Pinnacle Studio 9 test and review

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Pinnacle Studio 9

Over 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.


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