AUGUST 18, 2003
Apple DVD Studio Pro 2.0
Professional DVD Authoring and encoding suite
by David Nagel
Page 6 of 7

It also includes an enhanced Assets palette (with the ability to add new folders); an Outline palette containing every element in your project, including languages and scripts; and a Story palette for designing alternate playback options, including edited versions of the movie, previews, etc. without taking up additional disc space.

All of the new media management and timeline features provide for a quicker and more flexible approach to DVD creation than previous versions of the software.[an error occurred while processing this directive]Encoding
So you see that on the authoring side, at least from the mere glimpse I've provided here, that DVD Studio Pro 2.0 brings a whole lot of power to desktop DVD creation. But what about the encoding side? Well, as with everything in this new release, encoding is completely revamped as well. Apple has gone out of its way to provide an enhanced MPEG-2 codec designed for higher quality at lower bitrates, along with one- and two-pass variable bitrate encoding, which can be handled in the background while you work or encoded on build.

Alternately, if you want more control over the encoding process, DVD Studio Pro 2.0 also chips with Compressor, a standalone application designed specifically for MPEG encoding. Compressor is only somewhat new, having shipped with Final Cut Pro 4 back in June, so I'm not going to get into it too heavily. It is, in some ways, similar to Discreet's Cleaner, but tailored specifically for MPEG. It includes a wealth of presets for specific bitrates and methods; batch processing; image processing filters; dynamic playback with split-screen views of before and after; and the ability to create droplets for quick drag and drop encoding using Apple-supplied or user-defined presets.

It also offers 12 image processing filters (color correction, noise removal, sharpening, brightness/contrast, deinterlacing, letterbox, text overlay, water mark, gamma correction and black and white restore). And it has the ability to add, edit and remove markers.

For audio, DVD Studio Pro 2.0 also ships with the A.Pack 1.5 standalone application for Dolby Digital 1.0 through 5.1 encoding. A.Pack offers Dolby-certified AC-3 encoding and accepts QuickTime formats, as well as AIFF, Sound Designer and WAVE sound files. It also offers batch processing.

The video encoding capabilities of DVD Studio Pro 2.0 are flexible (with the ability to render and encode Final Cut Pro reference movies), fairly fast and capable of producing beautiful results. I can't show you the results, since I'd have to supply you with the uncompressed source footage for comparison. And I can't say very much about speed, since there are just too many factors involved to give you one comprehensive, quantitative statistic. Yes, two-pass VBR with all the quality settings cranked up to maximum will give you enough of a break to grow out a new hair style, but I've found this to be the case with all MPEG-2 encoders I've dealt with to date. In COmpressor, with more moderate to high settings--say a one-pass VBR with an 8.2 Mbps maximum bitrate and "Better" motion estimation enabled--you're looking at an encode ratio of something like 1:2.5, which is to say 2.5 seconds of encode time for every second of footage. (That's on a dual 1 GHz G4.) Again, this figure is probably meaningless to you, since your equipment and quality requirements will impact your encode speeds heavily.

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