DVD Studio Pro 2.0

Those popping sounds you’ve been hearing are champagne corks being fired sky high by professional DVD developers. They’re celebrating the arrival of DVD Studio Pro 2.0, a major upgrade to Apple’s high-end DVD authoring software. Like iDVD, DVD Studio Pro creates and burns DVDs containing video, audio, and photos. But iDVD doesn’t support advanced DVD features such as multiple language tracks, subtitles, Dolby audio encoding, and complex navigation-menu structures. DVD Studio Pro has always supported these goodies, and many more – and when it debuted in 2001, it was the only sub-£600 professional authoring program available. Alas, this power was trapped in an awkward, inefficient user interface. With version 2, Apple has given DVD Studio Pro a magnificent makeover that streamlines and simplifies advanced DVD authoring. Combine a beautiful new interface with thorough documentation and a 50 per cent price cut, and you have software worth celebrating – despite some flaws. DVD Studio Pro 2 is a big upgrade. The program’s glitzy new look demands a fast Mac – Apple recommends a 733MHz or faster G4, but a 1GHz G4 is a more realistic minimum, and a dual-processor machine is ideal. On the dual-1GHz G4 we used for testing, the program performed well but was occasionally sluggish. Screen hog
The interface also demands a lot of screen real-estate. On a display resolution of 1,024-x-768 pixels, it feels cramped and some windows are cut off. Schools planning to run DVD Studio Pro 2 on 15-inch flat-panel iMacs may need to reconsider. Then there’s disk space. Apple says DVD Studio Pro 2 requires 20GB of free space, but this figure is misleading. The software itself uses only a couple of gigabytes; the rest is needed to store the MPEG-2 clips and other files that the program creates as you work. If your startup drive is low on space, simply configure DVD Studio Pro 2 to store these files on a different drive. In basic mode, DVD Studio Pro 2 is much like iDVD. You can drag movies into the Menu Editor to add them to your project and create buttons for them. A palette alongside the Menu Editor provides access to menu templates, button styles, and, in a tip of the hat to Apple’s iLife programs, your iTunes and iPhoto libraries. In its advanced and extended modes, the interface expands to include a Track Editor window that you can use to set and adjust DVD chapter markers, create subtitles, trim and work with video clips, add alternate language audio tracks, and more. In previous versions, working with markers and subtitles was cumbersome and confusing; now it’s efficient and intuitive. Scripting bonus
DVD Studio Pro 2’s advanced and extended modes provide access to scripting features, which can add smarts to a title, such as the ability to highlight certain menu buttons depending on which clips have already played. Scripting still isn’t for the faint of heart, but DVD Studio Pro 2’s revamped scripting environment does make it a bit more approachable – if you’re careful. We found that if our scripts contained a programming error, DVD Studio Pro 2 would often crash when we previewed our work. As we worked on a 90-minute training DVD containing numerous menus and nearly 100 chapters, we came to love DVD Studio Pro’s new keyboard shortcuts and the context-sensitive shortcut menus that lurk behind almost everything on the screen. We also liked the way DVD Studio Pro 2 lets you perform common tasks, such as linking a button to a specific chapter, in several different ways. From its shortcuts to its customizable windows and toolbar, DVD Studio Pro 2 shines with an interface polish that its predecessors lacked. Asset-management
The application’s approach to importing and managing assets also makes authoring more efficient. In previous versions, you couldn’t import video until you encoded it into MPEG-2 format first. You can still encode video before importing if you like, but you can also import a movie and have DVD Studio Pro 2 encode it as you work, just as iDVD does. DVD Studio Pro slows down when background encoding is on, however, which probably explains why this option is off by default. Speaking of encoding, DVD Studio Pro 2 includes a new MPEG-2 encoder that supports variable bit-rate encoding and delivers sharper video at lower bit rates than its predecessors. DVD Studio Pro 2 also includes Compressor, the same fine but funky encoding program included with Final Cut Pro 4 (see Reviews, August 2003). In our testing, we were bitten by a bug that other users have also reported. If you change an asset – by revising a menu background created in Photoshop, for example – DVD Studio Pro 2 doesn’t reflect your change unless you quit and relaunch the program. DVD slideshows are a great way to present static images, and DVD Studio Pro 2’s slideshow feature is greatly enhanced. For example, you can turn a slideshow into a track, and then intersperse still images and motion video or add subtitles or alternate language tracks. It also has several new burning and mastering features. Among the most noteworthy is support for the Cutting Master Format when burning to authoring media (the kind used by authoring drives such as Pioneer’s DVRS-201). This lets you burn copy-protected replication masters.


DVD Studio Pro 2 is a spectacular update, but we recommend that veterans take a cautious approach to the new version. By all means, start learning it. But don’t switch to it in the middle of a project, and don’t make your first DVD Studio Pro 2 project a complex one with a tight deadline. It’s always prudent to ease into a major update instead of ploughing right in. You’re unlikely to encounter its most serious problems if you create relatively simple projects, and by the time you start pushing the program, Apple will have probably released updates that fix its flaws.

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