Review: Pinnacle Studio 7
Don Bradbury reviews Pinnacle Systems' new program.
|We like||Easy to use, shows good potential|
|We don't like||Suspect stability|
In our last look at a Pinnacle product we reviewed Studio Online, a video capture device that came with quite decent editing software. Pinnacle's Studio 7 is meant to be the video editing software of choice for the general run of amateur video producers, offering more by way of editing facilities, transition types, and just about everything else.
Well it does, though the differences are not immediately apparent. Using basically the same screen layout as the Studio Online software, Studio 7 squeezes in some nice touches that will be appreciated by aficionados, but they'll either have to use the product and suss out the additions by use, or they'll have to plough through the manual.
As with Online, Studio 7 offers automatic scene change detection which, while not 100% smart, nevertheless helps with scene editing and compiling. In capture mode, the scene frames are imported to a neat album from which selection and rearrangement puts together your video compilation.
Dozens of transitions, sound effects, voice-overs, titles, and even a complete sound track suited to your video length if you wish, are now available, all adding usefully to the facilities. Editing by drag-and-drop of scenes is, as with Online, very easy, and editing at the frame level is useful if you happen to have a glitched frame from the camera.
That is facilitated by a timeline option in which your footage can be spread out on a time basis. This can be stretched to make fine tuning easier, and independent audio and video, together with the advanced preview window, make editing easier.
You can also adjust brightness, contrast, and colour to correct minor scene defects, and if you are so inclined you can add effects like emboss, mosaic, posterise etc.
Capture can ostensibly be from a wide range of sources; DV, Digital8, (even my old analogue Canon camcorder using a compatible capture device like Studio Online), VCR, or webcam. You can also import AVI, WAV, MP3, BMP, JPG, PCT, TGA, TIF, or WMF files.
Output formats include AVI, MPEG, RealVideo8, and Windows Media Format. A 314MB AVI file took 19 minutes to process on my 1GHz PIII, and in MPEG format that amounted to 160MB.
Minimum system requirements include a Pentium II, Celeron 350 or equivalent, 64MB or RAM (128MB for Win2000 or XP), Windows 98SE, or ME, DirectX compatible graphics and sound card, and 200MB of hard disk space for software installation, plus 120MB for every 20 minutes of captured video in preview quality or 4GB for the same length in finished movie format.
Studio 7's working interface is rather crowded, but when you get used to it having everything to hand is useful, and most of the options are easy to implement. Capture, Edit, and Make Movie are the three modules, and ancillary options like title creation fall readily to hand.
It's worth spending an hour or two with the perfect bound manual to gain basic familiarity, and within a short time you'll be creating your own video edits with some ease.
That's provided the system keeps running because I experienced regular crashes during my tests, notably from KERNEL32.DLL and MFC42.DLL. To get within seconds of the end of a forty minute MPG compilation and have the system stall is worse than annoying. Pinnacle's patch, available from their web site, provided no improvement.
Pinnacle's Studio 7 offers plenty of potential, but I noticed oddities. Part of the display by which you control the capture action tended to wander off the screen and then pop back again for no apparent reason. Pinnacle Systems had not met this problem before I reported it (Studio 7 is, after all, a new product).
But several other sources of actual crashes were more serious. DLL failures, and lockups associated with this, meant a reboot and thus loss of painstakingly compiled video footage (not lost from the camera, of course). This was confirmed by installing the software on a second PC; it wasn't just the first that Studio 7 didn't like.
I downloaded the 2.15MB patch for the product from the manufacture's web site - which is supposed to address the problems I've outlined, among others - though with no apparent improvement.
I would be reluctant to recommend the product at this early stage. Wait for a reportedly stable system, that would be my advice, and that is likely to be fully documented in the very active user forum on the Pinnacle web site in which users offer their views on the product.