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Software Review of:
Ulead VideoStudio 7

 

Bill Hunsicker is a retired computer scientist and software developer who dabbles in photography and genealogy. He has a Web page here.

From the September 2003 issue of PC Alamode Magazine

Ulead’s Video Editing software allows you to edit your videotapes into professional looking video. It can create video segments on tape, DVD, Video CD (VDC) and also for the Web.

VideoStudio 7 (VS7) installs in about 30 minutes. It will also add Adobe Reader, Quicktime Player, and RealPlayer Basic, if you don’t already have them. I already had current versions, so I declined them, but it appears the install will try to add them unless you decline. After the install you should go to the Ulead website and download the latest patch(s). Look under “Free Downloads – Updates & Patches.” When I first tried the VS7, it could not locate my Sony Camcorder that was connected through a Firewire port. VS7 had no trouble finding and controlling my camcorder, after the patch was accomplished, and a reboot.

The three basic processes VS7 uses are Capture, Edit, and then Share. The first time you run the program you will land in the Edit window. The window is also your normal storyboard screen. While in this screen, you should create a “New Project” with an appropriate name (upper left of screen) and also using the Library Manager in the dropdown gallery window (upper right) create a gallery for your project files. If you are new to video editing I would recommend you click on the “VideoStudio 7” name in the upper left corner which has a hot link directly to the Ulead Home page. From there, you can get to an excellent VideoStudio 7 tutorial.

If you need to capture video from your camera, connect it and then select the Capture tab at the top of the screen to begin capturing video selections. If you’ve completed the tutorial, then you will know how to set the options, before starting the capture. Use the navigation buttons, below the large window in the center of the screen to position the camcorder to wherever on the tape you wish to begin. Then click the capture button, and watch the video being captured. I selected the AVI format for some of the selections and MPEG-2 for others. I was unable to detect any difference in the quality of the final output, as a result of using different formats, and MPEG files are so much smaller. If you have set the appropriate options, VS 7 will also do a reasonable job of detecting the scenes by video content during capture and inserting transitions between scenes.

Edit When the capture process is complete, click the “Edit” tab at the top to return to the edit Storyboard screen. You can choose to edit in storyboard format or timeline. I choose the expanded storyboard layout by clicking the small black upward pointing arrow, just above the strip layout on the bottom left side of the screen.

Storyboard

Once I ‘storyboarded’ all of my desired scenes, I wanted to change or add some different transitions. I found that can be done most easily but clicking the “Effects” tab at the top of the screen and then using ‘drag and drop.’ Once I had the transitions between scenes about right, I returned to the Edit screen, clicked the down arrow at the top to return to the ‘original’ storyboard mode and then clicked the tab at the bottom left of the screen to select the timeline mode.

Using the “Timeline” mode, there are find five (5) tracks at the bottom of the screen, the first track contains the video segments and transitions I laid out. I added Titles and audio by selecting the appropriate tabs at the top, the following the instructions in the resulting screen. The second track is for video overlays, which I didn’t need on this project. The third track is for titles, the forth for Voice over, and the fifth for adding music or background sounds (wave files).

VS7 supports various special effects (like the so-called picture-in-picture effects, which lets you do scenes within a scene), and transitions and allows them to be viewed at full screen resolution, in real time (meaning as they are created). In addition, SV7 has added slow and accelerated motion effects, as well as animated titling.

When everything was ready, I clicked the “SHARE” tab at the top to create the video. I selected “Create Disc”, which provided a screen for collecting multiple video sources. Earlier, I had created another video segment with another software package. As you can see, I was able to easily add it into the SVCD that I was creating. Clicking “Next” brought up the Menu creation screen, and following the menu test screen came the actual output screen. I choose to make a CD, but could have just as easily (with the right equipment) have created a DVD, a streaming RealVideo (.rm) file for Web distribution, a Windows Media Format file (.wmv), or an MPG file for later use/viewing.

