Apple DVD Studio Pro 3 test and review

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Apple DVD Studio Pro 3

It's only been a year since the launch of DVD Studio Pro 2, but already Apple has come out with a full version upgrade. So what kind of leap forward is V3?

Apple did a good thing with DVD Studio Pro 2 - abandoning the annoyingly stifling environment of Astarte's DVDirector for a more intuitive, designer-friendly set up adapted from Spruce's excellent Maestro software. This offered a choice of three user interfaces, providing a remarkably gentle learning curve from the basic level of iDVD projects to more advanced and professional projects for commercial manufacture. Disc authoring was timeline-based and made good use of folders and bins to help keep things organised, as well as visual and tactile.
Our initial reaction to getting hands-on with DVD Studio Pro 2 was very positive - we judged it the best DVD authoring program available for the mainstream market. But the software later proved to be unworkable for mastering dual-layer projects to DLT for mass replication. The program failed to initialise a second tape when connected to a DLT drive via a SCSI-FireWire adaptor. More worryingly, other users found that the layer-break point was often set incorrectly, resulting in pressed discs that froze halfway through. Worst of all, this was an error that couldn't be spotted until glass masters had been made and discs pressed. It took until early this year for Apple to fully address this layer-break issue, but that update was quickly followed with the announcement of a full version update - DVD Studio Pro 3.

DVD Studio Pro is still the very best DVD authoring program at its price point. It's well-featured and easy to learn and use, but the upgrade to version 3 is far from dramatic. Some existing users won't regard the expense as worthwhile - especially if they have to factor in the cost and inconvenience of upgrading their operating system to OS X 10.3. First-time buyers will have far less of a dilemma, however - particularly as there's no alternative on the Mac platform. The full purchase price of £350 is a steal.
As always, there's room for improvement, but in terms of tools and features, our only significant grumble is the lack of support for 16:9 widescreen slideshows. Otherwise, DVD Studio Pro is the most capable authoring program in its class on any platform - we just wish that Apple would spend more time ensuring that it works fully on smaller systems that can't accommodate PCI SCSI adaptors - such as the iMac and PowerBook.

Peter Wells

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


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Reviewed in this issue:

Double Layer DVD+R9 burners and software
Microboards Gemini
Primera Bravo II DVD
Apple DVD Studio Pro 3
Neuston Virtuoso MC-500
Canopus ProCoder 2

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Faster, low-cost editing Macs
Matrox Premiere Pro 1.5 drivers
Sorenson squeezes further
Porsche drives
Really cool Apple Power Mac
Boris professional FX
Digital arts from onedotzero
Cheaper, faster Mac portables
Formac FireWire hard disks
Edius goes high-end High Def
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