Doing fun things with the videos you shoot: Isn't that what it's all about? Corel has a tradition of delivering video editing software that's easy-to-use yet powerful, including all the latest fun effects and techniques. VideoStudio Pro X6 (£59.99) is no exception, with cool new features like motion tracking for moving effects, even better stop-motion tools, an enhanced screen capture utility, and a subtitle editor with voice detection. It's one of the few apps that already support 4K Ultra HD video, and it's the only game in town for creating HTML5 interactive web movies. But do all these goodies make VideoStudio the editor for you? Read on to find out.
Like any powerful video editor, VideoStudio takes a bit of disk space: The installer program was a 1.3GB download, and the installed application took up 1.5GB on my test system. You can use VideoStudio on PCs running Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista or Windows XP with the latest service packs installed – sorry, there’s no Mac version. The regular Pro version includes all the new features, but the Ultimate edition of X6 (£79.98) adds pro-level effects from NewBlue, proDAD, and Boris.
I tested on a 3.4GHz AMD quad-core Windows 7 Ultimate PC with 4GB of RAM and an ATI Radeon HD 4290 graphics adapter – not state of the art, but not too shabby. After okaying the license agreement and entering my serial number, I had to select my country and video output format – NTSC or PAL. The installation took longer than most programs at a solid 20 minutes. On first run, a dialog tells you that you have to sign into a Corel Community account to use Corel Guide, the splash screen offering tips and tutorials that appears whenever you start the app.
As I noted, VideoStudio is a pioneer in offering innovative tools that let you create cool new video effects, and the X6 version only builds on these. Before digging into the program's interface and features, let's take a look at what's new:
Motion tracking. If you've seen high-profile sporting events that show players with on-screen identifying labels that follow them, or even just seen any show that's had to cover up some moving body part or license plate, you've seen motion tracking effects like those VideoStudio X6 now makes possible. You don't need to dig into menus: Just click the Track Motion icon on the toolbar, and move the tracker pointer to the object you want to track.
The program then creates a path to which you can apply an overlay that follows your moving object. There are two tracker types – point and area – the latter gave me better results for following a face. Once you have a motion track in place, you can fine tune it manually, name it, and save it. So how do you use the track? The easiest way is to apply a mosaic overlay by clicking a button right in the Motion Tracking dialog; this is good for those body parts or license plates.
For more sophisticated overlays, look to the Match Motion tool. This lets you add not only text or objects that will follow your motion track, but even another video clip! A simple right click choice from the text or object gets you there, and lets you position it relative to the track.
What impresses me is that Corel didn't just toss in a rudimentary motion tracking tool in this first introduction of the feature, but rather a sophisticated one with deep customisation. You can even have multiple motion tracks with different overlays following them.
Variable speed with key frames. With a clip selected and the Options panel showing, a new choice is Variable Speed. This displays a two panel window in which you mark key frames to indicate where you want speedups or slowdowns. But note that these speed changes remove the clip's audio.
There's no simple freeze-frame effect, though, but you can have a clip (but not a selected part of a clip) play in reverse.
Even more stop-motion. VideoStudio was the first major consumer video editor to offer a built-in stop-motion tool, and with X6 this gets even better. The really nifty thing added is the ability to actually control a DSLR from within the software, for hands-off-camera stop-motion shooting.
Controls include white balance, image quality/size, exposure settings, and ISO. In my testing I found it was actually a little difficult to get the desired results with autofocus using this remote control, but manual focus is also available. These unmatched tools let you create really high quality stop-motion movies.
4K support. Sure, there aren't many video cameras that record at this resolution – the most popular is the GoPro Hero3 Black, the next one up in price is a four grand model from JVC. I had no trouble importing 4K sample clips into Corel VideoStudio Pro X6, even in the base version – CyberLink requires the more expensive version of PowerDirector for this capability. Performance of both preview and program actions slows down considerably, though, when you're editing 4K footage – not surprising, given the very large file sizes. You can also output to 4K with this program.
Captions with voice detection. VideoStudio X6's new Subtitle Editor can detect where speech occurs in your video, and prompt you to enter subtitle text. You can also manually mark in and out points where the subtitles should appear, or add a time offset for them. The editor shows waveform to help you know where to add the subtitles. Maybe even cooler is its ability to ingest a subtitle text file and add the subtitles automatically. However, the program doesn't tell you how to create one of these (in either UTF or SRT file format), and it doesn't automatically match captions to audio using speech recognition and accept plain text files, the way YouTube's editor does.
