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EMedia Review

Bob Starrett

Prassi PrimoDVD
synopsis: Prassi Software's PrimoDVD is a great program for the working DVD author. PrimoDVD shares its easy-to-use interface with its CD recording stablemate PrimoCD, which is only fitting–they nailed it with PrimoCD, so why change it? Its recording options cover every base, and not only does it support recording to CD-R/RW drives–a real plus for authors who want to store or check smaller chunks of video in UDF-compliant filesystems–it supports simultaneous recording to multiple droves from different manufacturers. That's quite a trick.

price: $799

Prassi Europe, SARL
Worldwide Headquarters
75 Bd. Oyon
Technopôle Novaxis 72100
Le Mans, France

Prassi Software USA, Inc.
1731 Technology Drive, Suite 490
San Jose, CA 95110
Fax 408/573-8100

November, 2000 | When you open PrimoDVD, Prassi's new DVD-Recording software–successor to its first-in-field DVD Rep–it looks a lot like its like-named stablemate, PrimoCD. And why not? Prassi nailed it with the interface in PrimoCD, so it is only natural that they would want to make more of a good thing for those few of us who have the need, or can afford to record DVD-R discs.

There are some differences, and these first become apparent when you choose a new job. On the CD side, you would find a broad range of recording choices, including Disc-to-Disc Copy, Global Image or Other Image, Data Disc, Audio Disc, and Video CD. DVD is more limited by necessity, and as such your selection is confined to Disc-to-Disc Copy, Global Image or Other Image, and Data Disc.

Now, I am not going to author any original DVD-Video discs any time soon, but certainly I can burn and check or prototype them with PrimoDVD if I want to. PrimoDVD recognizes when you are preparing a DVD-Video by looking for the VIDEO_TS and AUDIO_TS directories. If these directories are found, DVD will place these folders properly to create a fully spec-compliant DVD-Video disc.

CD-RW fully supported

Not only does PrimoDVD work with both the Pioneer DVD-R S101 and DVD-R S201, it also supports almost all CD-R and CD-RW drives. Always building on its simultaneous recording technology (or HyperDrive as they call it), Prassi has now gone where few have dared to go, that is, to add support for simultaneous recording to drives from different manufacturers. That's quite a trick.

Why incorporate such extensive CD-RW drive support? Because developers can record UDF-compliant file systems onto CD-R or CD-RW media and then test a short portion of their video and associated files in a DVD-ROM drive to make sure that their structure is correct. They may also inexpensively test different setups and material, without having to run through expensive DVD-R discs.

A nice feature in PrimoDVD is the Launch item on the Tools pull-down menu. From within the program, you can launch your Web browser, Windows CD Player, or Windows Media Player. This is very handy for quick access to data files that you want to add to your job and for giving a quick listen to audio files. From within Explorer, you can also choose Tile, which makes finding the data you want to add even easier by giving Explorer the bottom half of the window by default.

Like PrimoCD, PrimoDVD has a Drives Tuning option. The Drives Tuning screen makes it easy to see and modify, for all attached drives, the following options: Disconnect, Sync Data Transfer, and Auto Insert Notification. The Drives Tuning screen allows you to modify these settings of all your CD recorders, DVD-Recorders, and CD-ROM and DVD-ROM drives at the same time, without having to go to Control Panel/System to make changes drive by drive.

options galore

Once you choose a job and set up your data, PrimoDVD gives you several recording options. You can enter the number of disc copies to make, set the drive speed when applicable, and make a temporary image on the hard drive to lessen the possibility of buffer underruns. Subsequently, you can Test; Test and Record; Test, Record and Verify; Record and Verify; or Only Verify.

Other options are numerous. Under the Views tab, you can set the activity log to remember 500, 1,000, 5,000, or 10,000 entries; you can change the default bitmap in the main window; you can toggle flat or 3-D icons. An additional option allows you to change the activity log to a smaller font.

On the Data Disc tab, you can set full or partial paths, request that the program query you on the paths, check files for read permissions, stop the job on an unreadable file, and automatically recognize, check, and format the VIDEO_TS and AUDIO_TS folders when you are making a DVD-Video disc.

