Test Drive: Pinnacle Systems' Studio Deluxe

By SmallBusinessComputing Staff | Posted September 19, 2002
Wayne N. Kawamoto
Managing Editor, www.smallbusinesscomputing.com

If your business needs to work with video, Pinnacle Systems' Studio Deluxe is an excellent way to go. This comprehensive system offers all of the hardware and software that you need to perform video-editing and it's reasonably priced. While many products only give you a specific capability, for example, an ability to capture analog or digital video, edit video, or save video onto DVD discs, Studio Deluxe effectively covers all of the bases. It's an all-in-one video solution.

These days, digital camcorders rule. But there are lots of users who own and use analog camcorders. To accommodate all camcorder owners, Studio Deluxe comes with a hardware breakout box that captures and converts video as well as audio from analog camcorders, TVs, and VCRs, and offers firewire ports to import digital video.

Users who own analog camcorders can use their existing equipment, and if and when they upgrade to a digital camcorder, can still use their PCs to capture digital video without making any upgrades. Another factor, many DV camcorder owners have analog video that they shot using older equipment, and can use the Studio Deluxe bring this footage into their PCs.

Capturing video requires lots of hard drive space. Pinnacle recommends that you allow some 3.6 MB of hard disk space for every second of video. At this rate, a minute DV video can take up some 900 MB of hard disk space. To help, a SmartCapture feature lets you digitize video in a low-resolution file (300Mb/hour). And after editing it, lets you recapture the video at full DV resolution for final output. This first rate feature saves considerable hard disk space as well as time. The software interface does a great job of displaying video as it captures it, and includes a clear running time counter, as well as a "diskometer" that shows the amount of hard drive space that's left to store video.

In addition to its versatile breakout capture box, Studio Deluxe comes with first rate software to perform video editing, add transitions and titles, and burn video onto DVD or CDs. The impressive Studio 7 software offers a wealth of features beyond those found in basic video-editing programs (that typically come bundled with most video capture systems). To start, the software lets you easily edit video by dragging and dropping scenes onto a Storyboard or Timeline.

I particularly liked the Timeline view that showed the position and duration of clips on a relative timescale, and let me zoom into a scene and accurately edit its length as I viewed it. Studio 7 offers five tracks on which you can place and arrange video, audio, transitions/titles, sound effects, and background music, and you can independently edit sound and video as separate files.

The intuitive interface offers five tabs that give you fast access to scenes, transitions, graphics, sound effects, and frame grabs (to take still shots from video segments). A helpful "scrubbing" feature lets you quickly view portions of your movies and get to any point in a timeline. You can apply fast and slow motion effects, as well as adjust brightness, contrast and color. The program includes special effects such as embossed, mosaic, posterize and blur that are fun to play with, but have little practical use.

You can apply transitions such as cuts, fades, dissolves, wipes, slides, and pushes, and use 3-D animated transitions that include page turns, spinning balls, and breaking glass. Studio Deluxe comes with 16 impressive 3D effects, and gives you the option of upgrading to the Hollywood FX program for $89, which gives you 80 additional transitions and other features.

The program gives you good control over audio. You can change volume levels; record voice overs; and add music from a CD, or rip .wav, or MP3 files; and a SmartSound feature automatically aligns musical soundtracks with the duration of the video. Also, the program's music generator can add so so background music based on a style, song, and version that you choose.

You can enhance your movies with titles that roll down or crawl across the screen. The included TitleDeko program offers some 300 looks and styles that include neon, metallic, and more.

And once you've finished editing your video, the program lets you save movies in formats that include AVI, MPEG1 & MPEG2, RealVideo8 and Windows Streaming Media, and includes a program to burn video onto a DVD disc-complete with interactive menus. And the breakout box lets you send the finished video that's on your hard drive to any VCR or television. Documentation is thorough and fairly easy to understand. However, the software is quite involved and can take time to learn and use.

In all, Pinnacle's Studio Deluxe is a well-designed, competitively priced system that is complete and versatile. It delivers the directorial goods.

Studio Deluxe - $299
Pinnacle Systems - www.pinnaclesys.com

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