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Product: Express DV
Company: Pinnacle Systems
Website: http://www.pinnaclesys.com
Estimated Street Price:
$79.95
Review By: Julien Jay

Pinnacle Express

Table Of Contents
1: Introduction
2: Pinnacle Express
3:
Conclusion

   Pinnacle Express is software that captures videos from your digital camera and burns them to video CD or DVD. Pinnacle Express basically targets novice users, thus Pinnacle paid special efforts to make the software especially intuitive and easy to use. The result is a wonderfully clear interface that is probably the most simple to use. The software offers three distinct steps to create a disc. Each step is represented by a big icon under the menu bar of the software.

The first step consists of capturing video from a digital source (like Mini-DV camcorder) or importing existing video files or graphic files into the current project. If you need to capture video from your digital camcorder, you can do it directly from within Express by simply pushing the big capture video button. Before you launch the capture, you can position the camera on the moment you want to record using the preview screen and the playback buttons the software offers. A capture cannot exceed 4GB. If you have already captured and mounted your video, you can import an existing AVI file. The only import format supported is AVI: you canít import VOB files or DivX files, etc. To create nice DVD menus you can import graphic elements. However Pinnacle Express graphic file support is limited to: BMP, JPG, PCD, PCT, TGA, TIF, and WMF files. It lacks the support of GIF and PSD files. But you can also use the import picture feature to create photo albums you can store on DVD, ŗ la Kodak Photo CD.


Step 1: Capturing videos with Pinnacle Express (click to enlarge)


Pinnacle DV Capture Dialog Box (click to enlarge)

The second step is the authoring phase. First of all, you have to decide if you want to create a video CD, a S-VCD or a DVD and eventually select the video standard: PAL or NTSC. The video CD standard uses MPEG 1 compression while S-VCD & DVD use MPEG 2 for a better quality. Pinnacle Express handles all of these formats. From the settings dialog box you also have to choose the media youíll be using (650MB, 700MB CD, or DVD-R). The burner thatíll be used to record the CD will be automatically selected while the video encoding format is set to PAL or NTSC depending on your location. Once you have defined the settings of your project you can start the authoring phase.  


Second Step: Choosing a menu style for the DVD (click to enlarge)

After having captured or imported video into Express, the software will automatically create the chapters of your DVD by dividing the video file(s) into scenes. Each scene created represents a chapter thatíll be accessible from the index menu of the DVD. The left part of the Pinnacle Express window shows a small console where you can choose the style of the menu thatíll be displayed by your DVD player. There are 16 different menus templates to choose from. Each menu shows thumbnails of the different scenes of your video(s) so you can instantly go to any spot in your video without using the rewind or forward commands. Depending on the length of your project, there can be a multi page menu if you wish. Advanced users will highly appreciate the menu editor that enables them to create custom menus by adding music and background pictures of their own as well as letting them change frame styles, text styles and frame layout. We regret that only a few text styles, directly taken from Pinnacle TitleDeko, are available to play with. You can also import MP3 or WAV files to create the soundtrack of your DVD menu.


Organizing the video scenes in chapters for your DVD (click to enlarge)


Pinnacle Express Menu Editor (click to enlarge)

In the center of the Express window a big TV screen is displayed where you can preview the look of your menu. To control what scenes are displayed on the menu you have to open the video edit screen where youíll be able to reorganize chapters by merging, fractioning or removing scenes. You can even choose which thumbnail will represent a clip in the menu. If you dig a little in the settings offered by Express youíll be able to change the way scenes are automatically created, which can be useful if you donít want the program to split one long footage into hundreds of small scenes. The edit panel obviously provides a preview screen where you can preview (in real time) the result of the output, however it also offers a small representation of your CD/DVD disc showing how much space will be used by the current video.

Once youíve set up your scenes you can test and watch the DVD, in real time, from the TV screen of the program. To do so you have to use the virtual remote offered by the software. This remote is the exact replica of a real DVD remote so that you may test the multimedia abilities of your disc accurately, using the most common controls. Note that Pinnacle Express lets you save your current project so you can modify it later, if needed.

If Pinnacle Express sounds great, and it does, you have to remember itís only a DVD authoring software. Thus, you cannot perform video mounting operations within the software; if you wish to mount videos before burning them on DVD you have to use a specific program like the outstanding Pinnacle Studio 7.

The third and last step is the output one. This is probably the most risky process, but thanks to Pinnacle, the burning process remains very simple. After you have inserted blank media in your drive you can either click the record button thatíll start the burning process or click the setting button to change the burning speed. You can even define how many copies of the disc should be created. Before a disc gets burned Pinnacle Express will render the project and create the VOB file - which takes some time before effectively burning the disc. We created a few discs with Pinnacle Express with no problems. We were very impressed by the usefulness of the menu and the quality of the video during the playback on a DVD player.

  

Third Step: Render & Burn your SVCD/DVD (click to enlarge)

Actually Pinnacle Express supports a wide variety of burners, including the latest DVD-R and DVD-RW burners. Our regular CD-RW burner, a Yamaha CRW3200S was perfectly recognized by the software. If ever your burner isnít recognized, be reassured: Pinnacle regularly updates the software to add support for new burners as soon as new recorders hit the shelves.

Attention: to be able to play an S-VCD, DVD-R or DVD-RW disc with your HiFi DVD player, the device has to be compliant with these formats. Indeed there are several DVD players that were voluntarily restricted by their manufacturer to not support recordable media.

ę Introduction Conclusion Ľ

 

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