DVDAfterEdit 3.0, by Rivergate
Posted: 18-May-2006

4 1/2 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: Rivergate Type: COMMERCIAL

Reviewer: John Gebhardt Class: MULTIMEDIA

Overview
DVDAfterEdit 3.0 is a professional Mac-only application designed to edit video or audio DVD's after they have been created by any DVD authoring application (iDVD, DVD Studio Pro, DVD Maestro, etc) on any platform. The software works with DVD's, VIDEO_TS folders and DVD images. It is a very technical application designed for production or modification of commercial and personal DVD's. Common commercial use of the application would include preparing a DVD for multi-country distribution or adding or removing movie trailers or other ancillary media to the DVD. For personal projects it can be used to update or combine material from several DVDs without having to re-author the entire DVD. The application is best suited for users familiar with DVD technology and structure who have a frequent need to work with exiting DVD source information.

Requirements

  • OS 9.1 or better, or OS 10.2.1 or better
  • G3, G4, G5, or Intel processor
  • 512 MB ram recommended

    Tested on Dual 2.0 G5 with OS X 10.4.6 and Quicksilver G4 933 with 10.3.9.
    QuickTime MPEG-2 Playback Component (purchased directly from Apple) is also required in order to see video preview during editing and tracing.



Setup

The installation process was very simple. I downloaded a zip file from the DVDAfterEdit website, unzipped it and dragged the application to my Applications folder. The application opened and I entered the appropriate key and was in business.

In Use
First a few words on DVD "architecture" from the DVD
Basic Data Structure Guide: "When a DVD disc is placed into a standard DVD player, the player looks for a directory or folder named VIDEO_TS (Video Title Sets). For maximum compatibility, the name of this folder is expected to be in all capitals with no lowercase letters. Older DVD players also look for the additional folder AUDIO_TS (Audio Title Sets). Many modern DVD movies contain only the required VIDEO_TS folder. If the VIDEO_TS folder is not present or cannot be read, most player displays a short error message such as "No Disc" on the screen.

Once the VIDEO_TS folder is located, the DVD player makes an attempt to read the contents of the VIDEO_TS.IFO file in this folder (IFO stands for "Information"). This file contains required information and data structures to instruct the player how to play back the inserted disc. If this file is missing or it cannot be read for any reason, the DVD player makes another attempt to read the alternate file VIDEO_TS.BUP (BUP stands for "Back up"). When a DVD disc is created, authoring software creates the file VIDEO_TS.BUP as a backup copy of the VIDEO_TS.IFO. If both the VIDEO_TS.IFO and VIDEO_TS.BUP files cannot be read or accessed, most DVD player again displays the short error message such as "No Disc" on the screen".


Files associated with DVD video


When you insert a commercial or home-made DVD into your Mac and open the DVD in the Finder, you will see the files described above. DVDAfterEdit works by providing access and editing capability for the code and commands contained in these DVD folders and files.

There are a couple of important things to recognize about DVDAfterEdit. As mentioned earlier, it is a professional application made for working with existing individual or multiple VIDEO_TS folders that have been created by a DVD authoring application. It does not have stand-alone DVD authoring capabilities and therefore cannot create or alter the content within individual VOB's (Video OBjects). It can add or remove VOB's from VIDEO_TS folders regardless of the DVD authoring system used to create them. The primary use of DVDAfterEdit is reconfiguring and reorganizing the content of DVD's. It can also be used to create, change or delete DVD control commands and menus as they appear in the on-screen DVD menus or as accessed by the DVD player remote control. While you can change the behavior of a menu item on screen, you cannot create the menu item using DVDAfterEdit. You first need to create a placeholder button or menu item with your DVD authoring software.

These features are extremely useful to DVD professionals who may need to prepare DVD's for different markets or forms of distribution. The features can also be useful to amateur videographers who want to combine previously authored DVD's in new and different ways and to create very customized control and menu options.

Using the application requires an understanding of DVD jargon and structure. Certainly DVD professional's are familiar with the required commands and methods. Amateurs, like me, will need to spend some time learning the technical aspects before DVDAfterEdit can be effectively used. Fortunately, the DVDAfterEdit website provides an extensive, 57 page user guide as well as numerous tutorials and examples.

