Sony Creative Software has an excellent reputation in the video industry. Their latest version, Movie Studio 13, promises great results for the hobbyist and beginner. But can editing really be that easy?
What We Like
Movie Studio 13 is extremely easy. At first glance, you can see everything, right where it should be. A program window, timeline, and bin to choose your footage, effects, and transitions. There's even a "Show Me How" button on the top menu bar which walks you through a basic project; showing you everything you need to know to start editing in about 15 minutes.
If you've already done some editing in the past, the "Show Me How" button also shows you around the interface so you can quickly and easily see where all of the controls are for you to jump into editing.
The timeline (as with everything else in the software) is easy to navigate, and offers separate tracks for music and normal audio. The video tracks offer filmstrip-style views of your clips, making navigation in your timeline very easy. Audio mixing is easy with the track sliders embedded into the left side of the audio tracks. Effects and transitions are also really easy to pick up. Hovering over each transition in the bin shows you a preview of what to expect before transitions are placed. And effects are a simple matter of drag and drop with a very simple slider-based interface for setting up exactly how you want the effect to look.
The bottom line? Movie Studio 13 is ... easy. Very easy, making it perfect for a beginner to learn editing, a hobbyist to put together basic stories, or a YouTuber to set up their channel.
What We Don't Like
There is no proper preview window in Movie Studio 13, which means you must place the whole clip in your timeline, and then trim it down to where it should be. Not that big of a deal if you have short clips. A very big deal if you have long clips in which the camera is continually rolling, such as the Phantom 2 footage we used to try it out. This feature alone might be worth the upgrade to Movie Studio Platinum 13 ($30 more) which does have a trimmer window that allows setting in and out points before placing a clip on the timeline. In addition to the lack of a preview window, there is no way to set an external video preview. We used a Blackmagic Decklink HD card (a very industry-standard output card) in the computer we tested the software on. There was no discernable way to set this output from within Movie Studio 13, though this feature may be available in the Platinum version.
Movie Studio 13 has no ingest transcoder, nor timeline rendering. What does this mean? Since we were using footage from a GoPro camera (notorious among the editing community for stuttering due to its high compression), we had to use another program (Adobe Media Encoder CS6) to transcode the footage into a usable format. What's a usable format? One that can play back smoothly on a computer for editing. There are several free transcoders available, however they are neither easy to use, nor lend much versatility to a beginner. Upgrading to the Platinum version does give you the ability to create proxy footage for troublesome formats.
This one may seem nit-picky, but there is no software stabilizer included in Movie Studio 13. That is among the features added in Movie Studio 13 Platinum. In fact, budding videographers probably don't have the means or need to buy Steadicams, or other camera stabilization rigs. A beginner is most likely to record on a cell phone, action camera, or inexpensive camcorder. In this author's mind, a software stabilizer in a beginner editing package is a must.
What does all this mean?
This software is basic. Which can be good or bad (depending on your needs). If you're just starting, and looking for an education in editing, this is excellent. You won't be editing any TV commercials, nor feature indie films with this software. However, if you're looking to get past the deluge of features in more complex software; sifting through all of the overwhelming options of expensive professional software, this is a good place to start. Movie Studio 13 may not be Sony Vegas Pro, Adobe Premiere Pro, or Avid Media Composer; however along with Movie Studio 13 Platinum, you have viable options for the early editor. It's both easy and intuitive with all of the basics to build a good foundation of knowledge from. This author will certainly be purchasing it for his daughter (who has expressed an interest in learning the trade).
OS: Windows 7 32-bit and up
CPU: 2GHz processor
RAM: 2GB (4GB recommended)
Graphics/VRAM: 512MB GPU memory
License Restrictions: none specified
Trial Version: Yes
Requires Internet Connection: for Gracenote MusicID Service
- Easy to learn
- Intuitive interface
- Perfect for the beginner
- Buy-up necessary for some key features
- No internal transcoder
Ty Audronis is a professional editor with nearly 20 years of experience. His credits include national cable television shows and feature-length film.