Popcorn 2.0 full review

With last winter’s release of Toast 7 Titanium, the writing seemed to be on the wall for Roxio’s DVD duplication software, Popcorn. All of Popcorn’s functionality was rolled into Roxio’s more sophisticated and more expensive package.

Now, with the advent of video iPods and the increasing popularity of other media devices, such as Sony’s PlayStation Portable (PSP) and video-capable mobile phones, Roxio has rethought how Popcorn should work. The result, Popcorn 2, is a versatile and easy-to-use utility that makes it simple not only to copy DVDs, but also convert video and display it on a variety of devices. Users of Toast 7 Titanium already have this ability, but if you’re not a Toast user, Popcorn 2 may have all you need.

Make the cut
Popcorn 2 enables you to back up an entire DVD, disc image, or valid VIDEO_TS folder (a ripped, protected disc) to your hard drive. If you’re working with a single-layer DVD burner and are trying to copy a double-layer disc, Popcorn can compress that content using a ‘Fit to DVD’ feature that squashes the video but leaves the audio untouched.

What’s more, you can create custom Director’s Cut versions. Let’s say you want the main feature, but you don’t care about the making of the feature, the trailers, and the Finnish vocal track – you can excise all of that and keep what you want. Popcorn 2 allows you to preview the video you’ll be burning to disc, and even includes a screenshot feature. It’s a neat trick that’s missing from Apple’s own DVD Player software (which is included with the Mac OS).

Popcorn 2 also sports the ability to read a variety of file formats, such as QuickTime, DivX, AVI, MPEG1, MPEG2, MPEG4, and others. And, it can write DivX, MPEG, and H.264-encoded files to disc.

Quick conversion
A variety of presets enable you to tell Popcorn 2 what kind of device you’ll be watching your video on, including a video iPod, PSP, 3G-compatible mobile phones, and DivX-compatible handheld video players. This saves you the trouble of trawling through daunting options involving compression schemes and frame rates. You can create custom settings, however, to take advantage of some of that functionality.

With Popcorn 2, you can even add videos directly into iTunes, which means they’ll sync to your iPod the next time it’s connected. If you’re using a Mac that has Front Row installed, Popcorn 2 will, by default, output your converted video to the Movies folder, making it dead simple to find them from Front Row’s interface.
You can even specify your television’s viewing quality if you have your Mac hooked up to a home entertainment system.

Popcorn’s video conversion works reliably, although it doesn’t produce videos that are as compact or as well encoded (good colour saturation, sharp detail, few artifacts) as other video-editing software, such as HandBrake and Podner. But for the average user who doesn’t want to bother with confusing, dense screens full of technical settings, Popcorn 2 is more than good enough.

Popcorn 2 is also the first Roxio product to ship as a Universal binary. It’ll work on any G4, G5, or Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X 10.4 or later. The software can use up to 15GB of disk space temporarily while it’s making copies, so make sure you have plenty of free space on your hard drive.

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