Original publish date: October.19, 2007
Figuring out GEAR Video 8 took more than the usual amount of study time. There may be other ways to map out the main steps to make a video DVD, but here’s what I did:
- 1st GEAR. I used Encode > Encode Video to convert a pack of video files on my hard drive to the MPEG-2 files needed for the disc.
- 2nd GEAR. I tried to work on the menu layout and graphics for the DVD menu but the gear slipped. In XP the app abruptly crashed when I selected the link in the project window. In Vista the crash was just as definitive but more elegant, with a message saying ‘gear.exe has stopped working’. I tried many times over a number of days and got the same result each time. I skipped this menu-authoring/design step and pressed the Create Volume button to move on, hoping GEAR Video would make a default layout so I could watch the DVD. It did.
- 3rd GEAR. Made a copy of the disc file on the hard drive by using the main menu’s Project > Convert Volume to Physical.
- 4th GEAR. Wrote the GEAR project to a disc. Project > Write GEAR Project burned it at 8x speed without an issue.
I played the disc with WinDVD and Windows Media Player and was pleased to see that GEAR Video 8 had created a basic DVD menu. I was able to see and hear the videos and take screen snapshots for the picture section below.
All was almost well until I looked at the menu. Videos on the disc displayed what was supposed to be widescreen at standard 4:3 aspect ratios. Maybe I would have been able to choose the settings if I had gotten into the DVD authoring part of the software. Since I had not, I was pleased to at least to have a playable disc.
Price to Value (1 out of 5)
Use the money for something that is easier and works better than GEAR Video 8. I suggest Adobe Premiere Elements.
Installation & Setup (4 out of 5)
The download was a fairly small 35 MB setup file, and installing GEAR Video 8 on XP and Vista went smoothly.
User Interface (2 out of 5)
I outlined the main steps to making a video DVD in the Introduction section above. The steps of a project differ depending on what source material you start with, and what kind of disc you’re heading to. Here’s a slightly different perspective.
- Capture video from your camcorder
- Edit the video and add background music and transitions. Create slide shows from still pictures. Encode the video to the right format of VCD, SVCD or DVD-Video.
- Author your disc by creating a menu.
- Burn the disc.
That’s the typical flow for video editing and disc authoring/burning software. Some software such as GEAR Video 8 can do all the steps while others do either the video editing or the disc authoring/burning.
Product Features (4 out of 5)
With GEAR Video 8 you can create a VCD, SVCD or DVD, including High Definition DVDs. Rip video and audio content from DVDs and CDs. Capture content from your camera and camcorder. Use content from your hard drive, sound card, and downloads from the internet.
There’s a Video Editor and an Audio Editor. Inputs include wmv files from Movie Maker and Photo Story and wma audio files from Windows Media Player.
There’s a feature to copy a CD or DVD, copying from a disc in one drive and burning to another if you have multiple disc drives.
The video and audio editors for GEAR Video 8 are only a notch above the bare-bones basics.
You can split clips and pick from lots of transitions, but there are no video effects or title overlays.
Performance (1 out of 5)
My first test on my XP laptop was to capture some video footage from my mini-DV camcorder using a firewire/iLink connection. The camcorder had a mix of standard and widescreen clips. The capture session went well.
Another test was to encode an existing wmv video file on my hard drive. The encoding, which is a conversion from wmv to MPEG-2, went along at about real time speed.
The video encoder did a quick and good job with most input file types. I gave it a pack of 30 assorted files to chew on. It handled most well, but couldn’t process some of them such as:
- PAL to NTSC conversions.
- WMV files made with the screen capture codec.
- WMV files encoded with a Microsoft MPEG-4 codec.
- For some reason it hung at the end of a type II DV-AVI file made by Movie Maker 1.
For the most part it chugged along nicely through the pack, a mix of standard, widescreen, and odd sized videos.
Once I had some video files, I decided to make a video DVD. Things went well until I got to the step of designing the menu. This step I needed to skip (see the What’s Not section) and the disc burned successfully with a default menu.
The captured clip from my camcorder was a DV-AVI file. Playing it back in Windows Media Player showed the visual looking alright, but I didn’t hear any audio.
I then tried to use the file converter to turn the captured DV-AVI file into an MPEG-2 file needed for a DVD. The process started okay but sort of hung when 36% finished. At that point it had encoded the first 7,678 frames. All indication was that it was still running but with no more progress.
I followed that first encoding test with a batch of small video files made by different apps with differing codecs. It finished the first five successfully, and stopped at the 100% mark of the 6th one. It had the same symptoms, sitting there working but not achieving anything.
After a few more successes I got a message about conversion of PAL files to DVD NTSC not being supported, and a Gear app crash in the middle of converting an MPEG-4 file.
The app crashed on my XP laptop a number of times at regular spots:
- When I pressed the options button of the Audio Editor.
- When I pressed the create menu and graphics option before pressing the create volume button when making a DVD project.
‘Hangs’ might not be as bad as crashes. I experienced them when:
- Encoding a batch of video files. It would get to the 100% conversion mark of a few files and sit there until I stopped/cancelled the line item.
- Dealing with a DV-AVI type II file.
Ripping a full audio CD to WMA files is slower with GEAR Video 8 than with Windows Media Player 11. It took 17 minutes on my XP system to rip a 23 track album to a set of MP3 files and 15 minutes to WMA. Window Media Player 11 took 6 minutes to rip the same disc to WMA files.
GEAR Video did better on my Vista laptop, ripping the same disc in 8 minutes, slightly longer than the 6 minutes for Windows Media Player.
The video DVD played in WinDV and Windows Media Player 11 with a good basic functional menu that.GEAR Video had created with default menu screens and buttons, However, the mix of standard and widescreen videos all played in standard 4:3 aspect ratio. GEAR Video hadn’t handled the different aspect ratios appropriately. There were also some unexpected visual artifacts in a couple of the videos, things not in the originals.
Help & Support (3 out of 5)
The online ‘How-to-Guide’ helped me understand the main steps to making a Video-DVD.
GEAR Video 8 supports context-sensitive help. Press Shift+F1 or the ‘?’ button on the menu, select the item you want help with, and see special help information about it.
The online GEAR manual has 156 pages.
The online forums and support complete a fairly good mix of support features .
When I signed up for the forum, all went well through the signup and verification steps. However, each time I log in there’s a ‘critical error’ message, something pointing to an SQL error code of 1146.
Even with the error message, the forum logs me in. With over 3000 members and threads, you would think it is a fairly active place, but it isn’t. GEAR has lots of projects, and the forum for GEAR Video 8 has few posts each month.
It’s an appropriate note to end the middle section of the review on. It makes me feel I don’t want to resolve the DVD menu authoring issue and continue using GEAR Video 8.
To keep up with modern video editing and DVD making software, a wizard or two to help orient the new or casual user would be helpful,
GEAR Video 8 has been around for a long time. You get that old time feeling as you read about SCSI hardware connections and the settings in a long ini file.
GEAR DVD 8 many features and settings and if the ones I tried had worked better, I’d be inclined to think well of software that spans the old and new Windows operating systems. But it fell short too many times to recommend it to anyone but the geeks and techies who enjoy getting into the inner gears of the disc making engine. Most users like me want to enjoy the ease of ‘plug-n-play’ devices with high speed USB and firewire connections.
Adobe Premiere Elements, Vegas Movie Studio, Pinnacle Studio