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IntroductionCreating your own DVD movie discs has always tended to confuse users. With the popularity of software titles such as Adobe Premiere and other high-end video creation applications, the attraction for novice users to have the same capabilities has grown. For users without the budget or the expertise necessary to create high-end movie discs, or those who just need to make simple projects to share, Ulead has created a quality application to do the job.
Ulead MovieFactory 6 is a super-simple application to use. From the easy-to-follow instructions to the graphical icons for any task, Ulead makes DVD creating easier than ever. They simplify the task to the point where any user, new or expert, should have no problem.
In addition to its simplicity of use for basic tasks, the beauty of MovieFactory 6 lies in its many advanced options and customizations for those craving even more control. While not designed to replace the higher-end applications such as Premiere, MovieFactory 6 will have you creating DVDs quickly and easily.
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Price to ValueRating What's Hot:
In recent years, there's been a clear divide regarding DVD creation. With Microsoft releasing and upgrading their Windows Movie Maker, which allows for the simplest of tasks for creating a DVD disc, the demand on companies such as Ulead to up their offerings has increased.
The cost of $49.99 is very easy to accept for such a capable product. Backed by a large company such as Ulead, the user is given everything necessary to create a successful and attractive disc. The templates provided are better than average and allow you to make attractive menus and buttons without the need for your own graphics. And Ulead includes the necessary burning engine to take your disc from start to finish, something which should not be taken for granted.
That being said, for users with the simplest needs, Windows Movie Maker (which comes with Windows Vista) is still competitive, and being included with Windows makes its cost $0. If you prefer more control, however, the $49.99 is not too difficult to accept. My only other disappointment with the software is in the less-than-stellar music tracks included. The music is uninspired and will almost certainly be replaced by users' own selections. It's quite a contrast between them and to the high-quality menu images that Ulead threw in.
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Installation & SetupRating What's Hot:
Installation really couldn't be simpler. Although the installation did take several minutes, the dialog boxes on screen were clear, and it was nice to see certain elements such as the burning engine being installed. Although it would have been nice to at least have the option of what applications to install, if you're editing DVD movies, you should probably make sure you have enough disc space to begin with.
Within the program itself, the setup is really as hands-off as a novice user would want. There are advanced preferences and settings to tweak if the user would like some more control, but even those tweaking options are very simple and well described.
My main complaint with the installation comes with the need to reboot the system before being able to utilize the application. While this is most likely due to the integrated burning engine, it's something that the user never has the option of installing and is an inconvenience nonetheless.
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User InterfaceRating What's Hot:
Ulead has clearly taken the necessary steps toward making MovieFactory as absolutely simple as possible. The introductory interface exemplifies that quest, with four options of tasks on the left, and then no more than four sub-tasks within each of those on the right. As you go through each task, the blue row at the bottom describes exactly what the task is for.
This dedication to simplicity holds true as you begin your project. Graphical icons identify a given task, and in case that's not clear, there's always text nearby to help guide you through.
Ulead separates the DVD creation process into several easy-to-follow stages. First is the content aggregation step, where you can select which videos, as well as photos or other multimedia files, to add or import. As you add different media, you're given options on-screen that illuminate and allow you to control as you so choose. For video files, you can even cut and separate a file and create multiple chapters (and there's a little scissors icon to identify that).
The next phase in the creation UI is probably the most satisfying, as it's of the screen that will get shown and viewed more than anything--the DVD menu. Ulead has included some gorgeous pre-created menus you can customize with your media, or you can start from scratch with your own wallpaper. Either way, it's as simple as a menu click to do what you want. And at the bottom of the screen, there's always your notification of how large your project is. If you add a soundtrack but see it's too large, you can simply change it immediately.
The coolest part of the application is the Preview button, which allows you to view your work as if you had created it. This will save you a lot of wasted DVDs, as you can see if it looks and sounds as you had envisioned. I've tested other DVD creation applications where the DVD preview failed miserably, so it's nice to see a company do it right.
The final step in the creation process is really the only negative aspect to the UI, as it jumps completely from all the other steps. There's not a single graphic on the page, and while the tooltip text with each option is nice, it's just odd that the page looks so different to the rest of the UI. I would have expected this type of page from an advanced interface, but considering the application is designed for novice, it was odd to see so many more options besides just a "burn disc" option.
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Product FeaturesRating What's Hot:
In looking over Ulead's offerings in this field, it's clear that the main focus for this version of MovieFactory is the easy-to-use interface. Knowing that the market is probably novice users, they have created two different levels of the application, with the Plus version costing an additional $30.
For the $49.99 standard version, you're given a fair amount of features. You are able to import from a high-definition HDV camcorder or other standard component inputs (I was even able to import a live TV show from my TV tuner card). Standard Windows video formats are supported, and it can decode DivX videos as well, which is a nice addition as that particular codec is extremely popular.
If you have any desire to do a lot of high-definition content, however, you'll want (or need) to spend the extra $30 on the Plus version. Ulead has made it quite clear that the standard MovieFactory 6 is an introductory beginner's product, and has left the higher-end features for the Plus version.
Features missing from the standard, but included in the Plus version, are things such as exporting to an HD-DVD or Blu-Ray format--a feature you probably don't need today, but definitely will want in the future. In addition to video quality, you are also limited in sound quality with the standard version, with a max of stereo sound, versus the Plus version's offering of 5.1. With even standard DVDs offering 5.1, it was an odd omission indeed.
While the Plus version is a nice package, it's a little confusing to see all the features missing from the standard package. As I mentioned earlier, Windows Vista includes an updated Movie Maker application that can do similar things, if not more, and at a cost of free. It would have been nice to see some of the Plus features either included, or Ulead simply merging the two products into a middle-priced package.
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PerformanceRating What's Hot:
The speed of the application was fantastic. Even when dealing with a full disc of multimedia files, the application remained peppy and did not crash once for me. The transition into the preview environment was also fast and stable, and made the experience that much more pleasant.
Burning to a blank disc was consistent with previous tests I've done, which is as expected. Please note that your own speeds will vary based on your system and DVD drive speed, so consider that when judging that time.
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Help & SupportRating What's Hot:
Support for DVD MovieFactory 6 remains consistent with other offerings from Ulead I have worked with. With your product purchase, you are given access to their extensive knowledge base, as well as their user forums. If that's not sufficient, you can also write to a tech support technician, or even call one yourself.
One of the nicest things I found that should help a lot of users is Ulead's Flash tutorial. Although it was designed for the Plus version, many of the steps work for both packages. If you'd like to get another experience with the application, I highly suggest viewing that show here :http://www.ulead.com/dmf/tour.htm.
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Suggested FeaturesIt would be nice to see some of the Plus version features included with the base version. As more competition enters the field and Microsoft stays committed to the market, the price point of $49.99 remains the much more attractive option versus the Plus version, available for $79.99. Most suggestions for features I have are included in their Plus version, but I'm not sure its price is justified, at almost double that of MovieFactory 6.
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ConclusionUlead MovieFactory 6 is a solid application at a very affordable price. What it lacks in technical abilities, it more than makes up for in its utter simplicity and flexibility. The ability to easily import and add your own mixed media onto a single disc is a nice experience, and the interface is so user-friendly, that it's one I would recommend to any level of user.
For users who crave more options, you can choose Ulead's Plus version of MovieFactory, which adds even more advanced options. Although more expensive, it's nice to have more than one product choice, and the Plus version includes some features that are not yet mainstream, such as Blu-Ray DVD creation.
Overall, MovieFactory 6 is a more than capable application for novice users who want to whet their appetite for creating DVDs.
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Related ProductsAdobe Premiere