Standard-definition video is going the way of the HD DVD player–or is it? TVs have gone high-def in a big way, but YouTube and other online venues continue to serve standard definition. Pinnacle’s Studio Ultimate 12 video-editing software tries to maximize its appeal by adding Blu-ray Disc, Flash video, and direct-to-YouTube support.
The previous version of Studio Ultimate let users import footage in the Advanced Video Codec High Definition (AVCHD) and High Definition Video (HDV) formats, and create HD DVD discs. Studio Ultimate 12 adds Blu-ray Disc authoring, with tools that include animated menus. The basic, $50 version of Studio does not support AVCHD or HDV importation; the $100 Plus and $130 Ultimate versions do. Studio performed sluggishly with AVCHD files on both systems that I used with it.
The first Blu-ray discs I created wouldn’t play in an older Blu-ray player, but they worked fine in a newer model, the Panasonic DMP-30K. The reason: The newer player recognized discs burned in AVCHD format, whereas the older one didn’t; you can, however, change Studio Ultimate’s settings to create discs for older models of Blu-ray players.
Studio Ultimate 12 lets you export videos directly to YouTube. Studio 11 supported Yahoo Video or Pinnacle’s own video-sharing site; though you can upload to Yahoo with Studio 12, uploading to Pinnacle’s site is no longer an option. The YouTube uploads have just one quality setting–which is understandable, since YouTube has a single upload setting.
Once they’re uploaded to YouTube, however, you can view clips in “high quality” or “standard quality.” I’ve found that, the higher the quality before I upload videos, the better the YouTube-compressed versions turn out to be. My best results came when I uploaded a high-quality Flash video to YouTube.
A new feature, Pinnacle Montage, provides 11 themes and 80 templates that you can use to add effects such as menus of moving frames with video, animated text, and graphics. Some of the Montage options are snazzy, but few of them allow any customization. For example, you can specify multiple moving frames, but you can’t alter the frames’ dimensions, and you can’t adjust how quickly they appear and disappear.
Three new plug-in packages included with Studio Ultimate 12 confer varying benefits. The proDAD VitaScene plug-in contains a ton of neat transitions–blurs, spins, and so on–along with at least as many effects as the main Studio application has.
The Magic Bullet LooksBuilder SE plug-in has many powerful settings for customizing the way clips look; but it doesn’t let you set key frames, so you can’t set points in the video to use in timing the intensity of an effect. And since you can’t set an effect to strengthen gradually (for example), the effects sometimes produce rather amateurish results. (The plug-in requires a powerful graphics card to work: You can’t install LooksBuilder SE on a system that relies on integrated graphics.)
Boris Graffiti, the third new plug-in, is designed for adding moving titles; its preset titles worked fine, and it has an extremely complex advanced mode for setting key frames. Unfortunately, you must use whatever interface the plug-ins require, rather than Studio’s standard interface–so that’s three different tools you have to learn. I would have much preferred that the tools be built into Studio itself.
A small but welcome new feature: If your designated drive runs out of space while you’re outputting content to it, you can pause the operation. Regrettably, you can’t pause output for such purposes as to check your e-mail without screwing things up–unlike with Corel VideoStudio 11. Though I experienced a few crashes with Studio 12, the application seemed more stable for me than past versions.
Studio Ultimate 12 has more features than any other consumer-level video editor, but I still prefer Adobe Premiere Elements 4 because of its more elegant interface and superior stability. (That product doesn’t yet support AVCHD editing, however.)