PapaJohn Productions
 
Newsletter #105 - May 27, 2006

Roxio's MyDVD Premier 8

 

 

Why do I use MyDVD?
The marketing arm of Sonic is great, and their people easy to work with. Their tech support is poor at best... I hope you don't need it. 
 

 
I was using MyDVD Studio Deluxe v6.1 when MyDVD Premier 8 was released at the end of February. I installed what I thought was a routine upgrade... and was a little surprised to find it wasn't. We're at the crossroads of Sonic and Roxio's corporate merger resulting in changes to their DVD software. 
 
Roxio is a Division of Sonic
 
My first awareness of differences was in the logo on the software case... after years of seeing Sonic's logo, it was now Roxio... things continued from there to the...
 
Installation
 
I'd gotten used to each upgrade of Sonic's MyDVD telling me there's an installed older version which would need to be uninstalled first... something I didn't care for as the previous version was working fine.
 
I was pleasantly surprised when Roxio's Premier 8 version didn't remove Sonic's v6.1. They install to different folders... I have them both on my laptop, and can use either. 
v6.1 is in C:\Program Files\Sonic\MyDVD Studio Deluxe
v8 is in C:\Program Files\Roxio\
They are almost fully compatible... the installation process for Premier 8 required the removal of the previous version of CinePlayer to get to v2.3.0, and it said Sonic DLA was incompatible... and uninstalled it.
 

 
I won't go into a comparison of the features in the two packages. I'll give you a sketch of the DVD and Video features of Premier 8
 
I mentioned MyDVD in 3 newsletters since installing Premier 8, but haven't given this new version a more complete review... it's time to do it. And as usual, I'm learning about it as I write, so you get whatever I run into, the positives and the negatives.
 

 
When registering v8, the logo is roxio.
 
... but the email of acknowledgement comes from Sonic... the link in the email is to a Roxio web page... on and on... they're in a transition period, so we can consider them interchangeable when it comes to MyDVD.
 
Registration
The link on my website page for Roxio Easy DVD Creator shows it's at version 8, with a special offer for $79.99... I don't have that software and can't comment on how much it aligns with the new version of MyDVD. I mention it only because it's the comparable DVD software that Roxio brings to the merged table.
The link on my Sonic MyDVD page shows it's at version 8, with 2 options... MyDVD 8 Essentials for $49.99 and MyDVD 8 Premier for $69.99. The page has a Roxio logo.
 
Links on my Sonic DVDIt and Sonic ReelDVD pages still go to Sonic pages. They're the higher end products for professional users... MyDVD and Easy DVD Creator are consumer software.
Besides taking a closer look at the Premier 8 package, this newsletter will help me understand changes happening because of the merger... I'll need to make some changes to my website.
 
 
... before getting into it further, here's a couple short notes...
 

 
Notes...
 
Vista Corner... the publicly available beta versions started this week... now available to enterprise users, and then to individuals in June. I downloaded the latest 5384 build, but haven't installed it yet.
 
Another follow-up note about my first for-sale video on Google Video... submitted on May 3... the current status is still "Video is verified; stay tuned - it will be live shortly"... 23 days and counting so far to it live. No hurry on my part.
 
The Renaissance Wedding is Sunday... look for pictures and videos as they roll out to the website starting Monday... I purchased a 4th camcorder battery the other day to raise the total number of minutes of projected recording time to 550 minutes...
 
Chris-Ash
 
Another current priority is the Photo Story 3 tutorial for MaximumPC... it's coming along well. 
 
The dance recital last weekend is now memories, with video history on about 90 minutes of mini-DV tape footage. Our 2nd row seats were too close to the stage... the camcorder on the monopod was a tad below the height of the stage floor, so upper bodies were included but not feet. At least our grands weren't in any tap numbers. After intermission, I went upstairs and shot the second half from the balcony sidelines.
 
 
.... back to the main topic...
 

 
MyDVD Premier 8
DVD & Video Options
 
v8 Video Options
Let's look at the menu choices in reverse sequence.
 

 
CineMagic
 
v6.1 has muvee autoProducer... while v8 has CineMagic. Similar to AutoMovie in Movie Maker 2, they are the highest level video editing wizards...
 
Give them source files and they'll make an edited movie. 
 
I bought muvee when it first came out over 4 years ago... but didn't use it after the first fun-filled few weeks. MyDVD Studio v6.1 includes that muvee software. Let's give CineMagic some video files and see how it does.
 
I used WinDV to capture 6 scenes from the dance recital footage... to type II DV-AVI files.... then opened the unedited scenes in CineMagic. No need to give it background music for these.
 
I worked on the newsletter as it automatically analyzed the files, taking about 15 minutes for the 18+ minutes of video clips.
 
CineMagic
 CineMagicPreview
It selected 100 seconds of the footage and strung together a number of clips, with default long fades or dissolves between them.
 
