Pinnacle Studio Plus 9 review

Price when reviewed

Pinnacle Studio has long been a favourite for anyone starting out in video editing. But although its ease of use remains unparalleled, when it came to raw features Studio was starting to fall behind its competitors such as Ulead VideoStudio 8. In particular, the limitation to just one track of video was severely restricting what could be done with the software. In our review of the basic Studio 9 , two of our major criticisms revolved around this limitation.

Pinnacle Studio Plus 9 review

With the new Plus version of Studio 9, Pinnacle hopes to bring its market-leading entry-level app back up with the competition. At long last, a second video track has been added. This can be used to create picture-in-picture effects, or to superimpose action shots against a blue screen by keying out the background colour. Existing users will be pleased to see that there have been no major changes to the interface to accommodate this extra layer. In fact, Pinnacle has achieved the upgrade by tweaking the title track, which now accepts video as well as titles.

Using the new layer is as simple as dragging your video to the title track instead of the main video track. Once the video has been dropped in place, the title track is bumped down a row and changes its icon to show that it will no longer accept a video file. The second video track then appears as if from nowhere. Since there’s still a titling track, the extra layer in no way hinders the use of the titling track for DVD menus. Titles can also span picture-in-picture effects, making it possible, for example, to create news-style footage where the superimposed video frame has a label explaining its contents.

The new layer brings with it a pair of applets for creating picture-in-picture or chroma-key effects. After selecting a clip and using the toolbox icon to call up the Editing and Effects dialogs, you’ll see a new icon on the left above the plug icon for applying filters. You can use these applets with video on the main video track, as well as the extra superimposition layer. Checking the Enable box makes them active, and both can be applied at once. However, the picture-in-picture or chroma keys can also be added via the video effects filters list. Both have an additional Filter dialog with all the same options available. However, the applet and the filter views offer different approaches to creating the effects, particularly for picture-in-picture.

With chroma-keying, you get blue and green screen presets, or you can pick a colour from the picture to key out. Sliders then let you vary colour tolerance, minimum saturation, softness and spill suppression. You can also apply a global transparency setting. When operating with the applet, you also get a Colour Wheel view, which shows you the range of colours being removed, plus a representation of the key channel, showing the alpha mask you’ve created with the key.

The picture-in-picture applet provides a far more tactile approach than its companion Filter dialog. Using the filter, scaling, positioning and cropping must all be performed with numerical sliders, but using the applet you can drag the clip and its edges within a preview window. It would have been nice to be able to do this in the main Preview window, but this is rapidly updated anyway, so it isn’t a major hindrance to workflow. The picture-in-picture effect also allows the application of borders and shadows, with custom configuration of colouring, size and transparency. Borders can even have rounded corners. As with the chroma keys, global transparency can also be applied.

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