Avid – Pinnacle Studio 15 HD review

Low cost home video editing software
Photo of Avid – Pinnacle Studio 15 HD

Not familiar with Pinnacle Studio? Over a number of years, this home movie editing software has developed from a promising youngster with limited abilities into a flashy teenager that thought it knew everything – but was, ahem, ‘unpredictable’ – before blossoming into comfortable middle age – with familiar features, and valuing stability more highly than some new flavour-of-the-month feature.

Sensible workflow
Pinnacle Studio is one of the most straightforward of the ‘serious’ home movie editing programs, mainly thanks to a tabbed interface that follows a typical movie’s workflow: Import, Edit and Make Movie.

The program offers a range of ways to get video from DV cameras, Blu-ray and DVD discs, removable media and so on, and includes excellent editing tools such as scene detection, which splits your raw footage into more usable chunks. There’s also a clever combined storyboard/timeline/text view of your movies, better-than-average audio tools, plus good effects and transitions.

The range of export options has also been increased in the latest version, making it a good choice for producing projects to store on disc or distribute via the web.

Added features
As well as miscellaneous performance enhancements, including smoother playback – even at full screen – plus faster seek times across long timelines, there have been a number of bug fixes. But aside from that, Version 15 doesn’t offer too much in the way of new headline features. That said, the new capabilities that have been included are significant.

First, you get a new Archive/Restore feature, which allows you to bundle up a project and all its associated media (which may be scattered in various locations around your hard disk) and stick it one place so you can back it up. Sounds obvious – but having everything in one place like this makes it much easier for complicated projects to be ‘parked’ and then resumed at a later date, or shared with other people via a DropBox-like service and passed back and forth.

One word of warning though – the software isn’t clever enough to know whether the target device has enough space on it for the archive, so you’ll need to start it, make a note of the file size and then choose the destination accordingly.

Bundled extras
Other major enhancements? Pinnacle’s bundled its three Hollywood FX Packs which include more than 1,000 themed effects and transitions (think Sports, Sci-Fi, Weddings, Cartoons and Historical Architecture); and finally, the program’s export options now include YouTube and QuickTime HD, AVCHD Lite (a subset of AVCHD that’s being pushed by Panasonic) along with MKV, an increasingly popular open-source video file format, characterised by Pinnacle as ‘DivX HD’.

Other editions
Version 15 is also available in an Ultimate Edition for £79.95. This adds 54 DVD menu templates, 81 titles, and 79 sound effects as well as a bunch of fancy professional-level effects from Red Giant Software. The £99.95 Ultimate Collection offers all that plus more Red Giant effects and a further 32 DVD menus, 91 montage templates and 28 titles.

Company: Avid

Contact: 01753 655999

For around £60, the version of Pinnacle Studio 15 reviewed here represents excellent value for money. It's a full-featured, HD movie editing program with all the effects and transitions most of us will ever need. Even casual or occasional users will benefit from being able to archive and restore video projects but enthusiasts will love it.