Ulead MediaStudio Pro 8 review

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In the early days of PC video editing, MediaStudio Pro (MSP) played a relatively close second fiddle to the now market-leading Adobe Premiere. More recently, however, it has languished unloved in Ulead’s portfolio. While VideoStudio has developed into one of the best low-cost editors, MSP has been stuck with an interface more reminiscent of Premiere 4.2 than Premiere Pro. Ulead must have realised that radical change was necessary, so at last the company has taken out the hatchet.

Ulead MediaStudio Pro 8 review

Although elements of the old program are still visible, the interface has had a complete makeover. Instead of the antiquated system of independent floating windows, all the palettes are tabbed and stitched together, but you can still reposition elements and resize everything. Custom workspaces can be saved with their own hotkey combinations, or it’s possible to use the default options supplied. The result is much cleaner and easier to navigate. MSP has also finally moved over to single-track editing, so the days of only having transitions between the first two video tracks are over.

In keeping with the more integrated interface, video capture is now built in, although the separate utility is still available. Video can be captured to a wide range of formats, including DV, AVI, WMV and numerous types of MPEG, from VideoCD to HDV, plus batch capture for the latter. A DV tape can be automatically scanned, and high-speed scan rates are available (with a compatible camcorder). The resulting batch-capture list may also be saved as HTML, which is handy for planning your edit.

The timeline even supports nested sequences like Premiere Pro, and these similarly appear as tabs above the video tracks. However, adding new timelines from scratch is a little less intuitive. You have to create a new sequence by right-clicking above the timeline, and then right-click again to add it to the main sequence. However, Ulead has another much simpler method for adding sophisticated multitrack sequences: the Smart Compositor. This calls up a wizard that offers a selection of templates for intros with graphical elements and multiple picture-in-picture elements. Once the wizard has been completed, the results are added to the main timeline as a virtual sequence. You can double-click on this to load it as a nested timeline tab, although you can’t get back into the wizard once complete.

MSP7 was the first editing software to offer HDV support via a plug-in upgrade. Version 8 builds that directly in, making this the cheapest HDV editing app until Pinnacle Studio 10 arrives. When editing HDV, real-time performance was no match for Canopus EDIUS 3, and it fell slightly behind Pinnacle Liquid Edition 6 as well. On our dual 3.06GHz Xeon test workstation, two HDV streams could be mixed in real-time, but adding a third forced a reduced frame-rate preview. This was certainly functional, and slightly better than Premiere Pro 1.5 can achieve without the Aspect HD plug-in. You can also use the Proxy Editing feature to work on lower-resolution files for faster performance. However, MSP8 still doesn’t use 3D graphics card power to accelerate effects, and not all effects are real-time either.

A host of smaller improvements are also included. The new keyframe manager makes adjusting effects that little bit easier, by giving you all the controls onscreen without needing to open a separate dialog. However, you’ll still require this if you want to adjust any effect globally. Now, even transitions are fully keyframeable. Using the Keyframe Manager, motion paths can be adjusted with real-time feedback in the preview window. But you still don’t get to fine-tune B-Spline paths directly onscreen, unlike Premiere Pro.

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