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Ulead DVD Workshop Express

By John Virata

Software developers have to constantly find new revenue streams for its products, and a sure fire way of doing this is to offer a limited edition or lite version of its applications. Adobe Systems has done it with its Photoshop application, Apple has done it with Final Cut Pro, and even the 3D animation companies offer relatively inexpensive solutions in part to get users to try and hopefully continue to use their products. It is a way to get the product into more hands, and hopefully, those users like what they see and upgrade to the full version.

Ulead Systems has introduced a light version of its DVD Workshop professional DVD creation software in an effort to address the needs of corporate video users and video hobbyists, as well as to parry its competitors. Called DVD Workshop Express, the application is identical to that of its $499 sibling but lacks a few key features that most corporate and prosumers wouldn't miss. In this first look, we'll take a look at some of the features in DVD Workshop Express to see what the company has kept in the application as well as briefly discuss some of the features that were taken out of the application, hence the reduced price. We'll start off with the interface.


The Interface
DVD Workshop Express features an identical interface to that of DVD Workshop. There are no changes to the visual representation of the application. All the changes are in the number of elements the Express version supports. For those new to Workshop, the interface is broken down into several subsections, all visible from within the main interface. DVD Workshop Express follows a tabbed metaphor to create a DVD project. In the top left corner of the interface is a sequence of five tabs. These tabs are Start, Capture, Edit, Menu, and Finish. You follow these steps in order to create a DVD. Let's go ahead and discuss what each of these tabs are used for, starting with Start.

Start is where you create a new project or open an existing project. here you give a name to your project and specify what format (NTSC or PAL) that you wish to work in.  The next tab is the Capture Tab. This is where you set up DVD Workshop Express to capture video from a camcorder or other similar device connected to your computer.

Capture window

Within the Capture window, you can view your video, capture it, as well as capture images. You can also import edited video or DVD video into DVD Workshop Express at any time as well. Selecting the Options button is where you determine device control of your device or select the capture plugin. DVD Workshop Express supports two different capture plugins: the Ulead DSW MPEG Capture plugin and the Ulead DirectShow Capture plugin. You would use the DSW MPEG capture plugin if you were capturing DV and wanted it to be converted into MPEG as you captured the footage. This is often used when you have limited disc space.

Capture plugin window

Following the Capture Tab is the Edit tab. This is where you can edit out video that you don't need in your project. The Edit tab features specific parameters of the video clip in the play window, including the duration of the clip, mark in and mark out points, if any (you can set them yourself if you wish to cut out footage), force first play, which is a check box that enables you to make that video play first, and replace background music, which enables you to replace the audio that is playing with the video with a different audio file such as a music track, or narration.

Edit Tab

Video previews can also be performed in this window. You can also fade the audio in or out and loop it. It also should be noted that DVD Workshop Express supports Dolby Digital AC-3 5.1 channel decoding and Dolby Digital AC-3 stereo encoding. 

You build and edit your menus in the Menu tab. Here you can select motion background menus, the background music when the menu is displayed as well as the music's fade in and fade out parameters. You can also tweak your text in the Menu tab, and add and link buttons. DVD Workshop Express also supports the capability to create menus in Ulead's PhotoImpact image editor and import them into your DVD projects.

Menu Tab

For Photoshop users, DVD Workshop Express also supports the capability to import layered Photoshop files while keeping the layers intact. You can further refine the buttons via the brightness, contrast, transparency and rotation tools that are located above the buttons palette. These parameters can be adjusted either by numerical value or via up/down arrows. Text controls include the capability to apply different colors to your text as well as your standard bold, italicize, and underline, and left, center, and right justify. Shadows to your text can also be applied here as well. You can apply different shadow colors, soft edges, transparency, x-offset and y-offset. The DVD Workshop Express text effects folder, located below the x and y offset adjustment tools, can easily be dragged and dropped right onto your selected text boxes.

Grid lines, introduced in DVD Workshop 2, are supported here

When you are finished adding all of your elements and tweaking your text and buttons, you are ready to Finish your project. After you click the finish Tab, DVD Workshop Express does a project details check, to see if there are any issues with your project. These issues can be as mundane as a missing image file, to overlapping menus. After you provide fixes for any potential issues, you can proceed to preview the disc, and then when you are satisfied, burn your project to disc. Burn Project to Disc  offers several options for your project.

Burn to disc

You can burn to disc, create DVD folders, and create disc image file. The disc templates available in DVD Workshop Express include High Quality (60 minutes per DVD), Good Quality (90 minutes per DVD), Standard play (120 minutes per DVD), High Quality (Dolby Digital AC-3 audio), Good Quality (Dolby Digital AC-3 audio), and Long Play (180 minutes per DVD). The more video that you get onto a DVD using the disc templates, the more compressed the video is, which leads to lesser image quality. In this window you also select the burn speed of your burner as well as the number of copies you wish to burn. Details telling you hard disk drive requirements as well as DVD disc space requirements are also shown in this window.


First Impressions
In its quest to build a less expensive DVD Workshop, Ulead Systems deleted and reduced several features in the Express version. First is in the way of Audio, in the full version, eight audio tracks are supported, the Express version offers support for two.

DVD Workshop supports 32 subtitle tracks while DVD Workshop Express supports two. When you add a motion menu to your project, DVD Workshop Express supports 30 seconds of motion menu playback, while DVD Workshop supports 254 seconds of motion menu playback. While Workshop supports an unlimited number of menus, DVD Workshop Expresss supports 30. And while Workshop 2 offers 100 slideshow transitions, DVD Workshop Express supports half that number. In addition, DVD Workshop Express lacks support for several features that are more important to professional DVD creators, of which DVD Workshop targets. These features include support for DVD-9, DLT writer support for sending jobs via DLT tape for replication, Macrovision copy protection, CSS encryption, regional encoding, support for Sony's Micro MV capture plugin, and Windows Media Video capture plugin. In addition, DVD Workshop Express ships with less content such as menu templates, navigation buttons, and objects.

Other than these reduced/disabled features, it is the same application. For $299, you still get a lot of features for the price, such as support for  Dolby Digital AC-3 5.1 channel decoding, 2-pass video encoding for better quality, 16:9 video title encoding, and real time preview of multiple audio and subtitle tracks. If you are a video enthusiast or corporate user who wants more capability than what is offerred in the consumer level DVD authoring applications, but doesn't necessarily need to send off your completed projects to a replication service bureau, DVD Workshop Express could be your ticket. You can get a tryout version of DVD Workshop at www.ulead.com

 


 


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John Virata is senior editor of Digital Media Online. You can email him at jvirata@digitalmedianet.com
Related Keywords:Ulead DVD Workshop Express, DVD Workshop


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