Burn This! Affordable DVD Drive Bundles

Dec 1, 2002 12:00 PM, BY RANDY ALBERTS

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IT WASN'T THAT LONG AGO WHEN Pioneer introduced the first recordable DVD-R drive. Even at $17,000, it was considered must-have technology for serious content developers and duplication plants, yet far from the reach of studios, producers and home-recording enthusiasts. Back then, DVD was just another format-in-the-wings for the rest of us.

There have been dramatic changes since the introduction of the first DVD-burner. Today, a growing majority of home owners watch DVD videos. DVD-Audio, though still climbing the “consumer-approval” ladder, is gaining a foothold. Sub-$1,000 DVD-A authoring and burning solutions are so far a rarity (see the Minnetonka discWelder Steel review on page 116), but that doesn't mean that the average commercial and project studio can't add DVD authoring to its list of services.

Mix checked into what's currently available in the way of affordable, entry-level DVD drive/software bundles and duplicators, and you'd be surprised with what we found. Turn a band's new tracks and live DV footage from the previous night into an interactive DVD-Video in 30 minutes? No problem. Backup recording sessions to high-capacity, 4.7GB (DVD-R) or 9.4GB (DVD-RAM) discs? Fast and easy. Experiment with basic DVD video-editing effects without taking a deep financial plunge? Absolutely. For under $700, and in most cases under $500, the following baker's dozen-plus of affordable, entry-level DVD drive/software packages can do all that and more.

Pioneer's A04 DVD drive, the basis for most of the following DVD bundles, is the same SuperDrive that is included with Apple's new G4s, iBooks and iMacs. Apple installs its own basic DVD authoring, editing and burning software into each, such as iDVD and iTunes. Similar packages are also appearing on the PC side of the aisle, and a number of original and third-party DVD software titles are being bundled with internal and external DVD drives for both platforms. Often offered in these packages are basic and very easy-to-use authoring tools such as Sonic Solutions' DVDit! and MyDVD; Roxio Toast 5 Titanium, MedioStream neoDVD Standard and ArcSoft Showbiz; archival tools from Veritas Software such as RecordNow and Backup; and a host of other playback, editing, authoring and archival software tools.

The DVD Revo DVD-R/RW Recorder ($599) from CD CyClone (www.cdcyclone.com) is a sleek, external FireWire drive for Mac and PC that creates DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD-ROM, CD-R, CD-RW and CD-ROM discs in one package. The drive's 2x DVD can write a full 4.7GB disc in about 30 minutes, and can write/rewrite an 8x CD-R/RW disc in under 10 minutes. A stylish handle is handy for sneaker-netting DVD- and CD-based content from station to station, and several DVD Revos can be stacked, if necessary. Mac users receive Roxio Toast 5 Titanium software in the Revo bundle for DVD- and CD-Video and Audio authoring; PC buyers land Veritas' PrimoDVD. The latter software, available only in drive bundles, allows users to create DVD-Video and DVD-ROM discs, master to DLT tape, create image files of existing CDs for replication, and record to as many as 16 DVD-R drives simultaneously.

One of several companies to repackage Pioneer's A04 SuperDrive is Formac Electronics (www.formac.com), and what a good-looking, Apple-specific package it is. The company's Devideon drive ($549) not only looks great, but it is also bundled with Formac's Devideon DVD-authoring software, which supports OS 9 and OS X and can run on any G3, G4, PowerBook, iBook or iMac. The latest version increases encoding speeds by up to 30% and supports Super Video CD (SVCD), and NTSC and PAL video formats. iMovie and QuickTime files are encoded to MPEG-2 movies, and video-encoding quality (1.0 to 9.8 Mbit/s) and audio (32- and 48kHz rates) are user-adjustable.

For PC users, Hewlett-Packard (www.hp.com) offers two DVD-burn bundles: the 200e DVD Writer ($550) and DVD Writer 200i ($449). In addition to the external 200e supporting USB 2.0, both drives share identical specifications and a generous software-bundle package for DVD-RW and DVD-R authoring, backup and creation. Included are Sonic Solutions' MyDVD; ArcSoft Showbiz; Cyberlink PowerDVD; and RecordNow, DLA and Simple Backup from Veritas. Also onboard both H-P bundles are IEEE1394 FireWire and USB2 cables and one each of a blank DVD-RW, DVD-R and CD-RW disc.

