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Compaq MyMovie Studio Presario 7000

Stephen Ellerin

Compaq MyMovie Studio Presario 7000
synopsis: This Compaq is one of the first out of the gate for a new breed of Windows machines designed as all-in-one DVD-creation workstations. Certainly, it arrives with the muscle to do the job. Our system sported an AMD Athlon processor, a 66GB hard drive, a speedy CD-ROM drive, a Creative Labs SBLive! Sound Card, and a Klipsch Quadraphonic Surround with subwoofer. But best of all, what really has the DVD crowd betting on this horse is its on-board DVD-Recorder and accompanying Sonic DVDit! software for quick-and-easy DVD authoring, and an OEM'd version of Pioneer's DVR103.

price: $2399

Compaq Computer Corporation
20555 SH 249
Houston, TX 77070-2698
719/548-3544
Fax 719/548-3292
http://www.compaq.com

July 2001 | There is something so graceful in the rhythmic fluidity of a racehorse that it fascinates both those of us who would only dare to mount a horse on a merry-go-round, and those of us who would only use a horse to pull a plow. Never mind which group I fall into (although the word "fall" provides a clue)–I love to watch them run. As you start to unpack Compaq's new DVD racehorse, the Presario 7000, your fingers twitch with the same excitement that a jockey must feel as he mounts up for the Derby. True to its promise, this Presario runs beautifully; but will it pull your plow?

This Compaq is one of the first out of the gate for a new breed of Windows machines designed as all-in-one DVD-creation workstations. Certainly, it arrives with the muscle to do the job, and at a fairly low price. Our $2399 system sported an AMD Athlon processor, a 66GB hard drive, a speedy CD-ROM drive, a Creative Labs SBLive! Sound Card, and a Klipsch Quadraphonic Surround with subwoofer. But best of all, what really has the DVD crowd betting on this horse is its on-board DVD-Recorder and accompanying Sonic DVDit! software for quick-and-easy DVD authoring. This 7000 boasts an OEM version of Pioneer's DVR103, the first implementation of Pioneer's DVD recording technology to boast rewritability, write support for CD-R/RW, compact half-height ATAPI construction, and system integrator-friendly pricing reportedly well under $1000.

My own, most unscientific, of speed benchmarks (the Ellerin Card-Flip Factor–i.e., how fast the playing cards flip across your screen after winning a game of Solitaire), rates this beauty as "plenty fast". Naturally, testing how well it did with MPEG video, and authoring and recording DVD, took a little more time in the lab.

in the saddlebags

Compaq bundles a reasonable set of "tack" for an office or home office machine. Although it provides only Microsoft's scaled-down office suite (Works) to create the spreadsheets to track your movies' profits, Compaq, blissfully, includes a full-strength version of Microsoft Word to write your press releases. The system includes Adobe's Acrobat 4 Reader, but lacks the Acrobat Distiller to create electronic media. You should also be prepared to load your favorite graphics program to create logos or personalize movie titles.

More pertinent to our purposes, Compaq hands you the reins of two powerful drag-and-drop products to create your DVD media. Pinnacle's StudioDV captures video from a digital recorder or imports your digital clips and displays a thumbnail of each in an "album". From there, you can drag-and-drop clips onto either a storyboard, for "rough cuts;" or a timeline, for more precise control. You can trim "extra" footage from any clip by setting its start/stop points, easily apply transitions, and add both sound effects and a sound track.

StudioDV then provides three-click output, creating distributable movies with presets for AVI, MPEG-1 and 2, and RealTime files, but not QuickTime. However, while Movie Studio makes creating simple videos a snap, those of us who strive to deliver "professional excellence" will find that it lacks true editing features. Serious video deserves professional tools, such as those found in Adobe Premiere 6. [See Ellerin's Premiere 6 review, May 2001, pp. 65-68–Ed.]

two bits

When your movie is finished, the Compaq 7000 offers two options for creating your Distribution Media. The first is Roxio's Easy CD Creator 4, the (recently updated to version 5) workhorse of our industry for CD recording. But your existing "farm animals" already work with that program. Your new thoroughbred will also write CD-Rs at a gentle canter, but you bought this machine to go to the races. You bought this machine to make DVDs.

Sonic Solutions' DVDit! LE (Light Edition), which ships with this Compaq, may be the easiest way for PC users to transfer titles onto DVD-R discs. It is just what the name implies. It shields you from ever even knowing about any lower-level DVD creation and spec stuff like VOBs and PGCs, and only exposes you to what you need to know to transfer basic video and media elements to DVD in a nice, navigable, usable manner. You get the simplicity that you expect from your mature CD installation products; however, you surrender the flexibility that you may need to do complex professional work.

