Pinnacle Liquid Edition 6 Pro test and review

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Pinnacle Liquid Edition 6 Pro

With version 5 of Edition Pro, Pinnacle introduced a combined AGP graphics card and real-time accelerator. For the new, feature-packed, V6, this is replaced by an external box with no acceleration - requiring the user's PC to already have a powerful CPU and graphics card.

In the previous incarnation of Liquid Edition Pro - V5 - Pinnacle provided an AGP graphics card that doubled as a real-time accelerator. This was a good solution, feeding video overlay out through analogue channels for high-quality monitoring on a TV set, but the board had the disadvantage of only supporting one computer monitor, and left users stuck with one particular graphics card rather than being able to upgrade to something better.
For Liquid Edition 6, Pinnacle's Pro provides no hardware accelerator at all. Instead, there's an external USB 2.0 breakout box, and this has to be paired with a PC having a fast editing hard disk and a powerful CPU and graphics card - Codecs are handled by the CPU; effects by the CPU or graphics card.

Liquid Edition 6

Pinnacle has cut the price since Edition was acquired from Fast, and broadened its brief with integrated DVD authoring tools. Indeed, Edition's capabilities in authoring and burning video discs have put an end to development of Pinnacle's dedicated but awkward DVD application, Impression. So, we'd hoped Liquid Edition 6 would gain more professional DVD authoring tools, but we were wrong. Instead, Liquid Edition 6 has been enhanced in other ways. Significantly, these include an interface make-over - adding menus where Windows users expect them to be, along the top of the interface - together with HDV support, simplified import and export tools, a surround-sound mixer, and a multi-camera editor.
The retail package comes with three books - a heavy and detail-rich reference manual, a more lightweight and visual User Guide for basics, and an installation guide. They're well-written and nicely presented, but the User Guide may throw beginners into a spin - the index is poor, contents pages point to many wrong page numbers, and some page references are missing from the main text.
The first things to stand out about Liquid Edition 6 are the interface changes. Gone are the discreet button highlights and subtle shades - judged by some to make the interface too dark - to be replaced by strong outlines and bold colours. It's also less icon-driven than before, which gave rise to a little confusion caused by our familiarity with the old interface. However, the new approach should make it easier for newcomers to learn Edition, even if existing users find themselves disorientated for a while. Sensibly, it's possible for old hands to start up with the previous interface style by choosing the LE6 Classic icon from Windows' All Programs menu.
However those who stick with the new look and menu arrangement can easily customise the interface by adding tool icons as they see fit. As before, there's an eye icon at the bottom right of the interface, for access to different interface layouts, and a render indicator showing the progress of background rendering. Another icon provides a pop-up menu for choosing the output channel for external monitoring - one of the Pro box's analogue channels or its FireWire port, or the PC's FireWire output when using the software on its own.

The Pro box proved to be a worthwhile enhancement to the Liquid Edition software, and very stable, too. However, question marks remain over sync problems with analogue capture.
The Liquid Edition 6 software itself is hugely impressive, though does require a powerful PC. This is a major upgrade that will appeal to all existing users. Given that the software alone is £300, many newcomers may be tempted, too. Not everything's perfect, though - the multi-cam editor and surround-sound tools could be more user-friendly, and we'd like to see the main missing pro features added to DVD authoring interface. But, LE6 is one of the best editors out there and its interface is no less tactile than before, even in its new novice-friendly incarnation.

Peter Wells

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Reviewed in this issue:

Panasonic NV-GS400B
Three-CCD consumer camcorder, £1,030

Pinnacle Liquid Edition 6 Pro
Windows analogue and digital video editing software, £600

Pinnacle Studio Plus 9
DV editing software for Windows, £60

Sony DCR-HC1000
Three-CCD consumer camcorder, £989

Wacom Intuos 3
A4 graphic input device with pen and mouse, £345

In February's news:

HD-compatible Canopus Edius Pro 3;
Ulead cut-price DVD Workshop options;
Acronis Windows disk imaging software, True Image 8;
Mediachance's no-nonsense DVD authoring with DVD-lab Pro;
Cut-price HD-compatible hardware/software Edius bundle from Canopus;
Apple Motion training with Motion PowerStart;
Video Forum 2005 preview; multi-format optical disc recorder with 160GByte HDD from LiteOn;
V7 of 3ds max from Discreet; enhanced video editing, authoring, streaming and digital imaging with Nero Reloaded

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