Ulead VideoStudio 9 review
It’s a dog-eat-dog world, or at least a company-eat-company one. Avid has recently acquired Pinnacle, Adobe has purchased Macromedia, and now Ulead has become part of the InterVideo empire. But, apparently, it’s business as usual at Ulead, with the company’s entry-level VideoStudio getting its annual upgrade. Version 9 is no fundamental sea change, but it does add some key features that keep the program competitive.
The opening splash screen now gives you three choices instead of two; the additional option is the new DV-to-DVD Wizard. This takes you from tape to Video-CD or DVD in a couple of steps. First, it scans your tape, detecting any clips automatically, at 1x, 2x or maximum, which amounts to about 6x normal tape speed (this feature is also available in the main editing app’s Capture tool). You then choose the clips you want to include, select a menu theme from a variety of presets, specify the video quality and hit Burn.
The software automatically captures all your chosen clips to a temporary folder, creates the file structure for the finished video and burns it straight to disc. It’s a handy tool for quickly transferring video to optical if you don’t want to do any editing yourself. However, you can’t save the batch-capture list created by the Tape Scanning tool, so you have to start anew each time, even with the same footage.
The main editing app hasn’t changed much in appearance, although it offers a number of new effects: in particular, chroma keying. VideoStudio has long had an extra video track, so its lack of keying support has been a curious omission. However, with Pinnacle Studio Plus 9 now offering blue-screen effects, it was high time it followed suit. Keying control is pretty minimal, with just a colour picker and a similarity slider to fine-tune the key, but the results are perfectly adequate.
There are a couple of useful interface enhancements. A slider is available to augment the timeline zoom buttons. Ripple editing is supported too, so dragging a clip between two others will move the later one along. The project is now saved automatically at regular user-configurable intervals. It’s also possible to multitrim a video file, choosing more than one in and out point. This creates virtual clips that can then be treated separately on the timeline, allowing transitions between them to be applied.
A selection of new effects has been added as well. Ghost Motion blends the video with past and future frames, for a result that’s reminiscent of being hopelessly drunk. The Strobe Motion filter selectively speeds up or slows down portions of video – great for temporary slow-motion to emphasise an important moment. The DeNoise and AutoLevels filters are designed to help clean up your picture quality. A couple of particle filters are also included, for adding rain, clouds or bubbles, but curiously no snow.
Color Correction is now permanently available as a video attribute rather than a filter. Pan and zoom can be applied to video as well as still images, and may be keyframed. Distortion tools have been added for both the main video and overlay tracks too. The distortions aren’t keyframeable, though – all you get is fade-in and fade-out, plus a few canned entry and exit animations, and only for overlays.
The titler has had a few minor improvements. Grids can be made visible in the video preview window, which is particularly useful when creating titles: text elements may be snapped to the grid, making alignment a cinch. Animating each element separately within a single title was possible with VideoStudio 8, but now you can add a colour backdrop to each one as well. For more elaborate motion titles, you could take advantage of VideoStudio 9’s new support for importing Flash animations.
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