Pinnacle Studio Ultimate Version 12

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HD support 3D animations Pinnacle Studio is one of the longest serving video editing suites for non-professionals. It's also one of our favourites, as it's easy to get to grips with, yet boasts features that the experienced user will find useful. This latest version adds a host of new and usable features. The suite has clearly been designed with the first-time user in mind, as you'll find a host of tutorials to help get you up and running. The interface follows the same styling as the other suites here, with a timeline along the bottom and controls in the top-left corner.

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Amazon Previous versions of Studio have been plagued by reliability issues, so we were pleased that version 12 crashed only once during testing, and an auto-recovery function saved our work. Its format support is impressive, accepting footage from all the video cameras we tried it with and covering all the export options we could hope for. Another strength is the friendly interface. The welcome tutorial starts with the absolute basics and includes a sample project to give users an idea of what to expect.

Media, effects and transitions to import to the timeline appear as a column of tabbed icons at the top of the screen, and double-clicking an object on the timeline brings up an alternative set of tabbed icons. This proliferation of icons can make it hard to locate a particular feature, but it doesn't take long to find your way around.

The fixed preview size is far too small on a 1,x1, display, although it's fine on a 1,x1, screen. The SmartMovie feature edits video automatically, but the results look random. Anyone looking for classy results without the effort should use the Montage feature.

This comprises various ready-made themed short edits, usually involving animated graphics. Most take the form of an opening sequence or extravagant transition. You simply select one to five clips, depending on the chosen template, insert text as necessary, and the finished montage appears on the timeline.

Sadly, Studio's friendliness is undermined by its performance. It often stopped responding for a second or two, then suddenly caught up and reacted to our input in undesirable ways.

Proxy files enable smooth previews, but because they're generated for the timeline rather than the source footage, they have to be updated every time an edit is performed. This made AVCHD editing slow, and we often had to wait for the proxy to update before we could preview an edit.

Proxy files aren't generated for sections of the timeline that consist of a single clip with no effects. With only two video tracks, this isn't an editor for those who want to experiment with ambitious multi-layer effects. It's surprising, then, that the Ultimate edition comes with a green sheet for shooting weather presenter-style overlays. The necessary chroma keying effect is available, but it won't appeal to casual users. The Ultimate edition also includes three effects plug-ins covering animated text, film simulation and a batch of more conventional effects.

Each one is capable of impressive results, but their complex interfaces and poor integration with Studio won't please casual users. Studio lags behind the other packages here for power, and its poor performance means it scores badly for ease of use, too. Read more.

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