Let's start with the idea (and the scam) of what "support" actually means. Ulead does not exist anymore, and Corel has chosen not to "support" the legacy products. To some folks, this is scary. However, there is no logical reason behind the fear, once you assess the situation.
Microsoft supports Windows, but your computer can still have problems that MS won't fix. A good example of that is how non-obsolete hardware and software may stop functioning in their newer version OS. The MS idea of support is to throw out some updates from time to time (mostly to fix their own insecure coding), and give you documents to read online. If it works, great. If not, oh well. --- Unless it gets major bad press, of course, but that doesn't happen too often.
Given this information, how exactly are you being supported? You can't call anybody without paying a steep price. Nobody will come to your home. And even then, most responses to common problems are to pass the buck to other companies, blame them. MS doesn't actually solve the problem.
The idea that support or warranty ensures you anything is extinct. These false security blankets exist for consumer psychology now, not because they're actually offering anything substantial. It's a token of support, at best. In many cases it just serves as a pretext to sell you something else or something newer. So my advice is to simply not worry about it.
About Ulead DVD Workshop 2...
For standard definition DVD-Video creation, there is very little that Ulead DVD Workshop 2 cannot do. It can take care of all the major aspects of DVD authoring:
- multiple VTS (mixed resolution/AR assets on one disc)
- highly customizable menus, including still and motion menus, and multi-page menu setups
- multiple audio
- 16:9 asset support (but not menus, that's the 1 weakness it has)
- easy drag-and-drop interface, unlike most other pro choices
- AC3 encoding, if needed, plus support for PCM and MP2
- ability to hide easter eggs through use of creative menu work
- ... and I'm probably forgetting some things, too.
Authoring software should not be used for re-encoding.
About Encore and others...
Adobe Encore is made simply for DV input (or rather, the MPEG versions encoded to 720x480), and nothing else. For a so-called professional authoring program, it's proven itself to be a major piece of crap. Adobe "supports" it too, but the Adobe forums are full of complaints about crashes, limitations and other epic fails of the software. However, Adobe never responds, and they rarely update the program. Again, so much for the idea of support. And for the amount I paid for the CS3 Master Collection, it's a bit of kick to the crotch. CS4 isn't any better. Encore has a long history, from the earliest Beta of the first version, for sucking in almost every way.
I don't know that much is thought of Encore ANYWHERE.
The only thing going for it is integration into Premiere and Photoshop, but even that can be unstable.
The current Corel offerings you see are consumer software, with very few options, and many limitations. These are pale shadows of what DVDWS2 is.
Your Windows 7 dilemma is completely software-based. When your problem is hardware-based, you're out of luck. But for software, you can easily run Windows XP. Simply run XP inside of a virtual machine, and share the folders/drives with your video assets. Microsoft VirtualPC and Sun VirtualBox are two common options for running VMs.
I run an XP VM on my Vista 64-bit system, because Vista 64 handles some important software really poorly. With all the RAM, quad-core CPU speed and HDD space on that system, running a VM is easy. So even if Win7 barfs on Ulead DVDWS2, you can fall back on WinXP in a VM, no problem. This works, I know it works -- I do it!
Win7 was supposed to come with a native VM system, but I think that was dropped way back in R&D.
About your workflow...
Indeed, do each step separate for best quality, monitoring or setting your own settings along the way, as needed.
For AVCHD, you already seem to have a method for converting it down to DVD-Video specs, and then using Premiere. Updating to a newer Premiere (CS4), may help, too.
For AC3, there are several options available, including freeware ones mention on this site, or AC3 encoding included in something like DVDWS2. AC3 isn't an issue, to be completely honest. Simple to address, in several ways.
Capture abilities really depend on what you're trying to do. If we've addressed this in another topic, then I'm sure I gave good advice in that thread. And we can continue in a capturing thread if needed (or make a new one for that separate topic).
It is a lot to juggle, but that's how it works for the best quality. Consumer software appeals to the lazy, putting all steps through in one pass, but giving your mediocre quality because of it. All it really takes is well though-out planning of your workflow, like you're doing right now. What we're doing in these posts is the perfect way to plan out your projects and workflows.
.... and I think that answered everything?