Pinnacle Express DV review: Pinnacle Express DV

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MSRP: $79.95
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3 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Easy-to-use interface; includes FireWire card; automatic scene detection breaks up video for easier editing.

The Bad Few and inflexible DVD menu templates; no chapter navigation; imports only AVI video; no instructions for installing FireWire card; expensive.

The Bottom Line Pinnacle Express DV provides only basic control over video content and DVD menu design--at a high price. Pick the cheaper Ulead DVD MovieFactory or MGI VideoWave for a product that grows with your skills.

6.0 Overall

Although Pinnacle Express DV seems comprehensive, you'll definitely outgrow it in a hurry. This DVD-authoring app lets you burn digital video to disc, and the package even includes a FireWire card, a nice touch if your computer didn't come with a FireWire port. It's great for beginners, with easy-to-use DVD controls and features. But at a whopping $79.99, this program doesn't offer nearly enough tools, and ultimately, Express DV doesn't go the distance. If you want to expand beyond ultrasimplistic DVD creation, try a slightly more advanced program, such as Ulead DVD MovieFactory or, for more video-editing options, MGI VideoWave. Although Pinnacle Express DV seems comprehensive, you'll definitely outgrow it in a hurry. This DVD-authoring app lets you burn digital video to disc, and the package even includes a FireWire card, a nice touch if your computer didn't come with a FireWire port. It's great for beginners, with easy-to-use DVD controls and features. But at a whopping $79.99, this program doesn't offer nearly enough tools, and ultimately, Express DV doesn't go the distance. If you want to expand beyond ultrasimplistic DVD creation, try a slightly more advanced program, such as Ulead DVD MovieFactory or, for more video-editing options, MGI VideoWave.

Easy interface
Pinnacle's installation goes smoothly and quickly; just follow the directions, and you're home free. If you don't have a FireWire connection on your computer, you can install the bundled FireWire card into an open PCI slot. That's not a daunting task, but it can take some time, especially if you're new to installing hardware on your computer. Unfortunately, Pinnacle doesn't include a word of instruction in its packaging.

Pinnacle Express DV possesses an interface similar to that of the Studio DV product line, where each phase of the DVD-creation process features its own section and graphic interface. The interface includes three intuitively titled sections: "Bring in your video," represented by a camera icon; Preview And Edit, with a TV icon; and Make Your Disc, which has a disc icon. Just click one of these three icons at the top of the screen to bring up the appropriate screen. Select "Bring in your video" to capture video from your DV camera. Express includes a handy scene detection feature that automatically breaks your video into manageable chunks. You can also import video from your hard drive, but sadly, only video in AVI format.

Limited design tools
Once you've imported video, you can design your DVD menu in the Preview And Edit section. You won't find any video-editing tools here beyond adding simple transitions and audio; you can't trim or rearrange scenes, for example. And though Pinnacle features easy-to-use tools for adding titles and scene menus, we found the menu design tools to be Express DV's weakest point. Express provides 16 premade templates that you can use to create a DVD menu. By contrast, DVD MovieFactory offers 38 such templates. Express DV's backgrounds include buttons that let you start and stop a clip, but you can't navigate to specific points in your video.

Like other DVD-authoring programs on the market, such as NeoDVD, Express sports very basic menu choices, offering only a few custom options. For example, you can change basic text styles and the number of menu buttons, but you can't reposition those buttons in your layout. We'd prefer more control, such as the ability to pick chapter settings, add moving images to the menu, or create intro movies that start up as soon as you put the DVD into the drive.

Beginners only
Ultimately, Pinnacle's Express DV is a starter DVD-creation program, with an $80 price tag that's much higher than comparable products that don't contain a FireWire card. Anyone who wants to do more complex work would be better off with more complete DVD programs, such as Sonic Solutions DVDit or even MGI VideoWave. If you're looking for a basic DVD program just to get the job done, check out Express DV; but don't expect much.

Pinnacle Express DV is a basic program for creating DVDs. Use the menu section of Express DV to create simple DVD menus to access your clips.

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