Even if you've never purchased software from Nero, there's a good chance that you've already used some of it. That’s because Nero also produces basic disc burning software which is bundled free of charge with many external drives as well as with PCs outfitted built-in disc burning drives. However, the bundled software isn't nearly the same as Nero 11 Platinum, a comprehensive software package which lets you do just about anything you'd want to do in disc media creation, ranging from backup, rescue, and creating a CD or DVD cover to advanced audio and video editing.
A Mixed Collection
Nero essentially gives the bundled software away on the chance that some end users (you and I) will pay to upgrade to the “full” versions. Nero 11 Platinum is the “fullest” version currently available.
Unlike most upgrades from bundled software though, Nero 11 Platinum is not a more capable and full-featured expansion of a “lite” version. Rather, it is a collection of multiple programs, among which Nero Express (the basic free disc burning program) is just one.
If you’re getting ready to download Nero 11 Platinum, be forewarned. The download amounts to over 1GB, and it takes a while. As with many programs, you’re offered a choice of express or custom installation. I've never been so glad to have chosen custom. If I hadn't made that choice, I think I might have missed several “hidden” component programs!
With custom install, you’re offered your choice among a dozen software components: (1) Nero Burning ROM; (2) Nero Updates; (3) Nero BackItUp (4) Nero Cover Designer; (5) Nero Express; (6) Nero Kwik Media; (7) Nero RescueAgent; (8) Nero Video; (9) Nero SoundTrax; (10) Nero Wave Editor; (11) Nero Recode; and (12) Nero ThemePacks.
The software runs on Microsoft Windows 7, Vista and XP (note: The slightly lower-priced Nero 11 -- not the Platinum version -- is essentially the same as Platinum, but it comes minus the ThemePacks, which provide extensive libraries of templates).
After you install Nero 11 Platinum, four icons appear on the desktop: Nero Video 11, Nero Kwik Media, Nero Burning ROM, and Nero BackItUp. I initially assumed -- incorrectly -- that all the other programs I just installed must be subcomponents of these main four. I'll tell you more about that later. In any event, the video editing program was the most complex and feature-filled of the group.
Nero Kwik Media
Nero Kwik Media turned out to be a basic media file organization and playback program for helping you to collate and play your video files, music files and photos.
With Quik Media, you can take a group of media files (audio, video or photos) and burn a disc from them, such as an audio CD from several music files. You can also produce slick automated slide shows based on selected themes. In addition, Kwik Media links to an online service where you can order calendars, mugs, greeting cards and other photo-based products.
Nero Burning ROM
When you launch Nero Burning ROM, a sub-window pops up for "New Compilation." There, you decide whether you want to create a DVD, Blu-ray or CD, and in what format, etc. This is a full-featured disc creation and disc copying utility. If it looks too complicated to match your level of expertise, there’s a button that takes you to Nero Express.
Click that button, and the program you’re in closes, which then launches Nero Express. Express is a light version of Burning ROM. In fact, you might already know how to use it, if you've already used the free Nero disc burning software that comes bundled with so many products.
Launching Nero BackItUp brings up a menu for numerous backup options, including a huge on/off button to begin automated LIVEBackup service using an external drive, and a smaller link to the (paid) Nero Online Backup service. Other options include “Sync” for keeping files on a USB drive up to date, full drive backups, and restoring from backup files.
Nero Video 11
The actual video editing program, Nero Video 11, is way more capable than the free Windows Moviemaker program that comes with Windows (although Nero has a nice ability to import projects from Moviemaker). Moreover, Nero Video 11 is almost, but not quite, on par with standalone video editing products such as Pinnacle Studio.
Like most video editing programs, Nero Video 11 uses a timeline that can be switched from an “easy” mode showing thumbnails of each video clip, to an advanced mode displaying the individual video and audio tracks. The advanced mode has much to offer, but once you start using it, you can never go back to easy editing.
With Nero Video 11, you must first import files before you can drag them to the timeline. The process is quick, however, and a new (compared to version 10) Media Browser transcends all the Nero applications. Consequently, you import files only once.
For advanced video editors, strengths of the software include the ability to readily add numerous video and audio tracks to the timeline; roll and slip tools for trimming edit points; frame-by-frame simulated jog dial, and audio level changes over time.
