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Appeared on: Sunday, December 16, 2001
Ahead Nero 5.0 CD-R Software


1. Press Release

Nero 5.0 preview - Page 1

Press Release:
The official release of version 5.0 of Ahead Software's, Nero Burning Rom will be April 30th. There have been extensive enhancements to what is already being called the 'Emperor of CD Recording software'.

These include Multiple Burning options, or simply the ability to write to more than one CDRW at the same time (retail version or upgrade purchase). The new engine has improved multi-tasking capability, allowing both greater stability and improved speed.

Super Video CD support has now been added, allowing the capability to record MPEG2 files directly onto CD. At its maximum rate, a SVCD can store around 35 minutes of video in DVD quality. Along with Super Video CD, you can add still images and create a slideshow on a Video CD disc for playback on your pC or stand alone players.

Nero 5.0 now has significantly enhanced audio filters. You can now test the filters in real time and apply multiple filters simultaneously. New filters include a Karaoke filter, which cancels the voice track of music and a Cross Fading filter, which allows the blending of songs into each other. Also new is a Split function, which allows for the easy (multiple) splitting of a sound file. This is ideal for large wave files containing whole LP sides. The user interface has been improved to make playing with sounds extremely easy and fun.

During 1999, Nero became the first CD mastering software to incorporate MP3 encoding and decoding. This is further extended in 5.0 with the support of M3U playlists. These files contain lists of audio files in ASCII text format, meaning they can be edited using the Windows program Notepad, for example. They are read by most MP3 playback programs and can now also be read and generated by Nero. If such an M3U playlist file is dragged into a Nero audio compilation window, then Nero will add all audio files of the M3U playlist to its audio compilation automatically.

Nero again looks to the future by supporting Twin VQ, the audio compression system developed by NTT. It is now possible to encode and decode Twin VQ files, which typically are much smaller than MP3 files, at a better quality.

Nero 5.0 supports a CD and title database allowing you to find title and artist information on a given audio CD. The title and artist information will be stored within the audio file, if the file format supports this kind of information [VQF (Sound VQ), MP3 or WMA (MS Audio)]. The powerful database allows to store an almost unlimited amount of CD titles and songs, and access them very fast. As an example, the FreeDB-Database with more than 1.000.000 song titles can be imported to Nero and then each entry can be accessed in less than 0.1 sec.

Support for the copying of CD-Extra discs is now possible, and for the retail version a CD label kit will now be included. Nero users can check the upgrade policy.


2. Page 2

Nero 5 preview - Page 2

New Features:
- Multiple Burning!!
- Video CD (VCD) Still Images and Slideshows!!
- Super Video CD support!!
- Enhanced audio filters
- Support of M3U playlists
- CD Database support
- Twin VQ audio compression support
- Copying of CD-Extra and Multisession CDs

Impressions:
We got a preview version from Ahead in order to test the new features. We installed the v5.0 preview over v4.0.9.1. After rebooting, we immediately run it. The basic look of the program is still the same. Let's see what's new:

File>>Preferences. (Added Database and Buffer Tabs)

Database Tab:
Nero 5 supports a CD and title database. This database is used to find title and artist of a given audio CD. This information is not stored on normal audio CDs unless the CD contains CD Text. The title and artist information will be stored within the audio file, if the file format supports this kind of information (VQF (Sound VQ), MP3 (MPEG 1 Layer 3) or WMA (MS Audio)). The user can also automatically add CD Text information to copies of audio CDs. Such copies are in some ways "better" than simple 1:1 copies, because the copied CD contains more information than the original CD. If a CD contains CD Text information, some audio CD players can display title and artist of the CD.

Buffer Tab: You can specify Nero's Buffer.
The Nero buffer feature has two options: Automatic or Manual configuration. As you can see below Nero suggests using at most 40% of the physical memory.

Let's get back to main program window.

Edit Tab: Nothing new here.
View Tab: Nothing new here.
CD-Recorder Tab: Nothing new here. But! Let's search submenus...Let's select "Erase RW". Something new added here: The "Multiple Recorders" option.

With this new feature, if you have more than one CDR-W drive installed in your system you can now use both. However, notice that Nero doesn't support different simultaneous jobs (as Prassi PrimoCD does!) in the same program window. As Ahead told us this new feature is mostly added more for "duplication needs".

