- Extremely user-friendly
- Intuitive tutorials and editing
- Solid, polished design
- Excessive system requirements
- HDV capture may require patch
- Not ideal for serious editing
By: Dustin Sklavos
Pinnacle Studio Plus 12 is the latest home-user derivative of the professional-grade Avid line of video editors. Does this consumer version of a highly respected pro brand live up to the reputation, or is it just a cheap knock-off? Find out in this review.
First, a personal gripe about HDV video capture. Simply put, Pinnacle Studio Plus 12 wouldn’t accept HDV footage captured from my video camera, or even capture HDV footage itself. It didn’t recognize my camera in HDV mode. This appears to be a known — and patched — issue with certain versions of the software, including the trial version we reviewed, but it’s still a pain to deal with right out of the box.
That out of the way, Pinnacle has a healthy pedigree in professional-grade video editing software, with the seldom-cited but oft-used Avid video editor line. That pedigree indeed carries over into Pinnacle Studio Plus 12, and I have to tell you, my first impressions were very positive.
The software has an excellent polish to it, and is willing to happily handhold the user through detailed animated tutorials. First impressions are that it isn’t terribly powerful for the more experienced user, but the learning curve and overall robustness of the software is pretty much in line with where it ought to be.
It bears mentioning that Pinnacle abstracts as much of the format hell as it possibly can from the end-user; you have to manually seek out the advanced settings to really tweak things, and the defaults are generally in line with accepted standards. Outside of my HDV issue, though, there’s a huge problem sitting in Pinnacle’s system requirements.
Pinnacle asks you to have an Intel 2.66GHz quad core processor for 1080p AVCHD editing and a 2.4GHz dual core at least for 1080i AVCHD. Compare this to the professional grade Adobe Premiere Pro CS4, which asks for a 3.4GHz single-core processor for handling HDV and a 2.8GHz dual core for handling raw HD. 2.66GHz quad core desktop processors aren’t cheap, and 2.66GHz quad core notebook processors don’t even exist yet. These steep system requirements seem like they’ll be a primary barrier for many users wanting to take advantage of this Pinnacle Studio Plus 12.
The process of importing footage into Pinnacle Studio Plus 12 is fairly simple. The main screen lets you explore your computer for more footage to add to your library easily, and the video capturing is similarly painless.
Painless, that is, except for this:
Whoops. This happened when I was on the capture screen and I turned off my camera. Why would I turn it off? Because I was done trying to capture footage with it, much as you might be! No need for it to be on, sucking power from the mains or draining the battery if I’m done using it, but Pinnacle Studio Plus 12 was none-too-happy about my choice to suddenly conserve power.
Beyond this quirk, there isn’t that much to report on the video import front — which is a good thing. Pinnacle Studio Plus 12 will automatically break down clips you import and footage you capture into scenes, which is rather handy. I tried importing an hour-long, completed video I’d made some time ago, and it indeed cut it into segments identically to how I’d cut it together in the first place.
As much as I want to, unfortunately I just can’t give Pinnacle a free pass for its editing interface after going medieval on Corel VideoStudio X2 for their bass-ackwards timeline.
In fairness, Pinnacle Studio Plus 12 uses a single timeline as opposed to splitting into a sceneline, timeline, audioline, yo’-mama-line, etc. But stacking the overlay and title lines below the main video line just feels silly since the timelines actually layer in the “opposite” direction, with overlays on top of the main video, and titles on top of overlays. The top-down arrangement feels upside down.
Pinnacle does offer a list menu and a “storyboard” view, basically like a sceneline. It’s cute but not really necessary, considering how well the base timeline works. Trimming footage is also extremely simple; just click the end of a clip and drag it inward. Transitions get dragged from the transition menu onto the timeline.
Out of all the editors I’ve used so far, I’ve been most impressed with how smoothly Pinnacle Studio Plus 12 has worked. If you click on a clip in your bin, it automatically appears in the monitor. Click on your timeline, the project appears in the monitor. It’s simple and it’s intuitive; editing in Pinnacle Studio Plus 12 software feels like what would happen if Corel VideoStudio grew up, took a shower, shaved, got a decent job, and became a good citizen.
Pinnacle Studio Plus 12 very neatly condenses your output options into four groups: Disc, File, Tape, and Web. And it really breaks them down simply.
The file output screen gives you a series of options with useful presets. Nothing too exciting here, and that’s probably how it should be for a user-friendly piece of software. Picking compression settings for a video codec can be a major headache; this one just defaults to outputting the video the same way it was input to begin with, as losslessly as possible.
True to form, Pinnacle Studio Plus 12 includes options for mastering your video to all common disc-based formats (and even a couple uncommon ones), and the presets are again as simple as possible. I actually like being able to click “Best Quality Possible” in a drop box instead of looking for the best codec setting as I do in Adobe Encore. Encore may be more powerful, but sometimes I just want to make a good-looking DVD, you know?
The menu editor is exceedingly simple. I stared at the list of available menus, and then did what I figured anyone would do and double-clicked one. Lo-and-behold, that menu popped up and allowed me to easily configure it.
Tape output was self-explanatory. Web output also met expectations, including the obligatory direct-to-YouTube method, which was handled capably.
I have to be honest, despite my issues with HDV and the camera-off software crash — which Pinnacle Studio Plus 12 gracefully recovered from, at least, when I re-opened it — I’ve found a lot to love here. If Pinnacle Studio 12 has a major failing, it may be that it is too user-friendly and a little too easy for your grandparents to use. The software a little feels like a developmental dead end for someone looking to move forward into more advanced video editing. There’s nothing dreadfully wrong with that, but Pinnacle makes it pretty clear who their intended audience is; if you’re shooting amateur horror films on the weekends (like I am), you ain’t it.
If, however, you or your folks or your grandfolks are just trying to make some fun home movies, archiving memories in a more creative way, Pinnacle Studio Plus 12 is going to be right up your alley. At $79.99 for the version reviewed, it’s also one of the cheaper options on the market.
Looking to make a serious film? Look elsewhere. Looking to make a keepsake for the family? Pinnacle Studio Plus 12 has you covered.
- Extremely user-friendly.
- Intuitive tutorials and editing.
- Support for all major formats.
- Intelligently abstracts the more confusing parts of video editing from the user.
- Feels well-designed as a whole.
- System requirements are preposterous.
- HDV issues in the trial.
- Timeline layout is counter-intuitive.
- Not ideal for more serious or advanced work.