By: Dustin Sklavos
Hot on the heels of our review of Adobe Premiere Elements 7 comes an unconventional contender in the form of Corel VideoStudio Pro X2 (also called VideoStudio 12). The software currently retails (as of this writing) at $59.99 on the Corel website, but regularly retails at $99.99, where it squares off against our last competitor. Though we still have a few more of these suites to review before I can really compare-and-contrast, I can at least tell you if the Corel suite is worth your hundred bills.
Before I get into it, I do want to mention that Corel's software started on a horrible foot for me. I began a new project, skirting the wizards available. There was a video in the video library panel that I dragged down to the timeline, which presented no problems. Then I switched over to the track-based timeline, imported a DV AVI from my hard drive, and popped it into the "overlay" track just below the "video" track. The way the tracks are labeled could lead you to believe the overlay track is just another video track and, sure enough, when I dropped a video into the overlay, the video appeared...at roughly 25% of its natural size, overlaid -- naturally -- on the original video.
I just want to be clear before we get into this review that this is several different kinds of asinine and that in my entire history of editing I have never needed a feature that worked like this. So Corel and I didn't really have a promising start.
Corel abstracts how it handles file formats to keep the user's hands away from the headache of format compatibility, and for the most part this works. If you start out with a DV project and then import some HDV, the project as a whole will scale up to support the HDV and scale up the DV (and any other odd video files imported) appropriately to match the resolution and aspect of HDV.
This is an okay way to go, but I think I'd rather have seen some finer-grained control here. Still, the way Corel has essentially blocked the end-user from having to deal with silly things like resolution, compression, and file type is actually fairly clean, if a bit inconsistent. How inconsistent, you ask?
Well, the video library lists the extensions for most of the files, but not all. This is a step back and can breed confusion, especially when these extensions are just catch-alls like .MPG or .AVI.
When capturing footage from a camera, Corel VideoStudio Pro X2 is nice enough to give you a great deal of information about the camera and video you're importing. This is something I'd think would be really cool to see even on more fully-featured video editors, but it's not necessarily something I want to see here.
The problem with providing this information after having abstracted everything else is that Joe Average Consumer is getting information that does him no good when it comes time to troubleshoot. This, in turn, can result in situations where the end-user may be misinformed about video by virtue of having an incomplete picture. The camera data is provided without context and can unfortunately lead to some poor decision-making on the part of the consumer when it comes time to buy more video equipment. I've known guys like this, where they have just enough information to be dangerous, and I'm sure you have too.
The capturing process itself is pretty stripped down; the software seems to offer the ability to log in and log out capture points, but these options were grayed out for me. If I have to pore through the documentation that comes with the software to figure out how to do something I already know how to do everywhere else, that's a problem. And that said, I want to make sure this software is easy enough to use from the get-go for the average user. The logging system is not user-friendly.
As for importing everything else, Corel VideoStudio Pro X2 seems to work easily enough. Stuff just pops into the video library, and I had no problem bringing in pre-existing DV and HDV footage already captured to my hard drive by Adobe Premiere Pro.
The way editing timelines are laid out in Corel, ignoring the bizarre "overlay" track mentioned in the introduction, just upsets me. Corel VideoStudio 12 gives you three different types of timelines to work with: Storyboard View, Timeline View, and Audio View, and each one has its own major cons with very few pros.
The Storyboard View is basically the traditional "video in front of video in front of video" timeline sequence you're accustomed to in consumer-grade video editors. Yet shuttling is stunningly counter-intuitive. Go ahead and look at that timeline, and honestly tell me you can figure out how it works. The "Project/Clip" toggle under the viewer just obfuscates things. Editing the video clip is essentially nested inside this mess; you choose the clip, it immediately starts playing the clip, and during playback you pick your in- and out-points.
The problem is that half the time I just wanted to shuttle between the clips, which meant going back and clicking "Project" or clicking in the empty space between the clips. It's really silly and needlessly confusing, and it muddies an otherwise decent foundation for amateur video editors.
The Timeline View isn't any better. The Timeline view handles video -- not audio -- and the overlay track below the main video track is apparently designed to facilitate doing blue and green-screen effects. This is something I guarantee will almost never work out well, given how difficult those effects can be for experienced videographers to shoot properly, let alone for relative amateurs to shoot and edit.
Clicking and highlighting a clip in Timeline View will give you handles on the side to trim the clip, and will shift clips behind the selection and in front of it. Dragging an entire clip so it overlaps another clip will place transitions. I want to say this seems easy, but something about it still feels sort of bass-ackwards. I can't help but feel like it would just be more sensible to have two video timelines -- you know, like almost everyone else does -- and just drag those timelines back and forth. And in another delightful slice of inconsistency, there are also voice and music tracks on this timeline. Why is this inconsistent?
Because there's a separate Audio View. The decision to abstract video and audio away from each other this way is absurd; it's keeping the left hand from knowing what the right hand is doing. You can do all kinds of kooky mixing effects and theoretically clean up your crappy audio, but it doesn't change the fact that you really should be able to see audio and video hanging out together on the same timeline since they actually are attached. Edits made to the Audio View will materialize in the Timeline View, and vice versa.
It bears pointing out that HDV played back on the timeline, even on my respectable 1920x1200 resolution screen, is curiously compressed. I'm used to HDV being somewhat compressed when scrubbing/shuttling on the timeline -- that's normal -- but VideoStudio is inconsistent. Sometimes HDV footage is nice and sharp on the timeline, sometimes it's blurry and compressed. I can see this seriously confusing a new user.
The way VideoStudio handles editing is bizarre and, to me at least, counterintuitive.
Corel VideoStudio Pro X2 offers a nice selection of ways to output your project, but the ways in which it abstracts them is, again, silly.
Why separate DV and HDV Recording options, especially when "Create Disc" pops open a list of five different disc formats. And what's even screwier are the DV and HDV recording options that ask you to select a clip! What the frak? I'm trying to export the whole project here. I don't need to export a clip; I've been editing the clip!
The disc export experience is at least marginally intuitive so long as you try to avoid getting into designing menus, etc., and having the software directly upload to YouTube is always a nice option that recognizes the consumer base of the product.
The "Create Video File" options are pretty simplified, giving you a broad choice of formats to export to, but this is a situation where I do wish they'd been consistent in abstracting formats by paring these down and then leaving that "Custom" option at the bottom of the list for the folks who want to get technical. Do you want an HDV or WMV? Heck if I know, I just want to watch the thing.
Finally, it must be noted that Corel VideoStudio 12 does offer some wizards that can make this whole nightmare go away.
For garden variety clip sequencing or just capturing video directly from the camera to a DVD, Corel's wizards can handle the job just fine. It's only when you get into any kind of serious editing that you start having problems.
I guess the name of the game for Corel VideoStudio 12 is "inconsistency." There are some really strange decisions made in every stage of the process, and the software lacks cohesion and polish. When the software can't even settle on its own name -- Corel VideoStudio 12 or Corel VideoStudio Pro X2 -- you've got some problems.
For $99 I can say with absolute certainty you can do better. For $59, we'll have to see.
I'd have to recommend giving Corel VideoStudio 12/Pro X2 a pass.
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