Another interesting feature, intended for use with TV tuners, can automatically remove TV commercials.
Some 50 video transitions are on hand in Advanced Editing, including the usual wipes and dissolves along with some more distinctive choices like Kaleidoscope, Pond Ripple and Quicksand. There are also 59 different video effects, many of which offer technical picture adjustments -- such as brightening or darkening, color and contrast adjustment, or zoom -- and standbys such as Old Film (three levels) and Posterize. Also built-in are some more unique effects, namely Earthquake and Wobbles.
Finishing Video Projects
The export menu offers choices to create files in a variety of formats. These include MPEG-2 (the DVD file format) and Blu-ray encoding; recording back to camera; uploading to Web, and email attachment.
Notably lacking here is an obvious and easy way to go directly to disc burning, however. At the bottom of the editing sceen, though, you'll find a button marked “Next” which will take you back to the Nero Video menu screen. There, you'll find DVD and Blu-ray authoring. Click on DVD, and you'll first get a “Content” window that lets you insert chapter marks. Click “Next” again in the lower right corner and you'll be in a DVD menu creation window. Click "Next" a third time and you'll see a Preview window. Click "Next" yet again and you'll finally get to the window where you can actually burn the DVD.
Record Directly to Disc
The Capture button on the opening video menu leads you to a utility that lets you record video directly onto a DVD or Blu-ray. You must have a source for the live video. An external camera, TV tuner, video capture card, or built-in Webcam will all do the trick.
After poking around all of the menus available from the four desktop icons that were automatically installed, I realized I had not yet seen the Wave Editor program for editing audio files. Audio editing is something that I do quite a bit, and I was curious... so I took a look in the program files directory where Nero Platinum 11 was installed.
Sure enough, there was the WaveEditor .exe file. I double-clicked on the icon and this very powerful, pro-level audio editor program appeared, capable of numerous advanced effects such as a voice modification control to change timing and pitch independently. This program is actually my favorite in the entire suite (I immediately created a desktop shortcut after finding it).
In fairness, these “hidden” programs do show up two other ways. For one thing, you can find them in the Windows Start> All Programs menu (although on my computers, this is usually so cluttered that I barely ever look at it, in preference to desktop icons). Also, each of the four icons automatically installed by Nero delivers a “Welcome” screen upon launch which offers you these other programs, Yet, you won't see these welcome screens unless you're connected to the Internet.
SoundTrax, Recode, RescueAgent, and Cover Designer
Nero SoundTrax, another “hidden” program, is a fairly powerful audio recording and sound mixing program that lets you mix in 7.1 surround sound, as well as in stereo sound. Additionally, you can burn to CD and output to a wide variety of audio file formats. SoundTrax also integrates with the WaveEditor program if you want to create effects or edit one of the tracks you are mixing.
Nero Recode, similarly "hidden," lets you convert video files from one format to another, with target profiles for iPod, iPhone and iPad; Xbox 360; PSP, and more. It can convert video files into Flash format, AVI, WMV, and MPEG-4.
The hidden Nero RescueAgent is a utility for rescuing files from CDs, DVDs, hard drives and USB memory sticks which have become corrupted.
Finally, Nero Cover Designer is a non-hidden graphics program for creating covers for both discs and disc cases. The program contains a large variety of built-in templates, including DVD Case and DVD Slim Case and several options for Blu-ray and CD. Nero Cover Designer is accessible from a “More” button at the bottom of the screen in the video editing program, as well as from a “Cover Designer” icon in the Burning ROM program.
As an experienced video editor, I like the video editing in Nero 11 Platinum much more than I expected to like it. I am impressed with some of the fancier editing creature comforts. On the other hand, I am a bit disappointed by the lack of integration.
Nero 11 Platinum comes off not as a unified program, but more like a collection, and the collection is quite redundant. Do you want to burn a DVD? Nero 11 Platinum contains (by my count) at least five ways to do this (in Burning ROM, Express, Kwik Media, BackItUp and the DVD creation tool in Nero Video). I appreciate the nuances of the different approaches to DVD burning, but a beginner might get lost.
However, each component program launches rather quickly, and there’s something to be said for having the right tool for each job. At a $129.95 list price (and $109.95 on Nero’s site), the value is extraordinary. Any confusion around navigating through Nero 11 Platinum’s component programs can be forgiven.