I started to write this article as a usability critique after attempting to use NCH Software’s Express Burn software for DVD authoring. I fumbled about with it trying to memorialize my wife’s recent performance in “Wonderland” at the Bastrop opera house.
I kept insisting to myself that there is no way that any software company would let a UI out that required the user to watch the entire movie in real-time to insert the chapter labels. That’s right. No rewind, no fast forward. If you click too slow, well buster, you are starting over.
My wife finally got it to work and explained to me that “all I had to do” was burn a copy of the DVD as an image to the hard drive, then watch the movie using its unique timeline, dutifully write down each time-stamp when a chapter should start, save that into a file and then import the file into the software. Simple!
It made me want to get a management job at NCH software and fire everyone responsible for this software on my first day.
Update: Turns out I was a bit hasty in derriding the design choices of this program on this particular element. It looks like it is merely a bug in the software and not the intended functionality (as evidenced in the help file) so I’ll cut them a little slack. However, my point about this type of software being particularly crashy, freezy, and otherwise annoying stands.
Lowering the bar
Apparently this problem is so systemic that even the reviewers are making excuses for the software vendors.
DVD authoring software is computer system intensive and program shut downs are not uncommon. We looked for software that crashed less frequently and still created great DVD videos.
Abstractions? What Abstractions?
Another area where this class of software seems to underperform is protecting its abstractions. I have to know too freaking much about the DVD formats and options at a technical level to use this software, for example:
- The nuanced differences between DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD+R, DVD+RW, BD-R, BD-RE, BD-R DL, and BD-RE DL.
- Whether PAL or NTSC make more sense for my video.
- Data CD, Movie CD, or Movie on a Data CD?
Granted, some of these answers I know. However, why should I *Have* to?
Couldn’t all of these options be presented in a wizard that asks questions like “Different countries have different DVD formats, so I need to ask: What country will this DVD be used in?” They could even provide an expert mode where the acronym savvy guys who were in the A/V club in high school can get hyper-specific to their heart’s content.
I am working on a theory of why this general class of software is universally horrid and crash prone and my best theories so far are:
* The same buggy OEM software is built into all the major DVD authoring software.
* This is consumer grade software (meaning low priced) to do professional grade tasks. When cost cutting is afoot, it isn’t hard to see who typically feels it first. “Why are we wasting valuable resource on QA when our last three releases of the software didn’t have any major bugs?”
Appeal To Those in the Know
I’ve got to have at least one reader with inside knowledge of software companies that make this type of application. Do you work with this type of software or know someone who does? Am I missing some major reason that no one can create a stable platform to burn a DVD?