On the plus side, DVDit! LE can create dazzling "auto-run" menus. Select from default background graphics, or import your own, in most graphic file formats (except GIF or WMF). Then add pre-created buttons (either "corporate" or non-conventional) or import your own (the program automatically creates "roll-overs" for linking each button or label), and easily link those buttons to your media clips or sound tracks. Add "chapters" to your titles with a mouse-click on the timeline, and then drag any chapter symbol to any menu to create thumbnail "GoTo" buttons.

When your menus are finished, click the Build menu to create your actual DVD disc or file. Once again, the process is simple, although we would like to see some more robust diagnostic tools. Even more serious, any DVD image written to DVD-R must be created in DVDit!, so any DVD author using the 7000 is stuck working within the limitations of DVDit! LE. One advantage of Apple's comparable DVD-R-equipped system is that it comes with both professional (DVD Studio Pro) and entry-level authoring tools (iDVD) installed. But if you're a Scenarist, Creator, or Maestro author, you can't use the Presario 7000 as a cheap DVD burning system and continue to author in your tool of choice, unless you purchase Prassi's PrimoDVD, an effective but pricey product. With PrimoDVD, you can write any valid DVD-Video disc structure to DVD-R. Of course, PrimoDVD's $700 tariff tacks another 30% to the price of your system, and with its 16-disc simultaneous write capability, PrimoDVD is probably a more powerful plow-puller than you have in mind. We'd like to see Veritas (which recently purchased Prassi Europe and its product line, including PrimoDVD) offer a PrimoDVD LE, which seems only fitting as DVD-R reaches an ever-wider range of users through systems like the 7000.

the final turn

Here is where you begin to notice the hobbles on your thoroughbred. DVDit! LE imports only MPEG clips (the Standard and Professional versions also accept AVIs; see http://www.sonic.com for current upgrade prices. PE also lets you output to a digital linear tape file for DVD replication or distribute DVD content on a cDVD–a CD with a bundled DVD player).

Fortunately, Professional Edition does allow those of us who currently publish data CDs to transfer our current packages to DVD. DVDit! PE packs InstallShield or Set Up Factory installations; ASCII text or MS-Word files; Macromedia Director "projectors"; and Shockwave files (especially helpful, since version 8.5 takes advantage of Intel's new 3-D instruction set). You can also get the executable files that control our ebooks, including Enigma Insight 6 (http://www.enigma.com) and Adobe Acrobat 5 (http://www.adobe.com), plus corporate demos in Indigo Rose's AutoRun (http://www.IndigoRose.com) onto your DVD-R. Unfortunately, you cannot link any of the aforementioned titles to your DVD menus, something that we hope the next release of DVDit! rectifies (even though these computer-only files would not show up on a set-top DVD player).

the winner?

So, can you harness the Presario's awesome computing power? As any publisher who tried to tame the early DVD-creation software will attest, making compliant DVDs is far more complex than making CDs. Obviously, Compaq assumes that most purchasers will use DVD primarily to distribute video. They have a point–an ebook of even War and Peace fits nicely onto a single CD.

On the other hand, someday I hope to take advantage of DVD's expanded capacity to create a compendium of the ebooks from my Web site, with a Table of Contents that runs from the DVD auto-menu. And, of course, my flying logo in that Director clip … In the meantime, ladies and gentlemen, mount your horses.


Companies Mentioned in This Article

Adobe Systems, Inc.
345 Park Avenue, San Jose, CA 95110-2704; 408/536-6000; Fax 408/537-6000; http://www.adobe.com

Pinnacle Systems
280 North Bernardo Avenue, Mountain View, CA 94303; 650/526-1600; Fax 650/526-1601; http://www.pinnaclesys.com

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

Roxio
691 South Milpitas Boulevard, Milpitas, CA 95035; 800/442-7274, 408/945-8600; Fax 408/262-2533; http://www.roxio.com

Sonic Solutions, Inc.
101 Rowland Way, Suite 110, Novato, CA 94945; 415/893-8000; Fax 415/893-8008; http://www.sonic.com

Veritas Software Corporation
400 International Parkway, Heathrow, FL 32746; 888/732-2021, 407/531-7501; http://www.veritas.com



When not riding merry-go-rounds, Stephen Ellerin plows the fertile fields of electronic publishing at the Great American Publishing Society (GR.AM.P.S.). Visit him at www.gramps.org and www.way-of-life.org or send comments to se@gramps.org.

Comments? Email us at letters@onlineinc.com.


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