Sonic Introduces first Media Center PC DVD Authoring Tool

By Lance Ulanoff  |  Posted 2003-01-08 Print this article Print

The official announcement comes on the CES show floor tomorrow, but Sonic gave us (and you) an advanced look at PrimeTime, its new DVD creation application.

The nascent Media Center Edition PC is about to get some DVD-burning savvy. In an exclusive to, Sonic Solutions, Inc., has announced Sonic PrimeTime for Windows Media Center Edition PCs. The company will officially announce the software at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on Jan 9.

The maker of the DVD authoring applications MyDVD and DVDit! has built what it says is a DVD-burning solution for Microsofts "10-foot couch-to-television experience." The idea behind the application (scheduled to launch in March) is simple. Media Center will already record and store your favorite shows on its hard drive. The $59 PrimeTime will, according to general manager Mark Ely, allow users to peruse the list of stored shows and select them to burn to DVD. It will not, however, maintain a catalog of all of the DVDs youve burned using PrimeTime.

Built on the DVDit and MyDVD DVD-burning engine, PrimeTime will apparently create chapters for each show automatically and make sure you can fit the maximum number of shows on each DVD. Ely also stressed that the application will not reencode the video. Instead it will take the MPEG2 stream created by the Media Center Edition OS and convert it to DVD-ready format (only the audio will actually be reencoded).

Since DVDs will be created in the OpenDVD format, they will be reeditable in any of Sonics DVD editing applications (not including PrimeTime which wont actually be an editing application). Ely said that users could even, conceivably, rewrite to DVD+RW discs, but he admitted that the resulting disc might not be playable on all standalone DVD players. Users should be able to edit the DVD and burn to a different, more universally playable, DVD-R or +R disk, though. (PrimeTime, like its MyDVD and DVDit counterparts will, according to Ely, be able to write to all DVD media formats.)

Unlike ReplayTV (but like TiVo), Media Center PCs do not currently allow users to automatically skip commercials. PrimeTime will not remove ads either, but instead will archive shows with the commercials in tact. That said, Ely pointed out that theres nothing to prevent users from duplicating the relatively high-quality recorded DVDs PrimeTime generates. "Yes you could conceivable copy the DVD disk—not with our application—but with someone elses, you could."

He added, though, that recorded shows on the Media Center PCs have no DRM (Digital Rights Management) information associated with them. Sonic is currently investigating ways to block the recording of certain kinds of copyrighted material and even, possibly, to base some restrictions on ratings so that, for example, parents could stop children from recording R-rated movies to DVD.

Sonic PrimeTime is expected to be ready for download from Sonics Web site in mid–March, and while the company says that it will likely ship with new Media Center PCs, no OEM agreements have been announced.

Lance Ulanoff is Editor in Chief and VP of Content for PC Magazine Network, and brings with him over 20 years journalism experience, the last 16 of which he has spent in the computer technology publishing industry.

He began his career as a weekly newspaper reporter before joining a national trade publication, traveling the country covering product distribution and data processing issues. In 1991 he joined PC Magazine where he spent five years writing and managing feature stories and reviews, covering a wide range of topics, including books and diverse technologies such as graphics hardware and software, office applications, operating systems and, tech news. He left as a senior associate editor in 1996 to enter the online arena as online editor at HomePC magazine, a popular consumer computing publication. While there, Ulanoff launched, and and wrote about Web sites and Web-site building.

In 1998 he joined Windows Magazine as the senior editor for online, spearheading the popular magazine's Web site, which drew some 6 million page views per month. He also wrote numerous product reviews and features covering all aspects of the computing world. During his tenure, won the Computer Press Association's prestigious runner-up prize for Best Overall Website.

In August 1999, Ulanoff briefly left publishing to join as producer for the Computing and Consumer Electronics channels and then was promoted to the site's senior director for content. He returned to PC Magazine in November 2000 and relaunched in July 2001. The new was named runner-up for Best Web Sites at the American Business Media's Annual Neal Awards in March 2002 and won a Best Web Site Award from the ASBPE in 2004. Under his direction, regularly generated more than 25 million page views a month and reached nearly 5 million monthly unique visitors in 2005.

For the last year and a half, Ulanoff has served as Editor, Reviews, PC Magazine. In that role he has overseen all product and review coverage for PC Magazine and, as well as managed PC Labs. He also writes a popular weekly technology column for and his column also appears in PC Magazine.

Recognized as an expert in the technology arena, Lance makes frequent appearances on local, national and international news programs including New York's Eyewitness News, NewsChannel 4, CNN, CNN HN, CNBC, MSNBC, Good Morning America Weekend Edition, and BBC, as well as being a regular guest on FoxNews' Studio B with Shepard Smith. He has also offered commentary on National Public Radio and been interviewed by radio stations around the country. Lance has been an invited guest speaker at numerous technology conferences including Digital Life, RoboBusiness, RoboNexus, Business Foresight and Digital Media Wire's Games and Mobile Forum.

Lance also serves as co-host of PC Magazine's weekly podcast, PCMag Radio.


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