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Apple DVD Studio Pro 3

DVD design, authoring and encoding suite By Dave Nagel
The attraction to Apple's DVD Studio Pro for me is threefold: ease of use, flexibility and power. These three factors came together in one tight, highly intuitive package known as DVD Studio Pro 2 last year, when, for the first time, we gave the program our rare Must Buy recommendation (a first for any DVD authoring system). Now, at version 3, it's even more powerful, flexible and intuitive than ever.

DVD Studio Pro is a design tool, a scripting tool and an encoding suite for DVD-Video. Unlike any other DVD authoring system I can think of, DVD Studio Pro is not tied to one particular market segment. It's regarded in large part as a mid-range solution, and this is, to be sure, where it's found much of its audience--among videographers and post houses distributing work to clients. But DVD Studio Pro's modest price point ($499) and ease of use belie its thoroughly professional capabilities. In short, this is as powerful an authoring system as you can get without spending several--and I mean several!--thousand dollars more on a high-end, proprietary system, and it's perfectly capable of producing just about any feature you've experienced on a commercial DVD. (This is not to say that the program provides full access to the DVD specification; it doesn't. But I can think of few things I've seen on a commercial DVD that couldn't be accomplished in DVD Studio Pro, with its front-end functionality, through scripting or via just a little bit of hacking.)

New functionality
For functionality, DVD Studio Pro 3 carries over all of the capabilities from version 2.0, which were considerable. I've covered most of this functionality extensively in the past, not just in my review of version 2, but in several tutorials and in our DVD Studio Pro discussion forum as well. So what I'd like to do first is not repeat myself here, but get straight into the new functional enhancements in design and authoring. I'll separate out the incredible workflow features of this program, new and old, in the section following that. If you'd like to read my previous comments on DVD Studio Pro, as well as detailed explanations of its major design, authoring and encoding features, you'll find my past articles here:

New in DVD Studio Pro 3 are two major functionality enhancements and a few minor ones. Probably the most advertised of the major new features is the capability to add transitions easily to elements in your project. Now, obviously, as it stands, you can create tracks to use as transitions, import them, set them as a button's target and set an end jump from there to complete the transition. But that's a clumsy process. What if your menu or your track changes? You'd have to create a whole new transition manually to fix things up. But in DVD Studio Pro 3, transitions are automatic. Attach one to a button (or menu or slideshow or still asset), and DVD Studio Pro builds the transition video clip for you. You're good to go no matter what changes you make to your project.

So, for example, let's say you want to create a cube transition for one of your buttons. This way, when the viewer selects that button, the menu will rotate out, while the track rotates in. All you have to do is select that button in the Menu Editor and set the transition in the Inspector palette.

As you can see, you can set the specific transition, duration and various transition properties (which vary by transition), and all of these will be applied instantly. You can preview the effect within the Inspector palette, or you can see the effect in the Simulator. Here's the result of this particular example.

DVD Studio Pro 3 ships with 18 "standard" transitions, seen below.

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