Good support; tentative install
Installation is easy, but in our tests, it wasn't glitch-free. When we tried to install the second CD-ROM into Windows 2000, Studio 8.0 attempted to replace some key files that were already on the computer. If you ignore these warnings and just leave your files, the program works just fine. Still, Pinnacle ought to solve this problem (we called technical support, but they didn't return the call).
To Pinnacle's credit, the tech support and the documentation for Studio 8.0 boast the kind of detail usually reserved for products that have gone through many years of revisions. In the 258-page manual, you'll find well-written information on every niggling little feature in the program, as well as editing and DVD-creation tips. Pinnacle still provides free phone support for just the first 90 days, but you won't miss it much after that. The Web site, open all the time, is where you'll find extremely helpful user forums, FAQs, drivers, and software updates.
Familiar interface; new features
Like the original Studio, Pinnacle divides Studio 8.0's interface into three main parts: Capture, Edit, and Make A Movie. You can control any DV camcorder that's hooked up to your computer's FireWire interface from the Capture section. Here, you'll find two of our favorite features from the previous version: Smart Capture records video at a lower resolution, sacrificing video quality to save storage space; and Auto Scene Detection, which now lets you select and organize video clips by date, specific time (say, every 10 seconds), or video content, such as a change of scene. Studio 8.0 can handle digital or analog video, but you can import only AVI or MPEG digital video files. Unfortunately, the more flexible QuickTime gets the shaft.
Another bummer: While most DVD-authoring programs encode a single video stream--for example, the audio/video coming from a camcorder--Studio 8.0 encodes the DV footage to MPEG, then renders all of the transitions and mixes the audio from three tracks to stereo. Although MPEG encoding takes some time anyway, the whole process lasts about an hour longer than it should.
Fortunately for Pinnacle, Studio's editing tools make up for lost time. Studio 8.0 adds two new editing views, accessible from icons on the top of the Timeline view or as menu selections in the View menu. There's a Storyboard view, with icons arranged in a grid from top to bottom and transitions marked as symbols between icons, and a Traditional Cut list, which is a text description of each edit listed one cut after another. The Storyboard view works especially well for quickly assembling a rough cut of your video, then using the Timeline view to refine your edits.