A review (Review? Hell, it’s an open
endorsement!) of Pegasys’ TmpGEnc DVD
Honest, Mom! I only wanted to make a movie for you!!
Writing DVDs for data or for storing movie
files isn’t really all that challenging in Windows.
is challenging is to actually enforce production values. Awww,
who the hell am I trying to kid? Producing an interactive DVD with layered
menus, solid production values and doing it in a reasonable amount of time
in Windows is a complete, beard growing nightmare!!
But then I ran into some problems
The problems in the Windows environment are
almost exclusively the result of some really poor authoring applications
being the only choices available for the platform.
Check out some of the limitations I’ve discovered
after spending way too much money on Products like Roxio VideoWave, MyDVD
and bundled DVD software:
- Inability to cut frames from the middle of an MPEG
- Cannot advance through a stream without clicking
millions of times on the mouse
- Loss of synchronization between audio and video
- Inability to build the Audio_TS and Video_TS folder
structures to the hard drive for later use
- Production of those file structures for a one hour
production can take 5-8 hours (on a 2.4 GHz Pentium 4?!?!)
- Unreliable DVD burning engines (Major issue for
Roxio products like VideoWave) cause huge losses of time and expensive
- Incredible time loss re-opening projects you haven’t
- Authoring tools are really pricey (minimum $100
all the way up to $150,000!)
- Building nested menus is an abstract art form
which produces absolutely worthless results
- Video editing requires constant resetting of the
Display Settings to knock back the DirectX Hardware Acceleration
- Did I mention that this takes hours and hours
You wouldn’t dare just sit back and blame
me as an inexperienced DVD tyro, would you? Well, I did my research
and I suggest you do, too. Take a trip to http://groups.google.com and
search on the phrase ‘DVD
Authoring’. I’m not the only person screaming about conspiracy, software
licensing stick-ups and crappy quality. I’m also not the only one confused
as to why better alternatives don’t exist…or do they?
I knew there had to be something better
out there, though. After all, the reason I got started on all this was
because my brother started punching out absolutely beautiful productions
with Apple’s iDVD software on his iMac and, when I sat down to attempt
even the tiniest of his DVD techniques, I ran into software limitations
and frustrations that were almost too huge to comprehend.
Now, don’t misunderstand what I’m saying
here. From what I learned out of his experiences, even the Mac user will
run into some limitations on her equipment. These limitations on the Mac,
however, are almost entirely because of the murky world of (possible) litigation
between hardware, software and standards groups about how this feature
could be delivered by Apple on that piece of hardware. It’s a mess out
there and it’s one of the few instances in technology where I silently
applaud the efforts of code hackers because they are the only ones out
there in DVD land actually doing things with the end consumer as their
primary consideration. It seems as though the other parties involved in
DVD technology are completely unaware or unconcerned with the idea of “Fair
But on the PC, we can blame only a small
part of what I ran into on such barriers. No, most of the software available
for DVD production on a PC is either an extremely expensive gamble for
the potential user or its quality just plain old sucks canal water!
The quickest way around MOST of these issues
Oh, that’s easy!! Go buy an Apple Powerbook.
To do everything you want to do with DVDs on a Mac does mean you’ll spend
about $1500 but that’s almost the same price you’ll spend to do the job
on a Wintel PC, too. What you’ll get, though, is much less frustration in getting the job done and you’ll
be able to do it shortly after powering up the machine.
Um, I already have a PC. Buying another computer DOES NOT solve my problem
I hear you. So let me save you some time,
hair, heartbeats and antacid tablets. Don’t buy the following tools (I
have used and cussed at each of them…for days, not mere minutes or hours):
- Anything from Roxio. Their tools are slow, incomplete
and did I mention extremely slow? That doesn’t even touch on their missing
features problems. If you do buy from them, buy only what you need for
- Sonic MyDVD. Same issues as Roxio. Only slightly
friendlier to the user as it fails to produce what you want.
- Arcsoft ShowBiz. Shall I repeat myself here?
- Ulead Studio. Even if you can pull off that Monk
in a Self-Induced Coma stunt, you won’t live long enough to get a job
done with this tool.
- InterVideo WinDVD tools. Maybe a strong tool but
who could know that in a week? Spend an hour or two working with it and
you’ll soon understand that it ought to have udders. It really milks
the job while challenging your ability to understand what it’s about!
