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There are three applications vying for the home video editing crown: Adobe’s Premiere Elements, Corel’s Ulead VideoStudio 11 Plus and the subject of this review, Pinnacle’s Studio 11 Plus. Now owned by Avid, a major player in professional video editing on both the hardware and software sides, Pinnacle has gleaned some of the code from more expensive Avid applications in putting together this new version.
The main screen of Pinnacle Studio Plus 11 supports three main tabs, each of which controls one of the working modes of the program. The tabs are Capture, Edit and Make Movie and all benefit from new or improved features.
Capture is used for transferring DVD or video footage to a hard drive so you can edit it. The big news here is that version 11 of the program fully supports HD video. In particular, it supports Advanced Video Codec High Density (AVCHD) format files just beginning to appear in new Panasonic and Sony camcorders. This Blu-ray format is in addition to the native HDV support the program already had. You can import from tape, MiniDVD, camera-based hard drive or files already stored on your PC.
Assuming you have the necessary hardware, it’s now possible to edit HD video directly and save it as either MPEG-2 or MPEG-4 (including DivX). It’s worth noting that the MPEG-4 compression process can cut the bit rate (and file size) by as much as half for the same image quality as MPEG-2.
All this does require quite a potent PC. The recommended configuration includes a 2.4GHz Athlon or a 1.6GHz dual-core processor, with a 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo for AVCHD editing. You'll need 1GB of memory for Windows XP or 2GB for Windows Vista (another reason to stick with XP?) and sufficient hard drive space to store 3.6MB/s – roughly 12.5GB per hour – if you're working with HD.
The main editing screen hasn't changed a lot. On the right is a preview panel where you can watch individual clips or edited sections of your video. To the left of that, by default, is the clip display from where thumbnails of individual scenes can be dragged directly into the bottom section of the screen.
The bottom section shows your building video in one of three ways. Timeline view shows the various video, overlay, effect, narration and soundtrack channels running in parallel against a time ruler along the top. You can switch to storyboard view, which shows the clips arranged chronologically and finally, there's a file list showing the constituent clip files currently in your production.