Many of today's top video-authoring programs--Ulead VideoStudio 7.0, for example--offer plenty of easy editing tools but fail when it comes to producing great-looking DVD menus. B's DVD is exactly the opposite. While this inexpensive app offers few editing tools, its 30 DVD templates are clever and colorful. All these templates make B's DVD a good buy if you don't want to do any editing beyond simple trims, or if you plan to use it in conjunction with an editing program. But beware--we encountered some serious bugs when actually burning DVDs with this app. The more expensive Dazzle DVD works more reliably and includes a comprehensive feature set (but fewer menu themes).
Installing B's DVD is a breeze using the program's installer screen through its setup wizard. You'll be up and running in a minute or two, and you won't need long to learn the program, either. The interface is crisp and sparse, with intuitively placed controls. Be forewarned, however: B's DVD doesn't support many drives--only a few are listed here, though we found that it supports some that are not on the list. B's DVD didn't support a TDK 420N Indi DVD one on test PC, but it did support the HP DVD-Writer DVD100i, which was not on its list of supported drives.
B's DVD's menu templates are well designed and fun to use. This one looks like a newspaper page.
Once you have B's DVD up and running, you can import a movie file from your hard drive or from a digital video camera. Sadly, B's DVD supports movies only in MPEG-1, MPEG-2, and AVI--not QuickTime or even MOV files. The controls are simple: click the "Add video from camera" button on the button bar, and a smaller window pops up that lets you control your camera and record the sections you want. You can even specify the start and stop points, a handy option for precise moviemaking.
The B's DVD installer screen lets you load the application with one quick click.
Most of B's DVD's interface is taken up with a large preview window, which shows how your final product will look. Buttons along the top let you change your preferences, add a slide or a video, and begin the burn. The DVD templates are located along the right edge, where you'll also find font and audio controls. In its simplicity and the attractiveness of its templates, B's DVD is reminiscent of Apple iDVD, but there's no Mac version of B's DVD.
Once you've selected your clips, the real fun begins. The program's 30 well-designed templates range from business-serious to colorful and exotic--in particular, we love the menu buttons, which mark specific scenes and are well coordinated and humorous. For example, pick the template that shows two clotheslines, and your buttons will look like shirts hanging on the lines.
Choose the sedate Kyoto template, and your buttons will appear as Asian fans over a Zen garden landscape.
B's DVD lets you select the image that displays on the button from anywhere within the video clip; add a music track to your clip; and create still-image slide shows from BMP, JPEG, and GIF images. Unfortunately, unlike iDVD or VideoMagic, B's DVD doesn't support motion menus--that is, templates that let you run a movie in the background or on the buttons.
We especially like the Cotton template, which shows buttons as shirts hanging on clotheslines.
Don't expect much in the way of video editing form B's DVD.; this app is only an authoring tool. The best you can do is place start and stop points in your clips to trim out front or end material. The software doesn't look for scene breaks when you import video, as does Roxio VideoWave, and it doesn't let you batch-convert video files, like DVD MovieFactory--both unfortunate omissions. It exports files only to DVDs, VCDs, and SVCDs. Even there, its options are limited. It can't export footage back to a video camera in DV format. And it doesn't come with extras, such as video or audio clips to spice up your movies or snazzy scene transitions--standard inclusions in most authoring apps.
Unfortunately, when it came to actually burning video, B's DVD let us down. In our tests, we burned DVDs without a hitch, quickly and easily--as long as they didn't include audio. We couldn't burn a DVD with an audio track, however, because the program consistently froze when processing the audio. Many conversations with B's tech support couldn't resolve the problem. Dazzle DVD performs more reliably.
Support for B's DVD is limited to a FAQ on its Web site and an e-mail link on the same page. In our many dealings with them, the tech-support staff was always quick to respond (within a business day) and helpful. Still, that's no substitute for phone support.