Post Purchase Review / Case Study - Frustrating For Pro Use

Techweasel wrote on 7/8/2020, 1:16 PM

Hi all,

Just thought I'd take 5 minutes to chime in as a fairly pro user who's had a frustrating experience with DVDA on a fairly straightforward project.

I would have really appreciated a "case study" testimonial along this line when I was evaluating the software (and I reviewed the forums here) - so figured I'd take the time to write one for anyone else in the same boat

BACKGROUND:

I've been professionally authoring disk-based media for almost 20 years now. It's not a regular part of my job, but comes up every few months over the years, so I've authored dozens of DVD and Blu-rays - many of which have gone on to mass, commercial replication. In the current market, I don't need a commercial suite to pass eclipse or Blu-print verification - but get enough odd jobs that I want to find something currently supported which can handle the occasional DVD and BDR project (kickstarters, indie films, special event giveaways... etc).

So given the features and price-point, I thought I'd take DVDA for a spin on a simple project and the results were a very mixed bag.

 

PROS:

- DVDA uses familiar layout and terminology so it's very fast to pick up for anyone who's comfortable with older Sonic / Sony / DVD Studio Pro software. There was almost no learning curve that couldn't be solved with a quick google.

- The ability to reformat Blu-ray projects as DVD projects (when it works) is magical, and something I would have given my eye teeth for in the past.

- Internal rendering output seems fine (I ran a couple of small tests, but my projects generally all use pre-rendered assets).

- Fairly robust tools, lots of nice touches for things like applying styles to an entire subtitle track, good color-set management, obvious inspector controls for actions, masking, etc.

- Scripting support seems great (didn't have time to use on this specific project, but did a quick scan and seemed to be implemented well and worked on some small tests I ran).

 

CONS

- Constant crashes on a clean install on Windows 10 (and that workstation is essentially a clean installation itself, as it's only got 3-4 pieces of software total installed on it). Adding a new asset? Program crash. Relinking an asset? Program crash. By the end of the process I would have to completely restart the program every 1-2 minor adjustments to keep the program from hanging. Open, tweak, save, close, open, tweak, save, close... etc.

As the project approached disk capacity (I ultimately used over 90% of a BDR25) it was impossible to re-link assets (which I'd normally do to optimize bit-budget by swapping out slightly different encode rates of assets to maximize quality) and I ultimately had to just live with the baseline assets I'd started with.

- Program would occasionally just stop rendering thumbnails and show "media unavailable", "media offline" errors. This was usually a hallmark of an impending crash and restarting the program (or rebooting the system) would usually fix. In one instance I could *not* get thumbnails to re-render and had to re-create them from scratch.

- Program would not allow multiple video backgrounds for menus without crashing, so had to settle for one video BG for the main menu and static images for sub-menus.

- Outputs generated strange error messages linked to "resume" links. Also resume functionality ultimately did not work properly on Blu-ray players and had to be removed. I detailed this issue here in this forum thread.

- Some disk renders were missing media. Some of my checkdisk test outputs (to .iso) wound up missing rendered thumbnails or text elements on menus. This led to having to do very detailed QA reviews of every output to make sure that all media was being included on each menu page. Again, usually rebooting the computer and restarting the program from scratch would usually resolve. This was a big one, as it's very unnerving when you're not comfortable your project is being represented verbatim in your muxed outputs.

 

I suspect the bulk of these issues may relate to running up against the 2GB memory limit on 32-bit software - but I'm surprised that software that's this mature is *so* dodgy at this point. I don't need snappy instantaneous performance, but I've run much older software on much less powerful hardware without worrying about crashes every 20 seconds. While I don't think it's likely to expect a shiny 64-bit re-write of optical disk authoring software in the year 2020 (although I'd happily pay many times the going price for such a thing) - I'm hopeful that maybe something can be done to enable a full 4GB access (I admit I'm well out of my depth on 32-bit software limitations, but I believe there's some sort of application flags that will allow 32-bit software to expand up to 4 full GB - in 64-bit environments.

 

CONCLUSION:

I can't really recommend DVDA for professional use. A job that should have taken a few hours took me several days of frustration and uncertainty I'd even be able to complete it without having to change software (and literal hours upon hours of restarting the software over and over). It's a real shame because it's *so close* to being the exact software I am looking for in terms of features and quality, In spite of the shortcomings, I couldn't bring myself to give up and start over in another program - but it's just too difficult to work on with the constant crashing / hanging / rendering bugs.

I'll absolutely keep an eye on any future revisions however - as with just a little bit more stability it would be a very different story.

 

Comments

Jack S wrote on 7/8/2020, 4:57 PM

@Techweasel I'm really surprised at the amount of problems you're having. I'm only an amateur at video editing but have had many years of successful production of DVDs and latterly Blu-Rays using DVDAS. I'll just throw in a couple of things for you to consider.
Which version of DVDAS are you using? DVDAS 7.0 (sometimes referred to as DVDAP) is generally known to be problematic. Many users on this forum recommend using DVDAS 5.0.
To overcome the 2GB limit that does cause a lot of problems, I've patched my exe with LargeAddressAware. However, DVDAS 7.0 can't be patched but DVDAS 5.0 can.
Always import compatible video and audio streams so that DVDAS doesn't have to recompress. This can avoid many problems.

You say that the software is 'mature' and it is, but it hasn't been worked on for quite a while,and probably won't be either.

vkmast wrote on 7/8/2020, 5:10 PM

@Jack S so there seems to be a misunderstanding in your comment re my comment here.(VEGAS DVD A that I referred to there is DVD A 7). Note also john_dennis'_comment here.

EricLNZ wrote on 7/8/2020, 6:21 PM

The only time I've had DVDA crash on me is when I try to do something whilst it's creating waveforms. Nowadays I only make the occasional Blu-ray disc as it takes a lot of my short home movies to fill a disk. I've never run across the 2gb limit problem.

Disc burning is on the way out. Among my amateur friends few burn discs nowadays. On this forum some pros have mentioned they haven't burnt discs for years. Folk are now using 4K more and want 4K on their TVs but disc burning will only provide 1080 as to my knowledge there's no consumer 4K disc authoring software. So I'd be surprised if there was any further development of DVDA.

Techweasel wrote on 7/8/2020, 7:39 PM

@Jack S Yes, version is the latest v7.0 build 100. Unfortunately as I've never used the software previously, there doesn't seem to be any way (I could find) to downgrade to an earlier version to compare. Would love for that to be an option - I don't need new features, just core functionality that works properly.

And yes - all my work was with pre-encoded assets - no transcoding at all.

@EricLNZ Absolutely agree that the heyday of physical disks (particularly for commercial use) is long past, but there's still the odd "enthusiest" need for physical media for people who want to sell goods at conventions / trade shows / for crowdfunding rewards etc... just in the same way that there's still a niche market for cassette tape and vinyl record manufacturing there will probably be niche cases for physical disks for a while yet.

 

 

Jack S wrote on 7/9/2020, 5:29 AM

@vkmast Yes. A honest misunderstanding by me. I thought that you had referred to DVDAS 5 in that post.

@EricLNZ Disc burning is on the way out. Yes, and personally I see that as a bit of a shame. I have no need for 4K home videos (my aging eyes would probably not see a difference anyway). Also, I like being able to navigate to a particular part of my 3 hour vacation videos and Blu-Rays allows me to do that.
As I said, that's my personal view and I accept that on this subject I'm a bit of a Luddite. Hopefully, Blu-Rays will be around for many more years.