Burn This! Affordable DVD Drive Bundles

IT WASN'T THAT LONG AGO WHEN Pioneer introduced the first recordable DVD-R drive. Even at $17,000, it was considered must-have technology for serious
Author:
Publish date:

IT WASN'T THAT LONG AGO WHEN Pioneer introduced the first recordableDVD-R drive. Even at $17,000, it was considered must-have technologyfor serious content developers and duplication plants, yet far from thereach of studios, producers and home-recording enthusiasts. Back then,DVD was just another format-in-the-wings for the rest of us.

There have been dramatic changes since the introduction of the firstDVD-burner. Today, a growing majority of home owners watch DVD videos.DVD-Audio, though still climbing the “consumer-approval”ladder, is gaining a foothold. Sub-$1,000 DVD-A authoring and burningsolutions are so far a rarity (see the Minnetonka discWelder Steelreview on page 116), but that doesn't mean that the average commercialand project studio can't add DVD authoring to its list of services.

Mix checked into what's currently available in the way ofaffordable, entry-level DVD drive/software bundles and duplicators, andyou'd be surprised with what we found. Turn a band's new tracks andlive DV footage from the previous night into an interactive DVD-Videoin 30 minutes? No problem. Backup recording sessions to high-capacity,4.7GB (DVD-R) or 9.4GB (DVD-RAM) discs? Fast and easy. Experiment withbasic DVD video-editing effects without taking a deep financial plunge?Absolutely. For under $700, and in most cases under $500, the followingbaker's dozen-plus of affordable, entry-level DVD drive/softwarepackages can do all that and more.

Pioneer's A04 DVD drive, the basis for most of the following DVDbundles, is the same SuperDrive that is included with Apple's new G4s,iBooks and iMacs. Apple installs its own basic DVD authoring, editingand burning software into each, such as iDVD and iTunes. Similarpackages are also appearing on the PC side of the aisle, and a numberof original and third-party DVD software titles are being bundled withinternal and external DVD drives for both platforms. Often offered inthese packages are basic and very easy-to-use authoring tools such asSonic Solutions' DVDit! and MyDVD; Roxio Toast 5 Titanium, MedioStreamneoDVD Standard and ArcSoft Showbiz; archival tools from VeritasSoftware such as RecordNow and Backup; and a host of other playback,editing, authoring and archival software tools.

The DVD Revo DVD-R/RW Recorder ($599) from CD CyClone (www.cdcyclone.com)is a sleek, external FireWire drive for Mac and PC that creates DVD-R,DVD-RW, DVD-ROM, CD-R, CD-RW and CD-ROM discs in one package. Thedrive's 2x DVD can write a full 4.7GB disc in about 30 minutes, and canwrite/rewrite an 8x CD-R/RW disc in under 10 minutes. A stylish handleis handy for sneaker-netting DVD- and CD-based content from station tostation, and several DVD Revos can be stacked, if necessary. Mac usersreceive Roxio Toast 5 Titanium software in the Revo bundle for DVD- andCD-Video and Audio authoring; PC buyers land Veritas' PrimoDVD. Thelatter software, available only in drive bundles, allows users tocreate DVD-Video and DVD-ROM discs, master to DLT tape, create imagefiles of existing CDs for replication, and record to as many as 16DVD-R drives simultaneously.

One of several companies to repackage Pioneer's A04 SuperDrive isFormac Electronics (www.formac.com), and what a good-looking,Apple-specific package it is. The company's Devideon drive ($549) notonly looks great, but it is also bundled with Formac's DevideonDVD-authoring software, which supports OS 9 and OS X and can run on anyG3, G4, PowerBook, iBook or iMac. The latest version increases encodingspeeds by up to 30% and supports Super Video CD (SVCD), and NTSC andPAL video formats. iMovie and QuickTime files are encoded to MPEG-2movies, and video-encoding quality (1.0 to 9.8 Mbit/s) and audio (32-and 48kHz rates) are user-adjustable.

For PC users, Hewlett-Packard (www.hp.com) offers two DVD-burn bundles: the 200eDVD Writer ($550) and DVD Writer 200i ($449). In addition to theexternal 200e supporting USB 2.0, both drives share identicalspecifications and a generous software-bundle package for DVD-RW andDVD-R authoring, backup and creation. Included are Sonic Solutions'MyDVD; ArcSoft Showbiz; Cyberlink PowerDVD; and RecordNow, DLA andSimple Backup from Veritas. Also onboard both H-P bundles are IEEE1394FireWire and USB2 cables and one each of a blank DVD-RW, DVD-R andCD-RW disc.

