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Desktop Digital Media Trends 2007
with Roxio Easy Media Creator 9 (1/2007)
by Douglas Dixon
Desktop Digital Media: Capture, create, convert, consume
Roxio Easy Media Creator
Media Management and Sharing Trends: UPnP
Media Playback Trends: CinePlayer
Capture Trends: Media Import
Format Conversion Trends: Disc Copier
Audio Editing and Sharing Trends: Edit, Capture, Create
Photo Editing and Sharing Trends: PhotoSuite
Video Editing Trends: VideoWave
DVD Authoring Trends: MyDVD
Customization and Automation
Today's computers, software applications, and digital media
equipment make it easier than ever to create and share your digital video
productions. Earlier trends like the growth of the DV video format and DVDs
enabled real TV-quality editing on personal computers, and the growth of the Web
and broadband Internet access opened up new ways of sharing productions.
As we enter 2007, trends that began developing last year
are coming to fruition. Sites like YouTube and Google Video have exploded
interest in informal short-form video, and low-res video thrives on portable
devices from pocket MP3 players to cell phones. At the other extreme, in the
living room, the home theatre high-def experience is coming into reach with
affordable wide-screen displays, HDV camcorders, and next-gen DVDs. And new
networking technologies allow even broader sharing, both between devices on the
home network, and peer-to-peer across the Internet.
Meanwhile, even more professional technology is flowing
down to consumers, from HD editing, to scene detection, to automated movie
making, to advanced DVD menus and navigation.
The newest poster child for these developing trends and
technologies is the latest Roxio Easy
Media Creator suite, version 9. EMC 9 handles all different types of digital
media (video, audio, photos, data) through the end-to-end workflow, from capture
to editing to sharing. The EMC suite provides a nicely integrated collection
with both strong individual tools, and a variety of utilities for doing simple
things quickly and efficiently.
Whatever your tool set, working with digital media on the
desktop with today's tools does span a ridiculously wide range of tasks,
features, and formats.
Roxio describes the process for EMC 9 as "capture,
create, convert and consume" -- the broad scope of assembling digital media
assets, editing and enhancing, re-formatting for different delivery devices, and
then playback and sharing.
The digital media assets also span the three basic media
types: audio and music, images and photo slideshows, and video clips -- plus
data (file and disc copying and backup). And these are imported and exported in
a wild assortment of formats: captured from / to tape, imported and burned on CD
/ DVD discs, stored on hard disk in various compressed digital formats, as well
as reduced-sized versions for portable players.
Roxio Easy Media Creator addresses this range as a suite of
strong applications, augmented by quick utilities and assistants for simple
dedicated tasks. This trend toward suites has been developing in recent years,
as single applications bulk up to perform more functions, and companies combine
individual applications into full-solution collections.
EMC is built from several lines of software acquired by
Sonic Solutions over the years, including the venerable Roxio Easy CD Creator
for CD/DVD burning, Sonic's disc backup tools, Sonic MyDVD and CinePlayer for
disc authoring and playback, and MGI's suite of media editing tools including
VideoWave and PhotoSuite.
In the most recent versions, Sonic has been working to more
tightly integrate the different components into the suite (especially MyDVD),
and to fill out the utilities and assistants for common tasks. Roxio
Easy Media Creator 9 was released in September 2006 for US $99.99 suggested
retail price ($79.99 with rebate). It includes over 100 new features, especially
with Windows Vista support, enhanced audio DVD creation, more sophisticated DVD
designs, portable device support, and Blu-ray disc burning and copying (www.roxio.com/enu/products/creator/suite).