This means you must open a second program instance and tick the "Use Multiple Recorders" option in order to be able to use the CDR-W drives that are left. Nero is smart and if one drive is occupied will not appear it in drive selection window. The Preview version of Nero 5.0 supports simultaneous burning on two recorders only. However the retail version might support more recorders. How much? It isn't known yet...

Extras Tab: New option added. With them you can manage your Databases.

Also you can do "File Encoding" for wav,mp3,wma,vqf files (convert them to other format:
- MP3 (both VBR and CBR from 96kbits to 320kbit)
- WMA (from 64kbits to 160kbits)
- PCM Wav File (convert in wav files from 11025/22050/44100, 8/16 bit and stereo/mono options)
- VQF Files (80/96kits with Low/Medium/High quality)




3. Page 3

Nero 5 preview - Page 3

New Jobs

In Nero 5.0 new jobs added! SuperVCD authoring and VCD "Still Images and Slideshows" capabilities.

Super Video CD: SVCD is an extension of the VCD standard which uses MPEG-2 compression with variable bit rate encoding, and also allows a bitrate that is twice that of VCD. Therefore, SVCD also offers better image quality, although it means less total playing time if the full bandwidth is used. At DVD quality, a SVCD can store up to 35 minutes of video, compared to 70 minutes for VCD MPEG-1 quality. Nero itself does not support encoding to MPEG. It requires MPEG files that are already prepared for VCD or SVCD. This can be done with third-party programs such as Ulead VideoStudio MPEG Encoder. Both PAL and NTSC standards are supported. You can read more about it in our SuperVCD Article.

Video CD (VCD) Still Images and Slideshows: Still images can be added to a (Super) Video CD compilation. JPEG files can be dragged into the MPEG section of a (S)VCD compilation and simple slide-shows created. The (S)VCDs can be played back in all (S)VCD and DVD players which can read CD-R/CD-RW media. You can read more about it in our VCD Article.

Copying of CD-Extra and Multisession CDs: the copying of CD-Extra and other Multisession CDs is now fully supported.

Improved AudioCD filters: all audio filters have been improved. It is now possible to test the filters in real-time and apply multiple filters simultaneously. New filters include a Karaoke filter, which cancels the voice track of music and a Cross Fading filter, which allows the blending of songs into each other. Also new is a Split function, which allows for the easy (multiple) splitting of a sound file.

M3U Playlist support: Nero 5 now supports the so-called M3U playlists. These files contain lists of audio files in ASCII text format. This means they can be edited using text editors such as Windows "Notepad". The playlists are read by most MP3 playback programs and can now also be read by Nero. If such a M3U Playlist file is dragged into a Nero audio compilation window, then Nero will add all audio files of the M3U Playlist to its audio compilation automatically. A nice side effect of this strategy is that title and artist information can also be stored for those audio file formats which would normally not support storing title and artist information. As Nero also stores this data in the M3U Playlist, even title and artist of wave files remain intact if you store all tracks and then drag the generated M3U Playlist file back into an audio compilation. Furthermore, M3U Playlist files can be read and written by most popular MP3 playback programs, including the Nero Media Player.

Data Jobs:
The two new features of Nero 5.0 are impressive. No other CDR software this time has direct support for SVCD+VCD "still images and slideshows". At last all SVCD fans will be able to burn their favorite SVCD movies to CD and play them on standalone SVCD players.

(S)VCD supports advanced features like Karaoke and hierarchical menus with images, but none of these are used by Nero at the moment. Nero simply takes a list of MPEG or image files and writes them onto a disc so that play starts immediately with the first item and the forward and backward button of a player jump between the files.

A pause can be set that will stop playback at the end of each item. Because this is only a value in the description of each item, the pause does not require the generation of empty blocks and may be very large or even infinite, i.e. causing the player to stop and wait for user interaction.

In Nero v5.0, still images can be added to a (Super) Video CD compilation. In contrast to movies, still images can and have to be encoded by Nero itself. For now only JPEG files can be dragged into the MPEG section of a (S)VCD compilation. Other image formats may be added in later versions. Encoded images are stored in the first track and can be found in the SEGMENT directory when looking at the disc in a PC. Because a (S)VCD has to contain at least one additional track, Nero creates an empty one, even if the compilation only contains images.