LaCie's (www.lacie.com) 2x/24x external FireWire DVD-RW/CD-RW Drive ($450) is another portable DVD-/CD-burning bundle solution. PC (Win 98 Second Edition/2K) and Mac platforms are supported, and the package includes a FireWire cable and four blank media to create rewritable DVD and CD discs. The Mac version comes bundled with Toast Lite for CD recording, whereas PC users receive a healthy software bundle including Veritas PrimoDVD, Sonic Solutions DVDit! and MyDVD, and Cyberlink PowerDVD, a handy DVD-playback program.

Microboards Technology's (www.microboards.com) PlayWrite DVD ($649) is a portable, external version of the Pioneer A04 drive that offers the standard software bundle of MyDVD, RecordNOW, DLA and the PowerDVD player. Housed in a silver, acrylic-coated case, the PlayWrite drive adds IEEE1394 FireWire and USB 2.0 interfaces and support, and enough cables and blank media to get Mac or PC users started on their first burn.

The Pacific Digital (www.pacificdigital.com) IDE DVD-Recorder Drive ($299) is an internal DVD-R/RAM with a software bundle for PC users. Capable of 1x DVD-R and 2x DVD-RAM (9.4GB) recording, this drive also supports the DVD-Video, CD-DA, CD-ROM, CD-Bridge, Photo CD, CD-I and Video CD formats, and can read/transfer from 1x and 2x DVD-RAM, 6x DVD-ROM and 12x and 24x CD-RW/R and CD-ROM discs. Pacific Digital packages this drive with MedioStream neoDVD, a complete software solution that allows anyone with a mouse in hand to easily transfer, edit, author and burn a DVD or CD from a digital video camcorder's footage directly or from existing MPEG-2, DV, AVI and QuickTime files. Another program named Muvee is bundled with the package, which defines “point-and-click music video production.” The company also plans to release an external DVD-R/RW drive bundle that will support USB 2.0 by the time this story prints.

Panasonic's (www.panasonic.com) LF-D321U DVDBurner DVD-RAM/R Drive ($275) reads virtually every DVD and CD format and burns DVD-RAM and DVD-R discs for video, data and imaging applications. PC software bundled with the internal burner offers users the ability to backup hard drives to 9.4GB discs and play, capture, edit and burn video/audio files. Included is DVD-Movie Album to author and create menus for the above-mentioned disc formats, as well as to edit video on digital video equipment that is connected to a computer.

The same Pioneer (www.pioneerelectronics.com) DVR-A04 SuperDrive used in new Macs is offered as a drive/software bundle combination on its own, as well. One such package, found at www.Sharbor.com for $645.99, includes the DVD-R/RW and CD-R/RW-burning drive with Sonic's DVDit! SE software. Reading almost every DVD and CD format, including CD-Extra and Photo CD, the A04 sports a 2MB data buffer, can be mounted horizontally or vertically, and is offered with a five-pack of Pioneer media.

Two DVD drive bundle solutions are offered by QPS Inc. (www.qps-inc.com). The Que! USB 2.0 DVD-R/RAM Drive ($438) is an external PC that claims to be the first combination drive available for the faster USB 2.0 port. Able to create DVD-R General and DVD-RAM discs, this drive can also be used as a scratch disc to experiment with and author various video and audio edits safely. Que! Archiver DV encoding/decoding software is included, which allows the user to capture, transcode, pre-author, author, pre-master and master high-quality video and data DVDs. The Que! FireWire DVD-R/DVD-RW/CD-RW Combo Drive ($489), which reads and creates CD-R media at 8x and CD-RW media at 4x. Included with QPS' DVD combo drive bundle is MedioStream neoDVD Standard software to encode/decode and PC DVD and CD author.

Sony's (www.sony.com) 2.4x Internal EIDE DVD-RW Drive is offered in a number of bundles. One package ($450) includes Sony's second-generation DRU-120A DVD-RW drive, which can also write to DVD-R and CD-R/RW discs, and a bountiful software package for PC users. In addition to MedioStream neoDVD Standard for authoring and Cyberlink PowerDVD for playback, this Sony package also comes with Dantz Retrospect Express for backup and disaster recovery and B's Recorder Gold (recording) and Clip (packet writing) software.

SHORT-RUN DVD-DUPLICATION SYSTEMS

Some time during the authoring process, directors, labels, producers and just about everyone else needs a copy of the project, whether it's an in-progress rough cut or those all-important client/A&R/artist approvals. Pretty soon, the list of “who needs one” grows to the point where the project's producer may spend more time cutting dupes than authoring or cutting the tracks.

At this point, a basic duplication system — capable of burning 10, 50 or more discs while unattended — can prove to be a worthwhile investment that recoups its initial cost rather quickly. As a bonus, most of these systems double as CD duplicators. In either case, a short-run DVD burning system may end up being a profitable adjunct to your DVD authoring suite. Let's take a look at a few compact systems that have recently debuted.

