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WinDVD Creator Plus is a powerful yet easy-to-use video-capture and CD-/DVD-authoring program. For less than $100, this program can capture video in real time directly to CD/DVD and edit DVD discs written in the Video Recording, or VR, format used in digital video recorders. We have some minor complaints, though. For example, WinDVD Creator Plus doesn't support motion menus, and we're downright disappointed that a couple of features slated for this release are present in the interface but aren't functional. Such early release bugs keep us from a wholehearted recommendation, but if you're willing to wait for the next release, WinDVD Creator Plus has major potential.
InterVideo sells its WinDVD Creator Plus movie-authoring package via the Web as a 36MB download. A full installation requires about 80MB of disk space, takes about five minutes to perform, and requires that you reboot your computer. Once WinDVD is installed, you must activate the program by selecting Activation from its help menu and entering the password and serial number that you receive when you purchase the product. That's a little annoying, but it's no worse than, say, Windows XP.
Creator Plus's interface is exceptionally straightforward and intuitive for a DVD-authoring app. Four separate tabbed pages represent the four main phases of the disc-creation process: Capture, Edit, Author, and Make Movie. There's also a page for the DiscManager direct-to-disc capture and editing (more on that later). You can move media and effects around within the program using standard drag-and-drop methods, but unfortunately, you can't drag media--say, an image file that you want to use as a DVD menu background--directly from Windows Explorer, nor can you lasso multiple items; instead, you'll have to use the Shift key to select more than one.
Note the handy fill gauge on the Make Movie page.
Creator Plus's most outstanding feature is its grid-style storyboard, which allows you to see far more cells and visualize complex movies better than the scrolling one-line storyboards found in programs such as ArcSoft ShowBiz and Roxio VideoWave Movie Creator. We also like Creator Plus's Make Movie page, where you can set your burning options and start writing to disc. This page features a handy fill gauge that shows you whether your project will overflow the disc.
WinDVD Creator Plus can import almost any available file type and output to an equally impressive list of formats. Creator Plus imports MPEG, AVI, and Windows Media (ASF, WMV, and so forth); video and image types, including JPEG, BMP, PNG, PSD, PCX, and uncompressed TIFF. The program outputs to VideoCD, Super VideoCD, DVD on CD, and both high-quality, one-hour and medium-quality, two-hour DVD, using either the PAL or NTSC video standards. So, you can create movies and slide shows from any type of file, then make a video disc that you can play on any type of player, in any country. Not bad. Plus, your video projects are independent of their output format--meaning that if you're creating a video for CD and you change your mind and decide to go with DVD, you won't have to re-create your entire story line to suit your compression format (as you would have to with Sonic MyDVD).
Capturing video to the hard drive with Creator Plus is quick and painless. InterVideo captures video according to a few different quality profiles, which control image size, frame rates, bit rates, and the like, but you can edit those profiles or create your own if you have the know-how.
Create transitions and effects--to a limited degree.
If you're in a hurry, the program also lets you capture video from a camera in real time directly to CD or DVD using the integrated DiscManager. Creator Plus can't create DVD menus as you capture to disc, but you can add one later (only if you're burning to +RW), since direct-recorded DVDs are written in the editable VR format used by commercial DVD recorders. This also means that you can play and edit your videos in products such as the Philips DVDR985, which supports VR editing.
Once you've imported video or stills, you can create DVD-style menus with scene buttons and themes. InterVideo provides 23 high-quality transitions and 27 title effects, plus 31 menu themes. You can also import your own background images and change at will the fonts on your movie titles and menu buttons. Unfortunately, you can't edit the shape or appearance of the menu buttons, nor can you change their placement or save your edits as a custom theme à la MyDVD. Creator Plus support doesn't create motion menu buttons, either--that is, buttons that appear as little movies, while MyDVD does have this function.
On the Make Movie page--home to all of the options that apply to burning your creation to disc: disc format, video standard, and disc name--you can ostensibly burn to disc, write a disc structure (that is, write the data to your hard drive instead of to a disc), or burn a disc structure that you've already written to a hard drive. Sadly, the latter choice is a red herring; it didn't work in the version that we tested (though InterVideo says that it is working on the problem).
Video capture and editing requires a fast system. InterVideo's minimum configuration for Creator Plus is 64MB of memory and an 800MHz CPU, but you'll feel like you're slogging through mud with a system that slow. In our experience, capturing high-quality MPEG-2 video on systems slower than 1GHz will result in dropped frames, and you'll need a considerably faster processor if you plan to use Creator Plus's direct-to-disc recording. You'll also need plenty of hard drive space for capturing video, plus a CD or DVD rewritable drive to burn your creations to disc. You may need to upgrade your OS, as well; Creator Plus runs on only Windows 2000 and XP.
We tested Creator Plus by burning a project that included several different types of video and still images, plus a number of different transitions and title effects. The conversion process was relatively quick, all of the video and the images were flawlessly rendered, and the resulting DVD+RW disc played without a hitch in HP DVD200i, Pioneer DVR-A05, and Philips DVDRW228 drives using both InterVideo's WinDVD Platinum and CyberLink's PowerDVD software DVD players.
Online support for WinDVD Creator Plus includes several FAQs, a link to the latest version of Microsoft's DirectX, and a page where you can send e-mail queries to a tech-support rep. You can also upgrade Creator Plus by downloading the latest demo and reactivating the software with the registration key that's provided when you purchase the product. Telephone technical support is available 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. PT, and although there's a toll charge, the support reps answered all of our calls in less than one minute.