LaCie's (www.lacie.com) 2x/24x external FireWireDVD-RW/CD-RW Drive ($450) is another portable DVD-/CD-burning bundlesolution. PC (Win 98 Second Edition/2K) and Mac platforms aresupported, and the package includes a FireWire cable and four blankmedia to create rewritable DVD and CD discs. The Mac version comesbundled with Toast Lite for CD recording, whereas PC users receive ahealthy software bundle including Veritas PrimoDVD, Sonic SolutionsDVDit! and MyDVD, and Cyberlink PowerDVD, a handy DVD-playbackprogram.

Microboards Technology's (www.microboards.com) PlayWrite DVD ($649) is aportable, external version of the Pioneer A04 drive that offers thestandard software bundle of MyDVD, RecordNOW, DLA and the PowerDVDplayer. Housed in a silver, acrylic-coated case, the PlayWrite driveadds IEEE1394 FireWire and USB 2.0 interfaces and support, and enoughcables and blank media to get Mac or PC users started on their firstburn.

The Pacific Digital (www.pacificdigital.com) IDE DVD-Recorder Drive($299) is an internal DVD-R/RAM with a software bundle for PC users.Capable of 1x DVD-R and 2x DVD-RAM (9.4GB) recording, this drive alsosupports the DVD-Video, CD-DA, CD-ROM, CD-Bridge, Photo CD, CD-I andVideo CD formats, and can read/transfer from 1x and 2x DVD-RAM, 6xDVD-ROM and 12x and 24x CD-RW/R and CD-ROM discs. Pacific Digitalpackages this drive with MedioStream neoDVD, a complete softwaresolution that allows anyone with a mouse in hand to easily transfer,edit, author and burn a DVD or CD from a digital video camcorder'sfootage directly or from existing MPEG-2, DV, AVI and QuickTime files.Another program named Muvee is bundled with the package, which defines“point-and-click music video production.” The company alsoplans to release an external DVD-R/RW drive bundle that will supportUSB 2.0 by the time this story prints.

Panasonic's (www.panasonic.com) LF-D321U DVDBurner DVD-RAM/RDrive ($275) reads virtually every DVD and CD format and burns DVD-RAMand DVD-R discs for video, data and imaging applications. PC softwarebundled with the internal burner offers users the ability to backuphard drives to 9.4GB discs and play, capture, edit and burn video/audiofiles. Included is DVD-Movie Album to author and create menus for theabove-mentioned disc formats, as well as to edit video on digital videoequipment that is connected to a computer.

The same Pioneer (www.pioneerelectronics.com) DVR-A04 SuperDrive usedin new Macs is offered as a drive/software bundle combination on itsown, as well. One such package, found at www.Sharbor.com for$645.99, includes the DVD-R/RW and CD-R/RW-burning drive with Sonic'sDVDit! SE software. Reading almost every DVD and CD format, includingCD-Extra and Photo CD, the A04 sports a 2MB data buffer, can be mountedhorizontally or vertically, and is offered with a five-pack of Pioneermedia.

Two DVD drive bundle solutions are offered by QPS Inc. (www.qps-inc.com). TheQue! USB 2.0 DVD-R/RAM Drive ($438) is an external PC that claims to bethe first combination drive available for the faster USB 2.0 port. Ableto create DVD-R General and DVD-RAM discs, this drive can also be usedas a scratch disc to experiment with and author various video and audioedits safely. Que! Archiver DV encoding/decoding software is included,which allows the user to capture, transcode, pre-author, author,pre-master and master high-quality video and data DVDs. The Que!FireWire DVD-R/DVD-RW/CD-RW Combo Drive ($489), which reads and createsCD-R media at 8x and CD-RW media at 4x. Included with QPS' DVD combodrive bundle is MedioStream neoDVD Standard software to encode/decodeand PC DVD and CD author.

Sony's (www.sony.com) 2.4x Internal EIDE DVD-RW Drive isoffered in a number of bundles. One package ($450) includes Sony'ssecond-generation DRU-120A DVD-RW drive, which can also write to DVD-Rand CD-R/RW discs, and a bountiful software package for PC users. Inaddition to MedioStream neoDVD Standard for authoring and CyberlinkPowerDVD for playback, this Sony package also comes with DantzRetrospect Express for backup and disaster recovery and B's RecorderGold (recording) and Clip (packet writing) software.

SHORT-RUN DVD-DUPLICATION SYSTEMS

Some time during the authoring process, directors, labels, producersand just about everyone else needs a copy of the project, whether it'san in-progress rough cut or those all-important client/A&R/artistapprovals. Pretty soon, the list of “who needs one” growsto the point where the project's producer may spend more time cuttingdupes than authoring or cutting the tracks.

