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Cut, transpose, transform
VideoWave is ideal for first-timers, since it offers a clear, intuitive layout, making it hard to get lost. Once you create scenes and transitions within your video, they're organized in a row along the top called the Storyline. Buttons for basic tasks are along the left (including editing, special effects, transitions, publishing to the Web, output to video, authoring your DVD, and more), a video preview pane is on the right side, and a blank area on the bottom of the screen displays commands specific to whatever tool you've chosen. The printed manual covers VideoWave basics in a series of tutorials that are more useful for beginners than for experienced users.
VideoWave's intuitive design gets footage onto your PC in just a few easy steps. Simply plug in your camcorder and select Capture. Press the Play button under the preview pane to start the video, then select Video + Audio from the Capture menu below. VideoWave doesn't break your video into scenes automatically, as Apple iMovie does, but a handy tool called Scene Detector searches for scene breaks, which makes for easier editing. You can change the sensitivity of the detector with a sliding scale at the right to make it more accurate.
VideoWave's strong suit has always been easy-to-add, professional-looking visual effects. In this version, you can choose from 60 transition effects, make text scroll across the screen any way you like, and use the TimeWarp feature to speed up or slow down certain sections of footage. You can also put two video clips on one screen or superimpose a clip onto a background image. This package features infinitely more editing choices than, for example, iDVD or MovieFactory, which offer only basic transitions or rearranging.
We knocked version 4.0 for its lack of full audio-editing and timeline controls. Sadly, audio control remains a chore this time around. VideoWave doesn't offer the multiple timeline controls found in iMovie that make controlling audio streams easy. Instead, you first must import audio files to the library (only WAV and MP3 files will work), then double-click a file to add it to a preselected video. You can change the insertion point of an audio clip with the timeline under the preview pane, but to change the end point, you'll need to select the audio file, then press the Clip button on the bottom of the screen. VideoWave shouldn't require this extra step to set an end point for audio.
DVD-authoring tools are version 5.0's big news. They're a bit rough around the edges, however, and the DVD-creation features lack the polish of VideoWave's other tools. Press the Author DVD button on the task menu, and VideoWave asks you what type of disc you want to create: DVD, DVD on CD (better known as SVCD, or SuperVideo CD, a video CD that supports DVD menus), or VideoCD. From there, VideoWave opens a new screen for DVD menu creation. That's easy enough, but after that, VideoWave starts to falter.
The software offers 56 background images to use when making menus but none of the well-designed templates of Apple iDVD. VideoWave provides more flexibility than Ulead MovieFactory, however, thanks to its selection of 40 buttons. (MovieFactory lets you select a frame within a movie to use as that movie's button image; alas, these buttons look clunky.) You can name the buttons whatever you want, but VideoWave limits the button label text effects to just six colors of font outlining. Also, although you can move the buttons around freely, the button labels remain fixed below the buttons, unlike iDVD's more customizable options. VideoWave creates clip menus, too, which let you jump to the beginning of a specific clip, but it won't create a menu that takes your viewer to an individual scene, as iDVD does.
Unfortunately, VideoWave's DVD-authoring tools depend on hardware, and MGI hasn't overcome the incompatibility problems. VideoWave doesn't support some of the major DVD burners on the market, including our HP DVD-Writer DVD100i, an internal drive. In fact, MGI's list of supported drives is pathetically small and doesn't include any from major vendors such as QPS, Toshiba, or Panasonic. VideoWave needs to get on the compatibility stick in a hurry if it expects to be a serious DVD-authoring contender.
What VideoWave lacks in DVD-creation panache, it makes up for in extras. The software comes bundled with two CDs full of media content, including audio files (both short effects and full songs), video clips, and themes--all of which you can import to your DVDs for the best-looking home movies on the block.
If you crave the flash of movie-editing tools, plus CD and DVD creation, look to VideoWave 5.0. It's best for home movies; professional users will want a more advanced product, such as Adobe Premiere or Final Cut Pro. However, VideoWave adds superb effects to otherwise bare-bones footage.