The preview window played it, but silently. There was no audio.
 
At Step 2 of CineMagic you customize it, selecting a style, photo duration (I had only video clips so it was grayed out), overall production duration, and sequential versus random clip order...CineMagic Customize
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
CineMagic OutputI chose Memories, set the production duration to 120 seconds, and left it in sequential order.
 
At the final Step 3 window, I first opted to preview the movie... it took only a few seconds, making it easy to go back a window to redo the customizing choices and preview again...
 
CineMagic is similar to the AutoMovie feature of Movie Maker, something else like muvee that I don't use. It can do the first cut, and then you can edit it from there.
 
There's nothing wrong with the approach... for users who don't have the time or inclination to get into making lots of editing decisions like you do in Movie Maker 2. I prefer being in the driver's seat, but having fun at times checking to see what the fully automatic approach can do.
 
When you're ready to go on, Step 3 gives you the choices shown at the right. I opted to edit it in VideoWave, the next menu choice in MyDVD.
 

 
VideoWave looks a bit similar to Movie Maker in it's overall interface... it's easy to adapt. 
VideoWave8
 
CineMagicOutputChoices
When finished editing, there's a long and interesting list of rendering choices... version 8 Windows Media Codecs, Generic AVI (I wonder what compression codec it uses), Generic MPEG-1 and 2, Windows Media Video (maybe they use version 9 codecs).
 

 
The rendering time was about as expected... I selected Windows Media Video 8 for Local Area Network (768 Kbps)... my current usual choice in MM2, which gives me a good looking movie of 640x480 that works well online.
 

 
Checking the rendered movie in WMP showed it was smaller... 320x240 at 450 Kbps. Did I pick the wrong choice? I repeated it and got the same results.
 
Besides the lower quality than expected, there was no audio. CineMagic had stripped the audio from the clips. It only works with background music separate from the video files... I hadn't given it any music... or something didn't work right.
 
It doesn't seem like the right process for dance recital videos... maybe for still pictures with a music file. I'll use Movie Maker to make the dance recital videos. 
 

 
The steps of the process went along well, with no hangs, freezes, or error messages.
 
When hearing no audio (funny.... the recital was my first major test of a new shotgun mic and here I am editing the footage and not hearing it)... I stopped at times to check by playing something else on my laptop... the audio was fine everywhere.
 
Moving up to the next menu item, the one for capturing video from a digital camcorder or DVD.
 

 
Capture Video
 
As we have ways to capture from a camcorder, let's check it by using the other option, capturing from a DVD.
 
I got as far as telling it I wanted to capture from a DVD, but it didn't show the DVD contents... either:
 
My version of the software doesn't support the feature... with MyDVD software it's possible that some features work and some don't, and it's not easy at times to know which things work. Try it... if it doesn't work, you'll often get a marketing pitch.
 
I tried a couple discs and gave up, assuming it's not a feature that works for my version.
 
I then tried capturing from my camcorder via firewire... and it worked fine. The file properties of the captured files said they were compressed with the Panasonic DV Codec with 16 bit 32 kHz audio ...
 

 
Smart ScanThere was an option to do a Smart scan... when pressed the tape was analyzed in fast forward speed. Thumbnails of each scene were created next to the preview monitor.
 
The thumbnails let you browse the contents of the tape. The Roxio Media Import wizard was controlling the camcorder, moving around the tape as needed.
 
It was a fun experience, even if I didn't capture to any MPEG files during it.
 
Time to move on upwards to the next menu option, something that was in previous versions of MyDVD but one I hadn't tried.
 

 
Plug and Burn (DV to DVD)
 
I gave it the first of the 2 tapes from the dance recital, one with a full hour of footage.
 
Select a menu style, fill in the disc title, select the quality level (HQ, SP, LP or custom), auto create chapters (I picked doing it using scene breaks)... and opted to do the whole tape.
 
I left for a while as it captured the hour of video and produced a DVD.
 
It was another interesting enjoyable experiences. I checked and didn't see it using my hard drive space, not even for temporary files (it must have been used a bit, but so little space that I couldn't tell)... the video is being captured from the camcorder tape, being converted on the fly in real time to MPEG-2 files, and flowing right onto the disc.
 
It really does deliver on what the menu choice says, Plug and Burn (DV to DVD).
 
I finished by thinking... "what if I made a batch of movies in Movie Maker, and saved them to a camcorder DV tape? I could then make a DVD from the tape without having to use any of my hard drive space, and having it done in real time." Maybe someday.
 
Time to go up to the next menu item....
 

 
(Quick DVD) MyDVD Express
 
I'll start with the same set of DV-AVI type II files of the recital clips... and open the menu item which takes me to MyDVD Express. It should be the quickest, easiest option of making a DVD from saved movies and stories.
 
