When Sonic Solutions launched DVDit, it was one of a kind. Sonic was
singlehandedly inventing the prosumer DVD-authoring application, and
DVDit was a study in compromise between power and simplicity. Today,
with new competitors redefining the market, Sonic’s recent overhaul of
DVDit is a significant catch-up effort that again balances features,
speed and efficiency against a tiny price tag.
The DVDit workflow is denoted by four buttons labeled Projects
(essentially a start-up screen where you select an existing project or
create a new one), Edit (where you import, select and trim video and
audio clips), Author (where all the fun stuff happens) and Finish
(where you preview and burn your disc). Even a novice can tear through
those steps with some speed.
A basic timeline lets you set in and out points for clips and drop in
chapter markers. A frame-accurate playhead scrubs through the video,
and the preview window lets you snap a frame grab to use later in a
menu. Frame thumbnails running along the length of the video timeline
itself would be helpful, but you can’t have everything. If you’ve
ripped out much of your hair trying to fix audio sync issues, you’ll
appreciate the audio-offset feature, which lets you jog audio forward
or backward in relation to the video. Complex navigation is easily
implemented via end actions, button-routing and the like. There’s a
tool for creating slick slideshows, as well.
Similar shortcuts make menu design a pleasure. There are tools for
quickly aligning and distributing lists of menu items, such as
"distribute vertically," which automatically spaces them evenly up and
down the screen, and subpicture functions have been greatly enhanced.
You can even hide easter eggs behind transparent buttons. Motion menus
are new in this version, although they’re not completely intuitive.
DVDit will preview your disc without motion menus to save time, but you
can click the little Render button in the preview window to see them.
Overall, the preview functions work very well.
DVDit writes to recordable DVD, including double-layer DVD+Rs, or to a
disc image or DVD volume folder on your hard drive. ( Sonic says it
will support dual-layer DVD-R when the first drives ship.) Bit-rates
and audio formats ( Dolby Digital 2.0 or PCM) are tweakable on a
project-by-project basis, and the built-in transcoder handles most
anything you throw at it-QuickTime, AVI, WMV, flattened Photoshop
docs-without complaint. You don’t get the kind of superfine control
over your MPEG that you’ll get from a standalone encoder, but the
quality is still pretty excellent. The hitch comes when you eventually
hit a hiccup; the online documentation is good, but the error messages
are frustratingly vague.
So will DVDit solve your Windows-based DVD authoring problems? It
depends. There are other options that may feel more robust to you, yet
DVDit is strong on price and simplicity. Plus, it’s very powerful.