DVD MovieFactory 3 Disc Creator $99.95; $69.95 upgrade Ulead Systems www.ulead.com 4.5 CPUs
Do you have a spindle of writeable DVD discs just begging to be burned? Well, DVD MovieFactory 3 Disc Creator will transfer your video, audio, pictures, and data to DVDs, putting those discs to good use.
In short, DVD MovieFactory is a suite of tools for creating DVDs and CDs. You can use it to create video, picture slideshows, and music discs or to just burn data. If you don't have a DVD burner yet (or the intended recipient of your digital handiwork doesn't have a DVD player), the program can also create VCDs and SVCDs. To use the app, you'll need Windows 98 or later and a DVD or CD burner. To get the most out of the program, you'll also want a video capture card.
The Create Video Disc function is the heart of MovieFactory; it lets you create DVD, DVD-VR, VCD, or SVCD formatted discs. You can import video from any source, including a capture card or FireWire video camera; MPEG, AVI, or QuickTime file; and raw DVD data on your hard drive. The program's basic editing tools let you cut scenes, dub audio, and add overlay text. You can also create multiple chapters of video and use a number of templates to customize an opening menu.
In addition, the program can create a slideshow disc in DVD, VCD, or SVCD formats. I fed MovieFactory a folder full of digital camera images, and in less than three minutes, it churned out a slideshow disc complete with background music and smooth transitions between the images.
The program's Direct To Disc tool can capture from any video input source (your camcorder or VCR, for example) and quickly burn the video to a DVD or VCD disc without editing or other maintenance. It's a good way to make a digital backup of your home movies or a cheesy video postcard to send to your significant other using your Web cam. As with the program's Create Video Disc tool, you can create a simple menu by choosing from built-in templates, but Direct To Disc doesn't provide many other manipulations.
I loved MovieFactory's ability to keep working with a disc after it has been burned. There's no need to leave the original project file clogging your hard drive. MovieFactory can rebuild the project from the data on the disc. For example, you can burn a rewritable disc and pop it in later to add a chapter of video, edit out a section, or add pictures to your slideshow. We are not talking high-end video manipulation here, however, just simple transitions, audio mixes, and other basics.
MovieFactory also lets you back up your data. Creating a data DVD is as simple as dragging files and folders from Windows Explorer to the program. Similarly, you can burn audio CDs, MP3 CDs, and MP3 DVDs. A couple more features that round out the suite include a Copy Disc function, which simply backs up a (non-copy-protected) disc or a DVD-Video folder on your hard drive. In addition, the package includes a decent DVD player application for watching the movies you make or commercial discs. A well-written printed manual (a double rarity for computer software) explains all of these features.
There are two versions of Movie Factory 3. Disc Creator, which I tested, is the advanced version. The standard edition costs $50 less and is more focused on transferring videotapes and other video sources to CDs and DVDs. It lacks the DVD player, Dolby audio encoding, DVD+VR support, and the ability to create data and audio discs (as it's just for video.)
DVD MovieFactory is a sturdy suite of disc creation tools. Although the editing features won't satisfy video power users, they're just the right speed for those of us who want to create DVDs without spending weeks learning Adobe Premiere. MovieFactory is stable, intuitive, and a fun application for no-fuss multimedia. Beware, though: By creating video slideshows, archiving home movies, and backing up your hard drive, I predict you'll burn through that spindle of discs in record time.
Reprinted with permission from Computer Power User magazine.