Top critical review
19 people found this helpful
Good, but still not perfect
on 8 February 2013
I bought Pinnacle Studio 16 Ultimate version partially because of the promise of extra transitions and effects, but mostly because Amazon were selling it at almost half the cost of buying direct from Pinnacle. As it turns out, I don't think it is worth the extra over the Plus version, unless you are desperate for a piece of green cloth and a pair of very cheap paper 3D glasses. Even so, once I registered the product, I was welcomed into the Pinacle fold and offered the full Help service.
Having had experience of many other video editing suites, including Ulead Video Studio and Sony Vegas Movie Studio, I have always come back to Pinnacle for its ease of use and dependability. Yes, earlier versions used to crash frequently but usually recovered well, and by version 12 it was pretty stable and user-friendly. I tried upgrading to version 15 (the Avid one), but while it gave me a taste of what was to come, it hadn't installed properly and crashed irrecoverably on my first project. Weeks of trying through the Help Desk failed to get it working again, and then I discovered it would not uninstall either, leaving traces all through my system despite thoroughly editing the registry. It was therefore with some trepidation that I opted to install Studio 16, but it does seem to be an improvement. It is certainly not without its bugs, however.
My computer runs Win 7 64bit, has a core i5 processor, 8GB of DDR3 system RAM, and two 1TB fast hard drives, but still progress is very slow. It is essential to proceed with amendments and additions slowly, otherwise Studio is easily confused. It will appear to freeze completely (usually because it is rendering the movie in the background), but with patience it eventually recovers. I did experience a complete crash on one occasion.
Although there are a couple of thousand ready-made templates, transitions and effects, there are very few of them that most people would want to use unless they were trying to impress the easily pleased. On the other hand, some of the more basic types of transition, such as fade to white, I have yet to discover. Fade to black is also missing, but can be achieved by folding over a corner of a clip - provided the clip is long enough.
The preset themes now include at least some applicable to users this side of The Pond, but are still somewhat biased towards North American enthusiasts. To be fair, most of the transitions and effects can be customised, though for some reason I could not get some of them to work at all, and there are more than a few that are duplicated under different names. When deciding which transition to apply, hovering the mouse pointer over the name of the transition should give you a preview of the effect, but it is very hit and miss.
Importing movies is not without its faults. You can opt for them to be automatically broken down into more manageable clips (called 'scenes'), either by content, date or a set length. If you choose content, you will almost certainly find that at the end of each scene there are up to a dozen frames from the front of the next scene. These can be very irritating to remove, especially from a long movie where you might wish to move scenes around or edit them out. And while these odds and ends can be cut off one scene, there is no way to join them to another - I'm sure this was posssible in earlier versions of Studio. You can of course place these offcuts where you want them, but then if the orphan has only a few frames, you cannot add any transitions between it and the following scene.
In one instance, I separately imported three movies and elected for each of them to be broken down into scenes. This worked well for the first movie, but even though Studio was working in a discrete environment each time, the scenes displayed for the second and third movies included up to a dozen scenes from the earlier movies. To make matters worse, some scenes from the subsequent movies were missing and had to be manually extracted.
While playing back or editing individual scenes on the timeline, for reasons best known to itself, when the playback was stopped the video scrubber would often return to the start of the movie - very annoying when you are working 50 or more scenes away.
As in previous versions, menus are somewhat daunting and not always intuitive. Efforts have clearly been made to improve this area, but it just doesn't seem to work reliably. I created a Menu and Sub-menu to offer the option to view the movie all the way through, or to select to view any of the ten chapters and be returned to the Menu each time. This is a facility on the top of most users' wish lists that was missing in previous versions.
I set it up very carefully, and Studio did indeed place its chapter numbers and returns exactly where I had put my markers, displaying the results in the sub-menu. But when I ran a simulation of the movie, selecting 'Play All' it jumped to Chapter 8 the first time, then Chapter 6 the second time. Choosing the option to go to 'Chapter Selection' by-passed the sub-menu altogether and went randomly to any chapter it felt like. A thorough check of my markers and the chapter numbers on the timeline showed that everything was correctly recorded, but still the menus wouldn't function properly. At this point I gave up, saved my work, closed down Studio and went off to make a cup of tea. When I returned, I fired up Studio, loaded the movie and, lo and behold, the menus worked perfectly.
Disc burning has improved, though the interface is not so user-friendly as it used to be. Burning a 6GB+ movie to a DL DVD took 17 minutes to create the disk image, and just 8 minutes to burn 99% of the image. However, there was a worrying 12 minute wait for the writing of the lead-out file to complete. An earlier similarly structured 1.6GB movie burned in a total of 12 minutes without any long pause at the end.
All in all, Studio 16 is an improvement over previous versions, and it feels more stable, if slower. Trying to work too quickly can confuse it, but given a steady pace it gets there in the end. As others have pointed out, this is not really Pinnacle 16 but Avid 2, and there is a bit of a learning curve even for the seasoned user. You can download a PDF User Manual, but I did not find it too helpful. There is no search facility, and twice it pointed me to options on the Studio menu bar which didn't exist in Version 16. For my money, the Ultimate version is not really worth the extra few pounds, but others may beg to differ.
One other very strange behaviour of Studio 16 is that, whenever it is loaded in Windows, even if it is minimised to the taskbar, it over-rides the Windows Power Settings, so that your computer and screen will not go into standby mode. And it constantly tries to connect to 'The Cloud', even if you have elected not to activate this facility. I wonder why?