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the last few years, Pinnacle's entry-level Studio software has moved
way ahead of the competition in terms of features and ease-of-use, but
has been dogged by problems of unreliability. Studio 9 offers even more
bells and whistles, but will you actually get a tune out of them?
Studio is unlike
any other DV editing program at the entry-level. While most low-cost
beginner's programs pride themselves on whizz-bang effects, Studio puts
editing first, and focuses the user's attention on creating well-cut
narrative video. Things first got serious for Studio with version 7,
which was able to perform advanced (but very fundamental) editing techniques
such as insert editing and audio splitting - and this was well before
Apple did the same with iMovie 2.
Studio 7 broke new ground at the entry level, and V8 promised to do
even better - with the addition of integrated DVD authoring tools right
on the timeline. This was the first time we'd seen anything like this
(Pinnacle later added the same functionality to its professional editor,
Edition) and it offered a completely new perspective for DV editing,
as users could assemble their movies as interactive presentations from
the very start rather than having to approach editing and authoring
as separate stages. Unfortunately, DVD support spelled trouble for the
program and led to serious stability problems for many users.
While Studio 9 may turn out to be more solid and reliable than V8,
we didn't have a completely trouble-free ride on any of the three PCs
we installed it on. We'd advise potential buyers to keep an eye on Pinnacle's
support forums to see what's being said as the program finds its way
onto more systems with different configurations. Also, if you take the
plunge, make sure to keep Studio updated with the patches that appear
over the coming months, the first of which should apparently sort out
the screen-resolution and transistions-lock-up problems we saw.
Studio 8 was the best editor at the entry level - when it worked - and
the features added to V9 make Studio better still. Features apart, where
Studio really scores is the way that it encourages newcomers to think
about editing, rather than showy effects, and makes the whole process
tactile and intuitive. It's a great learning tool for students, and
an excellent choice of program for home users who want to take some
pride in their movies without the expense and learning curve associated
with prosumer programs such as Adobe Premiere or Pinnacle Edition. In
addition, integrated DVD authoring tools make it a good program not
just for the home or educational user but also for creating attractive
corporate presentations. We can imagine the DVDs it can produce being
used in much the same way as PowerPoint for conveying company plans
and business strategies - but with far higher video quality.
If we were to add anything to a wish list it would be the ability to
preserve audio on an insert edit, and for the program not to render
menus as part of the project when it's sent back to tape or output as
video to the hard drive. We'd also like the ability to open Studio project
files in Edition - allowing Studio to be used for quick-and-dirty editing
before the project is finished off in a professional environment.
Other makers of Windows budget editing software - of which the foremost
is Ulead - have a lot of catching up to do if they hope to compete successfully.
If they don't make huge efforts, the entry-level DV market for Windows
could follow the Mac lead and become a one-horse race.
Read the full review
in April 2004's Computer Video magazine.
Reviewed in this issue:
World's fastest editing PCs
Pinnacle Liquid Edition 5.5
Pinnacle Studio 9
CyberLink PowerDirector 3
Boris Red 3GL
In April's news:
Budget Canopus MPEG suite
8x speed DVD burners
Canopus MPEG hardware
After Effects keyer
FireWire analogue/DV HDD recorder
Ready-made Canopus effects