Don't be fooled by DVD Architect's fantastic user interface - this is not a "burn your home movies to DVD" program (unless you want it to be). Compared to certain other authoring solutions which could politely be referred to as a usability joke, Sony DVD Architect is simply a joy to use. The price is an absolute bargain (you get Sony Vegas, DVD Architect, and the AC3 Audio encoder) and I don't think the interface could be any cleaner.
DVDA lets you import AVI files which it will then convert to MPEG-2 using its internal MainConcept-based encoder, but for higher quality, you'll likely want to encode using an outside application like Cinema Craft or TMPGEnc (I'm currently using the latter). One down-side which won't be a problem for most: if you want to author multi-angle DVD, it would appear that you're limited to importing AVIs and relying on this internal encoder.
Creating layered menus with appropriate highlights is very easy too, although the manual could make this process a little clearer. The newer Pro versions also allow accessing SPRM and GPRM variables, which really opens up the possibilities. For example, you can access the SPRM variables to detect what audio track the user has selected, and display a different menu page with appropriate visual feedback.
Subtitling is really easy, too. Pressing CTRL+SHIFT+T adds a new subtitle event and places the cursor in the editing box. The [ and ] keys define start and end frames for the event (dragging the mouse on the timeline works, too). You can import Mac DVD Studio Pro subtitle scripts, or Sony Vegas region scripts (which I believe share the same layout). Currently, there is a bug where importing the said scripts will cause all line breaks to be double-spaced: this is solved by importing the script, saving, exiting, and reloading. Voila: your line breaks will now only last one line.
Granted, the possibilities aren't as limitless as they'd be with a program like Scenarist, but I think it's safe to say that DVDA gives you the functionality you're likely to need for almost every project, with almost none of the headaches. From my point of view, I can spend more time perfecting the video encode and menus and less time learning an unappealing, poorly designed piece of software.
Don't be fooled by the wide audience this program seems to aim for - it's capable of seriously powerful stuff (incidentally, version 5 which was just announced a few days ago, is reportedly adding Blu-ray Disc authoring to the mix, which I can't wait for). Any usability quirks I've experienced are incredibly minor and are justified by this program's interface and bargain price.
Review by lyris
Apr 16, 2008 Version: 4.5
OS: Vista Ease of use: 9/10
Value for money: 10/10