EMC starts up with a Roxio
Home screen that provides a task-oriented list of activities you can
perform, based on the basic media type (Data, Backup, Copy, Audio, Photo,
Video). The Home tab also provides an Applications list, with the main
applications and associated utilities. (These also can be run directly from the
Windows Start menu.) For quick tasks, many of the tabs offer "Easy"
operations that can be performed directly in the Home window, without needing to
launch a separate tool (i.e., Easy Audio Capture, Easy Archive, Copy Disc, burn
One big trend with digital media is simply the
proliferation of content, all those different files from different sources
splattered across your hard disks. Much as photo viewer applications like
Apple's iPhoto are becoming more common to browse your photos by date and
themes, there's a need for even more general media management tools to get all
your files organized.
Easy Media Creator 9 provides the Media Manager application to organize, browse, and search your media
collections -- organizing all your assets in a unified view to provide quick
file viewing and playback. Beyond viewing, Media Manager also serves as a work
center for importing additional media, and running other EMC tools to process,
convert, and share the files.
But sharing now means more than just making files. It also
includes targeting specific portable devices, including Apple iPods, the Sony
PlayStation Portable (PSP), and mobile phones. For example, the EMC Media
Manager has a Split View for copying groups of files, including to a mobile
phone connected by Bluetooth or USB.
And sharing also means across networks, using two
mechanisms built into EMC. MediaSpace
shares and plays your content across home networks using the UPnP protocol (Universal Plug and Play, www.upnp.org),
supported on PCs by servers like Windows
Media Connect (www.microsoft.com/windows/windowsmedia/devices/wmconnect)
and on set-top devices like DVD players and dedicated media servers.
In addition, the LiveShare
feature shares your Media Manager files over the Internet to other EMC users
using a direct peer-to-peer connection.
Media playback is also evolving as PCs with high-res
screens and surround-sound audio become quite interesting for viewing DVDs and
Dedicated DVD players like CinePlayer in Easy Media Creator 9 can provide a great DVD viewing
experience, with the ability to selectively display DVD features. CinePlayer
also supports Sonic's InterActual
technology for running DVD-ROM activities and games from movie discs (player.interactual.com).
But the newer trend is "lean-back" interfaces for
viewing media on a PC from a distance, i.e., sitting on the couch with the
family. For example, EMC includes the Media
Experience interface, with simple menus designed to be accessed from the
keyboard or even a PC remote control. You can listen to music, view photo
slideshows, watch movies, and play DVDs, all on the full-screen PC display.
Once you can organize and view your media, you'll want to
capture more to use in your own productions. But there are so many formats, and
so many different kinds of devices. And many devices capture multiple formats --
videos on cameras and photos on camcorders. So the trend in digital media
software is to support more and more devices, and especially new portable
devices like cell phones.
Easy Media Creator 9 provides a dedicated Roxio
Media Import tool for managing acquiring photos, audio, and video. Images
can be imported from cameras and scanners. Audio can be ripped from CDs and DVDs
or recorded from analog input like a microphone or line-in from a player. Video
can be transferred from a camcorder, extracted from a DVD, or captured from an
analog source via a TV or capture card. The software will find the available
devices on your system and guide you through the import process, including
choosing the appropriate media file format for your needs.
One nice trend for importing content is the ability to
extract content from finished DVDs (personal discs, not protected commercial
releases). This means that older DVDs are no longer locked up -- you can go back
and re-use content from your discs.
Besides importing and re-using material from discs, another
major trend for re-using DVDs is disc copying tools that allow you to extract
portions from discs to directly export to a new DVD -- or quickly create a DVD
from a compilation of video files -- or extract and convert to a variety of file
The Disc Copier
tool in Easy Media Creator 9 provides one-stop shopping for disc extraction and
conversion. You can select specific clips and tracks from a DVD and then extract
them to a new DVD.
Or you can create a compilation of movie files from hard
disk and burn them directly to DVD, or convert the compilation as a movie to a
variety of video file formats, from 3GP / MPEG-4 for cell phones, to H-264/AVC
for iPod, to MPEG-2 for DVD, to Windows Media Video (WMV) HD for high-def
The key trends for audio are more automated help for
extracting and cleaning up clips (including creating ringtones for cell phones),
and more customized ways for creating music playlists (including DVD music
Easy Media Creator 9 includes a core audio editing tool, Sound
Editor, with tools for importing, editing, enhancing, and exporting waveform
audio. But the real fun is in the ten additional utilities for common functions.
