Corel VideoStudio Ultimate X6 review
This release introduces some powerful new modules, but it's let down by lapses in attention to detail
This is the 15th version of VideoStudio, and it seems to have settled comfortably into its niche. It's explicitly designed for home users, and while it can't match the precision of Adobe Premiere Elements 11 and Sony Movie Studio Platinum 12, each update brings new ways to be creative with a video camera.
The revamped stop-motion capture module is a perfect example. It requires a live feed from a camera: in VideoStudio X5 this meant either a webcam or MiniDV camera – quality was affected as a result. VideoStudio X6 adds support for Canon DSLRs, connected via USB. Eighteen models are supported, dating back to the EOS 450D; we're told Nikon DSLR support is coming later.
We tested the stop-motion capture module with an EOS 7D, and it worked superbly. There's comprehensive control over exposure, white balance and focus, all neatly presented with instant feedback in a high-resolution, live preview. The sequence can be played back at any time, and an Onion Skinning option overlays the live view and previous frame to show movement between them.
The picture can be cropped to a 16:9 aspect ratio, but this seemed to confuse the software – it's best to crop after capture. It's worth lowering the camera's resolution during capture, however. Setting our camera to its lowest 2,592 x 1,728 resolution reduced file sizes and allowed for smooth playback of our animation, while still capturing enough detail for final export at 1080p. Stop-motion is a niche feature, especially when it's limited to Canon DSLRs, but VideoStudio X6 does it better than any other consumer software.
Over in the main editing environment, the new Customize Motion editor greatly improves VideoStudio's ability to animate text, graphics and video around the frame. It supports curved paths between keyframes, and can ease motion in and out to avoid abrupt starts and stops.
It offers skew controls and rotation in three axes for 3D perspective effects, and drop shadows, borders and variable opacity are included, too. It isn't as sophisticated as Premiere Elements, which has Bézier keyframes for both direction and velocity, but it's a huge improvement over the crude animation tools in VideoStudio X5.
The old and new controls appear to be at odds with each other, though. When clips have been resized, repositioned or had a drop shadow applied using the old controls, opening the new Customize Motion editor discards the previous edits without warning. There's no obvious reason why the new controls couldn't have been built directly on the old ones, with existing settings transferred over to the new editor.
The proliferation of controls also makes animation using a single set of keyframes cumbersome. For example, after creating ten keyframes to animate a logo around the screen, the only way we were able to adjust its size or add a drop shadow was to apply the changes to each of the ten keyframes, one by one. Separate keyframe lanes would have made the process easier to manage. The inability to delete the first and final keyframes is another frustration which can lead to unnecessary extra work.
The most technically ambitious new feature adds a Track Motion function to VideoStudio X6. This automatically tracks a subject as it moves around the frame, and uses this tracked path to apply a localised mosaic effect to obscure the subject in question.
Alternatively, the tracking data can be used to animate another video, image or text object on the timeline. These objects can be offset so they hover nearby rather than over the tracked subject – perfect for animated text annotations.
Tracking was usually accurate in our tests, although there's no way to correct mistakes other than to stop one tracking path and start another. That's fine when applying a mosaic effect, but it caused motion to stutter when asking other objects on the timeline to follow the tracking path.
Another potential source of confusion is that applying tracking works differently for titles than for graphic and video clips, and applying the Customize Motion command with a right-click command results in confusing behaviour – selecting it removes any automatic tracking. At least there's a pop-up warning in this instance.
Overall, the Customize Motion and Track Motion functions work well, but attention to detail isn't as high as it could be. Preview performance could be better, too. Smooth playback of five simultaneous AVCHD streams on our Core i7-870 PC is a decent result, but it couldn't play more than a single 1080p QuickTime stream from Canon cameras without dropping frames. It often took a second or two to respond to our input, which slowed down the entire editing process.
There's plenty to enjoy here, but VideoStudio X6 has its fair share of limitations and irritations. It's a great choice for budding animators, but for general editing duties we'd choose an editor that's more consistently elegant and responsive.
|Software subcategory||Video editing software|
Operating system support
|Operating system Windows Vista supported?||yes|
|Operating system Windows XP supported?||yes|
|Operating system Linux supported?||no|
|Operating system Mac OS X supported?||no|