The temporary file path is easily adjustable and you can set the recording blank size here manually, or do it automatically in the Disc Explorer window. Other tabs in the Options section include Job/Round, where you can set the program to start automatically on disc tray closing and set an automatic pause after each recording "round". You can also set which disc trays to open at the end of a recording round, depending on results.

Finally, under PrimoDVD's Advanced tab, you can set the level of error reporting, set the program to mix drives or to require that simultaneous recording be done with the same model drive, or require that the drives be the same model and have the same firmware revision. You can also set the strategy for handling sectors that do not read properly during extraction, either having the error returned or insertingsilence and proceeding.

attacked by a crazed fan

Though this is a review of PrimoDVD, you cannot talk about the software without talking about the hardware. Of course, there is currently only one DVD-R drive available, and that is the Pioneer DVR-S201. The DVR-S201 we used with PrimoDVD was an external SCSI unit, designed in a half-height form factor, unlike its full-height predecessor, the S101. This tray-loading drive features two lights on the front panel, one for disc inserted and one for read/write. Also on the front panel is the power switch and the eject button. With the power button placed on the right side of the case, and the eject button on the right of the drive, it is a little too easy to press the power button when you are merely trying to eject a disc.

The back of this unit has two 50-pin SCSI centronics connectors, a SCSI ID wheel, a termination toggle switch, and a small fan. But oh, what a fan. You have probably heard me complain before about loud fans on external CD cases, and I am going to shout about it again here, but this time I'm going to let it blurt as loud as I can. While I understand the need for properly cooling this drive, this fan takes the prize for the loudest I have yet to hear. This particular fan shouts louder that two running computers and, when the drive tray is open, it is louder than three. Surely there's a manufacturer out there who makes a small fan that is quiet.

Other than the fan noise, the S201 performed well and we all look forward to the day when the average person can afford DVD-R drives. To date, the lowest price we've seen for an S201 is $4000. As much as we like CD-R/RW for all of its various applications, it doesn't do the job that DVD-R does. Neither does DVD-RAM; whether the goal is secure, write-once DVD-level video or other data storage, or the more common DVD-Video prototyping/ disc-checking/short-run production, DVD-R is the only game in town. But the tickets are still too steep, and some competition among manufacturers in DVD-R would be welcome. Prices would fall, and you would finally have wider availability of DVD-R drives. Not that everybody is going to make DVD movie titles or develop DVD-ROM applications, but as a secure backup or storage device, inexpensive DVD-R drives would be a good thing. We are not holding our breath, however.

running your first 10K

PrimoDVD is a great program if you have to do DVD work and want to test your results as you go along, thanks to its full support of CD-R and CD-RW. The options cover almost every base and the proven user interface is one of the easiest to use of any recording product. But it's not for everybody–not because it isn't an excellent, easy-to-use product, but because DVD-R drive and media prices continue to inhibit its chances to reach a broader market, even though media is sold through several manufacturers (Kodak, Pioneer, Mitsui, Verbatim, TDK). As a needed incentive, I think Prassi or Pioneer should send some free media to the first person who gets 10,000 entries in the activity log, because by the time any user gets there, he surely will be broke and medialess.

Companies Mentioned in this Article

Eastman Kodak Company
460 Buffalo Road, Building 800, Rochester, NY 14652; 800/353-4751; Fax 716/722-0838; http://www.kodak.com

Mitsui Advanced Media, Inc.
2500 Westchester Avenue, Suite 110, Purchase, NY 10577; 800/682-2377; Fax 914/253-0790; http://www.mitsuicdr.com

Pioneer New Media Technologies, Inc.
2265 East 220th Street, Long Beach, CA 90810; 800/444-6784; 310/952-2111; Fax 310/952-2990; http://www.pioneerusa.com

TDK Electronics
12 Harbor Park Drive, Port Washington, NY 11050; 800/835-8273; Fax 516/625-2940; http://www.tdk.com

Verbatim Corporation
1200 W.T. Harris Boulevard, Charlotte, NC 28262; 704/547-6500; Fax 704/547-6609; http://www.verbatimcorp.com

Bob Starrett (bobs@cdpage.com) is a contributing editor for EMedia Magazine and co-columnist for The CD Writer, and an independent consultant based in Denver, Colorado. He is the co-author, with EMedia Magazine contributer Joshua McDaniel, of The Little CD Audio Recording Book, published by PeachPit Press.

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