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Apple DVD Studio Pro 3

DVD design, authoring and encoding suite
You'll notice also that the graphical view can be resized and zoomed and that the individual elements can be rearranged for easier comprehension. There are also some handy basic commands for the Graphical tab, such as "Zoom to Fit," "Lock Tile Locations" and various show/hide commands. There's also a "Macro" view of the Graphical tab for easy navigation and, of course, a whole suite of contextual menus for elements within the Graphical tab.



It's a great addition to the DVD Studio Pro workflow, one that I think was sorely missed in the 2.0 release.

Also new is enhanced copy/paste functionality. This might seem trivial to many of you, but it is so amazingly useful for scripting that it was difficult to understand why it wasn't there in 2.0. So now, instead of just being able to duplicate entire scripts, you can copy and paste individual command lines within a script or from one script to another. Uncharacteristically, there's not a contextual command for this, but you can use Command-C and Command-V for copying and pasting commands.



You can also now copy and paste buttons, drop zones and text (objects) within the Menu Editor from one menu to another, and you can copy and paste formatted text in the Subtitle Editor.



Finally, for those of you making the transition from iDVD, DVD Studio Pro 3 also includes improved iDVD project importing, including support for most of the features in iDVD 4, as well as the import of archived projects.

Disappointments
I don't have a whole lot to place in my standard "Disappointments" section for this review. I host DMN's always busy DVD Studio Pro forum, so I hear it all--questions, wishes, complaints. But the one complaint that I get consistently is about DVD Studio Pro's Simulator function, specifically that what you see in Simulator is not always what you get on your final, burned DVD. It's true, but it's a difficult complaint to address, just as I'm sure it's a difficult one for Apple's engineers to tackle. After all, there is simply no way to simulate the behavior of every generation of DVD players on the market, let alone simulate the quirks and performance of every brand on the market. There are, occasionally, some oddities that show up in Simulator that can worry the author--gaps and lags, sometimes artifacts in video--and these do require a build for proper testing. But, in general, I personally find Simulator to be an excellent approximation--and that's all it was ever designed to be--of the final product.

However, one area that I think could use improvement in Simulator is the simulation of audio. In Simulator, DTS audio can't be played at all. I've tried to think of an explanation for this, and I can't. Licensing issues, sure. But you don't have to license a DTS decoder to pass data though a port to an external decoder. After all, current Macintosh models all have optical audio ports, so presumably the application, as with Apple's DVD Player application, should be able to pass an encoded signal out through that port and let your receiver worry about decoding it.

Another disappointment is not in the application itself, but in missed opportunities. If you've been following along with my tutorials for DVD Studio Pro over the last year (11 of them so far), you're no doubt aware that this program has capabilities well beyond what you see in the interface. I'd simply like to see a front end attached to these capabilities so that you don't have to go through a runaround to access them. Motion masks for buttons would be an example of this. DVD Studio Pro's templates include buttons with motion masks; and, as I've shown, it's possible to create your own as well. But it's not easy. I'd like to see DVD Studio Pro offer the ability to drop a QuickTime file over a button and provide the option of using it as a mask and the ability to import motion files as masks.

Finally, I think DVD Studio Pro should include a comprehensive guide to scripting, something truly usable by novices, with examples throughout the descriptions of the various scripting commands. And, just as a program like Macromedia Director provides a library of Behaviors, I think DVD Studio Pro should provide a library of common scripts in its browser palette that could be simply dragged onto an object in a project, which would then open the scripting dialog--again, like Director--allowing the user to set the particulars of the script in question.

The bottom line
Since version 2, DVD Studio Pro has been just an absolute pleasure to work with. Version 3 retains everything that version 2 had, but offers even more: DTS support, transitions, workflow improvements and other new features that make it just that much better. If you use DVD Studio Pro 2, version 3 will offer you no difficulties whatsoever in terms of learning curve, but you will benefit from its improvements. If you've never used DVD Studio Pro at all, version 3 is a great place to start. This is a completely professional tool with an excellent mix of high-end features and entry-level ease of use, well suited for a wide range of applications, from videography and client work to commercial authoring. And the price point, at $499,  is just unbelievable for software at this level. Once again it receives our "Must Buy" recommendation.

Apple DVD Studio Pro is available now for Mac OS X for $499 for the full version, $199 for upgrades from any previous version. For more information, visit http://www.apple.com.


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