<img src="http://www.digitalmediathoughts.com/images/videovault-000.gif" /><br /><br /><b>Product Category:</b> Software<br /><b>Manufacturer:</b> Diversified Multimedia<br /><b>Where to Buy:</b> <a href="http://www.divmm.com/">Diversified Multimedia site</a><br /><b>Price:</b> $49.99 USD<br /><b>System Requirements:</b> Unknown (none listed)<br /><br /><b>Pros:</b>
- <li>Powerful import and export options;<br /><li>Supports DVR-MS, which is rare and wonderful;<br /><li>Many portable video players supported.
- <li>Tacky user interface;<li>A bit unstable and buggy;<br /><li>Requires online product activation after you install.
<b>Summary:</b><br />Video Vault is a mixed bag: on one hand, it's amazingly powerful, able to import DVDs, raw video from a camcorder, and all sorts of video files (including TV shows from Media Center Edition 2005). On the other hand, it's got a tacky and convoluted interface badly in need of a polish, options that aren't obvious enough, and a few ugly and frustrating bugs. Top it off with online product activation, and you have an application that I have a hard time reccomending without some reservations.<br /><br />Read on for the full review!<!><br /><PAGEBREAK><br /><b><span>Comes in Many Sizes</span></b><br />Video Vault PVP is a flavour of the Video Vault product line aimed at the portable video player market. They have different versions that rise in price and also in functionality, including a PSP version ($29.95 USD), a PDA/Smartphone version ($29.95) an iPod version ($39.95), the PVP version I'm reviewing ($49.99), and finally the full version of the product simply dubbed Video Vault that sells for $99. You buy the one that most closely matches your device needs - Video Vault PVP is a good overall choice for someone that wants to be able to work with almost any sort of portable device.<br /><br /><b><span>Video Vault PVP in Use</span></b><br />So what does Video Vault PVP do? You need to <a href="http://www.divmm.com/Release/PVP/VideoVaultPVP.exe">download the free trial</a> to really find out, because the <a href="http://www.divmm.com/">very sparse product page</a> contains few details about the application. It's a very powerful application - I tested version 3.5.0.0166.<br /><br />The first thing I noticed after starting the program was the, uh, rather unique user interface <a href="http://www.digitalmediathoughts.com/images/videovault-001.gif">(image 1)</a>. You'll either love it because it's different from most Windows applications, or hate it because it looks so cheesy. I'm in the latter group - I'm all for making cool-looking applications, but I think Video Vault looks horribly tacky. Looks aside, how does it actually work? This is where Video Vault PVP really shines - it's a very powerful program. To start with, it can import video from non-encrypted DVDs, VCDs, SVCDs, even analog/digital video cameras with suitable hardware. Once you pair it with the <a href="http://www.slysoft.com/?aid=50312">awesome AnyDVD</a> [affiliate], you can rip commercial DVDs with ease. <br /><br />It's not just limited to importing DVDs: you can import a AVI, MPEG1, MPEG2, MPEG4, ASF, WMV, DVR-MS, VOB, TIVO, and other files. About the only popular format it doesn't support is Quicktime. I used the DVR-MS import extensively, and it worked great for taking TV shows and preparing them for my Zen Vision:M. There are numerous options <a href="http://www.digitalmediathoughts.com/images/videovault-002.gif">(image 2)</a> that can be set to further tweak your experience.<br /><br />Not only can it import a variety of video formats, it can export a variety as well - you first pick your device <a href="http://www.digitalmediathoughts.com/images/videovault-003.gif">(image 3)</a>, then you pick your preferred video format for that player <a href="http://www.digitalmediathoughts.com/images/videovault-004.gif">(image 4)</a>. In the case of my Zen Vision:M, if I'm planning on connecting the player to a TV set, I'll go for the 640 x 480 DivX at 1500 kbps. If I'm going to watch it on the device only, I would pick the 320 x 240 WMV at 640 kbps. If I'm in a rush to get it transcoded, I'd pick a 320 x 240 DivX at 750 kbps. There are options for 4:3 content and 16:9 content, allowing you to optimize for DVDs or regular TV shows. <br /><br />If you're ripping a DVD, you have granular control over what content you want to rip <a href="http://www.digitalmediathoughts.com/images/videovault-005.gif">(image 5)</a> - the video according to the DVD Info file, the largest file on the DVD, selection from all the movies, or even specific chapters. There's also control over subtitles, aspect ratio, even sound track - it's not easy to find though, you have to click on the item, then click again to get a drop-down menu with the options. I didn't know this until I happened to randomly click around a bit. That's just not good application design.