At this point, a basic duplication system — capable of burning10, 50 or more discs while unattended — can prove to be aworthwhile investment that recoups its initial cost rather quickly. Asa bonus, most of these systems double as CD duplicators. In eithercase, a short-run DVD burning system may end up being a profitableadjunct to your DVD authoring suite. Let's take a look at a few compactsystems that have recently debuted.

Known as a leading duplication house for audio projects, DiscMakers (www.discmakers.com/duplication) introduces itsElite line of CD/DVD replicators. The Elite 1 ($3,990 for CD; $4,790with DVD-R) combines a 125-disc input loader, onboard 1,200 dpi colorinkjet printer, Padus DiscJuggler software and can be upgraded toinclude a second drive. The Elite 1 can duplicate and print at least 12CD-Rs or two DVD-Rs per hour. Taking the concept one step further, DiscMakers' Elite Pro 1 adds a built-in, Intel-based PC for turnkeyduplication out-of-the-box, and retails for $4,790 with CD or $5,790with DVD-R.

Mediaform's (www.mediaform.com) Scribe EC (EndlessConfigurations) Series allows users to customize systems to theirparticular needs — CD-R, DVD-R, one/ two/four drives, with orwithout disc printing, etc. Offering pro-grade automated CD-R/DVD-Rauthoring/duplication/printing, systems feature the SmartDRIVE“anti-piracy” CD-R drive equipped with copy protection,electronic watermarking and SmartGUARD Media; and 100-CD spindlecapacity and a Relay mode where multiple masters and multiple copiescan be recorded and printed in a single, continuous process forunattended operation. CD systems begin at $2,999; DVD-R systems startat $3,999; and all systems require a user-supplied PC.

The Pact 4DVD from Mediatechnics (www.mediatechnics.com) is a series of stand-alonedesktop duplicators that offer the same features as the company'sImpact line but in a smaller “desktop” footprint. Featuresinclude a 400-disc capacity, support for up to four DVD writers,auto-format recognition, direct copying, 40 GB of onboard master-imagestorage and selectable write speeds.

Now offered in CD or DVD versions, the CopyWriter Pro Series fromMicroboards (www.microboards.com) is a multidrive,manual-loading system available in configurations of two through 16drives. The stand-alone system uses a menu-driven display and simpletwo-button control interface integrated into a sleek remote module,which allows the flexibility to position the interface in differentergonomic locations, whether on the drive enclosures themselves or onthe user's desktop for easy control and status access. The onboard harddrive is standard and permits CD image archival and track extractionfor audio compilations.

Unveiled at the October AES show in Los Angeles, the DVD-RDuplication System from Otari (www.otari.com) consists of the DVM-100 DVD-RMastering Unit and VDP-100 DVD-R Duplicator. The DVM-100 writes a DVDimage file created on a removable hard disk drive by the mastering unitor disc image captured from a master DVD-R disc for a maximum of fiveDVD-R discs at the same time. The VDP-100's disc-handling system canstack up to 90 blank discs, allowing for long and unattendedoperation.

The Bravo Disc Publisher Duplication and Printing System ($1,995w/CD drive, $2,495 w/Pioneer DVD-R/CD-R drive); from PrimeraTechnology (www.primera.com) is an all-in-oneduplication/authoring system. The PC-based FireWire/USB bus Bravo CDPublisher can replace a single CD-R/RW drive with the Pioneer A04 DVDdrive. The Bravo DVD Publisher burns 2x DVD-R discs and 8x CD-R discs,the latter in less than three minutes each. Both Primera packages arebundled with Veritas software for CD and DVD creation and the SureThingCD Labeler, the latter including templates to create and printfour-color background labels.

The Desktop Publisher 800 from Rimage (www.rimage.com)provides a complete CD/DVD-publishing solution with fully automatedprocesses and multitasking — burn and print while using otherapplications. Features include a 60-disc input bin/120-disc output bin,QuickDisc software and a 1,200 dpi color inkjet for direct on-discprinting.

Randy Alberts gives special thanks to Anthony Honciano and PedroGuaman of CompUSA in Daly City, Calif., for their help.

DVD Drive Caveat
by GEORGE PETERSEN

Pioneer took the early lead in offering low-cost, but dependabledrives for DVD-recording applications, whether sold as aPioneer-branded product or as OEMs/repackagings with other systems andcomputers. And, now that the DVD Forums released standards forhigh-speed recordable discs (4x for DVD-R and 2x for DVD-RW), these newrecordables are now coming to market. However, Pioneer Electronicsrecently announced that many of its popular DVD-R/RW drives and DVDrecorders will require a firmware update before using the new media toavoid potential damage to loaded discs and units. The affected drivesinclude models DVR-A03, DVR-103, DVR-A04 and DVR-104, as well as DVDrecorders DVR-7000 and PRV-9000 DVD. The update is free and relativelysimple; visit www.pioneerelectronics.com for details.