Pinnacle Studio Ultimate Collection 14 Review

by Reads (33,032)
  • Pros

    • Excellent tutorial
    • Very feature rich
    • Awesome format support
  • Cons

    • Demanding on hardware
    • Not prosumer-powerful

By Dustin Sklavos

Pinnacle 12 took home our 2009 Editor’s Choice award for consumer video editing software. Does Pinnacle 14 live up to that reputation, or is it a pretender to the throne? We make a ruling in this review.

After I wrote the 2009 video editor round-up, I received an e-mail from a reader who noted Pinnacle’s mammoth hardware requirements as a reason he couldn’t purchase it, and those requirements don’t seem to have loosened up in the newer version. So while that gripe may be a potentially huge one, it’s also my only complaint. Pinnacle Studio Ultimate Collection 14 is my unequivocal recommendation for the consumer who wants to start editing their home movies.

VIDEO IMPORT

Pinnacle Studio Ultimate Collection 14 tutorial first open

Before you even get into bringing in your own stuff to edit, Pinnacle offers you a very simple tutorial and a sample project you can load up to walk you through the software.

The tutorial is invaluable in understanding the logic of how the software is designed. While Pinnacle Studio is fairly intuitive in and of itself, the tutorial is useful for learning exactly how to use the app to your best advantage.

Pinnacle 14 supports just about everything you’d want to put into a video. HDV, regular DV, AVCHD, all kinds of video, audio, and image formats — just about everything you need is supported right out of the box. The capture window is explained in the tutorial — along with almost every other feature — in simple, understandable terms.

VIDEO EDITING

Pinnacle Studio Ultimate Collection 14 edit windowThanks to the aforementioned tutorial, editing is basically a snap with Pinnacle Studio 14.

Pinnacle splits the main window up into essentially three sections: the timelines at the bottom, the all-purpose sort of utility area in the top left, and the viewer in the top right. The timelines and utility areas all have toggles; the timeline can toggle into two additional modes beyond the basic timeline mode.

The storyboard mode (shown below at left) is something we’re all familiar with, but it does betray the complexity of the composition somewhat; it’s a brief rundown against the more complete timeline viewer, but it can help as a basic snapshot of your project. On the other hand, the text view (shown below at right) is cute but doesn’t appear to be terribly practical.

Pinnacle Studio Ultimate Collection 14 storyboardPinnacle Studio Ultimate Collection 14 text view

The usual suspects all function roughly the same way as they would in a given video editor; the project is easy enough to shuttle through and you can click and drag the ends of clips to trim them. You can shuttle to a specific point in your project and click the razor icon to slice your clip in half (as opposed to switching into a razor mode, which actually feels less practical).

As far as transitions go, Pinnacle Studio is again fully-featured and allows you to preview each in the viewer before dragging them onto the timeline. The brief tutorial even tells you different ways you can choose to apply them.

Likewise, the effects are numerous enough and come with default settings you can opt to fine tune. They can also be layered on an individual clip.

Pinnacle Studio Ultimate Collection 14 montage toolPinnacle also brings self-assembling montages to the table. Simply choose clips, drag-and-drop them in, and these montages create pre-built shorts with built-in transitory animations. They’re remarkably simple to use, and feel a lot better than any kind of “make a movie instantly!” wizard.

Finally, Pinnacle offers a smattering of pre-formatted titling options, which you can double-click to change the text in. Some include their own animation, and all may be previewed in the viewer window when highlighted.

VIDEO SHARING

Pinnacle Studio Ultimate Collection 14 DVD export menuBefore you go to export, you can also include a DVD menu. At first, this makes no sense. Dragging and dropping a menu onto the timeline? In practice it’s quite useful: The disc you author will play the video on the timeline, and then prompt the DVD menu, which can automatically set chapters (or you can do them manually.)

I’m not 100% on this approach; it’s the kind of thing that’s simultaneously extremely intuitive and utterly unintuitive. For some users who don’t need a complete, special-features-and-all kind of DVD experience, it’s going to be appreciated, I think.

Pinnacle Studio Ultimate Collection 14 disc exportWhen you finally decide to export, Pinnacle smartly groups your options into four headings: Disc, File, Tape, and Web, and these are pretty self-explanatory. The nice thing is that, again, format support is pretty diverse. Pinnacle’s site doesn’t advertise it, but you could even master to HD-DVD if you were so inclined.

Exporting back to a file or to a tape in the camera are both easy to understand, especially since Pinnacle uses the same basic dialogs across all four of the main export options. A nearly overwhelming number of file formats are supported, with plenty of simple presets. Exporting and compressing video has always been one of my biggest pet peeves (I settled on Windows Media for sharing all my stuff, but your mileage may vary), and Pinnacle takes a lot of the sting out of it.

You can upload also directly to YouTube (or the lesser known Yahoo Video) from Pinnacle Studio 14. Whether or not YouTube is becoming a bit of a gross monopoly is sort of irrelevant at this juncture: It remains the most widely used video sharing website, and being able to upload directly to it saves a world of grief.

CONCLUSION

Ordinarily, I’m a real Negative Nelly when I review software (I can’t believe I just called myself Negative Nelly), but Pinnacle has done a bang-up job of taking something fundamentally complex and bringing it to the masses. No, it’s not going to be as powerful or robust as something like the prosumer style Sony Vegas my aforementioned resource-strapped reader wound up going with, but for Mom and Pops, Pinnacle 14 is a pretty stellar choice.

My only complaint lies with the hardware requirements, but that’s a place where I’m not sure my opinion is going to be the most helpful. I’m an enthusiast, so my machine beats the requirements by a mile. I also just built a computer centered on AMD’s $99 quad core processor — a perfect fit for this software. The point is that the necessary performance is easy enough to get if you want to edit high-definition video and don’t mind being anchored to a powerful desktop.

Other than that minor conundrum, this software is my go-to recommendation for consumer-grade video editors.

PROS

  • Excellent tutorial
  • Very feature rich
  • Awesome format support

CONS

  • Demanding on hardware
  • Not prosumer-powerful



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