Video editing for consumers is a tricky business, since the software needs to be easy to use for beginners, and yet have enough depth to allow enthusiasts to grow and experiment. There are simple tools to quickly trim clips and upload online, but if you want to make interesting and creative productions then you need something better – a more complete interface with a traditional timeline to assemble and layer video and audio, apply interesting transitions and effects, and enhance with titles and animation.
For example, Avid has updated its venerable Pinnacle Studio HD product line to version 15, with expanded HD format support, performance optimizations, and bundled professional-quality content. The base Studio HD starts at $60; Studio HD Ultimate at $100 adds Dolby Digital 5.1 encoding, Blu-ray authoring, keyframable effects and Motion Titler; and the Studio HD Ultimate Collection for $130 adds more Red Giant plug-ins plus a green screen for creating chroma-key effects.
That’s an impressive collection of capabilities and technology, and should be enough to keep enthusiasts happy for quite a while, especially because it’s a big step up to professional editing tools starting around $800. Yet consumer tools can cramp your style as you’re being creative, especially with a fixed number of tracks and limited support for managing a growing collection of clips and assets.
So Avid has introduced a new product, Avid Studio, which builds on the familiar and friendly look of Pinnacle Studio, but breaks through typical consumer limits to help organize your assets, correct and edit your clips, assemble layers on the unlimited timeline, and enhance with an extensive package of content and plug-ins, yet is still a consumer/enthusiast product at $170, or as a $100 upgrade from Pinnacle Studio.
A New Studio
While the new Avid Studio shares the name and the overall feel, this is not just Pinnacle Studio Plus Plus Plus. Yes, the functionality is a superset of Pinnacle Studio (albeit not with the same exact features), and the collection of additional content and plug-ins is an extension of those with Pinnacle Studio (and provides more control over options). But Avid Studio is a new product, with a more sophisticated approach to the editing process.
In particular, Avid Studio provides an extensive media library to help organize, tag, and manage your media assets, a universal importer to select clips to import into the library, and media editors to prepare your clips before assembling on the timeline. This design supports a more controlled and methodical approach to an editing workflow. In particular, the media editors allow you to pre-edit clips, so you can separate the functions of preparing and correcting clips from the creative orchestration of your multi-layer production on the timeline.
Avid Studio also demonstrates an impressive attention to detail throughout the application to assist your editing process. For example, the library supports multiple tabs (like a Web browser), so you can easily save and switch between different editing assets views. The Importer not only has nice features for renaming imported files with sequence numbers and dates, but can optionally import as a copy or a link and even ignore duplicates with different names, and it provides stop-motion and frame-grab options. Studio also supports watch folders, to automatically import media files you add to specified disk folders.
Avid has provided extensive resources for helping you get started with Studio and then dive in deeper. The help file is also available as a 300-page PDF user manual, and is augmented by a guided tour that steps through the editing workflow. Avid also provides video tutorials from Class on Demand, available online or on DVD.
The Studio interface is nicely accessible, with not-so-tiny tabs and buttons, and a reasonable number (but not overwhelming array) of single-click tools. Most options are immediately accessible in visible window panels, instead of being buried deep in nested context menus. You then can hover over buttons to see the pop-up tool tip, typically including both the name and an additional sentence of explanation. However, these interface elements can sometimes get in the way of each other when you are trying to perform a precise edit.
The Avid Studio workflow is shown by the buttons at the top of the main window – Import clips, organize and correct assets in the Library, edit your production as a Movie or Disc, and then Export the result. More detailed work is then done in the content-specific editors, including the Video, Photo, Audio, Effects and Title Editor.
The library is the main hub of studio, with the asset tree of not only all your media and projects, but also your virtual collections to group assets, plus all the creative elements, including built-in and add-in effects, transitions, sound effects, montage templates, ScoreFitter audio tracks, titles, and disc menus. You can view these in different ways, rate and tag, search, and preview in a pop-up Player window with full transport controls.
A compact version of the library is also part of the main movie and disc editing windows so you can easily access your assets. The media editing windows also include a navigator strip with thumbnails to quickly switch between assets.
Of course you can import assets and immediately begin editing them in the timeline, but Studio is designed to provide a more organized approach with its media editors. You can double-click on assets in the library and open them in the associated media editor to apply basic corrections including trimming and enhancements, plus video stabilization and photo pan and zoom. These are non-destructive changes that clean up the clip so it is ready to go whenever it is used in the timeline. You also can apply these corrections to individual instances of the clip in the timeline, along with effects in the same media editor interface.
