Just Add Video
Just Add Video
Is the market for video editing suites in the $100 price range becoming oversaturated? It certainly seems that, each week, another new program joins this increasingly-crowded pack. But fortunately, there's always room for a talented new edition.
Ulead's new VideoStudio 11 comes in two flavors: the basic edition, which retails for $90, and the Plus edition for $130, which adds HD and several other high-powered features to the mix.
Features Common to Both Formats
The DV-to-DVD Wizard is designed both for newcomers to DVD editing and for those who simply want a quick-and-dirty method of getting video out of the camcorder and onto a disc. The software detects the scene starts and stops and allows the user to choose which segments to include on the DVD. Clicking a radio button sets the video's date and time as a subtitle on the completed video, perfect for remembering the date of that last trip to Yellowstone. Finally, click Start, and the software goes to work, editing the selected scenes together, adding one of numerous preset themes chosen by the user and then burning the disc.
Only slightly more involved, Movie Wizard features multi-overlay templates to easily create some slick picture-in-picture effects. The Wizard's themes tie in with popular family activities, such as travel, weddings, new babies and school.
The Movie Wizard also creates slideshows quickly, by using a batch capture method to import lots of .jpegs simultaneously, which you can then pare down to exactly the images you want. Then you choose the appropriate theme, and your slideshow is complete.
It's also possible to begin a project in one of the Wizards and then port it over to VideoStudio's more robust Editor window. Its GUI places the timeline at the bottom of the monitor and an almost-YouTube-styled video window at the upper left. The Plus version's editing GUI's timeline allows you to add up to six video overlays, for titles, picture-in-picture, and lower third graphics, among others.
Plus Version Tames AVCHD Format
The most impressive items that VideoStudio 11 Plus adds to the equation are HD and surround sound support. It can capture and edit HD video from HDV or AVCHD camcorders, author HD projects and burn to HD DVD discs. It also supports Dolby Digital 5.1 audio creation and offers more output options to mobile devices such as iPod, Zune and PSP.
Sony's AVCHD format has gotten a bit of a bum rap as being difficult to edit. To facilitate editing of that format, the Plus version of VideoStudio 11 inserts AVCHD format into an MPEG wrapper while it is importing it from the camcorder. Apparently, it will add that wrapper while it ports only from the camcorder, not to footage already on the PC. We tested this by trying to import native AVCHD-formatted files. Needless to say, it didn't work. In the meantime, to work with AVCHD, you'll need to capture via the camcorder or AVCHD DVD disc from that camcorder.
For editing pre-recorded videotapes, VideoStudio Plus's Ad Zapper function finds and selects commercials, allowing you to delete them quickly. The editing GUI has a color correction applet to restore proper white balance to dark footage shot on the fly. Other filters help clean up video artifacts. For those assembling a slideshow, it's possible to add the same transition effect to all slides with just a few keystrokes, which greatly speeds the editing process.
Both programs support popular audio formats and come with 26 royalty-free stock tunes to get a new user started. You can adjust the audio volume via the standard timeline "rubber band" GUI. This feature can be automatic, as the program can insert fades to match music with the existing timeline.
The surround sound mixer in the Plus version includes a graphical representation of a home theater rear projection TV and accompanying surround speaker system. In 5.1 mode, sliders allow for the placement and volume adjustment of each sound element, and the program will automatically port some of the higher frequencies of a stereo music soundtrack into the rear frequencies, for a surround effect.
Rendering is invariably one of the most processor-intensive elements of video authoring, and VideoStudio Plus has a helpful Pause function built into this mode. This is particularly useful when you need more processor functions during what can be a somewhat-lengthy process. The rendering process also allows for the creation of audio-only files. This is an extremely handy function for those who like to port the audio to a specialized recording program for additional sound tweaks.
Rendering allows you to port video straight to an apple iPod or other portable device or to a DV or HD camcorder to create a backup tape. A Smart Packaging function within both program formats bundles together all elements of a video (clips, audio, still images, etc.) into one folder on the hard drive, making it possible to quickly archive a video and its components for future editing. All in all, that's a lot of features for an editing suite in the $100 range. Frankly, I'd skip the basic package and spring the extra $40 for the Plus version.
So yes, it's an increasingly crowded market for editing suites, but VideoStudio 11 Plus seems like a great addition for someone with some previous experience with more basic editing software, who wants to upgrade to a highly-functional program, without the typical expensive price.
Minimum System Requirements
Platform: Windows XP/Vista
Processor: Intel Pentium 4
Operating System Windows XP (SP2) Home Edition/Professional/x64 Edition, Microsoft Windows XP Media Center Edition, Microsoft Windows Vista
Memory: 512MB (2GB recommended for non-proxy HDV)
Hard Drive: 1GB hard disk free space for program installation
Display Windows-compatible display with 1024x768, 16-bit color graphics card; 24-bit or 32-bit true color recommended
Recommended System for Non-Proxy HDV Editing
Processor: Intel Pentium 4 3.0GHz or higher with Hyper-Threading technology required for non-proxy HDV editing
Operating System: Microsoft Windows XP Service Pack 2 for HDV camcorder support
Memory: 2GB RAM or more recommended for HD projects
Other: PCI Express x16 display adapter; IEEE 1394 (FireWire) I/O devices compliant with OHCI standard cards for use with HDV/DV/D8 camcorders. Analog capture cards for analog camcorders (VFW & WDM support for XP and Broadcast Driver Architecture support for Vista). Analog and digital TV capture device (Broadcast Driver Architecture support)
- Plus version supports formats ranging from HD to cell phone and 'Net video
- Editing support for Sony AVCHD format
- Rapid creation of basic discs and more detailed editing possible
- Standard version seems redundant compared to easily-affordable Plus
Skip basic version of VideoStudio; head straight to VideoStudio Plus. Basic and power users will each find much to benefit from there.
Ed Driscoll is a freelance journalist covering home theater and the media.
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