HTML5 support. Still the only major consumer video software with this capability, VideoStudio X5 actually added HTML5 web code creation for your movies. X6 lets you add interactive controls to a web page display of your video so that a viewer using an HTML5-capable web browser can click on linkable overlaid graphics and DVD-like chapters. You can't simply convert an existing movie edit to HTML5; you have to start the project as an HTML5 video project. There are five templates for HTML5 projects (four of which require downloading), if you don't want to start from scratch. Once you output to an HTML file, you can tweak the page with your own web editing tools.
The interface of VideoStudio is modal – three main modes govern all your actions: Capture, Edit, and Share. I like this interface design because it guides you through the workflow process of adding, editing, and outputting your digital movie. The modes are accessible from prominent buttons that are always visible at the top of screen.
VideoStudio X6's pleasing dark grey interface uses the familiar three pane view with content and effects and video preview sharing the top half of the window, and the timeline taking the whole bottom portion of the screen. VideoStudio Pro X6 lets you move these panels around wherever you want, though, and you can even pull them out to separate windows of their own. Unlike previous versions of the program, you can now resize its window – previously it only ran in full screen.
The editor now lets you add up to 20 overlay video tracks in addition to your main video track, along with two title tracks, a voice track, and three music tracks. Sure, that's less than CyberLink and Adobe's 100 tracks, but I can't really see a consumer video production (and even most pro ones) needing more. The timeline can be zoomed in and out using the mouse wheel, which works well. It also displays frame time codes for fine-grain control. You can also switch the timeline to a Storyboard view, which lets you drag transitions between clips but otherwise offers little benefit.
Importing and organisation
The Capture mode, which you enter by clicking the large Capture button at the top, lets you record from a connected camera, scan a DV source, import from digital media, or a mobile device. The process of simply trying to get a video on disk into VideoStudio was not quite as simple as with CyberLink PowerDirector. The File > Insert Media File into Library menu choice adds folders to the source panel, rather than letting you directly add a file. But there's a nifty workaround for this: You can simply drag a clip from a Windows folder directly onto the timeline!
See the new features section above for a discussion of the now even cooler Stop Motion importer tool.
Getting media into VideoStudio is simple, but once it's there, the app offers no tagging or search capability as you get with Premiere Elements, let alone the latter's face detection or analysis for shakiness and exposure problems. This can make finding a clip troublesome at times, as can the interface's lack of a search box, whether you're looking at clips or effects. You can, however, sort source content by name, type, or date. And I did like how buttons make it easy to view just video clips, just photos, just music, or any combination of those you like.
Instant movie making
Corel's Instant Project feature is different to the "magic movie maker" features in most consumer video editors. It's more of a template tool with some prefab effects for you to manually build out with your own content. You can insert an Instant Project template either before or after whatever's in your timeline, but it's up to you to populate the template with content manually. From the timeline, you can split all tracks at once if you need to insert media or move a section.
Another "instant" option is the Auto Music feature. This lets you select from Corel's included canned music, choosing things like mood and variation so that the sound track fits with your movie. It also fits the length of the track to your clips. Alternatively, you can use your own music files or buy more sound files from Corel directly from within the program.
A nifty sound mixer lets you choose any track and adjust its volume relative to the others, and you can split audio out from a video clip to its own track, but I miss the draggable level line offered by other programs. The voiceover tool makes narrating any section of your movie simple, adding another sound track.
Basic video editing
As with all modern video editors, in VideoStudio you simply drag and drop a clip from your source tray to add it to the timeline. If you double click on a clip in the source tray, it opens in the Single Clip Trim window. This provides a handy way to set the start and finish markers of the section of the clip that you want to display, with precision to the individual frame level.
For real editing power, I chose the Multi-trim Video tool. This let me set multiple in and out points, so I didn't have to create a lot of separate clips if I just wanted to remove some dead space in the middle of a clip. It also let me detect ads in TV content. PowerDirector matches this multi-trim capability, but most other editors lack it. Both Corel trim tools offer easy and clear navigation, including a jog wheel, and zoomable selection scrubber – this is way more than you get with Sony Movie Studio Platinum.
Video corrections and effects
Corel VideoStudio offers over 150 transitions in 16 groups, ranging from the basic fades and wipes to 3D, peels, pushes, and stretches. Adding them to the timeline is a very simple drag and drop operation, and doesn't require figuring out where you have to position a transition relative to the preceding and following clips, as you do in Sony Movie Studio. Also, if you drag a clip to overlap its neighbour, the default transition will be inserted. But I miss the trick employed by some editors, which let you drag a dog-eared corner of a clip to create a crossfade – the most used and most tasteful kind of transition. In my test movies, the transitions were smooth and well-rendered.
