We have no reservations about recommending Ulead Media Studio Pro 7 (MSP7). Ulead has been around as long as anyone and consistently comes out with industry-first technology before the other guys, sometimes months in advance. If you are a serious hobbyist or entry-level professional looking for a serious editing program, Media Studio Pro 7 is a must-consider application.
Better than 6.5?
MSP7 is a fairly conventional editing environment with a rigid A/B-roll timeline. The user interface doesn’t break any new ground, but it will be familiar to veterans of many other applications. The effects dialogs are still small and may be difficult to use, especially on high resolution monitors. Some features of MSP7, however, are quite original, even though they are not new with this version: the Video Paint module is a very cool rotoscoping animation tool that allows the talented artist to create frame-by-frame animations. It has some automation features, but, by and large, it is Photoshop (or should we say "PhotoImpact") for video.
There are several new technologies that may prompt MSP6.5 users to upgrade ($229). Some of these are nice consumer-oriented features, such as automatic slideshow creation, which works with both still images and video files. The process can be entirely automatic, or you can go into the timeline and set cues to synchronize the slideshow to your musical soundtrack. MSP7 can also convert video to MPEG-2 or WMV format on the fly during capture. This is a great way to convert your archived DV videotapes to DVD-ready or Web-ready video in a single step. The new audio mixer is an important addition and we appreciated how easy it was to group tracks into mixer channels. The coolest new feature is the ability to record mixer adjustment while you preview. When you finish riding the faders, click the Apply button (if you can find it: it’s the tiny checkmark, lower-right) and your adjustments are converted into a shaped envelope on the audio track. MSP7 also includes simple but functional DVD authoring that has a stereo Dolby AC3 encoder. This is a very important feature, since stereo AC3 audio is the most compatible form of compressed audio for DVD.
Log Your Library
In our opinion, the best new feature is the Scan DV Tape capture module. This dialog scans your entire tape in fast-forward mode (which takes 6-8 minutes), does a quick scene detect and saves a thumbnail frame of each scene. The result is a visual batch capture list. Not only is this the easiest and fastest way to execute a batch capture, Ulead exposes the time/date stamp data to the end user. Did you know that your DV tapes almost certainly have the year, month, day, hour, minute and second encoded on them right along with the time code? If your tape logging has been less than perfect, seeing the time/date info from your vacation in late June (or was it early July?) of 1997 will really amaze you. You can, of course, save the batch list as a log file (DV Album) for future reference. It is not unlike Scenalyzer or Studio 8, except that it is not saving a bulky movie as the log file and is therefore much more convenient. The visual log files aren’t large at all (less than 10MB), so you can spend a pleasant weekend, reliving memories scanning your DV movies and creating a visual catalog of your entire library. Our only criticism is that the dialog box is small and cannot be resized.
MSP7 pumps out real-time full-resolution, full frame-rate video in many real-world situations. Not just previews, mind you, but finished video without a special hardware card. Certainly part of this is courtesy of MSP7’s own internal rendering tricks and technology, but fast modern hardware is also partially responsible. When we ran our tests on a dual-Xeon 3.06GHz machine with a Matrox Parhelia card, just about all everyday tasks (titles, crossfades and motion paths) happened in real time. MSP7 worked extremely well with the Parhelia card, which spanned the workspace across two monitors and sent previews to a third.
Strangely, we found that real-time performance increased when we disabled the HT (HyperThreading) technology on the Intel CPUs. Ulead sent us a patch (which should be public when you read this) that solved the problem. Still, even with only a single CPU and no HT, MSP7 was able to output real-time DV in almost all everyday situations. MSP7 has a clever rendering system of pre-fetching rendered frames as needed during playback and a Complexity indicator (a familiar red render bar that gets darker red as segments get more complex) that will tell you when your project is too demanding for real time, but you’ll need to learn this system to use it properly. There are so many hardware and preview options in MSP7 that it can be, quite frankly, baffling to figure out how to get the best performance, but we were still happy that these options were exposed to the power users who want to tweak their systems. When configured correctly on a fast enough machine (and "fast enough" might mean a P4 3.06GHz CPU), MSP7 can output real-time, final-quality DV without any special hardware.
MSP7 is a technologically advanced editor (with seventh generation stability) that has a number of killer features that we expect competitors will incorporate (if they want to remain competitive) sometime in the future.
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 98SE, Me, 2000, XP
Processor: PIII 500MHz (or equivalent)
RAM: 128MB RAM (256 or higher recommended)
Hard Disk: 300MB
Other Hardware: CD-ROM drive, Windows-compatible sound card, OHCI-compliant FireWire (IEEE 1394)
Demo Version: 30-day time limited
- Excellent video capture/logging tool
- Real-time full-res, full-frame DV out
- AC3 audio encoding
- Small effects dialogs
- Complex real-time configuration
A technologically advanced editor (with seventh generation stability) that has a number of killer features.
20000 Mariner Ave, Suite 200
Torrance, CA 90503