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Review: Roxio Creator 2011

01 September 2010, Mike Williams

Browse the extremely lengthy Roxio 2010 Creator feature list and it’s easy to assume the suite contains all the media-related features and functionality that you could ever need.

But that would be a mistake. The brand new Roxio Creator 2011 includes everything that went before – disc burning, video editing, music ripping, photo fixing, desktop publishing, file conversion and more – and yet still manages to cram in a host of interesting new capabilities.

The new suite has a powerful set of 3D features, for instance: it’s able to convert regular 2D images and movies into 3D, can play 3D movies on your PC, and is even able to create 3D DVDs for watching elsewhere. You’ll need 3D glasses for all of this, but the basic red/cyan cardboard type are fine, and if you don’t have any to hand then there’s a pair bundled in the boxed edition of the program.

If 3D seems too much of a gimmick, then maybe you’ll prefer the video additions. You now get video stabilisation, for instance – and rotation, too. There are many new high-definition video DVD templates, and improved hardware acceleration with support for CUDA, ATI Stream and OpenCL.

And benefits elsewhere include easier disc burning, a file-based backup tool, quick upload or images and videos to Facebook, the ability to create stand-alone slideshows, and an option to share your media collection over the internet. Amongst other things.

There’s plenty of power available here, then – but is there anything that really stands out from the crowd? We took a closer look.

Interface

Navigating such a bulky suite on your own could take a while, but fortunately Roxio Creator 2011 provide a front-end that makes it reasonably easy to find what you need.

The first page you see provides icons for common tasks like “Burn Data Disc”, “Create DVDs” or “Copy and Convert Video”.

If you don’t quite see what you need, then four tabs to the left of the screen – Data/Copy, Video/Movies, Music/Audio and Photo – allow you to see more detail. And there’s plenty of detail to see, with for instance the Music/Audio section providing a further 19 options all on its own (although they’re all well-named and have tooltips with more information, so you shouldn’t have any trouble finding your way around).

A few of these functions are carried out from this front-end application, which is handy as you don’t have to load and then find your way around one of the full-strength apps. To burn a data disc, say, you’d choose that option, drag and drop your files onto the work area, and click Burn – simple.

In most cases, though, choosing a menu option will fire up the relevant Roxio application, and while this takes a little longer, it does at least give you access to the full power of the suite.

3D

3D is the latest must-have feature for media suites, and Roxio Creator 2011 has more to offer in this area than most.

There’s a tool to convert 2D images into anaglyph images, for instance, that provide a 3D effect when you view them through two-colour glasses. The quality of the results depends on your source material, but you’re able to adjust the image to tweak the effect, and in general we found it works very well.

Roxio MyDVD can now create standard DVD or high-definition (AVCHD) movies, in anaglyph, RealD and a variety of other formats, ready for display almost anywhere. Which is great, although curiously Roxio don’t help you much with their format lists. You can create 3D videos that will be watchable on NVIDIA 3D Vision glasses, for instance, but you’ll need to know that “Side-by-Side, L-R” is the output option to select.

Conversion speed is good, though. Importing each minute of 2D footage took around 30 seconds to convert to RealD, 10 seconds if you’re happy with anaglyph.

And if you have 3D videos already, then they can easily be added to your compilation. The program accepts existing anaglyph, RealD, Fuji 3D and Side by Side clips, amongst other formats. You can even edit these clips using the video editor.

If you simply want to try watching a 2D movie with a 3D effect applied, though, then just launch CinePlayer, Roxio Creator 2011’s movie player. It can now convert 2D movies into 3D for you, and display them on a variety of monitors: regular 2D, various 3D anaglyph types, DLP, active shutter, line polarized and other display types.

None of this convinces us that 2D to 3D conversion is anything more than a gimmick. And we suspect most people will play with it for a few minutes, then move on, never to use the option again.

The ability to display, burn and edit real 3D videos is a definite plus point, though, and shows that Roxio is taking the technology seriously.

Video editing

If you need to edit a video then Roxio Creator 2011 allows you to import your footage from most camcorders, directly open a video file (and, thankfully, MKV files may now be imported), or even import video from an (unprotected) DVD. And you can then begin to work on it.

The simplest option is to click Edit Video – Automatically, which launches Roxio CineMagix Assistant. Drag a video here and the program’s scene detection option will split your movie into chunks. You can then manually choose the scenes you’d like to include, or just allow CineMagix to select scenes of a particular type: “People”, say, or “Action”.

