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Sofware in Review → Content creation → CD and DVD authoring →

Roxio Easy Media Creator 10 Suite review

By Jem Matzan

Veteran Windows users are certainly familiar with the ubiquitous CD/DVD writing program, Easy CD Creator. Before Windows had native CD writing capabilities, Easy CD Creator was the application of choice for a large portion of the Windows-using population. In this day and age, people don't usually give much thought to the software they use for creating physical media. Though it's still available as a standalone program, the most full-featured edition of what is now known as Easy Media Creator is actually a suite of programs. Version 10 offers a number of interesting new tools and functions, but it seems to over-promise and under-deliver when it comes to expected and desired functionality.

Easy Media Creator 10 Suite overview

Roxio Easy Media Creator 10 Suite is a collection of programs designed to create, edit, and copy digital media. There are programs for audio recording, editing, and mixing; video capture, editing, and production; DVD and CD authoring; and disc label and jacket design.

The specific components of Easy Media Creator 10 Suite are:

  • BackOnTrack Home Edition
  • CinePlayer
  • Creator Classic
  • Label Creator
  • Media Manager
  • Music Disc Creator
  • MyDVD
  • PhotoSuite
  • Sound Editor
  • Video Copy & Convert
  • VideoWave

There is also an Easy Media Creator 10 Suite launcher application, which helps new users determine which program they should run to accomplish their goals.

Upgrade eligibility

If you have a retail or OEM edition of Easy Media Creator 7, 8, or 9, you can upgrade to version 10 for a slightly reduced price (see details in the table below), with a mail-in rebate. Versions prior to 7 are not supported and will have to pay the full price for version 10.

BackOnTrack Home Edition

Click to view a screen shot.

This is Roxio's data backup utility, designed for spanning several discs with a large amount of data from your hard drive. The interface is simple and easy to use, but many of its functions are disabled. When you click on a disabled function, you're shown an advertisement for the full edition of BackOnTrack, which includes the function you just tried to use. This is not only annoying, it's unprofessional and causes users to think that they have not installed the full edition of the product they purchased.

The help files are unusually weak and incomplete; don't expect to rely on them for instructions. Fortunately, BackOnTrack is not difficult to figure out and use.

Roxio Easy Media Creator 10 Suite
Easy Media Creator 10 Suite: half good, half bad

In terms of functionality, BackOnTrack is just as weak as the in-program documentation. I selected a number of files that matched specific file type requirements of which there are hundreds on my test machine, and selected the directories where those files are located, and commenced the backup procedure. Though it said the process had completed, absolutely nothing was backed up. I checked the settings again, and verified that it should select a significant number of files to back up, and the program was indeed not working as intended. This is why you must verify all of your backups after you've made them -- you have no idea if the operation actually completed to your specifications.

CinePlayer

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Like BackOnTrack, CinePlayer also serves primarily as an advertisement for the more powerful version not included in Easy Media Creator 10 Suite. It functions as a standard video and DVD player, and the interface is attractive and intuitive. The upgraded version, CinePlayer Surround, has improved sound system capabilities. Even though that's not a feature that most users need (or can even use), it's still unprofessional to include limited-use software that advertises a more expensive edition. The user paid for a commercial media suite, and the impression he gets when he sees ads is that he hasn't installed the edition he paid for.

Creator Classic

Click to view a screen shot.

Creator Classic is pretty much the same old Easy CD Creator that you've known for more than a decade. It can create ISO files or write directly to discs. It can do data discs, audio CDs, multimedia discs in the HighMAT and MPV formats (Creator Classic can use multimedia files in nearly any format, including OGG), write ISO files to discs, and create bootable media. Bootable discs require a boot image file, and can emulate either a floppy or a hard disk. Though this was the most interesting new feature in Creator Classic, I wasn't able to test it because I wasn't sure where or how I would obtain a boot image beyond the ones used for BSD and Linux-based operating systems.

Overall I thought Creator Classic was rather limited. It does data discs better than any other program in the suite, but Music Disc Creator is far better suited to creating audio and multimedia discs.

Label Creator

Click to view a screen shot.

This is a simple vector drawing program with a fixed canvas size to accommodate printable labels for CDs and jewel case covers and jackets for all manner of discs. All of the label graphics you create are saved in a proprietary format that can't be used by other graphics software, so you're essentially locked into Label Creator forever.

You can make some really great-looking labels, booklets, and case jackets with this program. You can even do track listings, which Label Creator can pull from an online CDDB database. This feature did not work for me the first time I used the program, but after quitting and restarting Label Creator, it was enabled and retrieved disc and track information quickly.

I've never seen anything quite like this program before. I think it's a great idea, and makes creating labels and booklets a simple task.

Media Manager

Click to view a screen shot.

Media Manager is a multi-faceted program. Its most useful feature is in audio CD ripping and encoding into the MP3, WMA, or AAC formats. Beyond that, it also serves as a media organization tool and a method of presenting media files in a slideshow, or batch sending them to someone via email.

If you are already well-organized, Media Manager won't be terribly useful to you.

Music Disc Creator

Click to view a screen shot.

While Creator Classic may be the default disc writing tool for many, Music Disc Creator is a much more appropriate tool for creating audio discs. Not only can you create standard audio CDs, you can also create music DVDs that you can play on your home entertainment system (complete with art, animation, and navigation if you like), and MP3 or WMA audio discs that play in devices that support these formats.

I'm a big fan of themed cable music channels, which I often listen to while working on big projects. Audio DVDs let you do the same sort of thing -- create music presentations that show a picture of the artist or band plus some piece of trivia and navigation buttons in case you want to skip to a different part of the disc. This is a really cool application for party-throwers who want to provide some custom music mixes without going to the hassle of connecting a computer to their living room entertainment system. If you want to make multiple discs, no problem -- Music Disc Creator can save projects to the ISO9660 format, which can be used by any disc writing program on any operating system.

