13 is unlucky for some, so Pinnacle Studio has jumped straight from version 12 to 14. WIth HD being in the name of even the cheapest (£50 inc VAT) version, it means that all versions support HD footage. However, it can’t generate Blu-ray or AVCHD discs and it doesn’t support keyframes for animating effect settings. As such, most people will prefer the pricey Ultimate edition reviewed here.
Pinnacle claims improved ease of use, and beyond the cosmetic changes to the interface there are some welcome enhancements. We really appreciate the ability to resize the preview window, although this control disappears on a desktop narrower than 1,440 pixels.
A Favourites folder lets users create shortcuts to hard disk locations, and a Project Bin gathers all the used media in one place. Effects settings can be copied from one clip on the timeline to another, and there are new effects for generating lens flares, cartoon-like colours and stabilising shaky camerawork.
An Import tab replaces the Capture tab in previous versions. It’s meant to be geared towards cameras that record to memory cards or hard disk, so we were disappointed to find that we had to trawl manually through the complex folder structure of an SDHC card to find the AVCHD footage contained within.
More successful is the ability to pluck videos from non-encrypted DVD and Blu-ray discs. It’s also possible to create stop-motion animations, albeit only using cameras with a live PC feed such as a DV camera or webcam. It’s nicely implemented with the ability to overlay ghostlike images of previous frames to help create convincing animations.
New to the Ultimate edition is animated text. The 32 templates are lively, attractive and cover a range of styles. Some include animated backdrops such as sparkling lights or swirling lines, and they’re unusually stylish for home-oriented editing software. The animations are all preset, but it’s easy to mix and match these presets for the Enter, Emphasis and Exit phases of the animation, and to adjust the length of each section.
Functionally, this is the best text animation of any low-cost editing software. However, it’s a shame that text becomes blocky in animations that scale the characters up to large sizes. Another problem is that the text editor only just fits on a 1,280 x 1,024-pixel desktop, leaving you to scroll around on most laptops and smaller widescreen monitors.
Export options were already comprehensive, but new export templates for Wii, PS3 and Xbox 360 will help video format novices. YouTube export is now in widescreen, but there’s no provision for YouTube’s HD mode – a baffling omission. It’s now possible to edit 24fps footage, such as from Nikon’s D5000 and D90 SLRs, at its native frame rate, and export at 24p too.
Studio remains one of the most beginner-friendly editors, with its home-oriented appearance and helpful welcome tutorials. However, it also remains one of the least powerful. Only two video tracks mean it can’t accommodate two clips plus text at the same time. Preview performance for demanding formats such as AVCHD isn’t great, even on PCs that meet the demanding minimum specs.
We suffered occasional stumbles and losses of audio sync, although a proxy function caches complex sections of the timeline to help with previews. There are various better editors, such as Adobe Premiere Elements, Corel VideoStudio and Sony Vegas Movie Studio Platinum, but in this release, Pinnacle Studio Ultimate has closed the gap.