For working with CDs, there are assistants for quickly extracting songs in
various formats and then creating your own music CDs, including the Xingtone
tool for creating ringtones and sending them to your mobile phone.
But the real challenge is for audio that has been capturing
from other sources, not just from CDs already nicely already organized into
individual songs. For this, EMC has Easy
Audio Capture to grab audio input from your sound card (i.e. from an
external analog tape player). Plus, it can capture the audio being played by
your sound card -- for example, to record streaming Internet audio. To make the
process even easier, EMC 9 has a small desktop "widget" mode you can
leave running on your desktop, and then click to start recording -- including a
preroll of buffered audio from before you clicked. Plus, you can mute other
system sounds while recording, and automatically stop after a period of silence
for unattended recording.
But what about collections of songs that you want to
transfer from records or tapes? For this, EMC has an even more specialized tool,
the LP & Tape Assistant. This is
designed to capture your material, split it into tracks, clean up the sound to
However, you still have the problem of identifying the
tracks -- the digital music files need the "metadata" ID information
stored in the files to identify the song title, artist, album, genre, and other
information when you browse your media. When you rip an entire CD, the software
can look up this information online and download the CD info. But what about
assorted individual music files? For this, EMC offers the new Tag
Editor, which uses a "fingerprint" of the music to look it up in
the online Gracenote MusicID song recognition service, and then embed the
information directly in the file. There's also a new Rename
Audio Files utility that will rename your music files based on the embedded
tag information, and move files to a new location.
Once you've collected your music, the fun comes in creating
personal playlists and sharing them. You can play music on your PC, transfer to
portable devices, and burn an audio CD. But an audio CD only can hold some 10 to
20 songs in its uncompressed format, while you can store hundreds of songs on
the same disc with today's compressed formats like MP3, Windows Media Audio (WMA),
and MPEG-4 /AAC. EMC calls this a Jukebox
Disc, which then can be played on computers, or on some audio and DVD
players that support common compressed formats (look for the appropriate logo on
the front panel).
Even better, you can burn a music collection to DVD --
that's large enough to hold some 50 hours of music. The EMC Quick
Music DVD tool also automatically builds navigation menus to list your music
like in a PC player, with menus by categories like artist and album, plus song
information and album artwork, and even a random-play shuffle mode.
Finally, for full customization there's the new Music
Disc Creator. Create audio CDs, jukebox mix discs, or music DVDs, complete
with DJ-style fades. For DVDs, customize the menu style and navigation. Then use
the AutoMix playlist maker to search your library for tracks that are similar to
theme song that you select.
Working with photos is also becoming easier with more
automated tools for cleaning and enhancing. And photos are becoming more alive
with two trends: making dynamic animated slideshows, and using photos in
creative projects, especially for gifts.
For photo editing, Easy Media Creator 9 includes the core PhotoSuite
application to edit and enhance photos, create projects and gifts, and share
pictures on CD, DVD, email or via LiveShare.
EMC also includes assistants to import photos, fix and
enhance groups of images, create multi-image panoramas, and e-mail or print the
results. Then there's the Photo Projects
Assistant, to create photo albums, calendars, cards, collages, gift tags,
But sharing photos can be much more dramatic with the Slideshow
Assistant. Create widescreen slideshows with transitions, pan & zoom
motion, multi-image photo collages, and background soundtrack. Then share as a
video movie file, or burn to disc to play back on a set-top DVD player.