MyDVD Express
 
I first tried to bring 6 wmv files into it at once. It did it, but with only 1 menu icon. I restarted and added one at a time to get 6 menu buttons.
 
You can choose to burn a DVD, VCD, or SVCD. I did the odd one, an SVCD which encoded and burned fine. There's a small 'Encoding preview' monitor which shows you the video being made. Feel free to do other things with the computer during the renderings. Let it have all the resources during the last part, the burning of the disc. Interfering with that step can result in a coaster.
 
Playback of the SVCD in Windows Media Player was good... the MPEG-2 SVCD files are 480x480 pixels (non-square in playback so they look normal 4:3), and the audio is there...
 
For an easy and quick disc, this express line seems like a good choice. Let's see what more you get with the top menu choice, the one for full service DVD.
 

 
MyDVD 8... Make a DVD
 
Using the same 6 video files I used in the express line... dragging and dropping them in one at a time.
 
Then I added a slide show of still pix with 3 music files for background, and previewed the show... it played each picture for a long 25 seconds, as it fit the number of pictures to the overall duration of the 3 music files.
 
By moving on to the next window, it gave me options to customize it... 5 seconds per pix... and select a visual style. I checked the option to apply pan and zoom to all, but I didn't notice any of them moving in the preview... maybe the movement would be there in the DVD.
 
MyDVD 8 includes 14 menu styles... and a button to get more. The two online packages with 5 more styles in each are $29.99 each.  
 
One of the menu tasks is to add an intro movie... I did... adding an unrelated video.
MyDVD Editing Video
 
You can opt to edit a movie from within MyDVD. Effects, transitions, text overlays, background music... and the audio of the video clip itself work in this part of the app.
 
These editing features are sweet spots in the package. More editing options in more places... there can't be too many things to select from.
 
The screen shot shows my grand-daughter Olivia on stage, with the frame and text effects added by MyDVD.
 
You can add chapter points to any or all of the movies in the menu.
 
Put a blank disc in the drive, press the burn button... and it's into encoding and disk making.
 

 
DVD Playback
 
Here's where things took a scary turn, but recovered.
 
Attempts to play my first full-featured DVD back showed it being a rare 'coaster', not recognized by any of the DVD software on my laptop, not even by MyDVD 8 which made it.
 
One error message said it couldn't recognize the format of the disc.... but there hadn't been any error messages throughout the process of rendering and burning. Other indications were about there not being a disc in the drive.
 
I had watched it burn, and could visually see the section of the disc that was used... and it looked normal. I put the disc in a drive of my Vista system and it opened it in WMP, showed the files on the disc, and started to show the Intro Movie... I put other DVDs in my laptop and they played fine... the only issue was my laptop which just made the disc couldn't read it. 
 
So goes the all-too-normal issues when making and playing home-made DVDs. To cross-check it, I did the project over from scratch and made another disc... which played fine. The coaster was an anomaly and I threw it away. 
 

 
Conclusions and Closing
 
I'm glad it worked as well as it did. You can run into issues with MyDVD, some of no consequence and others serious. I don't like closing on a negative note, but Sonic/Roxio have some work to do to have the community of users saying positive things about their tech support. 
 
An example of a minor but possibly frustrating one: I installed My DVD Premier 8 on March 3rd. The install went fine, and on March 28th I decided to do the online registration. First I did Cine Player which registered fine. Then MyDVD 8 which told me I didn't have an internet connection.
 
I tried again and again to register it, at least weekly, and always got the message that I didn't have an internet connection. 3 months of unsuccessful attempts. Guess when it decided to acknowledge my connection and successfully register? Yup, as I was writing the info about registration for this newsletter... on May 20th.... OK, I missed my chances to get a screen shot of the error message.
 
Not being able to register isn't a serious issue. But I've run into technical issues on previous versions of MyDVD, taking a week once to do what was usually done in a few hours as I had to spoon feed files to each step of the process. In such instances, Sonic tech support is either unreachable or essentially useless. On my most serious issue to date, it's now over a year since I mailed a set of the source files to Sonic for lab checking/testing at their end... with no response.
 
The one coaster from the testing done for this newsletter is a non-issue, as I didn't need it, and I might have been pushing files and data around too quickly for it. Next week's work with the Renaissance wedding videos will be different. I'll cross my fingers, knock on wood, and use other software if I need to.
 
Is MyDVD good? Yes!!! Is it worth the $50 to $80 price tag? Sure. Will you be able to resolve any technical issues if you run into them? Probably not... tech support was bad before, but now Roxio can say it wasn't on their watch, and Sonic can say to check with Roxio. You might have to switch to something else. I won't be able to help.
 
.... and from what I can see, the underpinnings of Vista's new DVD Maker is from... Sonic  
 

Have a great week...
 
PapaJohn