PLEASE NOTE: The star ratings for this product apply once the apparent bugs are fixed.
There is no doubt whatsoever, that the Pinnacle Studio series of editing software is designed purely and simply for folks who would call themselves rookies and enthusiastic novices with primarily one major purpose in mind – archiving their memories onto DVD.
Pinnacle call these folks ?memory keepers?. I prefer to use the term ?us?, as I too shoot loads of footage that is designed purely as a digital video record of the great things in my life.
I have many fond hours working with Pinnacle Studio 8 and a fairly ancient laptop, by last week?s standards anyway. I looked forward to the day the parcel would arrive, as I was expecting Studio 10 Plus (S10+) to be a grown up version of Studio 8.
Let?s not even think about the Studio 9 upgrade. It was so unstable it would not even work, and kept crashing until it was finally uninstalled ? several times.
Pinnacle is now part of the legendary Avid company and it seems Pinnacle has done a good thing over the years to be bought out by such a prestigious firm.
Simple, uncluttered and logical layout for the novice. Wasted real estate for the experienced or prosumer, but remember Studio 10+ is designed for those starting to find the joys of editing their own footage.
First, I decided to set a few parameters with the review. I was to test it to see if it would ?plug and play? out of the box. Next would be to see if it would capture Standard Definition and how well I could then edit and finally burn the project to disc. I was determined to not let the disaster of Studio 9 get in the road.
Studio 8 used 80 odd Mb of hard drive space plus 460Mb for effects. The Studio 9 upgrade devoured five GIGS and S10+ was to use one gig of space for the editor, and a further THREE gigs for the additional buyware.
At this point, mental note number 1 was made; must have shedload of hard disc space available. Next I looked at the processor requirements – must be fast, oh and also, need at least one gig of RAM for High Definition. Immediate problem. My trusty laptop has 256K of RAM and it cruises with Studio 8 and a couple of other professional NLEs with ease. An alarm bell went off in the back of my mind with the spectre of Studio 9 haunting the mists of the past.
I had no option but to load it onto my PC, a pretty sluggish 3.2Ghz hyper threading P4, two gigs of RAM and half a terabyte of disc space. This should more than cover the basic requirements I hoped.
Get the upgrade patch
Following installation ? a straightforward load the discs-one-after-each-other affair – and after the required reboot, it took a full 64 seconds to load P10+. I was greeted with a screen advising me I needed to get two downloads. The first was to get a 34Mb driver from ATI to make the graphics work. Then a short and polite note saying I will need to download a 62Mb patch (yes, you read that right, sixty-two megabyte patch) from Pinnacle. I breathed a sigh of relief that I had broadband.
I followed the instructions and then installed the patch and driver, all the time thinking that a 62Mb patch could indicate a slight, teeny-weeny problem encountered somewhere. Then I wondered if the product was actually ready for the unsuspecting public, given the end-user was to be the novice and ?memory keepers?.
I rebooted and arced up P10+, again waiting the 64 seconds for it to load. Once done, I chose to have a look at the tutorial, and found this nothing short of brilliant. So good in fact I wish other software manufacturers would take note of how to do a decent job using this as an example.
An old friend
Once I had fired up the software, to me it was like looking at an old friend with a scrub up. Everything I was used to in Studio 8 was there. I went through the menus; High Definition, Dolby 2.1 and 5.1, Imports Studio 9 projects, Picture in Picture, Green screen and the like. Even able to use vision from the JVC Everio series of cameras. I was thinking the same stuff as S9, but with High Definition capable. Not bad, not bad at all.
So, following what any novice would do, I decided to see if it would capture some footage and it worked very smoothly and easily as I had expected. Then I saw the scene detection happening, and all was well with my world. I placed the clip into the timeline and began to play.
Titles, music, transitions ? the whole thing. In the end, a six-minute movie was ready for rendering. I abandoned using SmartSound, as it simply failed to work. Full stop, which was totally unlike what I was used to with this ? post patch ? so far outstanding product.
I spoke too soon.
As most folks will simply want to burn their creation to DVD, I decided to try that option first. Studio recognized my burners and that?s when things started to go wrong.
Studio said my blank discs were not. Disc burning failed every time even to a hard drive image, it then duplicated the movie automatically and added it to the end of the project and so on. With numerous reboots in-between, I even consulted Pinnacle?s own website that advised to switch off the firewall (What? So I did. No difference). I checked the registry, and no issue there either.
I decided to use the ?Make VCD or SVCD? option and even ?Make tape? option. Still nothing.
Then for some unknown reason I was able to render a copy as an image on the hard drive. I tried using the ?burn previous content? option, but that said my blank discs weren?t. So, I tried to use Nero to make the thing happen.
