Have you ever wanted to create the great American movie, or just spice up that Home movie, but didn’t know where to begin, or how to start? Or maybe you knew where to start, but you simply didn’t want to spend thousands of dollars on a professional editing system? Well thanks to lower cost and higher quality Digital Camcorders and the advent of low-cost powerful computers with high storage capacity, the dream of opening up the movie making process to the masses have become a reality. It’s truly an exciting time for budding artists; no longer do you have to spend a fortune to bring your creation to life. All you need is a simple mid range computer, large hard drive (at least 60 gigs), a camcorder, and editing software.
Seeing where the trend is going, both Apple and Microsoft has started a war of words by featuring lightweight video editing tools as part of their operating system. While these tools are free and are certainly worth a look, you may find that you need a more robust editing package, and for many novices, a package like Adobe Premiere would seem like the obvious choice, but its $2,000 price point makes people wince. Well, there must be a happy medium. A small Taiwan based company called Ulead has stepped in the fray and created that happy “”middle.”” Their video editing software tools are fabulously simple to use, cheap, yet powerful enough to actually compete with more expensive and complicated solutions like Adobe Premiere, all at price points that don’t hurt your pocketbook. Although Ulead recently sent me their entire product line up, I’m going to focus on one of their most impressive and ambitious products “”Ulead Video Studio 5.0 DVD Edition.”” Their other video editing packages are all derivative of this excellent piece of software.Ulead’s “”Video Studio 5.0 DVD Edition”” is a superb editing package that includes hundreds of pre built transitions, animations, and some other neat features. This is the very first editing package that supports DVD editing, so you would-be filmmakers can actually create feature rich, multimedia based projects and output them in MPEG-2 format for DVD distribution. Imagine the possibilities. What’s even more amazing is the price point, this package could easily go toe to toe with Adobe Premiere, but currently retails for a mere $120.The obvious question is who is using recordable DVD drives these days? The technology is so new that the price point is still out of reach for most average consumers, and then there is the whole issue of compatibility problems with other DVD formats. “”Three years ago we were the first company to create video editing software for consumers, now with the recent launch of recordable DVD Rom drives, we think now is a good time to release a product like this,”” said Travis White, Product Marketing Manager.For now Ulead sees the potential for the future of DVD Recorders as being bright. According to Mr. White, when they first launched Video Studio, Camcorders where still too costly for the average consumer and the biggest hard drive you could find was only 5 gigs. Now you can get a high quality Digital Camcorder for under $1,000 and a 100 gig hard drive under $200. “”For now the DVD Editing feature would be used primarily by early adopters, until the cost of DVD Recorders come down, which we’re already seeing,”” said Mr. White. Indeed, you can now find some DVD Recorders for under $1,000. Video Studio 5.0’s cousin product is called, well; “”Media Studio Pro”” and was created to compete directly with Adobe Premiere and features everything you need to get going with your film project all for less than $500. Pro includes not only a beefed up editing package, but it also includes 3D Graphics Generating ability, a character/imaging software tool, more effects, etc. It’s actually more akin to a “”software bundle”” than anything else. “”Ulead’s goal is to make affordable feature rich editing tools that are easy to use, yet powerful enough that the average and pro user can use,”” said Mr. White.All of this is well and good, but how does it work? Well Video Studio’s intuitive, easy to use interface, is broken down into eight areas: Start, Capture, Storyboard, Effects, Title, Voice, Music and Finish modes. “”Our interface was created to be as user friendly and intuitive as possible,”” said Mr. White. As a matter of fact, I was able to load the software up and start editing video without too much trouble, it’s just that simple. The user manual for Video Studio is thankfully small, only about a hundred pages, and is nicely laid out. While the manual for its cousin is over 300 pages. The interface in the Pro product also isn’t easy or intuitive at all. As a matter of fact, everything that works so well about Video Studio seems to have been forgotten with Media Studio Pro. As a matter of fact I installed Pro and took one look at its horrid interface and went back to my new friend Video Studio. This is an example of a bigger, beefier package isn’t always better.In order to create a video project, you must first create your project template. The project Template is used to set your render properties. Then you have the option to use the software package’s built in Capture capability to capture your files. Beware, always make sure you have it set to capture MPEG video, its AVI files are bloated. I rendered a 1/2 hour project at 320/480 size in AVI format and the thing ended up being 15 gigs! After you create your video files then the fun can really start. The “”Storyboard”” area is where you layout your project, after you import all your clips into the media library you can move your clips to the project timeline and start rearranging your order, set your “”mark in/mark out”” points, trim your clips, set your video filters and a whole lot more. In the “”Effects”” area you can add all your fancy transition effects and 3D effects, in the “”Music”” area you can lay down your background music, in “”Voice”” you can record and lay down your voice over tracks. In the “”Title”” area, you can create original titles and credit lists and superimpose them over your video project. Once all the elements are created, then you go to the “”Finish”” area where you select your final file project, whether you want to output it to tape for broadcast, or streaming, DVD, CD, etc.One of the main drawbacks to editing on a computer is the painfully slow and tedious rendering process that all editing software makes you go through. Ulead’s video editing software package touts a technology called “”Smart Render,”” which theoretically is supposed to speed up rendering times. Talk about a poorly implemented and executed feature. For “”Smart Render”” to work all files must be exactly the same format, size, etc. Otherwise it doesn’t work that well and even if you do somehow manage to get all of your files to be the same, for example the weekly half hour television show that we produce, has an average of 15 video clips all of various lengths, that come from disparate sources, i.e. AVI, MPEG Formats, and can range in size from 320/480 all the way to 640/840, for “”Smart Render”” to be effective each video has to be standardized to say, a 320/480 mpeg 2 video file. Ulead’s Video Studio DVD factory doesn’t offer an easy solution to converting these files, while the Media Studio Pro version does offer a convert all feature.In order to render an 1/2 hour video project be prepared to have a large chunk of your computer’s resources tied up for at least 8 or 9 hours. If you output your video file to a low quality streaming format then the time is a little less, like 4 or 5 hrs. I’m running a Win 2K Server with an AMD Athlon 800, 512K Ram, on an All In Wonder 8500 Radeon Card and this thing still sucks the life out of my computer and takes 9 hrs to render. The truly frustrating thing is, when you realize there’s a small mistake in your project that needs to be edited and you are forced to re-render everything. Again, this is even IF all your files are standardized. Or worse, when you your computer crashes about 8 hours into the render process and you have to re-render everything all over again. It makes you want to scream. It can literally take several days to save a project (this is before you even discover the little mistakes), simply because of the extreme length of rendering a project.This is a very major sore point with me, as I haven’t tested Adobe, MS’s, or Apple’s products yet, I don’t know if slow rendering is an inherent problem with Video Studio or just digital editing in general. I would suspect its digital editing in general. So I won’t downgrade the software package’s score because of this extremely irritating by product of digital editing. Don’t let its simplicity and cost point fool
you, Ulead’s “”Video Studio 5.0 DVD Edition”” is truly an amazing piece of software. It’s well worth a look for any “”serious”” minded budding filmmaker and regular folk who just want to play around with digital editing. And hey at $129, you may discover a new talent that you never had. Review byMichelle AlexandriaFinal Grade B+