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compression options for DVD authoring have been very limited in the
mainstream desktop video market until recently. Can Minnetonka's SurCode
AC-3 plug-in for Adobe Premiere meet the growing needs of small-scale
and most dynamic audio format a DV movie maker can choose for a DVD
project is uncompressed linear PCM sound - essentially making a direct
digital copy of the original DV soundtrack. However, uncompressed audio
can be a burden for long movies, with audio alone requiring a gigabyte
or more of the 4.7GByte destination disc. Also, as MPEG encoders at
the consumer level lack the quality of those used for Hollywood releases,
many of us are forced to encode our video footage at relatively high
data rates which - when combined with uncompressed sound - will result
in a combined data rate too high to be played smoothly on some players.
Audio compression is an important concern for DVD authoring but, until
very recently, compression options have been limited.
The most accessible form of sound compression for DVD is MPEG audio
- many MPEG encoders provide a choice of PCM or MPEG audio output options.
But while this is fine for PAL DVDs, MPEG audio is not a recognised
part of the NTSC DVD standard. Some NTSC players will recognise MPEG
audio and play it correctly, but many will simply play the movie mute.
Other audio compression formats compliant with the DVD standard are
DTS and Dolby AC-3. Licensing restrictions on DTS appear so tight that
we don't expect to see an affordable encoding solution any time soon.
And, while AC-3 is also tightly controlled by its creator, we're starting
to see some decent encoding options appear in the mainstream.
AC-3 encoding has been available to Mac users for some time now, as
Apple included a simple software solution, A.Pack, in the DVD SP bundle.
Also, while A.Pack allows stereo or 5.1 surround sound encoding, the
new breed of affordable software solutions for Windows systems appears
to be stereo only.
SurCode Dolby V-Plug works well and delivers very clean AC-3 audio
for DVD authoring. For Premiere editors, the benefit of being able to
encode directly from the timeline is an obvious one, but we're disappointed
at not being able to export MPEG video and AC-3 audio in a single session,
and we'd also like to see a stand-alone version with batch encoding
capabilities. Our biggest problem with V-Plug is the price, however.
While we understand that a big part of the cost is licensing from Dolby,
the program still represents poor bangs for bucks when compared with
the likes of Apple's A.Pack. Now that AC-3 encoding is becoming more
affordable on Windows systems, we'd like to see Minnetonka reduce the
price of V-Plug or add surround sound capabilities. If this doesn't
happen, the company will almost certainly lose out to competitors, such
as Ulead, that are now integrating simple stereo AC-3 encoders into
DVD authoring software.
Read the full
review in June 2003's Computer Video magazine.
Reviewed in June's
Sonic Foundry Vegas 4.0 +DVD
SurCode Dolby V-Plug
Ulead DVD Workshop AC-3
Final Cut Express
Magix Video Deluxe 2.0 Plus
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