- Windows MovieMaker. This one has new problems.
It’s only intended for Video CDs, it’s based on Windows Media Files and
it writes to a proprietary format usable only by the smallest segment
of reader machines. Sure, it’s free and it certainly works beautifully.
But you can’t produce a $#&%#$ DVD with it!!
Chapman, you’re boring me. What should I use?
Okay, okay!! Run over to www.pegasys-inc.com and
shuck out $68 US funds for TMPGEnc DVD Author. Yes, the site does have English and it is sometimes a
bit like reading a Honda motorcycle manual but it’s worth the effort and
the money. If you’re too cautious, having been stung over and over by the
other DVD authoring vendors, go ahead and download the 30 day demo. It won’t
take you 30 days, though, to decide this product is one to buy.
Now, before going any further, I’ll tell
you that this product doesn’t really require me to write any systemic caveats.
My hardware, while fairly current, suffered under the hands of all those
preceding products and often failed. The system I’m using is no weak-kneed
beast for this point in time. It is a Pentium 4, 2.4 GHz PC running a pair
of RAID 0 drives with 512 Megs of RAM, an ATI Radeon 9700 8X AGP video
card and a Sony DRU-500A DVD writer. These are all extremely stout components.
The most questionable device in this system is the video card as I see
that ATI is not selling it anymore (but it is selling the previous versions)
and their driver quality has had me on the driver-of-the-month club for
about a year now.
But that 11 item list of deficiencies you
read at the beginning of this story is completely (no exaggeration) gone
when I use TMPGEnc DVD Author. Now, instead of launching a job before I
go to bed, going to step two before leaving for work and then, finally,
dropping a DVD in the drive when I get home, I’ve finished the job in less
than an hour using Pegasys’ fine product…and that’s not to mention that
its internal DVD burning engine hasn’t once had to have an update to see
my burner ( a la Roxio) nor has it encountered
a single error writing to the burner (again, a la Roxio).
So, TMPGEnc DVD Author has these prioritized
points going for it:
- Reliable regardless of which authoring operation
- Good feature set
- Organized, simple interface
- Step driven
- Requires little outside support. The help file
is small because it really doesn’t require any more info than it has
Oh Yeah? Prove It, Buddy!!!
Sure, I’d be happy to. I actually enjoy
the process now. For this step-by-step, we’ll use an mpeg file since most
of the DV cameras and other media recording devices will be saving these
files as MPEG encoded files for your use.
So let’s start up TMPGEnc DVD Author
As you can see, the opening screen is Spartan
and well organized along the Wizard paradigm. Also note that from this
point we can start a new project, open an existing project OR get right
down to it by writing a previously completed production to DVD. How is
that last step possible? Well, unlike nearly all the other DVD authoring
tools out there, this one can actually produce the required file structure
to your hard disk for later re-use. This is handy (and very fast) if you’ve
already created a DVD and want to make more copies of it!!
But let’s create a new DVD
project. Click on “Create new project” to begin. The Wizard approach just
takes us the to the Source Setup screen where we can add Tracks and Multimedia
Note also that TMPGEnc DVD Author will keep
track of the size of the project so we have a visual cue as to when we’re
approaching the limits of DVD media capacity.
Let’s add an MPG file. Click on Add File
and browse to an MPG file. Once selected, the Add Clip dialog appears.
Here, we can do end point and inline editing as well as adding chapters
based on detected scenes, time intervals or manually add chapters…
Click on the ‘Chapter cut edit’ button so
we can start to get this file cleaned up and the chapter entries made…
Note that the first chapter has already
been added automagically. As we go through this process, a new chapter
will be added every time we cut a section from the video. Don’t worry,
we can delete them all and add what we’d like all on our own.
Notice this video clip begins with some
screen snow and that the timeline bar shows us each frame. I want to get
rid of all these snowy frames to make a more acceptable viewing experience.
Start by clicking on the first frame and then clicking the ‘Set as start
frame’ button. In the Video Controls group, there are 7 buttons. They are,
from Left to Right:
Play – Pause – Stop
Slow Rewind – Fast Rewind – Fast Forward – Slow
- Note that while doing this editing, I get full
sound and experience no dropped frames from the video preview window
Now, it appears that the third frame is
the last one in which there is any snow. Click the 4th frame and choose ‘Set
as end frame’. Then click the Cut button.
