Ulead VideoStudio 11 Plus review
AVCHD support and some useful new effects keep this as the leading entry-level video editor.
After years under the Ulead banner, this is the first iteration of VideoStudio under the new Corel ownership. And, far from being the underdog it once was, VideoStudio is now the incumbent champion of entry-level video editing.
It comes out fighting too, as this is the first full release to support the new AVCHD standard - Nero 7 Premium Reloaded supports AVCHD, but only for capturing and output to disc, not editing. This is the consumer-orientated high-definition format based on MPEG4 AVC/H.264, which is now being used instead of HDV in camcorders from Sony and Panasonic. VideoStudio allows you to bring in video from both hard disk and optical disc-based AVCHD camcorders, using the Import DVD/DVD-VR wizard. The H.264 video is given a MPEG2 wrapper as it's copied to the local hard disk, and can then be edited natively. Ulead's Smart Proxy system can be enabled to produce low-resolution versions of files for faster editing too.
The VideoStudio interface, although not very different from version 10, has been tweaked. Most useful is the ability to increase the size of the timeline and reduce the Preview window. The Enlarge button fits all the tracks onscreen automatically, so you don't have to scroll around when using lots of overlays. You can also now add cue points to the timeline to help you find specific scenes in your edit. These can be used as chapter points when outputting the video to disc.
There are a number of useful new effects. The Color Correction tool now includes white balancing, either using a colour picker or fully automatic mode. We found the latter relatively effective at fixing our troublesome orange-tinged test footage. There are a couple of other effects aimed at improving footage from less high-quality sources than a digital camcorder. The DeBlock filter is designed to remove the blockiness caused by heavy compression, although it does so by smoothing and understandably can't inject visual information that wasn't there in the first place. The DeSnow filter is intended to remove noise from analog TV signals or when shooting in low light.
For the absolute beginner, the Movie wizard now contains around five times as many templates as the previous version. It's also possible to blend video and stills to create quick clip shows - handy for making a rough-and-ready compilation of family moments. The titler has had a few minor improvements as well. Titles can be rotated, and so can buttons and text during menu design. It's also possible to add transitions to and from menus, as well as between menus and video.
To complement the comprehensive HD-editing capabilities, VideoStudio now offers both recording back to HDV tape and burning to HD DVD. Strangely, writing to Blu-ray isn't available, but you can burn DVDs in HD DVD format. Built-in online video-sharing options remain just the fee-paying Neptune Mediashare service (www.neptune.com).
When outputting MPEG from MPEG source files, you can now select the MPEG Optimizer. This automatically chooses the appropriate format, so as little re-encoding is required as possible. However, it's somewhat hard to find, as the wizard is hidden among the Create Video File options. It's now possible to pause during rendering too, which is useful to grab back your system resources temporarily for another task. Ulead has also added a Smart Project Package facility. While it's unlikely you'll be using VideoStudio in a production environment where projects need to be shared, this will be handy for archiving finished work.