I deliberately choose to mix AVIs, MPGs, and JPEGs from multiple sources during the creation. I always selected for the highest resolution (720x480) and data rate (8000 Kbps) during capture and editing, however, VS7 would only allow 480x480 resolution and a data rate of 2520 Kbps when producing the SVCD. The resulting visual quality was OK on a 19 inch TV, but when I played it on a rear projection HD TV, it was marginal. I created another SVCD with my normal video editing software at normal my DVD setting (720x480 and 4000 Kbps), and it came out as clear as a DVD disc. The other software package had allowed the production of a SVCD at the higher resolution and data rate with the same sources. I believe VS7 would have produced at the higher quality, if I had had a DVD burner.

I had only three concerns during the entire editing experience. Two are design issues, and I would recommend to Ulead to allow the custom creation of SVCDs at the higher quality. Recognizing, of course, higher quality, always means more information and shorter videos on a space-limited format like a CD-R. The second was the audio ripping speed, when I added music from a CD to the video. It “ripped” along at audio playback speed, current audio technology allows “ripping” an entire CD in just a few minutes with a 48x CD reader. The third concern was I experienced two system lock-ups while rendering the video, after the patch was in place. Web sources at seem to indicate, they could be caused by my having a network and cable modem connected to my editing system. Since, my system is multi-purpose, disconnecting is not a viable option. I liked most of what I saw in VS7, so I hope Ulead finds and fixes soon, what ever that problem is.

Ulead has lots of nice features in VS7. The excellent Users guide, the larger viewing window used for navigating and editing the video, the “SmartRender” which allowed late changes to cause little delay in the production process, the full use of a CD (700MB instead of limiting you to 650). Some really good features were the near real time performance when editing, the multi-cut editing (you can eliminate several time segments from a single video segment without splitting), and of course the content-based scene detection. Some nice to have features were the slow- and fast-motion effects, the five video filters, and some new title animations. Ulead has also included a special edition of Ulead Cool 3D, the company's titling and object-animation utility.

I liked the editing experience with VS7. Except for the three concerns noted above, I would recommend this package to anyone with sufficient hardware (see my recommend minimum), especially someone just starting to learn video editing. It’s a fast easy package to learn and use!

I found the full version VideoStudio 7 at BestBuy for $99.99. I found several places on the Internet with prices ranging from $69 to $108, but Buyer beware. Note: you can order it direct from Ulead for $99.99 + S&H.

Vendor information Mail: Ulead Systems Inc., Attn: Ulead Sales, 20000 Mariner Ave. Suite 200, Torrance, CA 90503. You can contact Ulead Systems Inc at (800) 858-5323 between 8 am and 5 pm PST. For customer service call (877) 226-6766 between 9 am and 5 pm PST.

Vendor Minimum Requirements: 800 MHz CPU, 128 MB Ram, 4GB Disk storage plus space for video capture (one hour of DV video requires 13 GB of storage), Windows 98SE or later, Windows-compatible monitor and video card with at least 1024x768 resolution, other hardware as necessary)

My Recommended Minimum for effective real-time editing: 1.4 MHz CPU; 512 MB Ram; 7200 rpm IDE drive with at least 15 GB of free space; 24xCD-burner or DVD burner; Windows XP, Video card with 1024x768 resolution; and at least one for the following: 1) an analog capture card for use with an analog Camcorder, or 2) a Firewire (IEEE 1394) connection for use with DV Camcorder, and/or 3) a USB 2.0 capability for use with Digital Camera with video capabilities.

Reviewer System Specifications: AMD Athlon 1.6 GHz, 1.25 GB RAM, Windows XP Pro, DirectX 9.0b, 64 MB ATI Radeon 7000, Firewire (IEEE 1394), USB 2.0, On-Lite DVD, Optorite 48x16x48 CD-burner, DirectX-compatible Sound Blaster Live card, Logitech Trackball, keyboard. For my digital video sources, I used a Sony DCR TRV-310 camcorder and a Fuji FinePix S602z.

Note: I used SNAGIT version 6.2 to capture the screen images.


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