A full installation of the Sonic MyDVD Studio Deluxe 5.0 suite requires approximately 170MB of drive space (much of which is motion menus and backgrounds) and takes about five minutes, including a system reboot--pretty standard. You can install the three main components--MyDVD, for movie authoring and basic editing; RecordNow, for mastering; and CinePlayer, the DVD movie and video file player--separately or en masse. You can't just click Install and walk away, however; the process takes several steps. Worse, RecordNow installs itself deep in the Windows Program Files folder without offering an alternative and the suite installs an extra app, Express Labeler, without asking permission.
Though the install routine could use refinement, we have no complaints about the programs' uncluttered, intuitive interfaces. Forgoing the insultingly simplistic and overly structured step-by-step approach favored by Nero Vision Express 2.0 and PowerProducer 2.0, all of MyDVD's functions and options are accessible from the main page. Kudos to Sonic for building interfaces that are easy to understand but let you cut to the chase once you're up to speed.
Sonic's MyDVD 5.0 suite contains a solid set of entry-level applications. MyDVD 5.0 itself is an easy-to-use movie-authoring and -editing app that produces discs that will play in most DVD players and lets you use snippets of video to animate buttons and backgrounds. New to version 5.0 are more-comprehensive video-editing tools, with more transitions, trimming, and effects options, a more intuitive video-capture procedure, and the ability to import QuickTime files. Still, the software suffers from some limitations: its menu buttons are static, and it won't import PAL video into an NTSC project (or vice versa).
RecordNow Deluxe is a jack-of-all-trades mastering program that can copy discs; create a disc image; burn a disc from an image; and burn the usual assortment of audio, data, and MP3 CDs and DVDs. It also includes a rudimentary backup-to-optical-disc function, ideal for archiving sizable chunks of data, but unfortunately, it won't back up to a hard drive. Our biggest complaint: RecordNow relies on Windows Media Player to retrieve audio CD artist and track data, and some users may not want WMP configured to access MSN for security reasons.
CinePlayer, the suite's remarkably capable and easy-to-use DVD movie and video file player, impressed us. It plays DVD discs, movies stored on a hard drive, and just about any video file that has a registered Windows DirectShow filter--DivX, Xvid, and so on. We especially appreciate CinePlayer's straightforward, uncluttered controls.
The suite's Express Labeler disc-labeling program is simple to use, but it offers only an extremely limited number of background images and text arrangement options. For printing an occasional basic label, it's fine, but the highly visible upgrade button and several menu options that send you to Sonic's Web site make us think that the program was bundled only to sell you on the fatter $39.95 version.
After you've registered MyDVD 5.0 online, Sonic's Web site offers an extensive set of help resources, including a knowledge base, software updates, an extensive technology library, and tech support via e-mail. Astoundingly, Sonic also provides toll-free telephone support every day (excluding holidays) from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. PT.