Known as a leading duplication house for audio projects, Disc Makers (www.discmakers.com/duplication) introduces its Elite line of CD/DVD replicators. The Elite 1 ($3,990 for CD; $4,790 with DVD-R) combines a 125-disc input loader, onboard 1,200 dpi color inkjet printer, Padus DiscJuggler software and can be upgraded to include a second drive. The Elite 1 can duplicate and print at least 12 CD-Rs or two DVD-Rs per hour. Taking the concept one step further, Disc Makers' Elite Pro 1 adds a built-in, Intel-based PC for turnkey duplication out-of-the-box, and retails for $4,790 with CD or $5,790 with DVD-R.

Mediaform's (www.mediaform.com) Scribe EC (Endless Configurations) Series allows users to customize systems to their particular needs — CD-R, DVD-R, one/ two/four drives, with or without disc printing, etc. Offering pro-grade automated CD-R/DVD-R authoring/duplication/printing, systems feature the SmartDRIVE “anti-piracy” CD-R drive equipped with copy protection, electronic watermarking and SmartGUARD Media; and 100-CD spindle capacity and a Relay mode where multiple masters and multiple copies can be recorded and printed in a single, continuous process for unattended operation. CD systems begin at $2,999; DVD-R systems start at $3,999; and all systems require a user-supplied PC.

The Pact 4DVD from Mediatechnics (www.mediatechnics.com) is a series of stand-alone desktop duplicators that offer the same features as the company's Impact line but in a smaller “desktop” footprint. Features include a 400-disc capacity, support for up to four DVD writers, auto-format recognition, direct copying, 40 GB of onboard master-image storage and selectable write speeds.

Now offered in CD or DVD versions, the CopyWriter Pro Series from Microboards (www.microboards.com) is a multidrive, manual-loading system available in configurations of two through 16 drives. The stand-alone system uses a menu-driven display and simple two-button control interface integrated into a sleek remote module, which allows the flexibility to position the interface in different ergonomic locations, whether on the drive enclosures themselves or on the user's desktop for easy control and status access. The onboard hard drive is standard and permits CD image archival and track extraction for audio compilations.

Unveiled at the October AES show in Los Angeles, the DVD-R Duplication System from Otari (www.otari.com) consists of the DVM-100 DVD-R Mastering Unit and VDP-100 DVD-R Duplicator. The DVM-100 writes a DVD image file created on a removable hard disk drive by the mastering unit or disc image captured from a master DVD-R disc for a maximum of five DVD-R discs at the same time. The VDP-100's disc-handling system can stack up to 90 blank discs, allowing for long and unattended operation.

The Bravo Disc Publisher Duplication and Printing System ($1,995 w/CD drive, $2,495 w/Pioneer DVD-R/CD-R drive); from Primera Technology (www.primera.com) is an all-in-one duplication/authoring system. The PC-based FireWire/USB bus Bravo CD Publisher can replace a single CD-R/RW drive with the Pioneer A04 DVD drive. The Bravo DVD Publisher burns 2x DVD-R discs and 8x CD-R discs, the latter in less than three minutes each. Both Primera packages are bundled with Veritas software for CD and DVD creation and the SureThing CD Labeler, the latter including templates to create and print four-color background labels.

The Desktop Publisher 800 from Rimage (www.rimage.com) provides a complete CD/DVD-publishing solution with fully automated processes and multitasking — burn and print while using other applications. Features include a 60-disc input bin/120-disc output bin, QuickDisc software and a 1,200 dpi color inkjet for direct on-disc printing.


Randy Alberts gives special thanks to Anthony Honciano and Pedro Guaman of CompUSA in Daly City, Calif., for their help.


DVD Drive Caveat
by GEORGE PETERSEN

Pioneer took the early lead in offering low-cost, but dependable drives for DVD-recording applications, whether sold as a Pioneer-branded product or as OEMs/repackagings with other systems and computers. And, now that the DVD Forums released standards for high-speed recordable discs (4x for DVD-R and 2x for DVD-RW), these new recordables are now coming to market. However, Pioneer Electronics recently announced that many of its popular DVD-R/RW drives and DVD recorders will require a firmware update before using the new media to avoid potential damage to loaded discs and units. The affected drives include models DVR-A03, DVR-103, DVR-A04 and DVR-104, as well as DVD recorders DVR-7000 and PRV-9000 DVD. The update is free and relatively simple; visit www.pioneerelectronics.com for details.






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