I've been a Pinnacle Studio user since version 7 and upgraded through versions 8 and 9 including Plus versions and HFX Pro. I have also used Pinnacle Liquid (their 'professional' NLE) in a home environment and also evaluated it from a professional point of view. I also have experience with professional grade NLEs going back to the early days of Avid MediaComposer and NewsCutter and Lightworks. I always had trouble considering Final Cut Pro to be a truly professional NLE, but I do accept that it is used in the professional arena extensively these days and I have some experience with that as well.
I should point out that I am not a professional editor - though I have at times been called upon to edit on both NLE and old linear systems in my work. I do, however, have some experience supporting FCP.
My view of Pinnacle Studio, then, is principally from a home user point of view but I also have relevant experience over almost 20 years of professional NLE systems as well.
Having dabbled with numerous 'home' editing systems (Adobe Premiere
, Cyberlink PowerDirector
, Magix Movie Edit Pro
and more) I have always come back to Pinnacle Studio as my main tool. I still use CyberLink Power Director for some bits and pieces, mainly particular effects that I render out as an avi to incorporate into a Studio project, but if I were to choose just one package for home use then it would always be Studio.
I still have Sony Vegas on my machine as well, but Magix and Adobe Premiere are long gone and not really missed. Windows MovieMaker and Pinnacle VideoSpin may be freebies, but are only really worth considering for the very simplest of projects - with those you will soon find yourself wanting more. (However, it must be pointed out that you can still produce a `professional looking' project even with the simplest of edit systems. Good footage simply cut together can look just as professional as 90% of what you see on TV. Just sit and watch half an hour of TV and take time to notice how many fancy transitions are used or special effects. Unless you are watching a feature film, the chances are there will be very few things that you can't do with the simplest of editors).
Some reviews here (and elsewhere) suggest that Pinnacle Studio is somehow lacking in features when compared with other similarly priced packages such as Adobe Premiere Elements, but this is simply not true. I guess that this could be a case of an urban myth spreading by word of mouth and reviews and people just assuming it to be the case. Head over to the Adobe Premiere Elements 10
on Amazon and look through the list of features - there's not one thing there that Pinnacle Studio cannot do! The facts speak for themselves
(Pinnacle Studio does not have a 2D to 3D converter or a 3D edit mode like Cyberlink Power Director, but I consider this more of a gimmick than a useful feature. I've tried it and it works - kind of. If you want to edit 3D material then Studio isn't for you (yet?). There are workarounds, but it's a fiddly workflow involving Montage Themes or the PiP feature and keeping two video tracks in sync.
THE UPGRADE ROUTE
Last year I finally took the plunge and upgraded my old version 9 Plus of Studio to version 14 Ultimate Collection. This upgrade included additional RedGiant plug-ins such as Trapcode Shine, Particular and Magic Bullet. These last three are also included in version 15 Ultimate Collection, but not in version 15 Ultimate as reviewed here.
I read in the instructions that plug-ins and content from version 14 would automatically be transferred into version 15 when I installed (there is a content transfer tool for version 11 and 12 content), however this didn't actually work quite as expected. Essentially everything from v14 became available in v15 except for the RedGiant plug-ins.
I bit of fiddling around copying folders from the v14 installation (the two versions install side by side rather than the old version being over-written) got everything back where it should be, however this took a bit of trial and error. A Google search turned up some scripts on the very trustworthy and useful Declic Video website which claim to do the transfer of these plug-ins automatically. I didn't try them, but Declic has always been a useful resource for me in the past for Studio tips and tricks.
NOT PROFESSIONAL vs PROFESSIONAL
I'm afraid I take issue with the fact that people snigger a bit at the Studio interface and claim it is not a professional NLE. For one it is not sold as a professional NLE and has a price tag to reflect that. However, it is a massively capable NLE and its features, especially with Ultimate and Ultimate Collection plug-ins, actually go beyond some versions of so called professional NLE packages. I honestly fail to see why this cannot be considered for at least semi-professional work - certainly the quality of video and audio output is brilliant even on a 92" screen at close range!
The one thing that people often point out as a failing of the Studio series is the limited number of video tracks available on the timeline. While it is true that some other packages allow you to add 'infinite' video tracks I have yet to find a use for this that cannot be achieved by other methods. Studio now comes with what it calls 'Montage Themes' which are editable multi-video templates. Add Hollywood FX to this and you can acheive just about anything. Admittedly some of the supplied Montage Themes templates and some of the Hollywood FX transitions and effects are cheesy beyond belief, but some of them are very usable and withe Studio 15 Ultimate you get the HFX Editor thrown in as well (see below, though).
Colour correction, image stabilisation and other similar tools are present as well and perform pretty well. Even in the professional arena there are differences in the quality of these types of functions. Studio's in-built functionality will be sufficient for all but the most critical of users (and if you opt for the Ultimate Collection
package rather than just Ultimate then Magic Bullet takes colour correction to a whole other level).
LOST IN THE EDIT
For those new to Non-Linear Editing, any NLE is going to take a little bit of getting used to. The Studio interface, however, is one of the simplest I have ever come across. Try Windows MovieMaker first and if you can use that then you can use Pinnacle Studio.
From those easy beginning where you just drop clips on the timeline and trim them to the length you want, chopping out the bits you don't want, you can then go on to add transitions and effects as you like to make your project more interesting. Beware here, though, this is where a lot of home movie makers fall down. If you want your project to look professional stick to just one or two fonts for any titles, stick to cuts and the occasional fade transition unless you really need to use anything else, and use any effects sparingly. If you throw too much in there - and there is a lot to choose from in these later versions of Studio - then you will just make your project look amateur. Maybe this is where people get the idea that Studio is not a professional tool - a lot of the content that is bundled is of very limited use because it looks amateurish - you won't find FCP or the professional suites being bundled with transitions that look like the title sequence to 'You've Been Framed'.
ON THE MENU
Creating DVD or BD menu systems in Studio is a breeze. You treat the menu system as part of the timeline and a menu is simply a title like any other title element except that it includes buttons. You configure these buttons to jump to chapter markers of other menus in your project and the menu element appears in the timeline along with the video and audio tracks.
I have managed to make menus with hidden `Easter egg' menus, PIN-code entry type menus that lead to hidden content and even a menu system where cable cars roll diagonally onto the screen to show the moving chapter previews in the windows - three chapters per page with the cable cars travelling diagonally off the screen as another group of three come on with the next three chapters.
All of this was pretty easy to achieve with the old versions of Studio, but is even easier now with some of the recent enhancements to the title/menu editor.
BUNDLES OF CONTENT
As I've said above, a lot of the content that gets bundled with Studio these days is very much 'throw-away' padding. Some of it has very specific uses - country flag based transitions possibly for holiday videos, swinging bells for wedding videos - but I'd generally recommend avoiding any of these if you want your project to look at all professional. Frustratingly it is these often themed effects that Pinnacle chooses to call 'professional-level' - no professional worth their salt would use these! Digging through the 2000+ transitions and effects, though, will turn up some really useful bits and pieces - used well these look very good and even the bad ones can serve as inspiration for your own effects.
One area I particularly like for creating effects is the Alpha Magic transitions. These are basically greyscale images that perform a transition following the gradient of the image. Read more ›