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InterActual DVD

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I recently found this little gem of a computer DVD player. I was very impressed. While not perfect it is relatively inexpensive and works better than several of the alternatives. First of all, and probably most important, it replaces the need for the infamous PC Friendly. Finally, a computer DVD program that will access all your DVD ROM features without crashing your computer. Even with a 56kbs modem it will take only a few minutes to download, time well spent. Recently they have started to charge $29.99 for the full version of the program. They do still have a freeware upgrade but this version requires your system already has DVD decoder.

The program has a nice look to it. The look can be easily changed by applying one of the various skins available on the web site. The interface is fairly intuitive and easy to navigate. The program operates in two modes, DVD Player and InterActual mode. The DVD player mode provides viewing of the regular, non DVD ROM features of the disc. This mode is much like the typical computer based DVD players. The InterActual mode goes right to the DVD ROM menu and permits access to all ROM and PC Friendly features. There is also seamless integration with web links for the studio and InterActual. These are opened in a separate browser-like window. The windows are resizable like your browser and you can also go into full screen mode for greater viewing area.  Discs with added features that can be accessed by this viewer are usually marked with the following graphic:

pcf_ia.gif (7048 bytes)

The DVD mode has the usual controls. These include disc navigation, menu selection and audio/video/language selection. As with most such programs, the control panel, called the remote, floats below the viewing window. In full screen mode placing the cursor at the bottom of the screen will cause the remote to appear. This mode also makes it easiler to find the coveted hidden features. Keep moving your cursor over the screen until something that is not part of the normal menu is highlighted. Click and and you will more likely than not gain access to one of these hidden features. Its better than playing with the arrow keys on your remote.

The InterActual mode provides navigation controls around the DVD ROM and the typical browser controls. There is also the hot links to the studio web site and InterActual site. You can open web links on the DVD in a separate browser window so you can keep your place on the ROM while you explore the web. Because of DVD viewing a movie has become a completely interactive experience. The InterActual mode will provide you with a means to access all these new features. I tested this mode on three discs, the new Planet of the Apes, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and Star Wars Episode One. Star Wars had some problems in playing in the interactive mode. The other two worked great.

As I expanded my testing I found that if I decline the PC Friendly agreement message I could then launch InterActual and access all of the DVD ROM features without a problem. There is no direct access to the chapters other than what is provided on the DVD menu. The picture is clear and fairly smooth even in full screen mode.

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