Pinnacle Instant VideoAlbum
While advanced video makers are still waiting for an affordable, truly professional DVD authoring program to appear, there's no shortage of options for the absolute novice. Pinnacle's Instant VideoAlbum is affordable and accessible, but haven't we seen it somewhere before?
Regardless of how many DVD burners come bundled with Sonic Solutions' MyDVD, the real fight in the entry-level DVD authoring market appears to be between Pinnacle and Ulead. Ulead's DVD MovieFactory is a very neat and simple tool for quickly making DVD and VCD discs from video files. Pinnacle's equivalent has, until recently, been a program called Expression - now part of the InstantCD/DVD bundle (review, p50). But, along with the introduction of InstantCD/DVD, Pinnacle is introducing a new beginner's DVD authoring program - Instant VideoAlbum.
A new face
At first glance, Instant VideoAlbum looks significantly different from Expression - the stylish Studio-family graphic interface is replaced by something much more basic and functional. And, rather than having the three-step workflow of capture, author and burn, VideoAlbum takes a four-step approach, separating design and previewing into separate stages. Aside from the visual makeover, however, not much seems to have changed.
The capture interface features a large video monitor with buttons for controlling playback of camcorders or decks connected via FireWire. Users can choose to make a DVD, SVCD or VCD disc, and MPEG encoding settings can be chosen from presets - with Automatic, Good or Best options - or manually, choosing a target bitrate between 3,000 and 8,000Kbit/s. When capture from a DV device is selected, a dialogue box appears, asking users to specify a name and target directory for the files being imported. Annoyingly, this box doesn't vanish when capture begins - it remains on screen, showing a progress indicator and providing a Stop Import button, but also partially obscuring the video display. Scene-detection is provided, based on changes in time and date stamp for DV material.
Even though Instant VideoAlbum is closely based on Expression, the changes Pinnacle has made to the video editing tools point it at a significantly different market. While Expression is intended for quick and dirty burning of edited material, Instant VideoAlbum is focused more on a simple transfer from tape to disc. Users can make a disc with the order and structure of their camcorder tapes, but without the boring repetitive landscapes, embarrassing mishaps or long waiting-for-something-to-happen pauses that always seem to find their way into home movies when you play them back. It's hardly an inspiring stepping stone into the world of video production, but even we have to concede that some people just aren't that interested in video editing. And for those strange, misguided fools, this program is highly recommended!
System Requirements for Windows:
Windows 2000/Me/XP Pentium 200MHz processor or faster, 64 MB RAM, 45 MB free hard disk space, 800 x 600 display, 16-bit color