Corel VideoStudio Pro X4 Video Editing Software Offers Speed Improvements
At a Glance
VideoStudio Pro X4
A good-performing application, with most of the latest features people look for in a video editor, but more-skilled users may want something that allows more control.
When it comes to video editing, nothing ever happens quickly enough, no matter how powerful your computer. Corel's VideoStudio Pro X4 video editing software ($100, $80 upgrade, as of 3/28/11) tries to speed things up. It's one of the first applications--not to mention video editing applications--to take specific advantage of Intel's new Sandy Bridge CPUs and AMD's Fusion CPUs (recently released or forthcoming); it also supports the GPU acceleration provided by certain Nvidia graphics processors.
Corel says that the enhancements might gain you 100 percent to 200 percent speed improvements in certain operations--for example, converting imported AVCHD video to an MPEG-2 output file--but didn't have more-specific numbers. That could be pretty impressive, though even if those numbers hold true, they won't come close to the exponential speed gains offered by Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 on a PC with a high-end graphics card.
Corel also says that the version I tested had some optimizations for Intel and AMD chips, but that it would be releasing additional "accelerator patches" after Intel and AMD released their own updates, so I did not run performance tests of my own. But I did notice that, even without those patches, VideoStudio ran very smoothly on the systems I tested it with, including a dual-Xeon-based workstation and a Core i7-based laptop; it previewed high-definition footage with no hiccups, its interface operated snappily, and it rendered output files relatively quickly (meaning, relative to how quickly I thought it should output, and relative to how quickly competitor Pinnacle Studio HD 15 rendered files). I experienced no crashes, and I never got the sense that I was overtaxing the application, even with high-definition content. That said, VideoStudio Pro X4 remains a native 32-bit application, so none of its speed gains come from that angle.
VideoStudio Pro X4 remains the only video editing application to offer a proxy editing mode, in which you can work on high-definition video in a low-resolution mode, thereby allowing you to use an underpowered computer. When you're done editing, VideoStudio applies your edits to the high-definition version while you're off having coffee (or sleeping).
Interface: Pretty and Functional
VideoStudio Pro X4 has a nicely revised workspace, too. You can grab the edge of screen elements such as the timeline, sources, and monitor windows and expand their size to meet your needs, and you can arrange them nearly anywhere you want. Drag a window to the the edge of a screen where you'll see small boxes, let go of the window, and it will dock automatically. You can undock windows, too--so that, for example, you can show your preview window on a second monitor, as large as you want it to be. This workspace is similar in function to that of Adobe Premiere Elements 9, but it's also a little simpler to use, because it has fewer options. As with Premiere Elements, you can save custom layouts and load them when you want.
Still, I found two things I didn't like in the interface. As with many consumer video editing applications, you do much of your customization work in dialog boxes with small windows to show the effects of your work, rather than showing your preview in the larger monitor window. Second, to access the help menus, you have to click a button at the top of the window that opens the Corel Guide, a secondary interface that gives you access to extra (free and paid) content, instructional videos, and messages that I assume are marketing communications. From there, you must click on a Launch Help link that then causes an online help system to appear--one that lives on Corel's Website. But I'd just bookmark the site in my browser and skip the button in VideoStudio.
As with Avid's Pinnacle Studio HD 15, VideoStudio Pro X4's keyframing features are rudimentary at best. (Keyframing is the ability to set points at which effects start or stop, and at what intensity.) You must set keyframes in a dialog box with a small preview window, and you can't see the keyframes in your timeline, so you have to open up the dialog box every time you want to change how they are applied. You can't adjust anything between those keyframes, either, as you can in Premiere Elements 9. For example, you can't change how quickly an effect accelerates before and after a keyframe, so their onset and dissipation are totally linear.
Now in 3D
VideoStudio Pro X4 is only the second video editing application to offer conversion to 3D video output (Sony Vegas Pro 10 was the first; I fully expect other video editing applications to add this feature in their next iterations). Unlike Vegas Pro 10, VideoStudio Pro X4 doesn't give you much control over how the 3D output looks. You click the application's Share button, click a file format (YouTube, Facebook, Vimeo, or one of several disc formats), then choose anaglyph output or side-by-side output and adjust a 3D depth setting, but with no preview. Because 3D rendering is extremely processor-intensive, you might wait a long time before you can determine whether you had the right settings. Even so, I was able to output a pretty good 720p 3D video to YouTube, with obvious 3D effects; YouTube recognized that it was a 3D file and showed several 3D viewing options.
You can now make stop-motion animations with VideoStudio Pro X4, thanks to a new set of features in the application's Capture mode. You can capture shots manually, by clicking a button, or you can set it to take shots automatically on a regular interval (so you can create a movie of a sunset, or a flower opening, for example). However, once you import the stop-motion movie into a timeline, you can't adjust the duration or the speed of the composition, unless you split it back into individual photos; and if you do that, you lose any effects you've applied to the composition. You can adjust all of the photos' duration at once, but if you want to add an effect, you have to add it to all of your photos. Or you could recombine all the photos--but what if you want to adjust the duration again?
Another new feature lets you create an effective strobe effect by setting VideoStudio to capture every tenth frame, and slow down the overall video at the same time, so it will look like a time-lapse movie. This is very easy to set up, and it creates really neat-looking video, albeit with the same limitations of stop-motion movies.
Other enhancements: You can now place title text in overlay tracks (in addition to your main video track), and you can now export VideoStudio Pro X4 projects so that you can copy them to other computers to work on them there.
VideoStudio Pro X4 performs well on a wide range of computers, from the underpowered PCs of yesteryear (using its proxy mode) to more recent models to units with the most cutting-edge CPUs, and Corel is doing a good job of offering the new features that people want in a video editor. It doesn't provide nearly the same level of control as Adobe Premiere Elements 9 does, but it has a few advantages over that application (for example, an easier-to-see interface, and a less-confusing media browser), so I'd recommend it as a worthy alternative for some people.