Notice that the Timeline contents are immediately
updated and that the time stamps and frame counts have been update.
Continue this process throughout the video
file until all unwanted video segments have been removed. Feel free to
use all the video controls. You’ll be amazed at how accurate your frame
control is and you won’t even have to nudge your video Hardware Acceleration
down. At the present, I’m doing this all on a 2 year old Dell 1.13GHz laptop
with an NVidia GeForce2Go 32 meg video card. At
other times, on this very machine, there have been extremely large problems
working with video but none of those problems pop up while using this DVD
authoring tool! BTW, the tool even allows me to use this machine despite
the fact that it has no burners on board.
And here’s another former impossibility
without knocking that acceleration down; screen shots taken while a video
stream is playing often results in a screen shot with a black void where
the video window is located. None of that here as the next shot shows and
you’ll also notice that each frame in the timeline is clearly visible…
Now, after all those edits, we wound up
with a new chapter at the beginning of every point where the video resumes.
That’s helpful but not what I want. I want, instead, to have a chapter
made at 1 minute intervals. It’s simple enough to do here. Just delete
each of the chapters which were added and then click the Add button. The
Add Chapter dialog appears and, from the 3 choices available, I choose
to automatically add a chapter every minute…
I click OK and, in less than a second, this
500 meg video has all its chapters created!
Now that we’re done editing the film and
creating chapters, click OK in the Add Clip dialog. We’re now returned
to the Source Setup screen. We’re done adding clips so click on ‘Create
Before starting in on the Menu creation
phase, let me draw your attention to the bottom of the interface. There’s
a Capacity bar which shows how much of more space is available for use
on a standard DVD. If you exceed this capacity, don’t worry. Simply return
to ‘Source setup’, click the last clip you added and, using the same clip
editing techniques Cut enough from the end of this clip to resolve the
After you’ve done this, you can come back
to DVD Author and create another DVD project using that file. If you intend
to use it to make Disk 2 of a set, it’s no problem to trim the beginning
from this clip up to the part where you ended it on Disk 1. Very handy!!
In the Menu creation process you’re likely
to stumble over the real weak points of this tool. I find that the Menu
Styles already created for the program are a little limited, primarily
because the varieties of backgrounds and button images are not many. At
this time, there appears to be no way to create templates using your own
provided backgrounds, buttons, etc.
Nevertheless, be sure to step through all
the menu pages to make sure each menu’s title says what you want, the default
Firstplay action of the disk. and activate the
motion menus if you’d like.
When you’re ready, click ‘Output’ and take
a look at the available options.
For ease of duplication later, I usually
go ahead and create the DVD folder for the project. This saves a lot of
time if you want to make more copies of the DVD later! Click on the ‘Begin
output’ button start the creation of your DVD movie!
This will take a little while (but nothing
like the hours and hours normally required by other DVD applications).
When the job is done, a new screen will appear asking about the next steps,
like burning the DVD.
Click on the ‘Open DVD
Writing Tool’ button and you’ll see a variety of pleasant, useful and reliable
During my tests, I discovered one more pleasant
surprise with TMPGEnc DVD Author. Buffer underruns, the plague of burning
with Roxio, are almost unheard of. In an attempt to cause a disk failure,
I started a little challenge by flying Microsoft’s Flight Simulator while
burning the DVD. Amazingly, the burn process experienced no hiccups and
produced a flawless DVD! Coming back to the same DVD folders later, I used
both the DVD Author and other DVD data burning tools (like Veritas RecordNow)
to create new DVDs with no failures whatsoever!!
The God’s Have Spoken
You’re tired of futzing around with those
mediocre DVD authoring tools? (oh man, THAT was a generous statement!) Tired of realizing
that planning a feature set and the marketing campaign was more important
to these vendors than writing a stable, capable, well-organized and speedy
authoring application? Point your browser at www.pegasys-inc.com and
try out TMPGEnc DVD
Author. I understand Steve Jobs wishes he could get this on his Macintosh
and Bill Gates is still attempting to edit frames of his children’s first
birthday parties. Wait till he hears about this product!
The Pegasys URL has been corrected! Thanks so much to Katharine Scarritt for letting us know we had the wrong URL and for taking the time to provide the correct one!