The major trends
in video editing pull in different directions: the addition of more
functionality from professional tools, and assists to simplify and automate the
For example, the
flagship VideoWave video editor in Easy
Media Creator 9 has been bulked up with a 32 track editing timeline (including
audio, effects, overlays, and text) in addition to the storyboard interface,
plus multi-trim editing, and timeline chapter markers used in creating DVDs. At
the same time, it has added automated video color correction and noise
Plus, even today's consumer video editing applications now
support editing high definition video, in formats such as HDV
and Windows Media Video formats (www.microsoft.com/windows/windowsmedia).
Some video editors can work with the native compressed data directly, and others
convert to an intermediate format for editing.
At the same time, EMC offers an easier automated approach
to assembling videos with CineMagic.
Just feed it your raw video, and it will scan through looking for good-quality
scenes, and then automatically edit it down to a nice summary video production,
complete with background audio and photo slide shows. You can customize the
theme, and help pre-select scenes of interest (including or excluding scenes
that are dark, fuzzy, have fast action, or contain people). As with other EMC
components, you can export your project to VideoWave for further editing.
authoring has come to the masses, with the ability to share movies, photo
slideshows, music, and data across computers and set-top players. The trends
with DVD are familiar: automated support for common operations, customization
with more professional features, and support for an even broader range of
To quickly transfer material to DVD with a minimum of fuss,
use Quick DVD / MyDVD Express to
assemble a group of clips and automatically generate index menus. But today's
DVD players also support additional formats (like MP3 and WMA audio), so you can
also use Disc Copier to create discs with video files, including DivX DVDs. Or
to just transfer a tape directly to disc, use Plug and Burn to transfer DV tapes from a camcorder directly to a
And now there's the new high-def disc formats, offering an
exciting increase in capacity for sharing videos, much as DVDs were so much
bigger than CDs for storing music files. For example, EMC has added Quick
Blu-ray Disc, which takes advantage of Blu-ray's larger capacity and broader
format support to transfer hours of standard or high-definition video to a Blu-ray
BDAV disc (www.blu-raydisc.com). Blu-ray is 25 GB for single-layer and 50 GB for
dual-layer, so single Blu-ray disc can hold up to 12,500 music tracks, 50,000
photos, or 4 hours of raw HD video.
Then for more customized DVD authoring, you can turn to the
flagship MyDVD tool, which is
designed to support the full process of assembling movies and slideshows,
designing menus styles, and customizing the navigational flow. Import and edit
video clips, add effects, transitions, and overlays, and set chapter points.
Design menus by choosing menu and button styles from the gallery, and then have
full control over customizing the menu background and elements, including audio,
text styles, and button highlights.
MyDVD 9 also adds animated video transitions between menus,
and advanced button linking, so you can have a button play from a different
starting point or return to a different video or menu after playing.
Easy Media Creator also includes a set of data burning and
backup tools now with Blu-ray Disc support, including Creator Classic burning, Drag-to-Disc
packet writing, Easy Archive, and Backup
MyPC. And it has tools for working with discs in different formats,
including DVD volumes and disc images on hard disk. Finally, the DVDInfo
Pro utility displays detailed information about drive capabilities and disc
media properties, as well as running error and performance tests.
There's a real ying and yang aspect for consumers in
today's digital media desktop -- opposing yet complementary forces that are
being harmonized in software applications like Roxio Easy Media Creator 9 that
are impressively usable, functional, and inexpensive.
We are seeing both demand for high-resolution full-length
movies in the living room, and for low-res short-form clips on portable devices.
And while the next wave of technology and customization is being passed down
from professional tools, at the same time the software is getting better at
making at least simple things easier with automated assistants.
Whether you're a novice just getting started, or an
enthusiast who want room to grow for more customization, Easy Media Creator can
do the job for you.
Roxio - Easy Media Creator 9
Sonic - InterActual Player
Universal Plug and Play (UPnP)
Microsoft Windows Media Connect - UPnP server
MPEG Industry Forum - MPEG-4 - AVC / H.264
Microsoft - Windows Media Video (WMV)
Blu-ray Disc (BD)
Originally published in Camcorder & Computer
Video magazine, Buyer's Guide 2007.