And after a click or two more, the program is ready to burn your project to disc, create a video, or share it online at YouTube, or (new in this version) Facebook. So for instance you could share a 3D video immediately, and anyone with 3D glasses could see the effect.

There isn’t a great deal of control here, so for instance you can’t tweak the sensitivity of scene detection. And, annoyingly, you don’t get the option to keep your original audio: you must replace this with your choice of audio file, or have silence. If you can live with that, however, it’s still a time-saving option, especially as you can also use the program to create video slideshows from your choice of photos and music.

Of course the real power comes in Roxio VideoWave, which takes a more traditional and effective approach to editing. There’s a storyline or timeline view of your project; you can import your movies, carry out more controlled scene detection, then drag and drop your clips into place and organise them however you might like.

Any scene within your movie can then be customised with almost 100 video effects. Many of these are quite basic – blurs, simple sepia tints, colour shifts and so on. There are plenty of more advanced 3D options that will, say, convert your image into a cube, or display it on a torus, or cone, though. And with more than 200 transitions, various themed overlays (add a “Birthday” or “Halloween” frame to your film) and a host of text effects there’s plenty to play with.

And of course there are the headline new features. Finally VideoWave gains a couple of options to rotate video 90 degrees clockwise or counter-clockwise, for example.

A new “Fix” panel includes a single “Stabilize Video” option. This zooms in a little, but you can define how much, then does its best to compensate for shaky camera work, with reasonably effective results in our tests.

And once you’ve finished, your masterpiece may be shared on Facebook, as well as YouTube, saved as a video file, or sent to Roxio MyDVD for burning to disc.

There’s nothing revolutionary here, then, but overall VideoWave proves likeable, easy to use and with plenty of features, a very capable and effective consumer video editor.

DVD authoring

Roxio MyDVD can create 3D DVDs, as we’ve seen. Blu-ray authoring isn’t available in this version unless you add a plug-in (out September 2010 for $19.99 US, £14.99), or upgrade to Roxio Creator 2011 Pro. We were interested in regular 2D DVDs, though, and so chose that option first.

The program opens with the most basic of DVD menus, a single thumbnail and text title. Fortunately that can quickly be changed. In a click or two you can add an intro movie; change the menu style to one of more than 100 options, with varying animation effects, soundtracks and so on; or set the menu background yourself (and this can be a movie, or an image).

You’re also able to add as many sub-menus as you need, while a Project View keeps of everything and allows you to jump quickly from one page to another. It’s not as easy to use as we’d like, but there’s plenty of flexibility here.

Drag and drop your movie files onto the program (MKV files can now be imported, but FLV support is still missing), and MyDVD will offer to import the clips as individual clips or a single movie.

Once you’ve sorted that out, a click of the Burn button will allow you to burn your DVD to disc, an ISO image, or its component DVD folders.

And while comparing burning performance is tricky (menu variations make it difficult to ensure your DVD mastering programs are doing exactly the same thing), MyDVD seemed speedy to us, marginally outperforming Nero Vision in our trials.

Disc Burning

While competitors like Nero Burning ROM provide a single burning application that handles many disc types, Creator 2011 spreads its functionality around. So basic data discs are burned in one part of the front-end app, basic audio discs in another; then more advanced burning tasks are handled by entirely different apps: data discs in Roxio Creator Classic, audio files in Roxio Music Disc Creator, and so on.

This can make things a little confusing initially, as these tools have quite difference interfaces. In Creator Classic you can select files from an Explorer-type interface, for instance, then drag and drop them onto your disc project, or you’re able to browse your media libraries directly. Music Disc Creator has no such integrated conveniences, though: you must click Add Audio Tracks instead, then choose your files in a separate dialog box.

Issues aside, though, disc burning proved fairly straightforward. It doesn’t take long to figure out how everything works, and in reality you know the basics already. Choose some files in Explorer; drag or drop them onto the program; set an option or two; click the Burn button; then wait while your disc is created. Not too long, though, as performance is good, with our test discs generally being burned within a second of the times we achieved in Nero Burning ROM.

Music

Roxio Creator 2011 has a long list of music-related functionality.

It can burn audio CDs, as we’ve seen. Discs can be ripped to all the usual formats (aac, ac3, flac, m4a, m4b, mp3, wav, wma), and with plenty of options available to help control the quality and file size of the finished file (bit rate, bits per sample, CBR/ VBR, stereo or mono setting, and so on).

