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Apple DVD Studio Pro 4

DVD authoring moves to HD! By Dave Nagel
Summary: Apple's DVD Studio Pro is, in short, the very best authoring package you can get for the money--or anywhere close to the money. DVD Studio Pro 4 expands on this leading application's capabilities with the addition of high-definition DVD encoding and authoring, plus even deeper access to the DVD-video specification. On top of it all, encoding in DVD Studio Pro has been radically updated to allow for standards conversions (PAL to NTSC and NTSC to PAL), advanced frame interpolation, Dolby Digital Professional encoding, Qmaster network rendering and more.
Recommendation: Must Buy (all versions: upgrade, standalone and Final Cut Studio bundle)
Users: DVD authors of all levels, from commercial DVD authors to post houses, videographers and enthusiasts
Platform: Mac OS X
Price: $499 (full version); $199 (upgrade); $1,299 (Final Cut Studio bundle); $499 (Final Cut Studio bundle upgrade from Production Suite)
More information:

As far as DVD authoring is concerned, DVD Studio Pro already had it: access to virtually the entire DVD-video specification, high-quality MPEG-2 encoding, surround encoding, scripting, templates, video transitions, slideshows, DVD-ROM content, Web access, etc., etc., etc. At $499, there was nothing within its price range that could touch it. Nothing even remotely within telescopic view of its price range. To beat DVD Studio Pro on features, you had to bump up to systems that cost as much as a new car, and even then you weren't getting much more. That's the reason that I've given DVD Studio Pro a "Must Buy" recommendation for its last two releases. It was just too good to pass up for anybody who authors DVDs for a living or who is involved in DVD authoring at any level.

Now, in version 4, the price still hasn't changed, but the feature set and quality have shot up exponentially. You have, of course, everything DVD Studio Pro 3 could do, plus the ability to do all of that with HD footage with HD encoding that's nothing short of spectacular. Plus you have enhanced digital audio encoding, deeper access to the DVD-video specification, Qmaster network encoding with unlimited client licenses, standards conversions, scaling, frame interpolation and more.

Prior to version 4, I couldn't think of any reason to buy any other authoring package in DVD Studio Pro's price range. Now I can't  think of any reason to buy another authoring package in any price range. But if you do still have reasons for using the higher-priced systems out there, it makes sense nevertheless to incorporate DVD Studio Pro into your workflow for the quality, ease of use and depth that have made this authoring package the outstanding tool that it is.

New features
I've gone into considerable detail in the past on the capabilities of DVD Studio Pro, so I won't get into these again. Rather, I'll focus on the features new to version 4. If you'd like to read more about DVD Studio Pro in general, including previous reviews and tutorials, please see the links at the end of this article.

HD authoring and encoding
We'll kick things off with the "big" new feature in DVD Studio Pro 4: HD encoding and authoring. Now, obviously high definition DVD hasn't even reached the infancy stage yet; it's still fetal. There aren't any consumer devices, as of this writing, that are available to the general public in the United States for playing HD titles, and it's impossible to predict, with specifications still undergoing review, what the final specs for HD-DVD and Blu-Ray will be and whether DVD Studio Pro will support players for those specs. We do know that DVD Studio Pro 4 has been used to author the HD-DVD and that it was demonstrated on a prototype HD-DVD player at the NAB convention back in April. And we know that titles authored in DVD Studio Pro 4 in HD format do work in the software players available out there.

In terms of authoring HD, DVD Studio Pro offers essentially standard DVD authoring, but at high-definition resolutions. It can be used to author HD discs, SD discs or hybrids that can be played in any player when burned to standard discs. (Standard- and high-def content are encoded to separate "_TS" folders, so standard players will simply ignore the high-def content.) As for any enhancements to interactivity or capabilities in the new HD specifications, these are things we'll have to wait to gain access to until the specifications are finalized and incorporated into DVD Studio Pro. The current release allows you to author and burn HD content and to use current-generation interactivity, but no additional HD-specific functionality is built in as yet.

DVD Studio Pro 4 also allows you to encode HD content at HD and SD resolutions, either as a background process within DVD Studio Pro or via Compressor 2, which is included with DVD Studio Pro 4. Within the main application, DVD Studio Pro will encode SD MPEG-2 (2.0 Mbps to 9.0 Mbps) or HD MPEG-2 (10.0 Mbps to 29.0 Mbps). Compressor, which is heavily revamped in the new release, also adds high-quality H.264 encoding for HD material, with bitrates ranging from 0.5 Mbps all the way up to 29.4 Mbps. Material encoded in either HD format in Compressor is simply superb, even at moderate bitrates.

Incidentally, DVD Studio Pro now has the ability to simulate HD and SD projects to external video monitors. The limitation is that any monitors used must be connected to your system's second monitor connection.

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Related Keywords:apple dvd studio pro, hd dvd, hd-dvd, dvd authoring, blu-ray, qmaster, network rendering, hd mpeg-2, h.264, review


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