Pinnacle was bought by multimedia powerhouse Avid in 2005, and since then it feels like it has inherited some of the code from Avid; the broadcast industry’s Non-Linear Editor (NLE) of choice. This is because although previous versions of Pinnacle Studio were plagued by instability, Studio 11 is far more stable than previous versions. It also supports HD footage and key frame editing, so you can specify how you want to modify effects over time.
There are three versions of Pinnacle Studio 11 and we'd recommend either the Plus or Ultimate versions as they support both HDV and AVCHD; the consumer grade HD formats. The Ultimate edition adds Dolby Digital 5.1 encoding and includes a sheet of chroma green fabric for basic compositing shots. Remember to iron it gently before use, make sure there are no folds in it when you hang it behind your talent and to light it evenly before you turn on your camera.
Although the software is much more stable than previous versions, system requirements have gone through the roof thanks to support for new HD formats. AVCHD footage flatlined our 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo PC. We’re not going to blame the software though; as it takes a carnivorous amount of processing power to decode AVCHD footage - let alone manipulate it. This is because the format was designed to compress a final render efficiently; not to provide flexibility during post production.
We felt that some of the plugins hogged system resources; so much so that we disabled background rendering to compensate. Some of the colour correction and film-look effects are hugely impressive if you don’t mind dealing with previews while you work. In spite of their simple controls, some of the sound plugins are too complex for most users although they do produce good results if properly wrangled.
Once you’ve finished your edit you can export to a vast number of presets including DVD, HD-DVD, iPod, YouTube, an army of MPEG formats or write out to tape for archival purposes. You can even export to Real Media, though why anybody would want to is a question that will baffle the brightest minds for years to come.
There are more fully featured editing programs available with interfaces that model traditional editing software and pack more sophisticated tools, such as Adobe’s Premiere Elements. However, Pinnacle Studio 11 is a more beginner friendly, is decent value and will support almost any consumer format you throw at it.