Ulead DVD MovieFactory 4 Disc Creator review

£43
Price when reviewed
Software vendors love suites, with everything but the kitchen sink in one bundle. Ulead’s DVD MovieFactory 4 is no different, coming in two versions: Standard (£28.99 inc VAT) and the all-inclusive Disc Creator reviewed here. While the core DVD-authoring capabilities are the same in both, Disc Creator includes data and audio burning. As well as offering unlimited CD audio ripping and audio format conversion, it can create CD Audio, MP3 and DVD Audio discs.

Disc Creator also adds DVD player software, on-the-fly formatting and DVD shrinking. The latter comes in the guise of DVD Tweak and Fit, which understandably doesn’t allow you to rip encrypted DVDs. It can automatically squeeze a dual-layer DVD-Video into a single-layer space, but it can’t turn DVDs into VideoCDs, as compression is limited to 44 per cent of the original size. The DivX DVD burning utility is also less useful than it looks, as it doesn’t convert your files – you’ll need to do this with a third-party app.

All the tools are integrated into a new interface, which is reminiscent of Mac OS X. Large icons give you access to DVD or CD tasks, plus a fully customisable favourites menu. Disc Creator also includes a Mac OS-like icon bar, which docks to the right of the Desktop to give drag-and-drop burning.

The main MovieFactory app is the primary focus of attention, though. This can now capture from FireWire (or a WDM device) directly to MPEG or AVI. With DV sources, it can even auto-detect scene changes and split the files for you. There’s direct support for capture from DVB-T digital TV tuners too. Pre-recorded media can be brought in as AVI, QuickTime, MPEG and WMV or ASF files. You can also import unencrypted DVD-Video and DVD-VR or +VR-format discs.

Once your media is imported, there are limited editing capabilities. You can add a transition to each file and enhance video. It’s also possible to add a simple title at the beginning of a clip. The Multi-trim Video tools let you define multiple in and out points within a file – handy for removing ad breaks from a TV recording. Ulead DVD Movie Factory 4 also has capable still-image slide-show authoring. This even includes Pan & Zoom animation, although options are limited. The transitions are similarly restricted to just a few blocky wipes.

Once you’ve created your project, you can switch easily between optical types at any time, although some options such as motion menus and 16:9 aspect ratio are only available with DVDs. The Menu authoring stage gives you reasonable control over design. A library of preset styles is available, but you can use your own background image and custom button styles. All menu buttons and objects are fully movable and resizable. Integration with the [email protected] disc-labelling app is seamless, picking up menu graphics and chapter titles automatically.

MovieFactory’s output options have been beefed up. Top of the list is Dolby Digital support, making audio files about seven times smaller. DVD-VR and +VR discs can be burnt, as well as DVD-Video, plus dual-layer and 16x writing are supported. You can even create the space-saving XDVD format, which reduces the frequency of full-frame encoding to every 60 frames. This increases the length of video you’ll fit on disk, but isn’t entirely compatible with set-top devices. It’s also possible to export videos from the timeline for use in other projects, so you don’t need to encode them in each one.

MovieFactory maintains its heritage as a great entry-level DVD-authoring app, and the Standard version is good value. However, Disc Creator is only worth the extra money if you don’t already have decent CD-burning software.

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