My use of the software consisted of experimentation with a 20 minute iDVD project and a backup copy of a commercial DVD movie from my home library. The iDVD project had 6 short chapters and no complex commands in the menu. On the other hand, looking at a full commercial DVD is somewhat overwhelming. There are numerous commands just in the "First Play PGC" which is the set of instructions (PGC=Program Chain) that tell the DVD player what to do when the DVD is inserted and read. From there it gets more complicated with the usual movie trailers and twenty or so chapters in the movie itself. Oh and don't forget about alternative language data, special features, deleted scenes and so forth. Figure 2 shows what DVDAfterEdit displays when you first open the iDVD project using the Preview feature. As I indicated in the Requirements section, the QuickTime MPEG-2 Playback component is required to use the preview capability. As you may be aware, MPEG-2, the standard format for all DVD's is one of the few formats that QuickTime does not play. Of course once you have the MPEG-2 component (and QT Pro) you can do other interesting things like playing individual VOB's (Video OBjects), capturing individual frames and exporting to other video formats like MP4.


Using DVDAfterEdit with an iDVD Project


As you move down the hierarchical Navigation Menu to the lower level VMG (Video Manger) sub-menus, to specific programs (PG), to Cells and the then to NavPacks (NavPacks are the program objects that actually contain the video and audio content), additional detail information is presented in the main window. One level further are the Video Title Sets (VTS) which usually contain the main program material for the DVD, like Tracks do in an audio CD. DVD editing can be performed in all of the categories described above. The various component or program steps can be deleted or moved and other program material from completed DVD's can be imported. One could, for example, import specific scenes at the NavPack level from a commercial DVD into a homemade DVD (while observing proper copyright rules, of course)


Editing down to the "NavPack" level


Another key feature of DVDAfterEdit is the Tracer. The Trace runs in separate window and allows you to watch the control commands that are being executed by the DVD programming while the DVD is playing. Again, in order to actually view the video you must have the QT MPEG-2 playback component installed. You will see that the widow includes a simulated DVD remote control device to enable programming and testing of commands to be performed by a real remote control.


DVDAfterEdit Tracer


While preparing this review I experimented with several of the features of the application but did not undertake any major re-editing of a full scale DVD. I changed some settings on "Prohibited User Options" which normally prevent you from skipping certain introductory material in commercial DVD's. I removed a trailer, imported a VTS, and reviewed actions using the Tracer. All of the actions that I performed worked as described in User Manual. The program did "Quit unexpectedly" a couple of times but I was unable to determine the cause. I should also mention that you must begin your editing work on a duplicate of the target DVD files since their is no "Save As" function to create a new version and save the original. It does have a "Revert" option so you can return to the original without saving any of the edits you may have made. When you are done, you will need third-party DVD burning software (like Toast); burning DVDs is not a capability of DVDAfterEdit, and the Finder can only create data DVDs.

The software clearly does what it was designed to and does it very well. There is little question that DVDAfterEdit would be of enormous value to anyone who works with completed DVD's on a regular basis. The ability to work directly within the DVD structures and not have to re-author and re-render would save vast amounts of time. The interface is very clear, and once you are familiar with DVD terminology and programing techniques, it becomes quite intuitive.

Since most home users and many professionals use DVD authoring systems that generate the necessary DVD commands and files, the first exposure to the complex information provided by DVDAfterEdit can be somewhat shocking. As with any technology or programing language, continued exposure makes even a novice user more comfortable with the system. Even so, I would say that unless you have had previous experience with DVD construction and layout, it will take several weeks of frequent use to become proficient with the application. Though I have never used anything exactly like DVDAfterEdit, it reminded me of using ResEdit: it provides an understandable user interface layer that directly affects the appearance and actions of a program or object.

Summary
DVDAfterEdit 3.0 is a professional DVD editing tool. It is distinct from DVD authoring tools like iDVD or DVD Studio Pro in that it works with completed DVD's, not the media used to create them. A wide variety of DVD compilation and navigation can be performed with the software. It runs only on Macs, but can operate on DVDs authored on any platform. The software provides a clean interface and performs exactly as advertised. It is a very technical application that requires an understanding of DVD programming terminology and logic. Rivergate provides an excellent website with a comprehensive user manual and numerous tutorials and examples. Basic information on DVD architecture and operation can be found at http://www.dvd-replica.com/. DVDAfterEdit is officially licensed by the DVD Forum for the DVD-Video Specification and has built compliance verification processes to assure that the resulting DVD meets all required standards. For the average video hobbyist, the commercial price tag may keep the product out of reach. Amateur videographers could take advantage of the powerful capabilities offered by DVDAfterEdit, but I believe that the real audience for this application is the professional DVD publication community. DVDAfterEdit provides the video professional with a unique, solid and very powerful tool for streamlining and enhancing the video production process.

Pros

  • Enables rapid editing of completed DVD control and organization
  • Well organized user interface
  • Preview capability permits viewing DVD content while editing

Cons

  • Requires thorough knowledge of DVD structure and command language
  • No "Save As" option (requires starting with a duplicate file)
  • Professional pricing ($349)


Overall Rating

4 1/2 out of 5 Mice