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    Roxio rolls out media creator for the masses

    by  Alan Zisman (c) 2007 First published in Business in Vancouver May 1-7, 2007; issue 914

    High Tech Office column; 

    Last week’s column noted that even though it takes five years these days for Microsoft to turn out a new version of Windows, some software developers manage to get their products out the door in a timelier manner.

    Last week’s example was made-in-Richmond’s Simply Accounting.

    Roxio Easy Media Creator is another rapidly evolving product. While accounting software needs regular updating to stay current with changes to tax rates, media software needs to keep pace both with changing hardware and with users’ changing expectations for their computers. As a result, Roxio’s version 9 was released about a year after the previous generation.

    Some users will remember earlier versions of the product as Easy CD Creator. The revised name reflects the software growth beyond its CD-burner roots. It now supports DVD burners and includes modules for backup, photo and sound editing and more, making it a full consumer-level media creation suite.

    The program’s core remains a module for burning CDs and DVDs now supporting higher capacity double-density burners. If that’s all you need, you may be happy with Roxio’s $40 Easy CD & DVD Burning or with the free software that came with your computer or burner hardware. (Very bare bones CD/DVD burning capabilities are built right into Windows.)

    The $99 Easy Media Creator, though, adds lots more. For instance, it includes VideoWave 9 for video capture and MyDVD for basic DVD production. (Windows XP’s Windows Movie Maker can capture video but can’t create a DVD). There’s a slide show assistant offering a virtual light table for arranging slides and performing basic editing functions. You can then add text and transition effects and Ken Burns-style pans and zooms to individual slides or the entire slide show.

    MyDVD has added features since its previous incarnation, allowing for more sophisticated menus and buttons. It integrates nicely with the VideoWave and slide show assistant modules, which makes it easier to edit your production if needed. Because Windows XP lacks a built-in DVD player, the suite includes a CinePlayer module.

    The included PhotoSuite 9 lacks the punch of Adobe’s pro-level Photoshop or its consumer-sibling Photoshop Elements. There’s no support for the RAW image file formats built into higher end digital cameras, for instance, but it packs enough power for users who lack either of those tools. Along with useful photo editing tools, it includes a range of presets for calendars, greeting cards and similar projects. The Sound Editor module similarly includes a range of usable sound-editing tools with fun effects such as Robovoice (which sounds pretty much as you’d imagine from the name). You can use it to add a series of tracks and burn them as an audio CD without leaving the sound editor. A new easy audio capture module can save any sounds playing on your computer, useful for recording voice for podcasts or recording streaming audio like Internet radio.

    Among the other functions, you can create ringtones, burn music DVDs and back up your computer to DVD. You can make copies of DVDs or convert video DVDs to iPod or other portable media players, but only if the original DVD lacks copy protection. (Most commercial DVDs are protected, sorry.)

    None of Easy Media Creator suite’s components for back up, video, photo and music editing, and DVD authoring are best-of-breed. Professionals and serious amateurs will turn up their noses, preferring options like Adobe Photoshop and Premier (or their high-end consumer Elements versions). But many users have more modest needs. For them, Easy Media Creator 9 offers a broad range of useful (and usable) functions at a reasonable price.

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Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan