For anyone needing to make a video DVD, this program can do the job. I've been taping video on VCR for years and want to reduce my stack of tapes, which take a lot of space, down to a manageable collection. What better way than to do that than to put them onto little CDs? This program can even make VCDs, which are like DVDs and play in most DVD players, but they also play in personal computers with the regular Windows Media Player. DVDs hold around 4.7 Gigs of data, so you can fit more than 7 times the information contained on a typical 650 Mb CD. For video, this seems to be the way to go, but at $5 to $7 per blank DVD disc, it's also more expensive.
The installation menu of Ulead DVD Movie Factory also allows you to install Ulead Photo Express 4, which can be accessed from the main program menu and permits you to capture stills from a video source, find, categorize and manipulate pictures and print CD labels. Photo Express is a separate program from Movie Factory, and must be uninstalled on its own. Photo Express installs 1,988 bitmap files, most with long filenames, and takes 99.5 megs of disk space. There is also a Utilities option which lets you install things like DirectX 8.0, Windows Media Player 7, Quicktime 5 and Acrobat Reader.
Holy Convolution Batman
I was curious as to what DVD Movie Factory would add to my system, so before installation I counted my video compression codecs, and there were 32 of them. Not your typical PC. I run a great many video programs such as MGI VideoWave, Lumiere Video Studio, Adobe Premiere, Edit DV, Real Producer, Media Cleaner just to name a few. The PC can convert to and from AVI, MPG, Quicktime, Real, DV and a few others, so I knew it was pretty complicated to begin with. The installation didn't add anything to that list so I guess every codec needed was already there. The program didn't run when I clicked on it; instead, my PC crashed, repeatedly. I blamed this on the very convoluted Win 98 system on which it was installed, and proceeded to install it on my second hard drive which has a very minimal installation of Windows 98. So into the BIOS I went and made the D: drive the second boot device, the floppy being the first. After installing on the mostly bare Windows OS, the program did start up ok.
Check for Patches
I was happy to get it up and running, but suffered another setback when I asked it to record some video. It couldn't find any video capture device. I knew it was there because VFW Vidcap could see it just fine. The next step was to check for an update on the Ulead website and sure enough, there was a patch available to download. While I was there, I saw a link to new drivers for my video capture card and downloaded those as well. With these new patches and drivers, the program found my capture device and I had video, so I installed them on the first drive to see what would happen but still no go. At least I had the program running on the D: drive so back into the BIOS I went.
Restarting the PC and telling the program to capture some video froze the PC. Only reinstalling the capture drivers would make it work. After 32 clicks of the mouse, the drivers were reinstalled and everything worked fine, but I found this needed to be done every time the PC was restarted. Upon examination, the driver file details hadn't changed at all, before or after this step, so I'm not sure why that procedure makes it work.
The Capture menu has all of the things you would need to adjust to get the video the way you want it. Capture plug-in selection, audio format, video format, source, display and codec, which allows you to set the compression options. Audio volume, however, must be set through your volume controls. This program uses the record volume master for its audio source and not the playback setting, something they explain on their website. Clips recorded are placed into a timeline on the lower part of the screen. You can also import clips from the hard drive into this timeline. The whole timeline is saved as a project each time you exit the program. Capturing video works very well and is direct to disc, so there is not much waiting after capture. The resulting AVI file is put into the My Documents/Video Capture folder which makes it easy to find. Ulead says the program can handle 4-Gig files, but my PC crashed every time I captured four Gigs. Another 32 clicks. Movie Factory refused to edit captures larger than two Gigs. By limiting my captures to less than 2048 Mb, it worked perfectly. This meant about five minutes for uncompressed segments of the movie, which ended up with 20 segments
Editing the Video
The Edit menu allows you to do some basic editing functions, like splitting the clip in two, or trimming the start and end points of a clip. From here you can also Batch Convert several clips into a new format, such as 720 x 480 DVD, 352 x 240 VCD, various AVI or MPG 1 and 2 formats as well as WMV streaming files. There is also a Make Movie option for you to convert and/or combine all of the clips into a single file. It's not necessary to have the DVD or VCD movie all in one file, because the menu page allows you to jump to any segment desired. Conversion is very easy and is non- destructive to the original. Ulead Media Studio is also very good at this, being able to read and convert files with offbeat characteristics like 4 khz audio.
Writing to the DVD
The last page is the Export menu, which lets you actually turn the masterpiece you've created into a DVD, VCD, SVCD, DV, web page, email or greeting card. Having the disc-burning software built-in is very convenient and really makes this a complete package. It can make a disc from ISO images, as long as they are Ulead ISO images. The program needed over eight Gigs to do this job so I made sure I had nine free. I got an error message, saying that it could not write to a file. My PC follows the computer axiom which states that Data will expand to consume available disc space,' so even at 45 gigs, having room for stuff is always a problem. After closing the program, I discovered Disk Cleanup had started, so I let that do what it could but I really had nothing for it on that drive, so I began fixing filenames to make them 8.3 names. Little things like the "l" on thispage.html can take up room for a whole new file on the file allocation table of a drive, and most programs these days have plenty of files with long descriptive names to them, so I zipped bunches of them up. I continued to get this error each time I tried to burn, even after I had freed up 18 Gigs. Disk Cleanup was not starting, so I tried another burning program and got an error message that revealed that the movie, James Bond, was too big to fit on the DVD. After more trimming, the burn worked, but some of the segments had the sound out of sync. Good thing the DVD was rewriteable. Exploring the Internet Q&A message boards showed that this sync problem was very real, and even though the patch was supposed to address this, it was not entirely fixed. Part of it is due to the fact that during the DVD editing and/or converting process, the sound is separated into its own file apart from the video, which is normal for DVD, but makes it harder to edit the two together. One solution might be to do all the editing while the clips are still in AVI format and have their audio and video interleaved together. Another factor is that this program installs the Ligos LSX-MPEG player-decoder filter from 1999 which is build 74. This OS had sync problems even playing stock MPG files, clips that played perfectly on my other drive, which uses a 2000 build 79 version of that Ligos filter
Program requirements include a capture card, a disk burner, a hard disk transfer rate of 3.6 MB/sec or better, Pentium III 500 or above, Win 98, 2000, ME or XP, 64 MB of RAM, 70 MB of HD space, an 800x600 display, sound card and mouse. The program is available to download from Ulead.com for $44.95, and they have a 30-day trial version there, too. Try-before-you-buy is a good way to find out if it will work for you. The features and capabilities of this software make it attractive for those wishing to author their own video DVDs. If you would like to see samples of some digital video files I have made, stop by www.cyberonic.net/~webvideo and have a look.
|Gary Stone is a member of DACS, a CNE and MCP, is a freelance technical support consultant, participates in various SIGs and likes to dabble in all types of digital video projects. You can reach him at email@example.com, or through an email link at www.cyberonic.net/~webvideo.|