VideoStudio 6 is a solid, full-featured program. Documentation was adequate. But the first time I tried to capture video, it asked me to pick a format _ a tough question unless you really study the book beforehand. Video images were clear, not jerky, but editing was not as intuitive as it could be. The software claimed to detect the scene changes in raw video footage and divide them automatically, but that did not work in my case. Lots of other features are included, such as custom scene transitions, title pages and overlays. Once I learned the controls, editing was fun and a bit addictive. The software includes a DVD burning wizard that makes creating a DVD easy.
Pinnacle Studio 7.0
Company: Pinnacle Systems
The first thing you notice is the thick, detailed documentation, titled Guide to Movie Making. Its 284 pages are the clearest documentation among the tested software. Capturing video was straightforward. And I quickly found the auto scene detection tool, which was quite accurate in detecting different parts of my video. The scene editing is very intense _ you could spend hours editing video _ and enjoyable. Creating an MPEG 2 file, which is necessary to burn a DVD, took a long time and was unusual in that the computer seized control of the video camera, advancing and rewinding as I watched dumbfounded. The otherwise excellent software does not come with a DVD creation feature, so you would need to buy additional software if that is your goal.
This software offers the slickest user interface along with good, clearly written documentation. But if you follow the book, you have to wade through lots of tutorials before capturing and editing your own video. Editing features include some cool shadow effects and transitions. But editing is not as precise as in some other products reviewed, as frame-by-frame editing is not offered. Audio editing is quite good, and DVD creation is included.
This is perhaps the easiest software to use to create a basic digital video. The software's CineMagic button takes video clips and music you pick, along with a style that you choose, and creates a movie without further input. This is best for the simplest projects. The storybuilder wizard automates much of the editing process but allows for more of your input, such as choosing among several templates that are more appropriate for a documentary-style project than others. There also is an option to create your own video, but the editing is basic and control is much less than other software projects. And CineMatic does not include a DVD burning option.
This has the skimpiest documentation among the tested products. The user interface is simple but a bit obtuse at first (you need to read the directions). Editing is very basic, and no frame-by-frame editing is offered. Still, this software allows quick editing. DVD burning is included and is well explained. This may be the choice of someone who is more interested in transferring video tape to a digital format such as DVD than in performing complex editing.
Company: Pinnacle Systems
The instructions were clear and very easy to understand. Pressing the TV icon takes you to a preview/edit screen, with a cheesy image of a remote control keypad to control what you're doing. The editing screen is minimalist, with few words and a handful of icons, but it also is easy to navigate. It allows some editing, although I couldn't perform all the edits I wanted to. Transitions between scenes are limited to fades or dissolves. Adding a DVD burning function was a smart move. But, on my first attempt to burn a DVD disc, it reported an error and quit without so much as an apology. Still, this would be an excellent choice for a beginner.
_ CHRISTOPHER AVE