Ottawa PC Users' Group, Inc.
 Product Review 


Easy Media Creator 7
by Alan German

Most people will be familiar with Roxio’s Easy CD Creator since, in the good old days, it was bundled with many CD burners. Similarly, most people will know that this product has evolved over the years through a variety of numbered versions. Did you also spot the significant name change in a recent version to Easy CD & DVD Creator? The reason behind this was quite obvious, but what about the latest incarnation of the product – Easy Media Creator 7?

The answer is that the package is now a suite of programs that will handle just about every application for audio-visual media processing that you can think of. The bread-and-butter CD and DVD burning operations, previously enhanced with sound file processing, digital image management and video capture capabilities, are now supplemented with even more features for all of the above, plus video editing functions using storyboards and timelines with multiple tracks.

A full installation of the package needs a lot of free disk space, but it is simple to customize the installation process to eliminate portions of the software that you can’t use at present. For example, in my case, I don’t currently have any video material to edit so I opted to omit the installation of VideoWave 7 Professional. But, it’s nice to know that it’s in the box and can always be added later should my needs change.

One new feature that’s almost worth the price of the whole package to me is a simple little button in Creator Classic. This is the piece of software that allows selection of individual files and directories for burning to a CD. Creator Classic provides a Windows Explorer type interface to your hard drive from which you can tag files and add them to a “disk project” to be burnt to a CD. In most cases, once the desired files have been selected, all that is required is to click on the Burn button and the default options take care of creating the CD. For more control, one can access the Details panel and set a range of parameters including write speed, write and/or test, and create a read-only disk (close the disk).

However, if you are like me, even though CD’s are around 50 cents, it goes against the grain to burn a few files, close the disk, and leave a whole bunch of empty, and now unusable, space. Of course the answer is to create a multi-session disk by burning files in separate sessions, leaving the disk open and appendable for the addition of more files at a later date.

The trick always used to be to figure out how to add the new files to the desired directory that you knew existed somewhere on the disk. My seat-of-the-pants solution was to flag one file to be copied to the disk project. This “woke up” the software to scan the drive for the existing data structure. It was then just a matter of removing the file from the root directory of the project and adding the new files to the desired sub-directory.

The new version has a much more elegant solution – a button labeled “Import data from an appendable disk”. In fact, the system is smart enough that when you insert an open CD-R, it points to this button as the appropriate first step in the burning process! As you might infer, clicking on this button displays the directory structure of a CD that already contains some data. So, it’s now really easy to burn new files to desired locations.

If you need digital image management software, Easy Media Creator 7 contains Photosuite 7, a fully featured system to capture, edit and manage all your digital photographs. ‘Capture’ locates installed devices, such as a digital camera plugged into a USB port, and allows easy transfer of photographs to the hard drive using a wizard. At the end of the transfer process you can select from a number of appropriate next steps, including going to Photosuite to edit some of the images. Navigating through the very intuitive menu system soon locates an image to be edited. The image is displayed in a window with options for Photo Doctor (adjust lighting, contrast and sharpness), crop, rotate, red eye, add or edit text. For the red eye function, press the AutoFix button, wait a few seconds, and the red eyes (on both individuals in my photograph) magically disappear. Another menu button “Show all features” reveals the depth of functionality that this part of the package has to offer. There really is a lot of stuff in this box!

And, some of the stuff is just plain fun. Do you want to be featured on the cover page of a magazine or on a poster? A second CD in the box provides access to a large number of predefined templates for cover pages of magazines relating to computers, music, sports, and more. Choose one of the templates and then customize it with your photograph and text. Instant celebrity status! However, perhaps a more practical application for most of us would be customizing templates for such items as greeting cards, gift labels, and even calendars. There’s a raft of such things to play with.

Another nice feature that the package offers is StoryBoard. Rather than the video editing function offered by VideoWave, this program allows the creation of slideshows using digital photographs and audio files. The process is simplicity itself. Just drag photographs into the empty boxes on the storyboard, choose from a variety of transition effects between slides (such as slow dissolve), and add an audio file as a background audio track. Play the production on the built-in viewer and tailor the results as desired. Bingo! You have a fully-functional, all-singing, all-dancing, audio-visual display to wow your friends and family.

It’s also worth noting the superb on-disk help system that documents all aspects of program operations. Help can be context sensitive (i.e. pop-up help “for this window”) or a fully-featured, web-page system of links to both local help pages and information on the Internet. Individual pages have clear text and colourful diagrams, including step by step instructions to accomplish a specific task, and screen shots highlighting the associated buttons.

Of course, there’s much more to this package than this brief review can cover. For one thing, there’s AudioCentral that lets you rip, organize and burn music files, including creating MP3’s, to your heart’s content. If you have any wish to copy vinyl LP records to CD’s, this package will let you record, edit and burn the music between the two formats. [A more in-depth review of this process will be included in an upcoming multi-part article on copying vinyl to CD – Ed.] The Media Manager utility allows you to capture and store all kinds of audio-visual files, and provides powerful cataloguing and search functions. Easy CD and DVD Creator 7 allows you to copy CD’s and DVD’s, create backup disks, and supports CD-RW’s through Drag-to-Disc. Also included in the box is Napster 2.0 with which you can locate and purchase a huge variety of music. There is a built-in media player and even label creation software so that you can give your home-burnt disks a professional finishing touch.

So if you need to handle data, music, photographs, video on CD or DVD, Easy Media Creator 7 may just do the trick. Even if you only need one or two of these functions at present, the all-inclusive price of this package, and the incredible range of included functionality, may be sufficiently attractive for you to purchase the suite and have the other programs at hand when your appetite for multi-media increases.


Bottom Line:

Easy Media Creator 7
Proprietary ($99.99)
Roxio, a division of Sonic Solutions
http://www.roxio.com

Retail box shot

Copyright and Usage
Ottawa Personal Computer Users Group (OPCUG), Inc.
3 Thatcher Street, Ottawa, ON  K2G 1S6

The opinions expressed in these reviews may not necessarily
represent the views of the OPCUG or its members.