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Adobe Encore DVD

Just as DV revolutionised video production for independent freelancers working on small budgets, so the accessibility of DVD is putting high-quality publishing in the hands of more people. Aside from minor player-compatibility issues, media-rot problems, and the on-going format battle, DVD burning is now very much a mainstream phenomenon, and DVD video authoring is a staple part of the DV editing process from the entry level up.

But, in all the time that we've had affordable DVD-R hardware, the only affordable authoring software for professional and commercial projects has been Apple's DVD Studio Pro, leaving Windows-based editors out in the cold unless they want to invest in a Mac. And, while DVD SP was initially awkward and annoying, the newly-released version 2 is a truly wonderful thing. So, Adobe's Encore DVD, the first affordable pro-featured application for Windows, has a lot to live up to.

There is no Mac version of Encore, and that makes sense, as Apple has already muscled Adobe out of the Mac-based video editing market. What's more, Encore is designed to work only under Win XP. Fortunately, though, the program isn't nearly as picky about processors as the recently released Premiere Pro and was happy running on a system using an AMD Athlon Thunderbird CPU.

The retail package consists of an installation disc and a rather lightweight, 155-page, manual. Installation was straightforward, and the program opens with the same sort of empty, cryptic interface that makes programs such as After Effects and Illustrator so intimidating to the novice. At the top left of the screen is a small tool palette similar to Photoshop's, while the bottom right has a properties panel showing off an impressive array of text tools. There are no immediate clues, however, about where to start authoring a DVD!

Encore DVD is well-featured and neatly fills a very obvious gap in the Windows-based authoring market. It's not a difficult program to learn, but suffers from having too many windows and hiding too many of the more fundamental tasks - such as setting end-actions - in menus. Even so, many Windows users will celebrate Encore's arrival.

In a platform-agnostic world, though, we'd still prefer to work with Apple's DVD Studio Pro 2, which offers a considerably more comfortable interface, multi-angle video support and the ability to read DLTs as well as write them.

What Encore DVD doesn't have is direct competition - but the upcoming revision of Ulead's DVD Workshop is sure to keep things developing fast in the Windows arena. If you're tied to Windows and need a professional DVD authoring solution now, opting for Encore makes a lot of sense. But, if things aren't so urgent, keep an eye on the emerging competition - we think that Ulead could make things very exciting.

Peter Wells

Read the full review in January 2004's Computer Video magazine.


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