Lastly, Music Disc Creator can record new audio from the microphone or line-in jack. You can easily record your own narrative, or transfer records or tapes to CDs or DVDs.

MyDVD

Click to view a screen shot.

I'm not sure that I really understand what the point of MyDVD is. It's kind of like a less powerful Microsoft PowerPoint designed for DVD video discs. You can include video, audio, and graphics files of nearly any format, even some particularly obscure formats like OGG.

I suppose if you needed to give a media-rich presentation in the absence of a computer, MyDVD would be a top consideration. How often does a scenario like that occur, though?

PhotoSuite

This is Roxio's light-duty photo editing program. It can import photos directly from cameras or memory sticks, or from existing photo files stored in almost any graphics format. From there you can modify the photo in a number of ways, such as removing red-eye; skewing or rotating the picture; and adjusting the brightness, contrast, and color variables.

The only real problem with PhotoSuite is that its most important functions don't work very well. The autofix feature is guaranteed to screw up any picture, no matter how good or bad it is. The red-eye feature is difficult to use and doesn't work all that well. The rest of the features are basic, and any other photo editing program would have them, including free software that is cheaper to acquire and free to install on any number of computers.

Sound Editor

Click to view a screen shot.

Sound Editor is like PhotoSuite for audio, though it has more fancy sound effects than PhotoSuite has graphical enhancements. In addition to the basics (cropping, volume adjustment, mixing), you can do an automatic or manual EQ adjustment to clean up some audio distortion, add fade effects, remove a vocal track from a song, convert from mono to stereo, and add environmental or computerized effects.

Sound Editor can also record to WAV, WMA, MP3, and AAC with two quality settings for each of the compressed formats (192kbps/96kbps for MP3, and 128kbps/64kbps for WMA). You can also create audio discs, or you can design an audio CD layout and export it to Music Disc Creator for further refinement.

I liked the project view pane with the ability to see clips and their tracks on the same screen. I don't use many audio recording and mixing programs, so I don't know if this is a standard feature or not, but it certainly is a valuable thing to have.

Video Copy & Convert

Click to view a screen shot.

The first thing I noticed about this program was the introductory nag screen that comes up automatically, warning users that it is illegal to make unauthorized copies of copyright-protected works. The second thing I noticed about Video Copy & Convert is that it is unable to read commercial DVD discs, so you can't make backup copies of the DVD movies you've bought. The only discs you could conceivably copy are ones that you made yourself, from video you recorded. If that's the case, then you can just make another disc from the source material. In other words, this program is totally useless.

VideoWave

Click to view a screen shot.

This is the most complex program in Easy Media Creator 10 Suite, and therefore the most difficult to use. Some time spent playing with the interface and reading the help documents will get you on track inside of an hour or so, but this program is not immediately useful unless you've used video editing software extensively in the past.

The interface is great -- you can switch between storyline and timeline views, which allows you to edit an entire video one clip or scene at a time. There are hundreds of transitions and special effects to choose from, including overlays and text effects. It's incredibly easy to add these elements to a video. An afternoon spent playing with this software will result in an interesting home video that you can then transfer to a DVD and give out to friends and relatives.

You can also import or capture new video directly from a camera by using VideoWave. So almost the entire video production process, from transferring the original footage to electronic format to editing and mixing, to producing the final video, can be done with VideoWave. After that, you can use Easy Media Creator to make it into a DVD.

Conclusions and developer recommendations

There are a few really great programs in Easy Media Creator 10 Suite, but there some mediocre ones too. Of the 11 programs in the suite, I found 5 of them useful, and 6 of them either minimally useful or totally useless. Whether this suite is worth the money depends heavily on what software you already have installed on your system. If you need the functionality that Easy Media Creator 10 Suite offers, then it's a great deal. If you already have software that suitably fills most of the roles that the programs in this suite provide, then it's probably not worth it.

Should you upgrade from a previous release? Perhaps, but I'm not terribly familiar with the previous Easy Media Creator Suite releases, so I can't say for sure. However, I will say that this product as a suite is a great improvement over the traditional standalone Creator program.

The suggestions I have for Roxio are few in number but strong in substance:

  • No demo software in a commercial product. Including trial or limited-use software in a commercial suite is a bad idea. If you want to make these things free to download, that's fine, but asking people to pay for what amounts to an ad for a more full-featured edition is an excellent way to ruin confidence in your brand.
  • Remove the copy restrictions. Why bother with a video copying utility that can't copy the vast majority of discs that people want to copy? Let's be realistic here... most people want to copy a DVD movie to give to a friend or relative. That's what people did in the days of VHS, and that's what they want to do today with DVDs. Don't even bother including a disc copying program if it's not going to do what people want it to.
  • Support OGG for encoding. I use the OGG/Vorbis format exclusively for my audio files. It's a hassle to use WMA because so few platforms and devices support it, and MP3 is not only patent-encumbered, but it doesn't have optimal sound quality. OGG is an open standard that is free to implement. How hard can it possibly be to add support for ripping audio discs to OGG/Vorbis?
Purpose CD/DVD creation and media authoring tools.
Manufacturer Roxio
Supported platforms Windows XP and Vista.
License Proprietary, heavily restrictive. Requires Internet-activated product activation.
Market Home desktop users.
Price (retail) U.S. $80 for the full version, $70 for the upgrade edition (Buy it now from Amazon.com).
Previous version Easy Media Creator 9 Suite
Product Web site Click here