Corel VideoStudio Pro X5 Review: CPU Optimization and HTML 5 Output
At a Glance
With its latest version of VideoStudio Pro, Corel is aiming to crack the Web video production nut. VideoStudio Pro X5 ($80 as of April 30, 2012) is a video-editing application capable of handling everything from start to finish, supplying all that you need to produce videos that you can host, and that play in any HTML 5-compliant browser. But you'll need a computer with one of the latest CPUs to produce cutting-edge video.
HTML 5--What's Hot for Video
To make your videos play on a Web page--as well as on smartphones and tablets--you can upload them to YouTube and use its embed code, or you can host them on your own server. All of the major desktop Internet browsers (Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Apple Safari, Opera, and Microsoft Internet Explorer) are compatible with Adobe Flash video content, but significantly Safari on the iPhone and iPad is not. Meanwhile, all of the latest browser versions recognize HTML 5 code, but they don't all play the same video formats. For example, Chrome and the standard Android browser support Ogg Theora and Google's (and YouTube's) own WebM video format, while Internet Explorer and Safari support only the H.264 video format. Firefox and Opera support Ogg Theora and WebM. Due to ongoing bickering over patents, no single video format enjoys support in all browsers, so if you want to accommodate all of your website visitors, you must output video in multiple formats and use multiple HTML 5 source tags to instruct browsers to look for a format that they can play.
In light of that, VideoStudio Pro X5's new HTML 5 output feature has the potential to be a tremendous timesaver--not only will it output in multiple formats, but it will also produce the HTML 5 code to support them. The application comes with one HTML 5 template and provides easy access to a few additional ones (all of them especially cheesy) via download; you can drop video clips and still images into the template, and modify the titles with your own text. If the project contains a menu system (similar to that of a DVD or Blu-ray Disc), chapter points in the timeline will serve as links that take viewers to designated points in the composition. VideoStudio Pro X5 provides few output formatting options, other than standard- or high-definition; you can't adjust the quality settings at all.
Corel says that you can open the resulting HTML 5 file in any Web-authoring application, and that's true--but it's not like you're getting a chunk of YouTube embed code that you can simply drop into an existing Web page. Instead, VideoStudio Pro X5 produces a mini website with lengthy CSS files, so if you want to customize the look or add elements, you'll either have to modify the VideoStudio Pro X5-generated files to suit your needs or try to dig out pieces of the source code in those files and then copy the code to your existing pages.
Acceleration for Some
For HTML 5 output, VideoStudio Pro X5 produces both H.264 and WebM video files so that it can accommodate all browsers; producing two files, however, means additional rendering time. Furthermore, as of now, you must rely on software rendering to produce WebM files, because no hardware acceleration yet exists. As a result, on my system, a four-year-old dual-Xeon workstation with 8GB of RAM, a high-end graphics card, a RAID setup, and Windows 7 64-bit, VideoStudio Pro X5 was very slow to produce HTML 5 packages. It required 42 minutes to produce these files for a 56-second video; it took 3.5 hours to process a 20-minute video.
After the HTML 5 files were complete, I was able to open them and play the videos they contained locally within Firefox 10, Chrome 17, Safari 5, and Internet Explorer 10. Older browsers prompted 'Browser is not supported' messages. But when I loaded the files onto my Web server, the videos wouldn't play most of the time; one played for a few seconds and then refused to go further.
Despite the lethargic performance on my system, Corel says that VideoStudio Pro X5 has numerous improvements designed to take advantage of the latest Intel Sandy Bridge and AMD Fusion CPUs, and that it also has some GPU acceleration, and thus VideoStudio Pro X5 runs "close to 10 times faster than VideoStudio Pro X4." (A Corel rep stressed, however, that that claim does not apply to rendering times.) I could not test the 10x claim with my system, because VideoStudio Pro X5 has no acceleration improvements for older CPUs (and it is still a 32-bit application, by the way).
In contrast, the GPU acceleration technology Adobe uses in its Premiere Pro CS5.5 requires your system to have one of a small number of pricey graphics cards, and that version doesn't have CPU acceleration. VideoStudio Pro X5 still has its proxy mode, too, whereby you can work in a low-resolution mode to improve editing performance and then instruct the application to output using the high-resolution source files.
The application can now accommodate up to 20 "overlay" tracks, which means that, especially in HTML 5 layouts, the tracks are designed more for graphical elements rather than additional video tracks. You can, however, import layered Corel PaintShop Pro images; when you drag one into the timeline, the layers will populate different timelines automatically. It doesn't do the same for layered files in other companies' formats (but I doubt that Adobe will ever accommodate PaintShop Pro files, either, and it does support doing so for layered Photoshop files).
You can use VideoStudio Pro X5's new screen-capture utility to create videos of your screen while you work in any displayed application. If you own a microphone, you can add voice-overs while you capture. A small interface window appears when you choose the screen-capture command; and once you click a button, it counts down from three, at which point the window disappears and your screen capture begins. When you're done, you can import the captured footage into a timeline and add the usual video elements--effects, titles, and overlays--though you'll still have to deal with VideoStudio's clumsy keyframing (to adjust the effects' intensity over time).
Time for a New PC?
Credit Corel for pursuing cutting-edge features such as the CPU optimizations and HTML 5 output; I haven't yet seen those in its competitors' products. But if you don't own the most cutting-edge hardware, VideoStudio Pro X5 may leave you feeling a bit left out of the party, and the HTML 5 output feature seems like more of an exercise than a useful feature addition at this point, even if it isn't Corel's fault that the rendering times are so long. Aside from those issues, VideoStudio Pro X5 is a pretty good video editor, though one that may lack the precise control that competitors offer.