Sonic's DVDit can make a boast no similar application can: it can claim to have almost single-handedly prototyped simple and affordable DVD authoring on the PC. But since the program's debut more than five years ago, distancing itself from the growing list of alternatives has proved difficult, and version 6.0 marks a fresh attempt to regain leadership of the market.
DVDit Pro 6.0 sets itself apart instantly by abandoning the tabbed interface preferred by many cheaper authoring applications, which divided the authoring process into steps in favour of more professional-looking floating windows that can be combined into workspaces.
The appeal of these windows is simply that they work as you would expect them to. The Palette window acts as a filterable repository for imported audio, video and images, while the Project window holds the menus and titles for the current piece of work. These can be edited in a Preview window, and a Timeline window, which shows video and audio tracks, is the obvious place to enter chapter markers to help viewers navigate the DVD.
Ease of use is assisted by a bar at the bottom of the screen that shows details of remaining space on the DVD and when the project was last saved.
Functionally, the most significant addition to DVDit Pro 6.0 is the bundling of Sonic's program for creating enhanced DVDs (see What is eDVD? below). But notable improvements appear elsewhere. For example, rather than the single audio track of previous versions, you can now add eight - and up to 32 subtitle tracks as well.
The editing interface is more flexible, too. The standard method of creating menus - predefined templates - is still available, but you can now import two-layer Photoshop files, with one layer as the menu background and the overlay displaying highlights when a button is activated.
Another big improvement is support for playlists - different arrangements of the content on your DVD. Up to 99 can be created through the same simple technique: just drag titles to the Playlists section of the Project window.
But while these improvements are welcome, DVDit Pro remains a DVD-authoring tool, not a video editor. That means that although you can perform rudimentary editing - setting trim-in and trim-out points in imported movies - you can't capture video directly. Integration with dedicated video-editing programs is weaker than in rivals such as Adobe Encore.
On the plus side, the addition of region coding, CSS and Macrovision encryption should satisfy most professional authors, as will the new ability to output to digital linear tape.
What is eDVD?
Sonic has bundled eDVD 4.0, a program that lets users create enhanced DVDs whose menus can link to external content, such as websites or HD (high-definition) video. eDVD's wizard takes you through the steps of creating the enhanced DVD, making it easy to add events at set points and seeing their effect through a preview window.
Although of little use on standalone DVD players, enhanced DVDs have clear value when played on a PC. For example, in tandem with DVDit, eDVD can build media file archives or educational multimedia DVDs linked to live web-based material.