For quick productions, use the SmartSlide and SmartMovie tools to automatically prepare a slideshow or movie complete with animated transitions, music soundtrack, and effects. Or click the main Movie or Disc tabs to edit your productions, with the unlimited timeline for movies and menus and chapters for discs. You can drag and drop to add transitions and effects, or bring up the individual editors to refine multiple keyframed effects or design animated titles. There’s also a montage editor to create dynamic opening, segue, and ending effects between multiple clips.
Studio provides additional helpful assists in the timeline. For example, the Smart Editing mode automatically fills or inserts or replaces dragged clips in order to best maintain horizontal and vertical synchronization. Similar more subtle details include the ability to trim timeline gaps similarly to clips, manipulate nested projects as a clip on the timeline, and click for detailed information on individual clips.
In the Studio
Even in its first release, Avid Studio is a well-designed step up for advanced enthusiasts, breaking through the sometimes-frustrating limitations of consumer tools to help you be more creative with your productions. The expanded workflow allows you to manage expansive collections of assets in the library, and prepare your clips in the media editors. Then get creative with the unlimited timeline, using both automated tools like montages and the ScoreFitter music generator, as well as precise hands-on control with keyframes effects and animations and audio mixing with a surround-sound pan control.
In comparison, for example, Adobe Premiere Elements focuses more on automated analysis of clips and integration with Photoshop Elements with extensive sharing options, and Sony Vegas Movie Studio has deeper options, especially for audio and music support and effects, and customization of window layouts.
System requirements (Pro): For Microsoft Windows Vista / Windows 7
Processor: Intel Core Duo 1.8 GHz, Core i3, or AMD Athlon 64 X2 3800+ 2.0 GHz or higher (Intel Core 2 Quad 2.66 GHz, Intel Core i5 or i7 1.06 GHz or higher required for AVCHD)
RAM: 2GB or higher, 4GB for Windows 64-bit
Graphics: DirectX 9 (or higher) with Pixel Shader 3.0 support, such as: ATI X1000 series (or higher), NVIDIA GeForce 6 series (or higher), Intel GMA X3000 series (or higher), 128MB VGA VRAM; 256MB or higher recommended, required for AVCHD
Display Resolution: 1280 x 800 or higher
Audio: Windows-compatible sound card (surround output required for surround preview)
Disk Space: 5.8GB
Additionally: DVD-ROM for installation
Capture: Capture from DV, HDV, and Digital8 camcorders or VCRs (requires a FireWire port), Capture from analog camcorders, 8 mm, HI 8, VHS, SVHS, VHS-C, SVHS-C, or VCRs (NTSC/PAL/SECAM) (requires Pinnacle or Dazzle video hardware)
Import: Import from AVCHD and other file-based camcorders, digital still cameras, mobile devices, and webcams
Video: AVCHD, AVCHD Lite, BD Blu-ray, DV, HDV, AVI, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, DivX, MPEG-4, 3GP (MPEG-4, H.263), WMV, non-encrypted DVD titles (including DVD-VR/+VR), QuickTime (DV, MJPEG, MPEG-4, H.264), DivX Plus MKV
Audio: MP3, MPA, M4A, WAV, AC3, WMA
Graphic: BMP, GIF, JPG, PCX, PSD, TGA, TIF, WMF, PNG, J2K
Formats: AVCHD, AVCHD Lite, BD Blu-ray, DVD (DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD+R or DVD+RW, dual layer)
Devices: Apple iPod, Sony PSP/PS3, Nintendo Wii, Microsoft Xbox-compatible formats
File Formats: DV, HDV, AVI, DivX, RealVideo 8, WMV, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, Flash, 3GP, WAV, MP2, MP3, QuickTime, MP4, H.264, YouTube HD, DivX Plus MKV
Audio: Dolby Digital 2/5.1 channel audio
- Clean, comfortable interface with readily accessible controls and options
- Full-featured editing: library, clip editing, unlimited timeline
- Extensive help, tutorials, and tool tips
- Extensive content collection, including RedGiant Magic Bullet Looks
- Limited Web sharing (YouTube only)
- Edit keyframes per effect, not per parameter
- No integrated help for the many add-in effects
Avid Studio is a welcomed step up for advanced video editing enthusiasts chafing at the limitations of consumer tools.
Avid Technology, Inc.
280 A & B Bernardo Avenue
Mountain View, CA 94043
Doug Dixon covers digital media at Manifest-Tech.com.