A “Batch Convert and Transfer” tool crams plenty of features into a compact interface. It can import tracks from CD, DVD, or audio files; batch edit audio tags; convert all your chosen files into a particular format; or rename or move them into a particular folder structure based on their audio tags, perfect for bringing order to a messy music collection.

The “Digitize LPs and Tapes” tools helps you convert your old vinyl record collection into a more convenient digital format. There’s plenty of help to ensure you get everything connected correctly, and optional silence detection will try to split each side of an album into separate audio files for each track.

There’s a simple audio file editor, too. You can use it manually to trim unwanted silence from a track, for instance. And there are automated effects to clean up poor quality audio, split a long file into component tracks, tweak volume and balance, add a stereo effect to a mono track, and do other useful things.

We also like the “Capture Audio from Sound Card” tool, which allows you to record whatever you’re playing: very useful for capturing streaming audio that you can’t record in any other way. But there’s also an audio tag editor, an audiobook creation tool, a publishing program to design and create basic CD labels, and even a media manager.

These aren’t all great – actually, the media manager isn’t very good at all – but you do get plenty of useful features, and there really is something here for every music fan.

Photos

Your photo editing requirements are handled here by Roxio PhotoSuite. It’s not too sophisticated, but if you just a need something to handle basic image correction duties then it’s more than up to the job.

The AutoFix option, for instance, will automatically analyse your image exposure, saturation and brightness, detecting any problems and fixing them with a click. You can manually tweak these settings yourself, if you need more control, and there are additional options to crop and straighten images, fix red eye, adjust brightness and contrast, remove wrinkles and blemishes, rotate, resize and crop your photos.

A batch processing tool will do most of these things automatically. So if you’ve got 50 new family photos that you’d like to share with someone, say, then you can drop them all on to the program, and have them all AutoFixed, resized, renamed, and converted to compact JPGs in just a few seconds.

There are also plenty of creative possibilities, with simple tools for creating 3D photos (as we’ve seen), panoramas, and labels and covers for your CDs and DVDs, as well as a basic desktop publishing wizard that will walk you through the process of creating calendars, greetings cards, collages, posts, gift tags and more.

And the Roxio Slideshow Assistant accepts your favourite photos, can accept a slideshow of your own or create one automatically, then export the resulting slideshow as a movie file (only WMV format, unfortunately, but exporting it to VideoWave offers many more options).

…And everything else

Look elsewhere in Roxio Creator 2011 and you’ll find a simple file-based backup tool. This lets you choose the files you’d like to back up by categories (email, documents, pictures, music and so on), or location; you can run full or incremental backups, use encryption or compression, and schedule backups to run at a convenient time. It’s a small but very capable program.

The new Roxio Streamer helps you turn your PC into a DLNA-compliant media server, allowing you to share your media collection across the internet, so you can access your favourite music (for instance) from almost anywhere. Streamer has been around for a while as a free stand-alone product, but it’s still good to see it here.

And, perhaps more generally appealing, we also found Roxio Video Copy & Convert, a very handy video copy and format conversion tool.

Add a few videos here, and the program will quickly convert them to formats and resolutions suitable for a range of devices: the iPad, iPhone, various iPods, cellphones, the Zune, Blackberry, XBox, Playstation, PSP and more.

Handily, there’s also a Video profile that lets you simply convert your video into another format. There’s not much choice – MPEG2, MPEG4, H.264 or WMV – but it’s enough to get by. And fortunately you’re also able to tweak the fine details of every profile, if you like, to ensure you get the video file quality, size and resolution that you need.

Whatever the settings, support for hardware acceleration technologies like CUDA and ATI Stream mean conversion won’t take long . Our CUDA-enabled test PC converted a 32 minute DVD resolution MP4 file into an iPod Touch-friendly version in a very acceptable 4 minutes 20 seconds. (Even market leader CyberLink MediaEspresso wasn’t too much faster, processing the same file in 3 minutes 35 seconds.)

There are a few issues with the program. It really needs FLV import support, for instance. And like many Creator 2011 interface, its file browsing interface can be very slow: click on a folder with a lot of files and we could be waiting 30 seconds or more before it became usable again.

Still, you can always just drag and drop in the files you need, so this isn’t a fatal problem, and the ease and speed of conversion mean the program is, like so many Roxio Creator 2011 components, well worth having.

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