Now offering support for Blu-ray movie discs, NTI Media Maker 9 Ultimate HD Edition is arguably the easiest to use among the four media-creation packages. It still lags a bit in file format support, however, and the implementation of its features is rough in some areas.

Most of what you do in Media Maker 9 Ultimate involves EasySteps, NTI's wizard-like approach to tasks. At the top of the project window, you'll see several buttons with numbers on them. Hover over one, and you'll get a tooltip explaining what happens in that step. The current step is always highlighted, and you can jump between steps without restriction. The arrangement is easy to work with, yet doesn't get in the way of users who know what they're doing.

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Media Maker 9 Ultimate's modules include apps for creating movie discs (CD, DVD, and Blu-ray), data discs, audio (both audio discs and MP3/WMA discs), and photo slideshows. (Oddly enough, the new BD Maker Blu-ray movie-creation app forgoes EasySteps, but it's still simple to use.) A cinematic feature for both video and photos, courtesy of Muvee, stylizes output so that you can create professional-looking results with very little effort.

One complaint here is that the program doesn't seem to offer any way to skip adding music. I didn't mind this limitation when dealing with photos, but with video it would be nice to have the option to stick with the already recorded audio. The software also has no preview function for your movie--you'll have to burn it to see it.

NTI Backup Now 5 is bundled with the suite, and makes short work of most backup tasks. However, I actually prefer Media Maker 9 Ultimate's data-disc function for anything less than a full backup. It provides a pleasing visualization of how many discs will be required, and how discs are spanned.

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Media Maker 9 Ultimate comes with several useful utilities. Foremost among them is DVD-Fit, which reduces the size of a DVD movie to fit on a single disc; this feature is handy if you want to fit a dual-layer movie on a single-layer disc, for example. The package also has a separate app for burning DVDs you've ripped to your hard drive.

Although Media Maker 9 Ultimate creates Blu-ray movie discs, its import file support is disappointing and varies between modules. It imports AVCHD for BD but not DVD. Also with DVDs, it understands MPG just fine, and some AVI files, but not some other common types such as more-recent WMV, MP4, or Xvid. It doesn't seem to understand DirectShow, either, so you can't expand support by installing codecs. This is a possible deal-killer for more-knowledgeable users and video enthusiasts.

NTI Media Maker 9 Ultimate HD Edition: Specs

  • IBM PC or Compatible, Pentium III 900MHz or higher
  • 256MB RAM
  • 500MB of available free disc space for software installation
  • 10GB working space for copying or creating DVD discs
  • Graphics card capable of 1024x768 and 16-bit colour
  • Windows 7, Vista or XP SP3
  • Windows Media Player 11 or higher and Microsoft .NET Framework 3.0 or higher are required for XP SP3
  • IBM PC or Compatible, Pentium III 900MHz or higher
  • 256MB RAM
  • 500MB of available free disc space for software installation
  • 10GB working space for copying or creating DVD discs
  • Graphics card capable of 1024x768 and 16-bit colour
  • Windows 7, Vista or XP SP3
  • Windows Media Player 11 or higher and Microsoft .NET Framework 3.0 or higher are required for XP SP3

OUR VERDICT

At a lower price, I'd see a niche for NTI Media Maker 9 Ultimate. At $100, though, it bumps up against some pretty capable competition. Its ease of use is compelling; but unless your needs are truly basic, you'll find it restricting. I'd also like to see more professional-looking templates for the DVD and BD menus.

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