The Active Network
ActiveWin: Reviews Active Network | New Reviews | Old Reviews | Interviews |Mailing List | Forums



Product: DirectDVD
Company: Orion Studios
Estimated Street Price: $39.95
Review By:
Byron Hinson

The Features

There are so many software DVD players on the market it is hard to figure out where to start. Well now, while Intervideo and PowerDVD seem to have the upper hand on DVD Video on PC's at the moment, Orion Studios have decided to try their hand at it, read on to find out how they do.

High performance, full software DVD player for the PC

  • Supports DVD, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, DVD to MP3 formats
  • DirectShow compatible
  • CSS enabled for Hollywood DVD movie playback
  • Decodes:
  • MPEG-1 and MPEG-2 video streams
  • Sub-picture streams
  • AC-3 (Dolby Digital), MPEG-1, MPEG-2, and MP3 audio streams
  • Dolby Certified
  • Microsoft Certified
  • True consumer-quality audio and video playback
  • Significantly reduces cost of enabling PCs with DVD capability
  • Backwards compatible to MCI command set
  • Optimized for MMX, SSE, and 3DNOW! instruction sets

Flexible design provides wider range of DVD-enabled PCs

  • Works with multiple CPUs, graphics controllers, and DVD drives
  • Designed for Microsoft Windows 95,Windows 98, NT 4.0, and Windows 2000 (Including WINDOWS XP)
  • Provides flexibility to system designers without system restrictions
  • Enables DVD playback across the entire price range of PCs

Supports multiple graphics controller architectures

  • Current video accelerated graphics controllers
  • MPEG-2 accelerated graphics controllers:
  • Motion compensation
  • MVCCATM (patented motion compensation architecture)
  • IDCT
  • DirectX interface to graphics controllers
  • Outputs data in field and frame modes
  • Proprietary de-interlacing algorithms for reduction of motion effect on VGA monitors

Video Decode Filters

  • Decodes MPEG-1 and MPEG-2 video streams
  • Full compliance with ISO 11172 (MPEG-1), ISO 13818 (MPEG-2), MP@ML (DVD)
  • Supports:
    • NTSC and PAL formats
    • Interlaced and progressive frames
    • Closed caption data
    • Multiple language audio streams

Sub-picture Decode Filters

  • Full sub-picture decoding
  • Text and graphics overlay

Audio Decode Filters

  • Decodes AC-3, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, and MP3 audio streams
  • Full compliance with ISO 11172, ISO 13818 MPEG audio standards
  • Decodes all 5.1 AC-3 audio channels
  • Dolby certified
  • Sampling rates from 11KHz to 48KHz
  • Playback rates up to 48KHz
  • Multiple audio streams support (up to 8)
  • 2 channel output for:
  • Stereo speakers
  • Pro-Logic (Dolby Surround Sound)
  • 5.1 channel output for:
  • 6 channel audio cards
  • 4 channel audio cards
  • Support for 3-D Audio (from 3rd party)

Content Scrambling System (CSS)

  • CSS software support for playback of Hollywood movies or other encrypted content
  • Tamper resistant
  • Supports six regional codes
  • Licensed from IBM Microelectronics

DVD-Video doesn't just offer a better picture. It also provides vastly improved sound-and a lot more of it. Up to eight soundtracks, including different-language versions of a movie, can be included on the same disc. What's more, the soundtracks can carry anything from mono sound up to 5.1-channel surround sound, and use different digital audio coding technologies. Soundtrack Formats Most DVD-Video discs feature a mono, two-channel or 5.1-channel Dolby Digital soundtrack. Many two-channel soundtracks, particularly on discs of movies, are Dolby Surround encoded for four-channel playback over systems equipped with Dolby Surround Pro Logic decoding. Older movies, of course, often have mono soundtracks. Sound Modes Many DVD-Video releases display icons that show the number of audio channels in a soundtrack and the channel configuration. Some 5.1-channel decoder units and A/V receivers have playback mode displays based on these same icons. Some discs provide a variety of soundtracks using different sound modes. A movie disc, for example, might use 5.1-channel Dolby Digital for its English track, and Dolby Surround for other languages.

Orion Studios is proud to offer our customers the 5.1 Decoders in the DirectDVD 4.7 Software!

Capture of your DVD Content! Capturing an image of any DVD is smooth and easy, with our specially developed capture technology! Orion Studios offers you the ability to use sophisticated filters and easy porting to your local harddrive- this is serious Hollywood Capturing, the image quality is IMPRESSIVE! AVI - (Video for Windows)

  • Targa Bitmap
  • PNG-Network Graphics

RIP your DVD Movies to MPEG-3 DirectDVD 4.48 has the immediate capability of Ripping your content to MPEG-3 Format! This easy interface will allow you to port your DVD Movies to portable devices, and with the crystal clear Digital Sound you expect! DVD to MP3 is now built into DirectDVD Full MPEG-3 Recorder for DVD

  • Full Quality VBR, BitRate inside
  • DVD Recording Map
  • Preview and easy Interface

First Digital Audio Spectrums for PC-DVD Orion Studios is the only DVD Player on the Market that offers full Digital Audio Meters for DVD! This is a rare opportunity to see the most impressive new technology for PC DVD Players- and you can only get it in DirectDVD 4.48!