VideoStudio's text tool is very capable, letting you choose among 34 pre-formatted title and subtitle animations. You can customise these by font, size, duration, rotation, and more, and save your new style as a preset.
Some 78 special effects can jazz up your clips with effects such as diffuse glow, mosaic, and water flow. Among these effects, too, are image correction tools like anti-shake, colour balance, noise reduction, and light enhancement. The anti-shake tool smoothed out small bouts of shakiness, but wasn't as effective as PowerDirector's, and at times even introduced an unwanted swipe effect at the side of the image. As with any high-end video editor, you can set any effects on and off with key frames, and Corel provides a nice separate window with side-by-side original and preview views for working with these.
The app's chroma-keying tool did a decent job of cutting out a green screen background in my test clip, especially when using its colour dropper tool. And adding montage layer tracks was extremely intuitive: I just had to add an overlay track with the track manager (accessible from an icon or by right clicking in the timeline) and drag the new content into it. A picture-in-picture appeared in the middle of the preview window, and I could resize and drag this around.
As with all the current editors but PowerDirector, previewing a movie with four or more simultaneous tracks was less than perfectly smooth. Finally, the program's Graphic tool lets you add solid colours, objects, frames, and even Flash animations like a spinning globe to your movies, for extra bling.
Springing for the Ultimate Edition of VideoStudio X6 gets you packs of truly pro-level effects from the likes of NewBlue, Boris FX and proDAD. These let you do stuff like really refining the colours, giving your movie the look of a Hollywood production, adding handwritten-looking text, and advanced image correction and stabilisation.
On my medium power test system, VideoStudio performed acceptably for the most part – I didn't find myself waiting for the program to catch up as much as I did with some other video editors. It was also rock-solid, never shutting down unexpectedly, as most apps in this group occasionally will. With five simultaneous overlaid clips in a movie, preview playback did slow, but not to the painful slideshow-like level I'd seen in other apps. The program's lack of full 64-bit operation is largely compensated for by its GPU and CPU acceleration, including optimisation for Intel Core i7 and AMD processors, and Nvidia CUDA.
Still, an Achilles heel of VideoStudio has been its rendering speed. I used a compilation of four mixed clips with the same transitions between them in each program and rendered to MPEG2 720 x 480p DVD format. Taking 4 minutes and 22 seconds to render my test, VideoStudio wasn’t wildly slower than the competition, but it is a bit behind the leaders, which took closer to 3 minutes. During rendering, the program shows the percentage completed but not time remaining, and a button lets you preview the video along the way. Here's a table showing the render time comparison of the video editing apps I tested:
Time to render 4 minute mixed clip and transitions to MPEG 720p (lower is better)
CyberLink PowerDirector 11
Sony Movie Studio Platinum 12
Corel VideoStudio Pro X6
Adobe Premiere Elements 11
Output and sharing
After working with its rich editing tools, VideoStudio offers all the output and sharing options you could want. You can create a video file in all of the standard formats – MPG, WMV, AVI, QuickTime, and many more. You can also burn DVDs or Blu-ray discs, or target mobile devices like iPods and PSPs. What's more, you can upload directly from VideoStudio to popular video sharing sites, including Facebook, Flickr, Vimeo, and YouTube. That's more online services than most software supports.
The YouTube upload interface is pretty barebones, but as with all these tools, you can pick a format, title, category, add tags, and designate whether the online video should be private or public. YouTube videos uploaded from VideoStudio will be ready and up on the site quickly, since Corel uses the format recommended by YouTube.
DVD authoring and burning
Corel VideoStudio lets you easily create menus for DVD, Blu-ray, and AVCHD. It can auto-detect chapters, and offers 8 Blu-ray and 39 DVD menu choices, and it can burn the discs without external software. My test Blu-ray disc project played back on a Sony Blu-ray player successfully. A smart looking DVD preview window shows a convincing replica of a remote control so you can see how your disc will behave.
I have no problem giving Corel VideoStudio Pro X6 a very high recommendation. In several areas of consumer video editing, it even leads the pack, and it's introduced several techniques to this software genre. While X6 innovates and adds new features, it also remains one of the simplest apps of its type for non-professionals to use.
VideoStudio isn't perfect, though, and it trails CyberLink PowerDirector in terms of its raw speed and the number of tracks allowed. It also lacks Premiere Elements' organisational tools like tags and search.
No product in this category offers everything. VideoStudio is PowerDirector's equal (and it’s better than Premiere Elements and Sony Movie Studio) when it comes to multi-trim clip editing. It's also more stable than most other video apps, which occasionally stop responding. But the real reason to get VideoStudio is for its one-of-a-kind tools like stop-motion, HTML5 output, and motion tracking effects.