automated" approach used in consumer tools like Sonic MyDVD and Ulead DVD MovieFactory can limit your ability to create a custom look and navigational flow. But more professional tools such as Apple DVD Studio Pro, Adobe Encore DVD, and Ulead DVD Workshop can require a significant investment in becoming proficient with all their features, which is a problem for occasional users who are not focused on DVD production.

But once you want to escape the limitations of these basic tools, it's a pretty big step up in price and complexity to the more professional tools (from around $50 to $100 US up to the $350 - $500 range). For this reason, Ulead introduced DVD Workshop Express for $300, with the same DVD Workshop interface and some pro features removed.

Meanwhile, Sonic Solutions has taken another approach with the new Sonic DVDit 6 and DVDit Pro 6, introduced in July 2005 for Windows XP ( DVDit has been targeted especially to corporate users who wanted to create custom DVDs without a lot of fuss, using a straightforward drag-and-drop interface for assembling assets, designing menus, and laying out the navigation. DVDit 5 also included the bonus ability to import projects from the Sonic MyDVD consumer application, offering a nice path for users to gain experience with automated DVD creation and then move up to customized design.


The base Sonic DVDit 6 product (still at $299) has a significantly enhanced interface and menu design capabilities. Then for $100 more, DVDit Pro 6 adds an array of professional features, including multiple audio and subtitle tracks, associated navigation control, clip playlists, Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, and pro mastering options for content protection. And there's more -- DVDit Pro 6 now includes the full version of Sonic eDVD 4 (available separately for $199), which you can use to create enhanced DVDs for computer playback, with Web links and local links to images, documents, animations, and more (the base DVDit 6 includes eDVD LE for adding just Web links).

So let's take a quick tour of DVDit Pro 6 to highlight the new professional capabilities, and suggest why you might be interested in them.

Basic Editing

DVDit version 6 carries on the drag and drop interface of previous versions, but with a cleaner and less modal design -- instead of clicking on buttons to switch between authoring steps, you can now just simply click on tabs in the main windows to access whatever elements you want. And you can reorganize the windows and save them as workspace layouts.

In the Basic layout, you use the Project window to assemble your video clip Titles, create Menus, and build Playlists. As you edit, use the main Preview window to lay out your Menu and Title designs. Use the Palette window to access menu Templates, menu background Images, imported Media, menu Buttons, and Button frames.

        Menu editing

The Project and Palette windows use a visual Thumbnail view to preview your assets and DVD elements, though you can also switch to a Details view, with a hierarchical list of Menus and nested buttons, Titles and chapters, and Playlists and movies. These are handy for quickly reviewing and accessing all the different elements in your project.

DVDit can import most common video formats, including AVI, WMV, QuickTime, MPEG-1,-2,4, and Microsoft recorded TV (DVR-MS). It also can import projects from MyDVD, as well as discs recorded on other platforms -- DVDs from MyDVD or DVDit in Sonic OpenDVD format, and DVDs recorded on set-top recorders in DVD+VR format.

As in MyDVD, you also can import collections of images and create a video slideshow from up to 999 pictures, with dynamic transitions. You also can build an audio track from multiple songs, and then synchronize the slideshow to its length.


Advanced Editing

In the Advanced layout, to further customize your project use the Attributes window to set Menu and Button properties. And use the Timeline window to assemble multiple tracks, with up to eight additional audio tracks and 32 subtitle tracks per movie.

        Full windows

With multiple tracks, you can create multi-language discs, or include alternate soundtracks or commentary tracks. And you can add subtitles displayed over the video, as easily as clicking in the subtitle track and typing the text in the Edit Subtitles dialog.


And with playlists, you can re-use the same movies in multiple ways on a single DVD. For example, you can have a Clip menu to select individual movies to be played, and also have a Play All button to play through a list of them. Or you can provide the option to play highlights, or selected movies -- including jumping directly to a chapter within the movie.

With the new navigation options, you can create custom links from buttons to menus and movies, including selecting a new audio or subtitle track for a Commentary button. You also can set the End Action for a movie to automatically continue playing another movie, or return to a menu. Similarly, you can set menus to be timed, so if no selection is made they will time out and move on to begin playing a default movie.

For more control, you can set the routing of the buttons on the menu, to specify the default button when you link to the menu and how the selection moves as you press the arrow buttons on the remote control. Now you can create hidden buttons that will jump to secret extra "Easter Egg" content on the disc.

Finally, DVDit Pro 6 provides extensive control over MPEG video compression options, can encode audio to Dolby Digital stereo. It can import and pass through Dolby Digital 5.1 material, or you can use the separate Audio Transcoder add-on for $599. And it provides professional mastering to DLT tape, including CSS and Macrovision content protection options.

DVD When You Need It

DVDit is targeted to people like video enthusiasts and corporate users who want to have more control over customizing their DVDs, but need an accessible application that they can pick up every now and then and just use, without investing significant time in becoming experts. The interface and menu design features in DVDit 6 let you drag and drop your way to a clean DVD design, with all the elements visible and accessible in the tabbed windows and big thumbnails. It's also a great step up from Sonic MyDVD, since you can import existing MyDVD projects and OpenDVD discs to enhance their template-based look.

You also really should consider taking the step up to DVDit Pro 6, even if you don't need multiple audio tracks or subtitles. In particular, the playlists and advanced navigation links really add tremendous flexibility in designing your disc. And if you are at all interested in interactive discs, the addition of eDVD alone should close the deal.

Check the Sonic website for trial versions of its products.

Interactive DVD on PCs -- Sonic eDVD 4

DVDit Pro 6 has a wonderful extra bonus -- the full version of Sonic eDVD 4 is included with the product for creating interactive DVDs ( Now you can play your DVD on a computer and have it display additional information to extend the content -- Web links to online content, and also links to almost any kind of other material stored on the disc itself -- Web pages, documents such as manuals and spreadsheets, Flash animations, audio and video clips, and even executable programs

To use eDVD, first create your disc as usual using any authoring tool, and build the final DVD files to hard disk in the standard VIDEO_TS directory structure. Then you run eDVD to add interactive links at chapter points in your production -- to be displayed when the user clicks a menu button, or even when just playing along through the content. Finally, burn the result to DVD, including the original VIDEO_TS folder and the additional eDVD data and included files.


You even can customize the look of the player, and control options including the location and size of the displayed windows, and whether the DVD playback is paused when they are displayed.

When played back on a set-top player, the DVD plays as originally authored -- the eDVD links are ignored, so you may want to include some screens to explain how to play the enhanced disc. But when played on a computer, the DVD auto-runs the InterActual Player application ( to play back the disc and display the linked material (this needs more user intervention on the Mac). Other players including CyberLink PowerDVD and InterVideo WinDVD now support the eDVD links as well.

While you need to run the eDVD software on a Windows XP machine, the resulting discs are cross-platform, and can play on either Windows (98SE or above) or Macintosh (OS 10.3 or higher) systems. If you burn the final disc on a Mac, you even can include different executables for the two platforms.


Sonic - DVDit Pro 6

Sonic - eDVD 4

Sonic - MyDVD

InterActual player