Price: £254 plus VAT
MediaStudio Pro is aimed at professional video editors. It costs around £300, so you wouldn’t expect it to compete with the depth and power of high-end editors such as Apple Final Cut Pro or Avid XPress. Even so, it’s a competent editor, and one that can be mastered more quickly than most of its more expensive rivals. It’s actually a suite of programs rather than a single program. The central editing software, Video Editor 7, is accompanied by a number of additional programs. Some of these, such as the standalone video-capture module, really ought to have been integrated into the Video Editor in the first place, but the additional rotoscoping and vector-graphics tools do add extra value to the bundle. The program’s basic interface looks a lot like earlier versions of Premiere. It has a horizontal timeline window running along the bottom half of the workspace, and dual monitor windows for editing source clips and previewing the complete project. The Timeline works in two modes. You can view your clips in frame-by-frame detail or switch into ‘summary’ mode, which displays a simple thumbnail of each clip. This allows you to use the Timeline as a quick storyboarding tool before getting down to the detailed editing work. File-management The Production Library window lets you organize files used in your projects, and provides access to the program’s built-in transitions and special effects filters. This provides a wide range of effects, with some good distortion effects and dozens of audio effects in addition to the usual rolls, wipes, and fades. The Production Library’s file-management features are a bit confusing, though. There are two ways of importing files into the Video Editor. You can import files into the Media Library section of the Production Library, which works just like the ‘bins’ in Premiere. However, you can also place files directly into the Timeline, either by dragging-&-dropping from the desktop, or by using the Insert button on the Timeline itself. If you put files straight into the Timeline, they’re listed in a separate section of the Production Library called ‘Project’. This is confusing – there should really be a single, central location for all your project files. Fortunately, the rest of the program is more straightforward. This version of the Video Editor has an audio mixer built in, and there’s a separate audio editor, so you can go right in and edit waveforms if you want to. Neither of these audio tools is particularly high end, but they provide enough features to allow you to quickly perform basic audio editing and mixing. The same is true of the Video Editor’s reworked Title module. This doesn’t attempt to match the typographical extravagance of the title module in Premiere 6.5, but it does include a wide range of predefined animation effects, as well as effects such as textures and drop shadows, making it easy to produce effective titles quickly and easily. We were disappointed with MediaStudio’s rather limited DVD-authoring capabilities, though. Ulead has done exactly what Adobe did with Premiere 6.5. Rather than integrating proper DVD-authoring features into Video Editor, they’ve simply thrown a cheap-&-cheerful authoring program into the box. In this case, it’s Ulead’s own DVD Movie Factory, which is a low-cost, entry-level, consumer product. It’s a template-driven authoring tool, perfectly respectable product for home users and beginners – but to describe it as a ‘full-featured DVD authoring tool’ is stretching the truth a bit. To be fair, though, Adobe messed up the DVD aspects of Premiere, and more expensive editors such as Final Cut Pro don’t even attempt to provide DVD capabilities, so Ulead shouldn’t be criticized too harshly for this. More important is the inclusion of genuinely professional new features such as the real-time preview. The lack of real-time capabilities was perhaps the biggest weakness in the previous version of MediaStudio, but Ulead has put that right with version 7. A 2GHz PC is able to handle five layers in real-time – that’s two video tracks and three additional tracks for titles, filters, and transitions. Other new features include support for Sony’s MicroMV format, and improved scene-detection options. However, we were unable to import any QuickTime .MOV files into the program, despite this file format being listed on the product packaging. That’s a bit of an omission in a would-be professional editing tool, and needs to be rectified promptly. Effective bundle Finally, there are two other programs bundled along with Video Editor that deserve a mention. Video Paint 7 provides rotoscoping and effects features, while CG Infinity is a kind of cut-down Adobe After Effects with vector graphics and animation tools. Both programs are limited in scope, but like many of MediaStudio’s other features, they’re easy to use, with many predefined animations and effects that can be applied with the click of a mouse. MediaStudio Pro is up against tools such as Apple’s Final Cut Express. However, unlike that product, Ulead’s tool doesn’t require a hobbyist’s enthusiasm to penetrate. One of the testimonials for MediaStudio Pro on Ulead’s Web site is from the bass player with hair-metal band Quiet Riot. He uses the program to edit his band’s video material, and he’s a good example of the kind of user who will most appreciate this program. He’s a pro musician, but the same applies to pro Web or multimedia designers, or animators. MediaStudio is a good choice for someone like that, as it combines a good, mid-range, selection of editing tools with admirable ease of use.