The tenth incarnation of Ulead’s entry-level editing app is a significant step. Following Pinnacle’s strategy, there are now two editions – a basic one and a new Plus version costing $43 more. As with Pinnacle Studio (Issue 103, page 30), most of the best new features are reserved for the Plus edition. Not surprisingly, HDV support is one of the headliners, alongside the ability to burn to HD-DVD once the drives arrive on the market. You can only create HD-DVDs in MPEG2 format, but resolutions up to the full 1920 x 1080 are allowed.
To assist with editing high-definition footage, VideoStudio has borrowed the Smart Proxy system from MediaStudio Pro 8 (Issue 100, page 66), using lower resolutions while editing. It helped tremendously in use, although you need to ensure that it’s turned on and set up correctly before you start dropping video onto the timeline, as files already there won’t be converted. When you output your final movie, the original full resolution files are used for rendering the finished product.
The other major addition is extra video tracks via the Overlay Track Manager. In the past, you could just add one picture-in-picture or chroma-key track, but now you can have up to six. This isn’t as many as Adobe Premiere Elements 2 (Issue 99, page 57), but it beats Pinnacle Studio hands down and should be enough for most non-professionals. We found VideoStudio didn’t exactly offer a realtime engine, degrading frame rates when more than a couple of layers of DV were superimposed using a picture-in-picture effect. But performance was adequate for editing previews. You can always use Smart Proxy if you want faster previewing frame rates. However, although you can keyframe filters, you still can’t do this with picture-in-picture effects. You can add simple entrance and exit motion and create static distortions, but drop shadows aren’t possible either.
Ulead has also beefed up the audio provision with a surround-sound mixer and support for outputting Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtracks. However, the surround sound mixer only allows you to mix audio from the first two video tracks, the narration track and the music track. You can pan your audio around the surround image, but the only way to animate this is via live mixing. There are no rubber bands or onscreen curves to provide a visual representation of the motion of your sound source, so if adjustment is required you’ll need to go back to live mixing. In this respect, Pinnacle’s implementation in Studio is easier to use. VideoStudio 10 Plus includes a number of other useful extras.
MPEG4 output is now supported. The new Export to Mobile Device option has specific presets for creating MPEG4, compatible with Apple’s Video iPod and Sony’s PSP, as well as WMVs for smartphones and Pocket PCs. Although the Multi-trim tool has been included since VideoStudio 8, this now also has Ad Zapper at its disposal, as first seen in Ulead’s DVD MovieFactory 5 (Issue 105, page 59). Ad Zapper automatically scans a video file recorded from TV and finds what it thinks are the ad breaks, making it easy to delete them. Curiously, you can only use Multi-trim with videos on the first track. To round off, InterVideo’s WinDVD 7 DVD player software is included as well.
However, there are a few extras that users of the standard version can enjoy too. The new Anti-shake filter effectively reduces the results of wobbly camera work, although like all such filters it crops into the image to perform its duties. But unlike Pinnacle Studio’s equivalent, you can both customise the level of stabilisation and vary the amount of cropping up to 20 percent. Enhance Lighting automatically brings out areas of shadow without burning out the highlights in the process, while the Fish Eye filter creates an effect like the lens of the same name.
Ulead has also changed the UI arrangement. Four presets are provided, with a less dominant preview window than in previous versions and more space. With DVD Movie Factory 5’s engine builtin, you get much more disc authoring control. SmartScene menus and menu transitions are available, and you can resize and rotate buttons and text.
The Plus edition has remarkable editing power for under $150 and, while the standard version doesn’t feel like a huge step forward, it’s still a worthy contender. Adobe’s Premiere Elements 2 still offers a more finely honed toolset for multitrack editing, but most will find VideoStudio easier to use. Although the standard version remains superb value, we recommend VideoStudio 10 Plus as the better deal.
This Review appeared in the September 2006 issue of PC & Tech Authority Magazine
Source: Copyright © PC Pro, Dennis Publishing