The opening screen of the software suite offers a choice of five programs tailored to various tasks:
• HP Video Transfer Wizard lets you transfer videotapes to DVD and print case inserts automatically.
• ArcSoft ShowBiz 2 lets you edit video, create DVD movies, and produce photo slide shows on DVD.
• Muvee autoProducer DVD Edition automatically combines video with music, letting you burn a short version of a wedding video, for example, by simply choosing a style, duration, and song.
• RecordNow creates music or data discs or dupes non-copy-protected DVDs.
• Simple Backup backs up your PC's hard drive.
I tried the Video Transfer Wizard first. Rather than facing my huge pile of VHS tapes, I decided to copy a higher-quality video clip from my ReplayTV's hard drive, one I'd recorded from a local TV news program in which I made a brief appearance. The 1-minute report was part of a 1-hour program, and I needed the storage space.
Following the Wizard's prompts, I inserted a blank DVD+R into the Movie Writer, recorded the segment through the video window on my computer screen, added a title to the first frame, and then waited about 10 minutes while the clip was processed, transferred, and burned and the disc ejected. If a printer had been hooked up, I could have even had a disc jacket printed with the title and image from the first frame ready to be cut out and inserted into the jewel case. The disc played perfectly in my set-top DVD player, with all the resolution and sound of the original. Best of all, I didn't have to study a manual.
Next, I used the ArcSoft ShowBiz 2 software to edit an action clip from a movie saved on my ReplayTV. Editing, which can be timeline- or storyboard-based, is a simple matter of using the computer mouse to pull a slider bar under the video window, and clicking on start and end points. You can cut out boring portions or commercials and add transitions. When you're satisfied with the results, you simply click on Create DVD and wait for the disc to cook.
Then I used Muvee autoProducer to turn my admittedly boring 16 1/2-minute wedding video, shot by the best man on Hi8, into an MTV-friendly 2 1/2-minute version. I chose the time based on the length of a song I'd ripped to an MP3 file (Windows Media Audio files aren't compatible): "1 x 0 (Um a Zero)" from cellist Yo-Yo Ma's latest CD, Obrigado Brazil. I chose to mix Yo-Yo into the video's audio at a level one-third the volume of the original soundtrack. Muvee autoProducer offers ten styles of video editing from Chapelinesque to Over the Top Music Video. I chose the Fast Sequential style, described as "a simple fast-paced style using cuts and dissolves." Muvee analyzes the video by playing it through at half speed.
After a few more minutes of processing, Muvee was ready for me to preview its edit of my wedding on the computer screen. There were lots of cuts and dissolves, and the action moved briskly from limo to courthouse to courtyard. The audio mix had about the right balance, but the original chatter was arbitrarily chopped up to the point of becoming nonsensical. (I could have either slowed down the pace or completely replaced the original audio with music for better results.) Though there were some visuals I would have edited out manually - such as the prolonged closeup of the best man's crotch - the Muvee-edited version was passable. I burned the disc in about 8 minutes.
As you'd expect from any PC-connected DVD burner, the Movie Writer can also burn CDs, so using the RecordNow option, I made an uncompressed copy of Obrigado Brazil. The software prompted me to put a CD-R into the tray, and the 1-hour CD was duplicated in 15 minutes. Then I put a DVD of a home movie I'd had professionally transferred from film a few years ago into the DVD-ROM drive of my computer and used the RecordNow option to burn a perfect duplicate on the Movie Writer. The 11-minute flick took about a half hour to write on a DVD+R given the slower USB data transfer rate I was limited to.
Obviously, you'll need plenty of patience if you want to burn an hour of video at the highest quality (lesser qualities and other formats besides MPEG-2 are options), especially if you don't have a USB 2.0 port. (HP rates the drive speed at up to 4x when writing a DVD+R and 2.4x when saving to a DVD+RW.) But all things considered, the DVD Movie Writer dc3000 offers enough variety of automated features and manual options to make it a win-win both for those who don't want to think much about transferring video and creating a DVD and for those who do want to grab the controls. While other DVD recorders have essentially camped out either on top of a TV set or as part of a computer system, the Movie Writer is the first convergence-type product to bring both worlds together, and to do it in a way that's fun to use.
Hewlett-Packard, Dept. S&V, 3000 Hanover St., Palo Alto, CA 94304; www.hp.com; 800-474-6836
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