I decided to check the Nero burnt DVD first by using Windows Media Player and PowerDVD. The files were full of black cats in coal cellars ? black. Nothing, zip, nada, nix. I decided to sacrifice a disc just in case. It toasted the disc in two minutes. The acid test on the lounge telly gave me the same black cat roaming in a darkened coal cellar again.
After spending two weeks on and off with this, uninstalling and reinstalling everything, including the 62Mb patch, I came to a standstill. In one of my conversations with Mr Ed. I mentioned the problem and he soon got back to me saying the software distributor (Melbourne?s LakoVision) would send me another patch.
Using Pinnacle’s Deko as a built-in, titling is a snack in Studio 10+.
The patch arrived Express Post the next day. I installed the disc and (re) loaded the patch, then arced up P10+. Problem solved! Back to the project, and a few others with P10+.
But? on the six-minute movie I had worked on, the DVD option was tried. It worked, but? hang on, didn?t I have some transitions and titles in there? And the Picture in Picture? They had gone AWOL from the render, but still on screen in the timeline.
I went with the make tape option and at the 3min.38sec point, the render screen stuck. My first thought was not enough RAM and not enough HDD to toss the temp files around. But with 2 gigs of RAM and half a terabyte of space?
I decided to put it away for a day, trying to get on with my other video and photo commitments (and a story for this magazine) before starting with a fresh mind on the problem.
I remembered the fastest way to render to DVD in Studio 8 was to first render to tape, then recapture the tape and then render that to DVD. Certainly a roundabout method, but one that actually works.
I then decided to take a finished project off a master tape, and capture that. It worked perfectly from capture right through to the final freshly toasted DVD. My heart sank.
This had me thinking then ? and still – what the issue might be, especially as I was quite meticulous with the instructions given. A check of the website, and Pinnacle?s own forum sank my heart. Most of the conversations regarding the product were not at all favourable.
I kept reading, and as I did I seriously thought that perhaps Studio 10 had not been properly alpha, let alone beta tested. The one paragraph that hit me was an announcement from new owner, Avid, that another patch would be released in the first quarter of 2006. This to me was confirmation of that thought. Then I read a release from Avid listing the 34 bug fixes they have done since this version was made.
Studio 10+ has a lot going for it. More than enough reason to consider either upgrade or full installation, once the bugs are fixed. For DVD, Sound is MPG1, layer 2 with two channel or Dolby 5.1. The default is set at 7500Kbs, but best quality (and its noticeable) is at 8500Kbs.
The big plus is it is dual layer burner capable. The downside is you have to buy a key from Dolby for the surround option. For rendering to file, Studio 10 has more temptations, with the ability to turn your final project into the standard .avi format, Windows media, Real Player, MPEG 1 and 2 and astonishingly, DivX and MPEG4. Again, the downside is you have to buy a key for these last two.
There is not much in the way of choices when working with .WMV files, as many aviation websites for example specify a bit rate of 700 to 800Kbs, NTSC, with the audio at 128 and a picture 640 x 480 pixels. The nearest option was to set Windows to encode at 1Mbs, which would preclude videos being streamed on sites. Studio 10+ is fairly flexible with its import, handling DV, HDV, .avi. MPG 1 and 2, DivX, MPEG4, WMV and non encrypted (copyrighted) DVD. Sound can be imported off CD, .wav or MP3 For importing or exporting directly to and from analogue machines, you will need an analog or TV card.
Simple and easy to use. Studio keeps its simplistic heritage and is a boon for novice users.
I gave Studio 10+ a fraction over seven seconds of an .avi file to convert it into a High Quality PAL, WMV file, 40Mb in size. It took three minutes of processor time with a sluggish 3.2Ghz HT P4 chip. However, it took two minutes processor time to render a one minute .avi clip as a disc image to be burnt to DVD (a 75Mb .vob file).
VHS to DVD
A pretty heavy task I gave Studio 10+, was to convert a 90-minute home video currently residing on VHS to DVD. As I don?t have an analog capture card, I copied the movie onto MiniDV tape and decided to capture from there. Pinnacle Studio 10+ showed lots of problems and an inability to cope, as by the 35-minute mark it had dropped 551 frames.
Using Vegas 6 in comparison to capture with dropped four frames. I used Studio 10+ to burn it to DVD. And it was brilliant and easy. All I had to do was leave it to render overnight. A check the next morning revealed a magnificent copy.
The beauty of this was selecting the ?fit most video on disc? option, and it automatically compressed it to fit onto the disc. Mind you, watching the DVD at a supposed 75% quality was a damn sight better than watching the VHS original. The only problem is having to go and buy more discs as I have loads of VHS footage that I need converting!
Once fixed, I would definitely buy and use it, and I would recommend it to novice users and people who just want to keep their memories on DVD. But, until then?
This product’s rating
Please note that the rating for this product applies once the apparent bugs are fixed.