Images are prepared automatically for the resolution expected by (S)VCD, which means that the resolution of the original images is arbitrary. Options to control this image manipulation possibly will be added in future versions of Nero. The generation of thumbnail images with shortcuts to the full size images is also planned.

These are the image sizes supported by both standards:

PAL

NTSC
VCD, normal
352x288
352x240
VCD, high
704x576
704x480
SVCD, normal
480x576
480x480
SVCD, high
704x576
704x480

A VCD always stores the normal resolution for older players, but may also offer the higher resolution for players that have a better display. An SVCD on the other hand only stores either image size. Nero generates the higher resolution when the source image is large enough and also detects the video mode automatically.

CD Copy engine of Nero has also been improved and now supports copying of CD-Extra and Multisession CDs. However no option for RAW reading/writing has been added as we had expected. Let's hope Ahead will add this soon…

We also tested the "Multiple Recorders" option. In the Burn menu of each job the "Use Multiple Recorders" has been added. As we already said if you have more than one CDR-W drive you will find this option useful.

We made some preliminary tests using two CDR-W drives and writing from two Nero windows at the same time. We didn't notice any problems. However, we will run more tests soon and add the results. The Burn window has also changed since the Buffer Size indicator has been added:


At last, there are also some changes in the "Dates" Tab of the Burn menu of each job:


AudioCD Jobs:
As we said, Nero improved it's build-in filters. You can now test the filters in real-time and apply multiple filters simultaneously:


Also, new is the Split function, which allows multiple splits of a sound file with a truly easy way. Select in the wave form window the place you want to place a split and press "Split". You just split your file. Of course you can edit the split position in order to be more precise in time length.


4. Page 4

Nero 5 preview - Page 4

"How to create a SVCD with Nero"

Nero is a dedicated CD recording software, so Ahead's focus when creating a SVCD is the recording part, not the encoding of MPEG-2. Nero's SVCD support does not have to be purchased separately, so Ahead believes that they cannot give you a feature-packed CD recording software plus an MPEG encoder for less than you would normally pay for a good encoder alone... To us is seems quite fair ;)

There has been some confusion about what kind of input files are accepted by Nero for VCD and SVCD. The general answer is: MPEG files that have already been prepared for VCD or SVCD. If the files conform to the VCD or SVCD specs, Nero is able to write a VCD or SVCD on-the-fly without re-encoding the files. Its important to realize that there are different types of MPEG files. What makes a MPEG suitable for a (S)VCD is way beyond the scope of this short text and has to be dealt with by the makers of an MPEG encoder. It involves details and settings that simply cannot be chosen via the user interface of existing encoders, unless they have a button dedicated to "(S)VCD encoding".

Having said that, there is a way to at least make Nero happy with the source MPEG files. However, this is still far from producing a standard compliant CD, because Nero cannot test all the relevant aspects.

The most obvious (and most easily met) requirement is picture size:

 

PAL

NTSC

VCD Normal

352x288

352x240

VCD Hhigh

704x576

704x480

SVCD Normal

480x576

480x480

SVCD High

704x576

704x480

 

The "high" resolutions are only available for still images, not for movies. Versions of Nero lower than 5.0.0.8 implied that "high" resolutions were allowed for movies. This has now been fixed. The new version will come out soon...

- For still images, Nero will do the encoding by itself, so the picture sizes may differ. Nero will automatically fit the picture into the available space (this will be user-configurable in a future update if users request this).
- The frequency for the video is 25Hz for PAL and 29.97Hz for NTSC. The VCD format also allows a "MOVIE" resolution of 352x240 at 23.976Hz, but although this is legal, it is said to cause problems with some players.
- Audio must be MPEG-1, layer 2, at 44.1kHz, stereo. SVCD also allows a second music channel and MPEG-2 multi-channel. The second channel is usually used for another language or - in case of Karaoke - for the music without the vocal track.

