Corel VideoStudio Pro Ultimate Review: Great Value in PC Video Software

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Overview

The high-end features in today’s low-priced video editing software never cease to amaze, and Corel’s VideoStudio Pro X5 Ultimate is probably the most value-packed offering yet. Unlike competitors such as Adobe and Avid, Corel does not have a pro-grade video editing product to upsell to users. Perhaps as a result, Corel incorporates new features in the new X5 package that might otherwise require you to spend hundreds of dollars more. As I found out in reviewing the software, chief amenities include two very cool new video capture features, easier to use templates, HTML 5 authoring, and the Boris FX titling and graphics package and Mercale filter.

Corel has made it simpler to find and use “Instant Projects,” a set of polished-looking video editing templates, aimed at consumers, that incude slick titles, music, and transitions from shot to shot. As we’ll see later in this review, though, VideoStudio Pro might not be the ideal software package for you to use if you’re just getting started in video editing.

Meanwhile, the two new video capture features in X5 Ultimate — just by themselves — might make Corel’s video editing software worth the $99 price. With one of them, Screen Capture, you can quickly record video from your PC screen, either full-screen or in a window. This is terrific for creating tutorials, or even for making copies of video from live streaming Web sites.

Corel’s other new capture tool, Stop Motion animation capture, lets you capture video in increments of 1 to 30 frames. It includes onion screen functionality, for seeing through to the previous frame, plus “automatic capture,” an interval timer adjustable for anywhere from once per second to once every 100 days.

HTML 5 output is another extaordinary feature. The program builds a complete set of HTML 5 files that you can upload to a Web host and publish on the Internet. Prior to publishing, you can create links in the video by specifying multiple target areas within the video frame that will link to other pages when users click on them.

Corel’s decision to include Boris FX filters and Mercale is also impressive. Both are well known in the professional film community. With Mercale, a camera shake removal filter, you can improve just about any handheld camera work.

Performance

Installation and Setup

Before downloading Corel’s software, be aware that it’s big — some 1.2 GB for X5, plus about 400 MB more for the bonus package which makes the “Ultimate” version sell for $20 more. The download takes at least 30 minutes even with a good broadband connection. I installed it on a humble Acer mini-notebook with an AMD A50 processor running Windows 7 Home Premium, partly to see how accessible the program might be to beginners.

As you start to install the program, it first asks you what country you live in or which type of video format (NTSC or PAL) you’ll be using. For newbies, this might be confusing because after you make a selection in one field, the other becomes moot. It takes about ten minutes to install the software. Setup is entirely automatic.

Capturing Video

When you launch VideoStudio Pro, the screen comes up in Edit mode, which is Step 2 in the simple 3-step process indicated along the top of the screen. Step 1 is Capture and Step 3 is Share.

In Capture mode, you’ll find the usual capabiities for capturing directly from a camcorder, camera or other external device, and for importing files from a disk drive or memory card. Also, a “DV Quick Scan” feature allows you to look quickly through a DV tape before capturing it.

You’ll also find the new Screen Capture and Stop Motion tools here. Screen Capture is a relatively easy-to-use utility. Simply press the record button and a “3-2-1” countdown appears on screen. The capture controls will then minimize to the task bar and you’ll be recording. Press F10 to stop.

Stop Motion worked perfectly with my notebook’s built-in Webcam, which the software automatically identified and selected. Within seconds, I was goofing around, making a simple stop motion animation with my hand.

Editing

The Edit window opens with dozens of sample files in a “Samples” folder. One thing that might confuse beginners is that if you’ve just recorded something using one of the aforementioned Capture tools, the clips will appear at the bottom of this Samples folder. Then, you might need to scroll down to see them.

The six main choices in the Edit mode are Media, Instant Project, Transition, Title, Graphics, and FX. “Media” is where you really import files, rather than in Capture. You can mix and match different file formats on the timeline. Similarly to most other video editing software, the timeline is where all of the actual editing takes place.

In the X5 edition, Corel has added a new Instant Project tab to the VideoStudio Pro library, meant to ease the process of finding a template, previewing it, and dragging it to the timeline to start using it. The Instant Project templates provide a relatively easy way for imtermediate-level users to quickly create spiffy movies, or for novices to learn more about what’s involved in assembling multiple tracks and title animations.

The templates aren’t foolproof, however, and they’re not really for complete neophytes. Using the templates requires at least some familiarity with how an editing timeline works and how to poke around a disk drive for files you want to use.

When I selected the Instant Project mode, I found that the template I selected was filled wih “placeholder” images intended to be replaced by users with their own video and still images. When I dragged my already assembled material into these places, though, I lost the transitions.

So then I had to re-select each clip (essentially starting over again, but this time with the template first). The Instant Projects did look great, incorporating built-in titles (which you can readily customize), along with background music.

