"The best BALANCED video editing program."4.5 starson by rhungent
Pros: Intuitive controls. Stable platform. Large preview screen. Animated Text.
Cons: would like to be able to simply place transition in the front/end.
Summary: I have spent several hours over 3 weeks reviewing several demos of Sony Vegas, Studio-9+, Ulead VS9, PowerDirector, ProShow producer, and Adobe Elements. Each has its pros/cons, but you will find that VS9 has the most balanced, easy to use, functional and stable program available.
My purpose is to edit 4:3 and 16:9 home videos using a 3chip Sony PC-1000 and get them on DVD; with the addition of slide shows from the photos taken on my 5MB Cannon camera. I wanted the best of both worlds... I needed a simply, easy to use program that allowed me to do professional transitions/fades with "Hollywood text". Videos would need slowly fading or moving titles/text. Stills required slow pan/zoom and music required easy to adjust fades to fit the slide show.
ProShow producer was purchased from a friend and "in his review" was the best slideshow producer, but it does NOT capture video and takes several minutes to load a short 1 min video file before allowing me to edit it. i.e. not good for home movies.
Sony Vegas was a very stable product allowing smooth fades. The problem was that it is too professional with no storyboard to get a global view of the project. The timeline was frustrating because the image and fades keep running into each other as you move things around. The ripple did not help with this. i.e. too professional with little room for error when editing.
Adobe elements was well liked in the editor and user reviews. It was reported as the best for professional editing. My problem was that there was no storyboard and the images on the timeline were tiny on my 17" monitor. The layout of the screen was adjustable, but it left most everything at your fingertips. As a beginner it was a mess of clutter. This is similar to my experience with Adobe Photoshop. Very powerful, but the learning curve is very steep. i.e. too complex for the above average consumer.
Cyberlink PowerDirector was great for the simple minded. Problem is that is leaves little room for adjustments. Pan/zoom of stills were Wizard automatic, but you could not adjust the way it pan/zoomed. It has both a timeline and storyboard. Because it was to restrictive, I did not spend much time in this. I found this program listed as the "gold" winner in a top-10-review dot com something, but I completely dissagree.
This top-10-review did recommend studio-9 as a "bronze" winner and Ulead SV9 as a "silver" winner. In my review, these are the top two products under $100 for DVD home moview and slide shows.
Studio-9 does not have pan/zoom, but studio-9+ does. Studio 10 is the latest version, but I have read that you should RUN from this because of its poor stability and known problems with crashing and freezing. Studio 10 was not available as a demo, likely because of all these serious issues. Nonetheless, 9+ was available as a demo. It has a preview 16:9 screen, but the screen is small in the upper right-hand corner. It has timeline as a three line storyboard to help you "see" the project better. Pan/zoom must be individually set. Setting pan/zoom is a guess, because it does not show you the original image, nor does it give you a numerical % zoom; so you just have to play with the clip to get it right. Video/audio fades were easy and you can put any transition at the beginning and end for a smooth transition. Numerous transition (standard and Hollywood) are available, but crossfades are the most clean without being too busy/cheasy. Also the transitions are not "motion" icons, so you either have to remember the effect or click on them to see what it really does. Titles are few, but you can put a transition in the beginning/end to give it some pizzaz. It does have audio filters, but the noise and wind filters were not very effective with my windy day at the park clip. DVD menus are a pain the micromanipulate. I found it cumbersome to mark every chapter and link every thumbnail. The smallest con is the capture screen; it shows a ugly/bulky camcorder...looks nothing like a my sleek PC-1000. Summary: Studio 9 Plus is a very good product, but I really wanter the latest software. Unfortunately all the abysmal reviews scared me away from Pinnacle.
Finally, Ulead VS9...This was the best program for several reasons, but first the con. You cannot add a transition in the beginning or end of an image/clip; only between images. So the only way to fade the project in and out is to add a black "color image" and slip a transition in between so that it will fade to black, or any color you choose. The preview screen is wonderful, but when you edit in 16:9, it keep the monitor a 4:3 size. (this is a very small quirk).
The PROS... the preview monitor if medium size and sits right in the middle. No squinting to see you project/clip and it shows it in medium-resolution. You can also enlarge the monitor to fill 80% of your screen; the resolution is still very good (unlike Studio9+) and it has the play/pause/stop controls still on the screen (unlike Studio9+). This was a very thoughtful design. Timeline and Storyboard are interchangeable. The storyboard is only a single line, so it does not hold much images. (S9+has three, but they are almost too small to be useful). Pan and Zoom are easy to adjust. (almost as easy as Sony Vegas). It shows the entire image with a "start crop" and a "end crop". It also shows the position/size/%zoom as a numerical value as well. (no guessing)There is also a middle point if you want to move around the photo. (Vegas has indefinite middle points). Music fades were easy and completely adjustable. TEXT animation was great because you can fade in/out the text as well as zooming/moving text. This is a very simple but professional and elegent attribute of VS9.
Lastly, DVD menus are easy to create. You simply create a few video projects and slideshows, and add them to the DVD menu. That way you can have a birthday party, vacation and slideshow on the same main menu. Then you can select chapter points in each of these projects or have the program find them for you. You can opt to add an additional chapter (sub)menu for each of your projects. I found this to be simple as well as clean.
Simply put, VideoStudio 9 is the most RELIABLE, INTUITIVE, FLEXIBLE and PROFESSIONAL video-editing program under $100. My 3 week review is over and I finally purchased Ulead VideoStudio 9. The previous reviews were extremely helpful, but don't trust all the reviews you read. Download the demo and see for yourself, but don't waste you time like I did demo-ing every software. Just try it, then BUY IT.
Hope this was helpful.