  • Full Band and Meter Displays
  • 16 Band Graphical ASC
  • (Left) (Right) Digital Dolby

Full Directors Skin inside DirectDVD 4.48 Allow XP Abilities within WIN 95/98/NT/2000

  • Full CellX and WinAqua
  • Whistler FrontEnds
  • New Skin notice in FullVersion
  • Realistic Look and Feel
  • Easy Navigation and Effects
  • DVD Driven Menu Technology
  • Skin Editor coming soon!

Installation and Settings

Hmmm DirectDVD doesn't start off as good as hoped, the installation itself requires that you use two separate registration numbers which come in via two separate e-mail messages, you then have to type AGREE in the end user licensing agreement rather than click a check box or just click agree. Ok so this isn't a big deal but it shouldn't really be needed to accept a licensing agreement.

DirectDVD Itself

Review Quotes
"The video quality is pretty good, although it does seem to be quite a bit more grainy than that of the current leader - PowerDVD and of WinDVD, but it does manage to beat that of CinePlayer. But there is one big problem here, it takes up a LOT of resources,"

Orion Studio's DirectDVD has one feature that no other current software DVD player has, DVD-to-MP3-Audio conversion, this would be a pretty cool feature to those of you out there who like to rip audio tracks from movies and the such like, I'm not one of those people so didn't really use it very much, but when I did it only worked on one of my review machines, the other just wouldn't have any of it.

The interface of DirectDVD is quite dark, which can be quite a step back when you consider that most DVD Software companies are now shipping their products with much brighter interfaces. The good thing here would be that DirectDVD comes with 26 different skins, but again the problem is that all of them are dark and contain very tiny icons which can be very hard to see on your monitor.

Now onto the DirectDVD menus. This is where the main user controls are, DirectDVD is a program that has a LOT of menus, mostly ones that are overly large and take up too much room when viewing movies, the menus themselves are also overly detailed for a lot of users, I am all for a power user version of a DVD player, but that isn't what DirectDVD is advertised as, so why are there so many options to fiddle with settings that even I as a power user haven't got a clue what they do, and have no option to find out either. The help files are also situated online, not that I am going to knock this too much as it means they can be kept up to date, but what about for those of us who are not online ALL the time? Just include them in the whole package please!

There are other bad points, the zoom feature that it shipped with zooms in perfectly well, but once zoomed in you can't actually move it around like you can in other DVD players such as Power DVD, not much help when you consider that most people who use zoom want to focus in to one specific bit of the screen.

Review Quotes
"Orion Studio's DirectDVD has one feature that no other current software DVD player has, DVD-to-MP3-Audio conversion, this would be a pretty cool feature to those of you out there who like to rip audio tracks from movies and the such like, I'm not one of those people so didn't really use it very much,"

Not everything here is bad though, the basic version you can download comes with SRS TruSurround XT and Circle Surround II, two technologies that allow for two-speaker systems to simulate that you actually have a surround sound system. There are a number of plug-ins that you can buy such as Dolby Headphone support which is very good I have to say, along with various Dolby Digital additions that can be purchased from the website. There are also some very good capturing utilities that ship with DirectDVD too, you can also use these utilities to add various special effects, hue and colour changes to your captures. The bookmarking features that come with DirectDVD are also pretty useful, allowing you to skip to parts you have booked marked etc.

The video quality is pretty good, although it does seem to be quite a bit more grainy than that of the current leader - PowerDVD and of WinDVD, but it does manage to beat that of CinePlayer. But there is one big problem here, it takes up a LOT of resources, and for me I sometimes like to watch a DVD on my PC whilst I am working, well you may have to forget that with DirectDVD as it can take up over 60 percent of your CPU resources, something that does not look good for those of us who multitask, it also takes up a lot of your PC's memory.

Final Comments

How It Grades
Ease Of Use: 62%
Design: 68%
Video: 69%
Online Access: 70%
Sound: 88%
Manual: N/A
Interface: 67%
Overall: 70%

If you want a DVD player that has some great audio support then DirectDVD may be the one for you, but for those of us who buy for video quality and good sound quality you may want to look at PowerDVD right now as it can do both very very well. DirectDVD has a lot of potential that I hope gets better and better with each new version but currently there are better software DVD players out there.

Specs & Package
Overall Score 70%
Version Reviewed DirectDVD Version 4.48
Release Date Out Now
In The Box? Web Download
The Good Points Great Audio Support
The Bad Points Cluttered Menus
Grainy Video
Reviewers PC Setup AMD Athlon XP 2100
Asus A7V333 Motherboard
512MB DDR PC2100
Leadtek NvidiaGeForce 4 Ti 4600
Creative Labs Audigy Sound Card (OEM)
100 GB Western Digital Hard Drive 7200 RPM, 8mb Cache
Samsung 16x DVD-ROM
Mirai CD-RW (40x12x48x)
Creative Inspire 5.1 5300 Speakers
PC Required Windows 95/98/ME/2000/XP
Pentium 233 MHz
32 MB Ram (64 MB For Windows 2000 - 128 MB For Windows XP)
CD-ROM Drive
Mouse and Keyboard
640*480 video card with 4mb ram
Windows compatible sound device
300 MB of free hard drive space


  *   *