RealMagic Dragon DVD - Part 3

3. Software
The DVD playback program is immediately recognisable. In fact, it is the SAME program that shipped with the Hollywood card, which might explain the quirks.

Let me explain.

Sigma needed to cut some corners to reduce the price of the Dragon card and the first thing to go was the support for playback in a window (which was a feature of the higher end Hollywood card).

Now, this might seem to be a big loss, but it really isn’t. No one in the right mind would watch a DVD movie on a tiny PC window. I know I don’t, but I am sometimes forced to in order to assess the playback controls of the DVD (fast forward, rewind, menus, audio, subtitles selections, etc.).

So how then are you supposed to assess all the DVD features. You could

  1. learn all the keyboard shortcuts (Ctrl-M for menu, Ctrl-P for pause, Ctrl-F for fast forward, etc)
  2. use the REALMagic remote control.

Option a. doesn’t really make sense, and it isn’t the most intuitive method. But option b. really does. Sigma Designs also sells the REALMagic infra-red remote control for their Hollywood cards, which also works with the Dragon card, for about S$30. So, for the price of the original Hollywood card, you can now get a full DVD solution AND a remote control, just like a consumer DVD player.

Now, back to DVD playback software. As I mentioned earlier, it was originally designed for the Hollywood card, so it starts with a windowed display. Pressing Play gives you a green overlay signal. You can hear the sounds emerging from your AC3 sound setup

What you need to do is click twice on the VGA/TV button that toggles the screen between TV and monitor output. The first switches the output to TV, and the second switches it to the VGA monitor, and it goes to full-screen mode, running at 640x480 @ 60Hz non-interlaced (as reported by my Samsung SyncMaster 17GLi).

Like the Hollywood card, the Dragon does not allow simultaneous display on both the TV and the monitor unlike the original Encore Dxr2 card. This was a conscious move taken by the designers at Sigma Designs because to allow simultaneous display would have seriously degraded the video quality. So far, I will have to admit that this is a very valid premise. The video quality on the Dragon card is instantly superior to the Encore’s which it replaced.

Even Creative has caved: their latest Dxr3 card, which uses the Sigma Designs chipset, also does not allow simultaneous TV and monitor display.

But I digress. Back to the software. As I mentioned earlier, it is still not specially tailored for the Dragon card.

For those of you who have trouble memorising the keyboard shortcuts and do not have access to the remote control, there is trouble ahead. For the life of me, I can’t switch from the full-screen movie to the Windows desktop to access the playback controls.

The software also does not allow you to change brightness, contrast, saturation, RGB settings, etc. All you end up with is a black screen. Not that you really need to. The image quality is superb at default settings.

I guess this brings me to the next section.


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Special Thanks To Convergent Systems