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Software Review of:
Studio DV Version 7
Pinnacle Systems


Larry Grosskopf is a Clinical Psychologist at the San Antonio State Hospital, with a very strong interest in computers. He and Marta, his wife, are raising two wonderful children, Zoë, age 9, and Jackson, age 7.

From the October, 2002 issue of PC Alamode Magazine

Pinnacle Systems is a company that specializes in video editing software. Their Pinnacle Studio 7 transforms your personal computer into a rather comprehensive video capture and editing system. This combination hardware and software package allows you to record your video projects to your computer’s hard drive, organize your video input and then make changes and edit the video to control the look, feel and sound of your own personal video project. Once you are satisfied, you will then have a video complete with whatever transitions, titles, sound effects, music, special effects and voice-overs you choose for your movie. Once you are done, you simply let the software make your digital movie or videotape. Please read on for more details about how this program worked in a “real-world” setting.

The software works on a PC-compatible computer with Pentium II 300 Mhz or higher processor. Operating system must be Windows 98 Second Edition, Windows Me, Windows 2000 or Windows XP. The graphics and sound cards must be Direct-X compatible and you need 64 MB of RAM (128 MB RAM recommended) and 200 MB of open drive space to install the program. You will also need a CD-ROM drive, a mouse, speakers and a microphone if you want to record voice-overs. In addition, if you want to make CD’s or DVD’s from your project, you will need either a DVD burner or a CD-RW drive. 

Here is the real key to this programs functionality — you must have a hard drive that is capable of sustained reading and writing at the speed of 4 MB per second. Any SCSI drive will do this as will most all of the UDMA hard drives. Finally, you will need a very large drive or perhaps a second drive dedicated to video because DV (Digital Video) format takes up 3.6 MB of drive space for every SECOND of video. For example, just five minutes of DV video will require more than 1 GB of drive storage space. Don’t despair, however, this software does provide a great feature called SmartCapture which addresses this problem, but more on that later. There are a number of ways to capture video that are supported by Studio 7, including PCI TV tuner boards, Studio AV analog MJPEG capture boards, or a USB Video/WebCam Camera. Studio also captures video from any DV or Digital camcorder using a FireWire port, or any analog (8mm, VHS, VHS-C, SVHS, or SVHS-C) camcorder or VCR. Studio outputs video to any DV or Digital 8 camcorder or VCR that is enbled to record from DV input. It also outputs to any analog camcorder or VCR using the Pinnacle Studio AV or DC10plus mode.

Right now, let me attempt to describe the process from the beginning to the end. I already had an IEEE-1394 FireWire compliant card in my computer, but there is one provided, in case you do not have one already. In order to work with Digital Video camcorders your system will need one. You must make sure to install the IEEE-1394 FireWire card into your system before you install the software. Installation of the card is as simple as installing any other PCI card into your computer. Next, the software installed and was configured to work with my system with exceptional ease. In the example we will explore, my wife and I (and Zoë) made several digital video recordings of my son, Jackson’s flag football games. My camera is a Panasonic DV-51, a fairly low-end mini-DV, digital camcorder. It works well and it records video directly onto Mini-DV tapes. Once enough video was captured to satisfy my desires, I dove headfirst into my first attempt at video editing. I must warn the uninitiated, there is a 284 page Guide to Movie Making book that should be read before starting to use Studio 7. I did read most of it and kept it close by as I started to work.

The Studio 7 user interface is divided into three primary sections: 

  1. Capture
  2. Edit
  3. Make Movie
I captured my video simply by connecting my camcorder to my PC via the FireWire card in my computer and using the Camcorder Controller feature to pick where to start and end the capture of the video. The Diskometer element lets you see how much room you have on your hard drive both in number form and graphically. You can select the quality of your video download using the Diskometer as well. The higher the quality of video download, the more space you will need for your video file on your hard drive. Here is where SmartCapture comes into play, if you are limited in available space on your drive, you can select this feature and save room. This only works when capturing from a DV camcorder or VCR using a FireWire (IEEE-1394) port. The reason it works like this is that it makes use of the DV time code and lets you capture a reduced quality file to minimize the use of hard drive space. This SmartCapture preview quality file can be used to build, edit and preview the final edition of your movie. When it is time to render or actually develop the final, higher quality DV video for viewing purposes, Studio returns to the source and generates a fully DV-class project.

When you initially launch the program, it opens in Edit mode, since they believe that is what you are doing most often with this software. In this mode, there are the Album, Player and Movie windows, with each functioning in a different way. Album has five tabs which allow you to control Scenes, Transitions, Graphics, Frame Grabs and Sound Effects. Player exhibits a sample of the movie you have encoded into the Album and includes both the Preview window and the Playback controls. Preview window shows the movie as it is downloaded and displays the video when you edit and then “play” it. The Playback controls (Play/Pause, Fast Forward & Reverse and Go To Beginning) are the primary video navigational tools. A Player Scrubber, which is similar to a horizontal scroll bar, lets you go very quickly from place to place in your video. There is also a counter (using frames, seconds, minutes & hours) that tells you the exact position you are at in the movie. The Movie window has three views, Timeline, Storyboard and Text. Timeline View provides the comparison of the point in the video clips to the Timescale. It also displays the five tracks in your video that you can edit, including video, original audio, transitions and title overlays, sound effects and/or voice-overs and background music. Storyboard View presents the video clips you have chosen and any transitions you have added in an orderly-organized fashion. Thumbnail icons are utilized to structure the video representation for editing. Personally, the Storyboard was more intuitive than the Timeline approach, but both do have their place in video editing. 

One final aspect I do want to mention is what I would call “features”. Audio and Video Toolboxes let you point and click and enhance or modify clips in your movie. Audio Toolbox and Video Toolbox screen captureeach have their own distinct editing tools. With the Video Toolbox, during editing, you can Change the Properties of a video Clip ( by trimming it shorter), you can add titles or graphics, grab a still shot from a frame of video, adjust the color or add a visual effect or vary the playback speed of the clip. Audio Toolbox furnishes the similar Audio Change Clip Properties, lets you adjust the volume for 3 audio tracks, add CD audio music to the clip, generate or create background music from a list of songs, or even record a “voice-over” to improve the audio arrangement. Jackson loved the voice-over I tried, even though my John Madden impression was pretty sad. Please understand that this review touches the main properties and some of the highlights of this program but is in no way an exhaustive review. For that, I would need several more pages. There are many, many wonderful features incorporated into Studio that space in this review does not allow me to cover. Suffice it to say that this is a powerful video editing tool.

The third and final step in the process is to Make the Movie. During this step, options consist of making a digital version and saving it to your disk or making videotapes (but only if you have the proper hardware). You have the opportunity to make your digital movie in MPEG-1, MPEG-2, and AVI format or in (RealVideo or Windows Media Player) streaming video that you can then e-mail or send to your family and friends. Once your project is completed, you can then do as I did and burn the movie to a CD which played perfectly on my living-room DVD player. 

Whatever your choice, it is truly a robust video editing device. I would recommend this product to anyone who wants to make a serious effort at videography. Pinnacle Systems has done an excellent job producing a high-quality product. They also have an outstanding Web presence. This is the place to go to find out more about the parent company and the many other related video editing wares that are offered there. The latest price for this version that I have found on the Internet is $129.99. For me, this is a steep price, but considering what you get and how useful it is, it is worth the expense.

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