<br /><br />Management of video files is also something that Video Vault PVP offers - when you rip a DVD or encode a video file, it adds that file to the library. You can then connect your portable player and use the application to move the file onto the device. Unfortunately when you delete files from the library it's permanent - they don't go into the Recyle Bin like they should. It might be that the developers thought because video files are large it's best to delete them, but I'd prefer to have the files in Recyle Bin as a fall-back.<br /><PAGEBREAK><br /><b><span>A Bumpy & Buggy Ride</span></b><br />If you decide to take the trial for a spin, be sure to reboot after you install the program. Even though it doesn't prompt you to reboot, I've had all sorts of problems with the application unless I do <i>install > reboot > start</i>. The single most problematic issue of all though is something that I've run into on two different laptops: the endless install loop.<br /><br />While working on this review I installed Video Vault PVP on my Futjisu P7010D laptop. I rebooted, then ran the application. I entered my registration information, which requires online product activation. I've installed and activated the program at least twice, and no problems with the activation so far, but I'm always extremely leery of any form of product activation because it's inherently hostile to the customer that bought the program in the first place. But back to the problem: after the activation, the application started up ok. I shut it down, then moved the shortcut from the Diversified Multimedia folder to my Video Tools folder. I started the application again, and that's when it all fell apart: somehow the application thinks it's not installed. It kicks off <a href="http://www.digitalmediathoughts.com/images/videovault-007.gif">an install routine</a> that looks for an MSI installer that doesn't exist anywhere on the hard drive. If you cancel out, you get <a href="http://www.digitalmediathoughts.com/images/videovault-008.gif">one error</a>, then <a href="http://www.digitalmediathoughts.com/images/videovault-009.gif">another</a>. I contacted developers about this and they were unable to offer any suggestions or fixes. Playing a hunch, I tried drilling down to the Program Files folder and executing the EXE directly - and it worked. I created a shortcut directly from the EXE. It doesn't make any sense - I examined both shortcuts and they're identical. The only difference was the location of the shortcut - the one that didn't work properly was in the <i>\user\Start Menu</i> folder, while the one that did work is in the <i>\All Users\Start Menu</i> folder. The problem is solved, but I went through weeks of frustration with this on my other laptop before finding this fix.<br /><br /><b><span>Can't Someone Get it Right?</span></b><br />As you can tell, I have a lot of admiration for the technical abilities of Video Vault PVP, but I also have reservations about the unpolished nature of the application, and the lack of a walk-through wizard to simplify the process of encoding. In many ways, I wish I could combine the features of Video Vault PVP with <a href="http://www.digitalmediathoughts.com/articles.php?action=expand,10488">Slysoft's CloneDVD Mobile</a> to get an application that has a great interface, is simply to use, updated often, and has every feature that I want. Someone has to get this right eventually, don't they?<br /><br /><i>Jason Dunn owns and operates <a href="http://www.thoughtsmedia.com">Thoughts Media Inc.</a>, a company dedicated to creating the best in online communities. He enjoys mobile devices, digital media content creation/editing, and pretty much all technology. He lives in Calgary, Alberta, Canada with his lovely wife, his sometimes obedient dog, and just can't get enough powerful CPUs for video transcoding.</i>