Apple has in recent years released a series of respectable multimedia applications meant for amateur and professional users: iMovie and iTunes for video and audio dabblers, and Final Cut Pro for video professionals. Now it has released an application targeting the professional DVD-authoring crowd--DVD Studio Pro 1.0. Given the program's power and the fact that it's priced thousands of dollars less than hardware-based, Mac-compatible DVD-authoring products, DVD Studio Pro has every likelihood of becoming another Apple multimedia staple.
Like the Pros
Like its entry-level sibling, iDVD ( Reviews, July 2001), DVD Studio Pro creates DVDs compatible with most home DVD players, but these discs have more in common with those you find at Blockbuster than with those created by iDVD--you can create DVDs with as many as 99 separate tracks, and each track can have as many as eight video angles, eight discrete soundtracks, and 32 subtitle streams. DVD Studio Pro supports variable bit-rate encoding, so you can record more than two hours of high-quality video per disc (iDVD limits you to one hour).
The program supports 4:3 and 16:9 aspect ratios and the NTSC and PAL video standards. You can create DVD-5 and -9 discs with compatible recorders, and you can output your material to a digital linear tape drive for delivery to a DVD-mastering house.
How It Works
DVD Studio Pro doesn't require encoding hardware--just a Power Mac G4 with an Apple-supplied AGP graphics card. You encode video source material via the included QuickTime MPEG Encoder codec and convert audio files into DVD-compatible Dolby Digital (AC-3) format using the bundled A.Pack app. You then bring the encoded source material into the main app: the Graphical View window shows how the components of your DVD project are linked, the Project View window lists the components,
Property Inspector displays the settings for selected items, and Preview Mode lets you audition project elements. The program does not support previews on an external monitor.
Putting It All Together
Assembling a project requires the creation of tracks--each one including video, audio, and subtitle assets, as well as markers. To add assets, just drag them from the Assets window into a track. Linking tracks and buttons can be more difficult and time-consuming--you may have to con-figure scores of pop-up menus in the Property Inspector window.
Creating your project's interface may be harder still. DVD Studio Pro doesn't supply assistants or menu templates; instead, you have to create interface elements in Photoshop and save them as layers. One shouldn't expect a pro app like this to offer much hand-holding, but part of its intended audience may resent having to become adept at Photoshop and DVD Studio Pro. Other potential users--those who have installed Mac OS X--may resent the fact that the program requires Mac OS 9.0.4 or 9.1.
Macworld's Buying Advice
Despite its sometimes overwhelming interface and failure to support project previews on an external monitor, DVD Studio Pro earns its place among its creditable Apple kin. Priced far more affordably than the competition, it also doesn't require that you buy special MPEG-encoding hardware. If you want to create professional-looking DVDs without breaking the bank, DVD Studio Pro is the tool to use.Property Management: DVD Studio Pro's Property Inspector (right) is the gateway to your DVD's settings.