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USB Instant DVD for Mac

By John Virata
For those of us who don't have a SuperDrive-equipped Macintosh computer, yet wish to author and burn DVDs on the Mac, there are a few solutions available to let you do just that. For certain reasons, Apple's iDVD software, free with all shipping Macintosh computers, and $49 as part of Apple's recently announced iLife bundle, only works with SuperDrive-equipped Macs. Your only Apple recourse would be to buy DVD Studio Pro. ADS Technologies has developed a workaround solution that enables you to convert your video to MPEG-2 and create DVDs with an included software application on any Macintosh that is equipped with a DVD burner. Called USB Instant DVD for Mac, and priced at $399, the company has made available a hardware/software solution for those who wish to author and burn DVDs on the Mac, but don't have a SuperDrive-equipped Mac and don't want to buy DVD Studio Pro.

USB Instant DVD for Mac features PixeDV for Mac from Japan-based Pixela. PixeDV is an application that enables you to capture MPEG 1 and MPEG 2 video and trim it, play back MPEG 2 files, and output your captured video back to VCR or for playback on a television set. The other application that makes up this bundle is CaptyDVD, a DVD authoring solution that enables you to create custom buttons and backgrounds for your DVD movies. What ties these two applications is the USB Instant DVD for Mac breakout box.

The box connects via USB to your Macintosh and your camcorder or other video device. It connects via an S-Video or composite connection on your camcorder or VCR. USB Instant DVD for Mac uses a hardware MPEG-2 codec to transcode your video as it comes into the breakout box from the camera. It then sends the MPEG-2 files to your Mac's hard drive via USB. The front of the box has inputs for RCA Audio left and right and composite video, while the rear affords connections for composite video, S-Video and 3.5mm stereo audio. The video encoder encodes MPEG-1 and MPEG-2 and captures I,B, and P frames. It captures video at a maximum resolution of 720 x 480 (576 PAL) at 30 frames per second. It can also decode [email protected] MPEG 2 video and MPEG 1 video.

I hooked up the USB Instant DVD for Mac directly to the USB port in the back of the test PowerMac dual 450MHz G4 featuring a Pioneer DVR-103 DVD-RW drive. I then connected a Sony TRV11 DV camcorder via its built-in composite I/O's to the USB Instant DVD for Mac. After connecting the camera, I launched the PixeDV software, which gave me a window to view the video. PixeDV enables you to capture composite or S-Video from your source camera or deck and convert it to MPEG in real time.

PixeDV captures all the video into an Album. This is where your project files are managed. Select Capture setting to change the settings. You choose the appropriate S-Video or composite button depending on your source footage; Choose MPEG-1 or MPEG-2 depending on your output medium (VCD or DVD); The Custom Details enable you to further refine your desired source material. Here you can choose the image size, bit rate, sound bit rate and sampling frequency. You can also choose from constant bit rate or variable bit rate. Pressing the big start button starts the transcoding process. It is really a fairly straightforward process. A status screen is located at the bottom of the window that details the disk space used and the duration of each video clip that you capture and convert. It also details how much hard disk space is available as well as the duration in hours, minutes, and seconds of the available hard disk space that you have remaining.
PixeDV Capture window

When you click stop, it saves the file and you can proceed to capture a new file. You can also bring in DV and QuickTime video from your hard drive or some other source, but keep in mind that these files must be converted into MPEG before you burn a DVD. Once you have all your source material in MPEG format, you can edit the MPEG files via the MPEG Editor.
The MPEG Editor

This application enables you to just trim out, frame by frame, the sections of video that you don't need. And finally, PixeDV has built in MPEG and QuickTime players so you can preview your video after you have trimmed them, or in the case of QuickTime files, view them before you convert them to MPEG.
The CaptyDVD Album

Once you have all your video ready to go, you launch CaptyDVD to begin the authoring process. This is where you assemble your DVD, complete with menus and buttons. CaptyDVD offers a variety of styles to choose from in several categories, including Classic, Material, Modern, Plane, Simple, Others, and Situation. Background colors can also be adjusted via a color picker located in the menu list. You can also set chapter marks. After you choose the styles you wish to use, just select the movie icon in the upper right corner to bring your video in.
The Color Picker

CaptyDVD imports the file complete with the file name. Choosing the text icon enables you to change the file name in the DVD menu windo. This doesn't change the name of the physical file, but changes the name as you want it to appear in the menu. You can also bring in still images as well. As you build you're DVD, don't forget to save often as there is no prompt asking you if you wish to save.
The Main Menu

When you go to burn a DVD, there are several boxes that you can choose to save a Video TS file so it'll play on your Mac, a DVD image if you wish to use another application such as Toast to burn the DVD, or Compile, which will burn the DVD. Keep in mind that if yo decide to save a Video TS or a DVD image, the saved file sizes often are much larger than that of the original file that you compile to DVD. I found this out after several times saving Video TS and DVD image files.

If you have an older PowerMac and want to burn DVDs, USB Instant DVD for Mac just might be the solution for you. While it features real-time capture of MPEG files via hardware, it only features composite and S-Video connections. There is no FireWire on the box. You can still work with DV files, but they have to be converted via software, which takes more time. While both the PixeDV and the CaptyDVD are both workable solutions, it would be nice to see these applications combined at some future point. This way you can capture, edit, create menus and buttons, compile, and burn all in one application.

System requirements are a Power Mac G4 400/AGP or faster, Mac OS X, 256MB RAM, CD-ROM Drive, 100MB for capture/editing applications, 3GB hard disk space for authoring, and an available USB port.

The package ships with the USB Instant DVD breakout box, a 6ft USB cable, S-Video cable, composite video and audio cables, power supply, Pixela Video Capture, and CapTV DVD and DVD authoring software.

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John Virata is senior editor of Digital Media Online. You can email him at [email protected]
Related Keywords:DV, DVD creation, MPEG-2, real time MPEG

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