Ulead DVD Workshop 2 test and review from Computer Video Magazine

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Ulead DVD Workshop 2

Ulead has finally risen to the challenge and pushed DVD Workshop into the serious prosumer arena. But can the program hope to compete with Adobe's Encore?

When affordable DVD burning became a reality, Ulead was one of the first in line to provide DVD Video authoring tools for the home user. And, while its wizard-based DVD MovieFactory covered very similar ground to competing programs from Sonic and Pinnacle, DVD Workshop shone as the best middle-ground program available, providing first-rate design tools and a good visual interface within which to work. At that time, there were no truly pro-featured authoring programs available for under £1,000, and we speculated that Ulead could make a small killing if it integrated features such as multiple audio tracks, subtitles, DLT support and copy-protection into Workshop's repertoire - even if they were only offered as a 'pro' pack for the power user.
In the interim, Ulead has lost much of its advantage in the Windows-based DVD market, as Pinnacle offers similar authoring capabilities within its editing programs Studio and Edition, while the now Sony-owned Vegas editor gained a first-class authoring companion in DVD Architect. Also, programs such as Dazzle DVD Complete and MediaChance DVD Lab have arrived and sit at much the same market level as Workshop 1.2. While we had big hopes for Workshop being the first Windows-based authoring program to address the pro market, Adobe actually got there first with Encore DVD.
But, even though Adobe has a head start, Ulead could still do well with Workshop 2. Reports from users suggest that Encore is still rather buggy, and our own experience was of a cold interface and steep learning curve. If Ulead can preserve Workshop's intuitive workflow and keep it stable and reliable, it will be ahead of the game.
Overall, we're left with good feelings about DVD Workshop 2. Its feature-set has been pushed in the right direction, and even though the simple, VideoStudio-like interface is a big turn-off to some video makers, we think it's great, since users are never faced with an intimidating blank screen and no idea of where to start.
There's still room for improvement, though. Support for 16:9 menus would be a good start, and we'd like the ability to zoom in to the preview monitor's scrubbing bar when working with long-form videos. Better support for older DLT drives is a must - they're widely available second-hand and the only drives mere mortals can afford - and so, too, is the ability to select layer break-points according to chapter or title. More control over AC-3 encoding would be appreciated, as well.
Where DVD Workshop 2 really succeeds is in its unique approach to authoring. The interface makes no attempt to be cold, sober or professional - its agenda is to make the authoring process as simple as possible. Workshop is a program easy enough for consumers to use, yet powerful enough to create projects to a professional commercial level. That should be enough to push Ulead back up to the top of the Windows market.

Peter Wells

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

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