Apart from these obvious aspects, Nero also requires the MPEG-2 file to have a pack size that fits directly into a mode 2, form 2 block, i.e. it must be 2324 bytes large. If this (and for VCD also some other minor aspects) is not met, then Nero will list the file as having an "invalid stream encoding". Nero does not test if scan information is stored in the user data of a stream. Scan information is required by the SVCD standard and might be required by certain players for seeking functions. Nero also accepts streams that contain invalid stream IDs.

How about suitable MPEG-2 encoders?
We now reached the million dollars question. Below is an list with some Mpeg2 encoders and if they can produce SVCD Mpeg files:

Encoder

Homepage

Accepted by Nero

SVCD compliant

bbMPEG 1.21

members.home.net/ beyeler/bbmpeg.html

yes

 yes

I-Author

www.enreach.com/P roducts/products/iaut hor/iauthsvcd.htm

yes, with PS option

probably

Ligos LSX 3.0

www.ligos.com/

yes, with suitable profile 

probably not

PixelTools DVD-Expert

www.pixeltools.com/

yes, with pack size 2324 + 

no

Ulead

 

uses Ligos technology, see above

 

 

Ligos does not officially support SVCD, but unofficial profiles can be found that are good enough to produce a SVCD that work, for instance, in a Yamakawa SVCD player and perhaps others as well:

- MPEG Encoder 3.0: http://home.earthlink.net/~jdwolf/
- MPEG-2 Adobe Premiere Plug-In: http://www.stanford.edu/~jkratz/plugin.htm

You can often fix broken stream encoding by demultiplexing a stream with Brent Beyeler's bbTOOLS (see bbMPEG link above) and then multiplexing it again with bbMPEG.

Ahead is trying to contacting all vendors of MPEG-2 encoding and although they have replied quickly, fixing their products for SVCD may either take a while or they are still evaluating the demand on the market. So talk to your vendor (politely ;-) if you want them to produce an encoder that supports SVCD correctly. And then burn, baby, burn.

Interesting links

MPEG-2 encoder test: www.tecoltd.com/enctest/enctest.htm
SVCD info pages:
- www.iki.fi/znark/video/svcd/overview/  or www.uwasa.fi/~f76998/video/svcd/overview/
- www.geocities.com/bug2kbug/
- www.ratos.de/


5. Page 5

Nero 5 preview - Page 5

Final Conclusion

Positive (+)
Negative (-)
- SAO burning mode added
- Multiple Burning added
- Super Video CD Authoring added!
- (S)VCD "Still Images and Slideshows" added!
- M3U Playlist support
- CD Database support
- Buffer Size option added
- Filters can be previewed in real time
- New filters
- Very stable
- Support for Win2k
- No RAW support yet
- No cancel button after the recording has started!

Our *preliminary* impression for Nero 5.0 is that Ahead managed to improve Nero and add some unique features for a CD Recording program. SuperVCD and VCD "still images and slideshows" are not included in any other CDR software package at this time being. Of course some other packages (VideoPack 5.0 from Cequadrat) will include those two new features but don't forget that we are talking about CDR recording software here, not a video authoring tool!

Ahead added a multiple burning option too. When reading about it we thought that it would work almost like Prassi PrimoCD Pro series did. However Ahead's approach is a little different. If you already have a Nero job running, you can't do any other task in Nero without opening a second program instance.

Nero's "Multiple Engine" is smart and when a CDR-W drive is occupied with one job it does't show up in drive's selection window. The same thing happens if you are doing a CD Copy job and thus occupying a CDR-W and CD-Rom drive. As we said, our tests showed that doing a combination of jobs (data+audio, data+videocd, eraseRW+eraseRW) with two CDR-W drives didn't produce any problem on first sight. In order to be sure, we need to run more tests on the "Multiple Burning Option" and update the review soon.

The AudioCD authoring has improved since the new filter engine allows you to preview them in real time. Splitting the audio files is also quite easy.

However , there are some features which most of users (including us) would like to see in Nero 5.0. The Nero 5.0 preview version didn't include RAW reading/writing. Nero is known to users for it's advanced CD Copy capabilities on protected CDs. However, in the market there are some new software packages which acquired the title for the ultimate copier (such as CloneCD). We believe that Ahead must include RAW reading/writing to it's CD Copy engine, especially since most manufactures plan to (or have already) supported MMC DAO RAW in their CDR/W models.



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