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Broderbund Makes Videos as Easy as Print Shop

By Jim Bray

For more than fifteen years now, Broderbund's "The Print Shop" has been empowering home and home office users who need a quick, easy, and affordable way to do basic publishing chores.

The Print Shop

And now the company has introduced “Movie Shop,” a home video editing studio designed to be as easy to use as “Print Shop.” And for the most part, they’ve succeeded. See here for our Movie Shop review.

But back to Print Shop, a program that has always been incredibly easy and flexible, so much so that, other than making technological upgrades like the jump from 16 to 32 bit Windows several years ago, and the addition of the requisite media libraries and many new features, "Print Shop" itself had hardly changed from its initial incarnation.

Print Shop 10 was the last version we reviewed, and though the look and feel had changed from “the good old days,” the basic virtues of the program remained: ease of use, power, and flexibility.

Now we have version 15, which has been trimmed to four CD’s from its previous 9 (also available on DVD), though in my experience I never use even one per cent of the media Broderbund includes - and even if I did they have an online component that, while not free, lets you download images from the Internet instead of having more CD’s piling up on your shelf.

The new version obviously lets you do all the nifty stuff you always could, like designing or adapting from a template your own greeting cards, signs, banners, calendars, etc. You can save your designs as HTML files, too, so you can throw 'em up onto the world wide web. It’s no "Dreamweaver" or "Hot Metal Pro," but it doesn’t pretend to be.

And now you can also output to PDF, the Adobe Acrobat files that are becoming the industry standard for transmitting print document electronically.

Another interesting feature is “Create Stationery Set,” which is a nifty way to design a whole set of business cards, letterheads, fax cover sheets, and the like, all of which has a consistent look - and you get plenty from which to choose. It’s very easy and, if you’ve filled in your personal information on installation, lets you point and click your way through the process, even to adding a picture to the collection. I wish there was space for a slogan, but what do you want from such mainstream software?

Besides the usual greeting cards, banners, and signs, you can also create things you’d probably associate more with programs like Microsoft Publisher or higher end graphics/publishing software - like brochures, newsletters, forms, etc.

When you’ve created your masterpiece you can print it out normally, as a PDF, or export it to a variety of file formats. You can even upload your file to the Internet to have it printed out professionally and delivered right to your door - for an extra charge, of course.

PRint Shop

You can also take advantage of Print Shop’s extensive pre-designed templates and layouts that add a lot of flexibility to your projects as well as adding from the seemingly innumerable pieces of media files like clip art, background sounds or videos.

I like beginning with a pre-designed project rather than starting from scratch (which you can also do), and adapting it for my own use; it's a nice and easy way to get started, yet the finished product usually bears little if any resemblance to the template with which I started.

How much you deviate from the templates is limited by your own creativity. I generally write my own greeting cards, using Print Shop as the starting point - but if you want to you can choose from an abundance of sayings, quotes, or best wishes from the software's collection.

You can make multi-page calendars and photo albums, borders, and even do some photo editing.

Its image manipulation capabilities let you add drop shadows, transparency effects, and stuff like that.

Now, Print Shop Deluxe isn't going to put Quark or PageMaker out of business - nor will it give CorelDraw or Adobe Illustrator/PhotoShop a run for their money. It isn't meant to, though. Print Shop is designed to let the average computer user do the basics of all those heavyweight apps, and unlike its industrial strength competition you can use it right out of the box, with no special training, and it doesn’t cost an arm and leg.

In short, Print Shop Deluxe 15 is a delight, as expected, with a no brainer interface and enough built in stuff to let the average person get up and running with virtually no learning curve.

Professionals may sneer at Print Shop, but they're doing it a disservice - and it isn't meant for them anyway.

If you're someone who wants something quick, easy, and incredibly flexible, that unleashes your creativity without sending you back to school, check out this product!

Movie Shop

And now there’s Movie Shop Deluxe, the easiest video production software I’ve used to date. It ain’t perfect, but it’s certainly simple to use.

Once you’ve captured your video footage, you can use Movie Shop to transform your clips into honest to goodness video productions, complete with music, titles, special effects, etc. You can output in quality ranging form DVD (DVD burning capability is built in) to Web quality, the former of which is great for optimizing quality while the latter is ideal for sharing your videos over the Internet. Naturally, you can take advantages of quality and formats in between as well.

When you fire up Movie Shop deluxe you’re greeted by a little menu asking if you want to start a new project, edit an existing one, or view the tutorial. Choosing a new project brings up the menu of quality/file choices and from there you’re whisked to the main program.

And that program is so simple a child could use it. Check that; children are often far ahead of their parents, so maybe I should say it’s so simple a senior citizen can use it (and please don't write to complain about me being “ageist” - it’s just a joke).

In fact, it’s as easy as “1-2-3.” The main window is laid out in steps, with a timeline at the bottom and a preview window to the top right. When you first reach this screen, an animated arrow grabs your attention and tells you to “drag media clips here.” Well, that couldn’t be much simpler.

So you drag each of your clips there, after which the prompt moves to step 2, with the same “drag media clips here” label. This is the “storyboard,” where you actually assemble your video, laying out the clips in order and even (using the menus) trimming them to eliminate stuff you don’t want in your final production. Below that is the Timeline display, which shows your clips in order along with their running time. Here, you can slide your clips around to choose such things as the overlap time of the clips (for dissolves etc.).

Broderbund gives you a good selection of transitions (wipes, dissolves, etc.), effects like “film noise” and “motion blur” and audio fades. Using them all is pretty straightforward.

You can also capture footage, and stretch slice or rotate your clips.

Once you’re ready to create your Emmy winner, just click “File,” “Save Movie” and direct Movie Shop to the folder you want while telling it what file format you want. You can save to MPEG 1 and 2, Real Media, Windows Media, QuickTime, AVI, etc.

You can also burn directly to a disc from the “File” menu.

Movie Shop also comes with a media manager with which you can organize your digital photos, MP3s, video clips, and other media files, and you also get a fair selection of pre-made content including “design kits” with which you can give you footage a consistent look, including titles and frames. You also get music and sound effects, and a variety of video clips including countdowns, titles, and the like.

For the $70 US price, it’s a pretty fully featured product!

A great bonus is The Little Digital Video Book by Michael Rubin, a guide to digital video editing for beginners and intermediate users. Another bonus is neoDVD Standard, another very easy to use program that lets you create DVD’s right from the initial video capture.

Now, just as “The Print Shop” isn’t going to replace a graphic designer and /or page layout expert working with a high quality professional print house, Movie Shop isn’t going to put DreamWorks out of business. But if you’re an amateur working on your home movies, it can do a nice job for you, whether you want to share your footage over the Web, on VHS, PC, or DVD.

And that’s not bad!


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January 31, 2006