Review: Video Vault – Part 1: Software Installation, Archiving, and Managing Videos


video vault screenshot splashIf you’ve been praying for a developer to come up with an all-in-one solution to archive, manage, burn, transcode, and sync your DVD video collection for use on PCs, handhelds, and media adapters, Video Vault by X Software is the application for you (Retail $119.99). Yes, you may have noticed that they are a regular advertiser on eHomeUpgrade, but we couldn’t refuse doing a review for them when they offered us a free copy of Video Vault and provided us with a Samsung Portable Media Center and a D-Link Media Lounge to test their software with (FYI – those are just two of many supported devices). However, since we’re more of a blog style news site, we’re going to pass on offering a bloated review, but give you the goods in a three part series:

Part 1: Software Installation, Archiving, and Managing Videos
Part 2: Burning and Transcoding Videos
Part 3: Transferring and Synchronizing Videos

Installation: (10 out of 10)
Ok, lets get to it. Once you’ve purchased and downloaded Video Vault from X Software’s online store, just uncompress the file and execute the setup file. Soon you’ll see a pop-up… add your your user ID and password. Then you’ll be prompted to select your preferred video format NTSC or PAL (depends on your region – users in the U.S. should pick NTSC). Now we’re greeted by a pleasing and easy-to-navigate user interface (more skins are available online) which are divided into three areas. On the left sidebar you’ll find a series of large, graphical buttons: Import Disc, Import File, Import Tape (available only in the Deluxe version), Export to DVD, Export to PVP, Export to PDA, Export to File. The center area is your movie listing display. And, lastly, the right sidebar is your video format settings and control interface for Importing and Exporting videos.

Importing DVD movies into the Video Vault archive: (8.5 out of 10)
Importing movies into the Video Vault archive is as easy as dropping a unencrypted (aka DRM-free) DVD into the PC disc tray and clicking Import DVD, at which point Video Vault will automatically detect the DVD and queue the movie for import. Another way to import DVD movies is to Browse for movie folders on your hard drive (FYI – Video Vault won’t import a movie if you try to select the VIDEO_TS.IFO file, just select the parent folder). For people who like to use DeCSS stripping applications like DVDShrink and DVD Decrypter, this will probably be your importing method of choice. One thing you should know, though, is that Video Vault does not import movies with VOB and IFO files left intact, but transcodes the movie into a single MPEG file (minus the DVD menu – chapter and special feature selections will not be included – and subtitles) Hint: When saving DVD movies to your hard drive, leave the folder name “as is” (with caps and underscores) because Video Vault will read the DVD’s info file and import the movie’s correct title and attempt to download the cover art from X Software’s online DVD database. However, if you’ve edited the parent folder’s name you might have to manually edit the movie name (no biggie) and create your own cover art.

So far so good, right? Once Video Vault has detected your movie and queued it for import, you can click the Play button to preview the movie, click the Start button (it’s the circle on the bottom right) to begin importing movies to your preset Vault Folder or you can tweak the import format settings – set video dimensions/bit rate/audio codec – before importing. My suggestion is to import the DVD with its original settings and audio. Video Vault MPEG files are typically the same size and A/V quality is almost identical to the original. Side note: I did notice Video Vault had trouble syncing the audio and video with a couple of my 4.7GB DVDShrink transcoded movies, but the rest migrated without a hitch.

Overall I found the import process to be very intuitive and quick. Most movies were transcoded to MPEGs in less than 15 minutes on a 3Ghz P4 PC. Unfortunately, I didn’t have much success getting Video Vault to download cover art. However, right-clicking on the generic DVD thumbnail allowed me to add a custom JPEG image in its place (FYI – thumbnails are placed into their own folder).

Movie Management: (6.5 out of 10)
Movie management functions appeared to be fairly limited in the 2.0 release. I’ll be honest, I’m not sure what I would like to see here (maybe a movie sorting feature based meta data – actor, release date, film rating, etc. – downloaded from X Software’s online DVD database), but just having the option to sort movies by Genre and having the ability to add custom Genres left me wanting. Moreover, I recommend that X Software make Genre assignment and sorting a standard feature, since it’s only available in the Deluxe version.

However, I’ll give X Software bonus points for enabling users to view their movies directly in fullscreen mode, with clear playback controls, from within Video Vault. Also the ability to do quick info edits to movies in your selection list, and have those changes immediately reflected in your hard drive’s folder directory, is quite notable. It’s also worth pointing out that Video Vault’s Options panel is very well laid out, giving users optimal control over application settings and locations to store movie critical information.

Well that concludes Part 1 of 3. Stay tuned for Part 2 where I’ll be getting down in dirty with burning videos to DVDs and CDs, as well as, transcoding videos into different formats and sizes.

Jump to:
Part 2: Burning and Transcoding Videos
Part 3: Transferring and Synchronizing Videos to a PVP and DMA

* Ratings are based on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest and 5 being average.





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