You would think asking a video editor (VE) to review video editing software seems like a logical choice – but you’d be wrong. VEs are notoriously defensive of the software they choose to edit on; and much like the PC vs MAC loyalists, getting a VE to shift to a new editing studio is almost impossible.
As such, any frustrations I experienced with Pinnacle Studio HD 15 can be credited to my Final Cut and MAC bias, as well as the professional setups I’m accustomed to working with. Thankfully, I can look past all that, because Pinnacle Studio HD is definitely a competent consumer-level video editing and effects package with a lot of potential depth – if you’re willing to invest in learning how to use it properly.
According to local distributor of the product range, Phoenix Software, Studio HD 15 software should range from about R800 for the basic software package, to about R1,800 for the ultimate version. Studio HD is clearly aimed at your hobbyist videographers and dads who have a penchant for taking their camcorder on every family excursion. Apparently the guys at AVID also had the “Youtube generation” in mind for this one.
AVID and Pinnacle have produced a very consumer-friendly product that makes it easy to put together footage in no time, with little fuss. The studio is conveniently divided into three tabs – Import, Edit and Make Movie (exporting).
The import tab allows you to bring in footage, music or pictures for use in your project, by importing it from any number of connected devices, CDs or DVDs. Studio HD is able to process quite a large variety of video formats – with the only issue I ran into coming from trying to import a ProRes Quicktime MOV (H.264 MOVs are compatible, though).
You then move on to the edit tab, or studio, where you will spend most of your editing time. The studio provides you with your timeline, which is divided into five “channels” – one each for footage, audio, overlays, sound effects and music. You also have a preview window so you can see what you’re doing; and the browser, where all your footage, sound, transitions, menues, titles – everything – is conveniently found.
The export tab takes you to the area where you get to specify to which format you’d like to distribute your creation – be it DVD, to file, to tape or directly to the internet for the whole world to see.
You never feel threatened by Studio HD; it beckons you to come in, sit down, relax and enjoy a cup of tea while you work. If you stumble, you quickly learn that it’s not because the program was built skew, but rather that you’re wearing two left shoes.
Simply put – everything is laid out pleasantly enough, and navigating through it is never a confusing process. Getting to grips with how to edit using the software, or what it is fully capable of, is a challenge in its own right, but there is thankfully a large support network to be found on the internet – as well as through the built-in guides and help topics.
It’s a requirement with any editing software that you invest time into learning how to use it and Studio HD is no different.
What you get
Pinnacle Studio HD 15 is the baseline package and offers up the editing program with the basic effects, transitions and the essentials you will need. This setup will be familar to anyone who has used AVID or AVID-based editing software before – only it has been “refined” down to a more user-friendly level.
Pinnacle Studio HD Ultimate 15 builds on this and adds more tools and more professional effects, as well as the “premium pack” of sound effects and presets. Included in these, are a couple of Red Giant effects. If you’re familiar with Red Giant, you will know why this is pretty cool – if not, just know that you’ve been provided with some really top-notch effects.
Pinnacle Studio HD Ultimate Collection 15 gives you the complete package, including even more packs, such as more DVD-design features, visual effects, transitions and even more from Red Giant. The Ultimate Collection also comes with your very own green screen sheet at retail, so you can make use of the chroma-key feature.
Now let me tell you why none of this is really that important in the greater scheme of things.
Finding a place in the world
For the purposes of this review, I had the Ultimate Collection at my fingertips – and with the impressive list of effects, presets and promises that I can “Make movies like a Pro with technology trusted by Hollywood”, I expected Studio HD with the Ultimate Collection bonuses to fill a spot somewhere between consumer and professional editing – perhaps my own fault for buying into marketing blurbs.
Instead, what I found was a consumer editing program with professional tools – but none of the flexibility or accessiblity you need to use those tools to their full potential. As a result, instead of being able to replicate ‘Hollywood effects’, you’re left with flashy presets that when applied to the projects your typical consumer-level editor will compose, will look out of place, and slightly cheesy.
An example is Red Giant’s Particular – a powerful tool that can be used to create some amazing effects (some of which would not be out of place in a big-budget production). However, using it with the limited access available in this consumer-level software, it simply comes off as a cheap trick.
To put it in another way – getting the Ultimate Collection for your doting dad who wants to make a video of Sally-Sue’s 5th birthday, is like giving your mom a chainsaw to shave her legs.
Being in-line with the consumer-level of use, Studio HD really trims things down so as not to complicate the process of creating a really awesome video project. This is a good thing, and the base program does it really well; but what it doesn’t do is convince me that I need to spend almost 3 times as much money for all of the flashy features.
The Ultimate Collection has the tools and the potential to be the perfect bridge between consumer and professional products – but to do that it needs you to invest a lot into learning the inner-workings of the software as a professional would; but by the time you’ve reached that level, the consumer-friendly design will leave you begging for more flexibility than the software provides.
Pinnacle Studio HD is a great product; it’s easy to use, intuitive in its interface and there is little to shoot it down for. It’s everything an amateur videographer could need to quickly and easily compile their memories into a cohesive, and entertaining, visual experience. Stepping up to Studio HD Ultimate gives you another layer of icing to savour, with more advanced tools and simply more to work with.
What this review really boils down to, is whether or not shelling out for the Ultimate Collection is worth it. AVID’s next-level editing product is AVID Studio which is a far more comprehensive editing tool. It’s more complex, but a lot more flexible. Unfortunately Phoenix Software does not yet have a recommended retail price for AVID Studio, and the product will have to be specially requested through them. If it does come in at a reasonable pricing point above Studio HD Ultimate Collection, then it may be worth considering.
If all you want to do is smash footage together with some audio, music and a truck-load of effects and presets to make your project look good – Pinnacle Studio HD and HD Ultimate will more than suit your needs. If you’re willing to invest time and effort into trying to get your footage to express a certain quality beyond “dad’s home reel 2010″, perhaps give Studio HD Ultimate Collection a skip; pay in a a bit more, and invest that time into AVID Studio instead.
|Pinnacle Studio HD 15 version comparison|
|Studio HD||Studio HD Ultimate||Studio HD Ultimate Collection|
|Red Giant Effects||x*||x|
|*Not the same as found in the Ultimate Collection|
Pinnacle Studio HD Ultimate Collection 15 review << Comments and views
Quinton Bronkhorst is a video editing professional, selected to review this software due to his expertise.