Creating Titles

The Title creation menu includes lots of animations. This might itself be worth the price of admission, too. Corel’s roots in the graphic arts show up here. On that same subject, another powerful feature that I did not test out is the ability to import graphics from Corel’s companion product PaintShop Pro, a PhotoShop-like offering capable of creating layers of graphics. In the VideoStudio timeline, each layer from the graphics program becomes a separate track on the timeline.

Speaking of tracks, the maximum number of tracks on the timeline appear to be three video tracks (which Corel confusingly calls “Background” tracks). You can also include up 18 overlay tracks (such as the graphics from PaintShop Pro), two title tracks, and three stereo audio tracks.

I like the way in which Corel has organized the Transitions. When first selected, the Dissolve, Crossfade, and Slide transitions appear under “Favorites” as the only choices. This simple selection would probably serve most users well. However, if you click on “All,” you get over one 100 transitions, listed alphabetically. As with most video editing software, you drag-and-drop the transition on to the timeline where two video clips connect.

The Graphics menu lets you select animated clips done in Flash format, (A spinning globe is my personal favorite, since I once had to pay a professional animator to create something similar.) You can also select solid colors or choose vignette-type frames which you might use in a wedding video, for example. The Tools menu includes a sophisticated “Painting Creator” graphics and animation paint program which, among other things, lets you easily create “live” animations as you draw on the screen.

Sharing

When you’re finished editing, the Share menu (Step 3) lets you make a video file in a choice of many different formats, including MPEG, DV, HDV, Blu-ray, AVCHD, WMV, and MPEG-4 (with 3D versions and many options for each). You can also create an audio file, burn a DVD or Blu-ray disc, record onto DV or HDV camcorder, or export to a mobile device (including iPhone, iPod, PSP, and generic mobile choices). You can upload to Web (Vimeo, YouTube — 3D too, Facebook or Flickr) in the native format of the Web site (such as Flash video for YouTube).

If you want to take advantage of the new HTML 5 output feature, though, you don’t select HTML 5 as one of these output formats. Rather, you must choose HTML 5 output at the beginning of editing, as a new project under the File menu. You then import a completed video file.

Other noteworthy features in VideoStudio Pro X5 Ultimate include support for the Canon DSLR cameras widely used by pros and indies; color correction adjustments such as Gamma; the ability to combine many video and audio tracks, and a competent sound mixer with 5.1 surround.

Speed

Corel VideoStudio X5 does seem to run fast. Corel says this new version has been specifically engineered to take advantage of multi-core processors, and I must say that it operated on my very humble AMD dual-core C-50 processor without a hiccup. (Corel recommends a 2 GHz AMD processor; mine is just 1 GHz but it worked fine.) With the exception of rendering the HTML 5 output for the provided HTML 5 template with a short two-minute video added, which took over two hours, everything else rendered very quickly and was available for preview immediately.

Suggested Improvements

Much as I like Corel VideoStudio Pro X5 Ultimate, it’s not really geared to those previously uninitiated to video editing. Notably lacking here is a built-in help library There’s a cryptically labeled “help and online tutorial button” in the upper right corner, but you must go up to the Web and subscribe to the online community before you can gain access to it.

Another criticism is that in order to play the entire timeline, you must press the Shift button while simultaneously pressing the Play button under the video construction window. This alone will no doubt drive some beginners up a wall.

Conclusion

Corel VideoStudio X5 Ultimate is an incredibly powerful, value-packed video editing program. Most of the special features I’ve pointed out here are simply not available in comparably priced rival products such as Adobe Premiere Elements and Avid’s Pinnacle Studio Ultimate. I suspect this is because Corel’s main competitors each offer step-up products intended for the pro community (Adobe Premiere and Avid Media Composer, respectively), while for Corel this $99 product is the top of the line.

I would recommended Corel’s product to any aspiring filmmaker or producer who wants to get a laundry list of advanced, professional features without paying professional prices. There’s actually so much in the package that it’s impossible to do justice to everything in a review of this length. (Did I mention the feature in the clip trim tool that automatically deletes TV commercials from off-the-air recordings? Or the batch conversion tool? Or the instant copying to DVD from a DV camcorder?)

However, these advanced features come with a tradeoff of complexity. Corel has done an excellent job of concealing this complexity behind a facade of 1-2-3 easy-to-use simplicity, but rank beginners beware. This program will take some learning. Invest the time, and you’ll be richly (and inexpensively) rewarded.

Pros:

  • Terrific video editing value; many advanced features
  • Cool screen capture mode
  • HTML 5 output and editing

Cons:

  • Not great for absolute beginners; it’s a bit complex
  • Help requires online registration
  • Some confusing menu items

 

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