Ulead VideoStudio 8 test and review

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Ulead VideoStudio 8

Ulead has finally come out fighting against Pinnacle's market-leading budget video editor, Studio. Enter VideoStudio 8

Newcomers to digital video once had a choice of only two budget editing programs - MGI's VideoWave, and Ulead's VideoStudio. In the early days, both were basic and restrictive, serving more to discourage would-be movie makers than to help them. VideoStudio has improved in small steps with each successive revision, but some mighty leaps were necessary to meet a new standard set by Pinnacle with its Studio software. Studio's approach to editing gave more weight to video cutting and storytelling tools than to flashy effects. Ulead and Roxio (which now owns MGI) have also lost the advantage of bundling their software with the majority of FireWire cards, graphics cards and TV tuners.
That means that both companies now need to compete in the shops - something which Roxio is doing with the much improved V7 of VideoWave, and for which Ulead is relying on V8 of VideoStudio. With this version, VideoStudio is now focused more clearly on movie making than playtime - and that's reflected in the retail box. As well as the installation CD, there's also a content disc with a useful series of basic video tutorials, plus a 200-page manual and a 100-page handbook, 'Digital Video Basics', written by video expert Douglas Spotted Eagle. Unlike many giveaways we've seen in the past, this handbook is rather special. The writing is accessible without being condescending, and it's not afraid to discuss the technology itself. That alone is a rarity among books for beginners - not least because publishers tend to get jittery when they encounter such difficult words as pixel or compression. Perhaps just as impressive is the fact that 'Digital Video Basics' doesn't fall into the trap of being a brochure for Ulead. It introduces key concepts of pre-production and shooting, and ends before the edit itself - Ulead's software is nowhere to be seen. Hats off to Douglas for the good work and to Ulead for putting information before puffery and company ego.
VideoStudio's installer does a good job for the most part, but provides no access to Cool 3D SE, which is included for simple 3D modelling and animation. Browsing the CD's contents, we stumbled on Cool 3D's installer in a folder called C3DSE and it installed without a hitch from there. Cool 3D is a useful program and makes an excellent accompaniment to VideoStudio, but it's so well hidden on the disc that we're sure the majority of users will miss it completely. Ulead informs us that the installer will be corrected for future disc runs towards the end of this year - but an erratum slip is still needed in-pack before then.

VideoStudio is now a much more serious program, and we feel that it's probably the strongest contender for Pinnacle's crown. It may not have Studio's surround-sound capabilities or draft-quality capture options, but it has claws of its own and - more importantly - is every bit as capable as a storytelling tool as Pinnacle's offering. A lack of visible waveforms on the audio timeline is an annoyance, but it doesn't stop work from being done. And while we'd like audio splitting to be a more obvious process, the current workaround isn't disastrous. Aside from these gripes, VideoStudio proved to be intuitive and useful. FireWire output was a blessing, management of video filters ingenious, and batch processing a very definite bonus. Significantly, the program performed faultlessly on our test system - and, as Pinnacle's Studio software isn't currently known for its stability or reliability, that could well sway purchasers towards Ulead.

Peter Wells

Read the full review in August 2004's Computer Video magazine.


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