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When I started working with digital video in 1991, the sheer ability to play video on a computer was a technical marvel. If you showed it to the average consumer, however, the typical response was, “Gee, why doesn't it look as good as my TV?” Tough to explain when the computer cost $3,000 and the TV cost $300.

Thus began my search for “apology-free video”—video I could show my wife, children, and friends without apologizing for poor sound or image quality.

As interest in digital video grew, friends and family asked with increasing frequency for a video editor they could both afford and quickly learn to use. Wary of the unspoken technical-support obligation that comes with recommending just any software program, I began my search for a product I could recommend without getting an unlisted phone number.

As you've probably guessed, I found that product in Pinnacle Systems' Studio.

Studio 9 delivers apology-free video courtesy of its MPEG-2 encoding engine, which is the same format used on DVDs coming from Hollywood. Hey, if it's good enough for The Matrix and When Harry Met Sally, it's good enough for me.

After working on software-review teams that awarded Studio several PC Magazine Editor's Choice awards, I knew that even newcomers to digital video could quickly master Studio's interface. Studio offers an unprecedented range of movie creation options. Want to quickly convert your 60-minute digital videotape to DVD and send it to the in-laws? It's a simple two-step process—no muss, no fuss. Want to invest hours to produce a polished, Hollywood-style video? Studio can do that too, with distribution options ranging from the Internet to DVD and all points in between.

It's a program that can easily be mastered by beginners and also satisfy intermediate or even advanced users with its breadth of features.

Using This Book

If you bought Studio 9 through a retail channel, you already have a manual that explains how to use the various components of the Studio interface. This book complements the manual in two ways.

First, like all Visual QuickStart Guides, this one is task oriented, describing and showing you how to perform most common video production tasks. The descriptions are precise and exhaustive, identifying with screen shots and text the best ways to get the job done.

In addition, having worked with digital video for many years, I know that video editing can be an incredible time sink, probably the main reason most folks simply don't edit their camcorder tapes. Thus many sections and tips focus on how to avoid problems and work as efficiently as possible. Sidebars address technical topics to help you make decisions.

Making Movies with Studio

Within its uniquely unified video-editing/DVD-authoring interface, Studio gives you an unparalleled range of production activities. Depending on your equipment, you can capture footage from a digital or analog camcorder, edit the footage, integrate video from other sources, and output the results for streaming on the Internet, playing back on your desktop, or delivering via DVD or CD.

However, all good movies, regardless how they are delivered, must start with an appreciation of how to create movies worth watching. Chapter 1 explores the notion of creating watchable video, a primer aimed at teaching you the proper settings for your video camera and sound shooting techniques. Chapter 2 introduces you to the Studio interface and gets your computer ready for video production.

Editing and production

After you've shot your source videos using the proper camera settings and solid shooting techniques, the process of editing and production begins. It involves the following four steps:

  • Gathering assets. This is where you capture your video, import still images, or grab them from your camcorder or captured video, and import any background audio files. These activities in covered in Chapters 3, 4, and 5.

  • Trimming and organizing. In most instances, you won't want to include every minute that you shot in the final production. Accordingly, you trim unwanted sections, then place your video clips and still images in the desired order. Chapter 7 describes how to get this done.

  • Garnishing. Here's where the true editing comes in. During this stage, you add transitions between clips, title tracks, still image overlays, and any special effects. You can also input a narration track, add music ripped from a CD, or create your own custom background track using SmartSound (a utility included with Studio). Chapters 8 through 11 cover these activities.

  • Rendering. This is where you produce your final output. Though “encoding into a streaming format” may sound complicated, Studio includes easy-to-follow templates that simplify the task, making this stage the most mechanical of all. Chapter 14 describes how to output your videos as digital files for posting to a Web site, sending via email, or copying to CD-ROM.

If you're outputting to DVD there's another stage, of course, typically called authoring. This is when you create your menus, link videos and still image assets, and preview to ensure that your project flows as desired. Then you burn your disc. DVD production is covered in Chapter 12.

You can also write your production back to your camcorder, where you can dub copies for VHS or other analog players. I describe how to do this in Chapter 13.

Finally, Pinnacle provides a free service for posting your video files online, appropriately called StudioOnline. I discuss how you can best utilize this service in Chapter 15.

System Requirements

Most products ship with two sets of requirements, minimum and recommended. Here are Studio 9's minimum and recommended requirements:

  • Intel Pentium or AMD Athlon 800 MHz or higher (1.5 GHz or higher recommended)

  • 256 MB RAM (512 MB recommended)

  • Windows 98SE, “Millennium”, 2000, or XP (Windows XP recommended)

  • DirectX 9 compatible graphics card (ATI Radeon or Nvidia Geforce 2 or higher recommended)

  • DirectX 9 compatible sound card (Creative Labs Audigy recommended)

  • 500 MB of disk space to install software

  • CD-ROM drive

  • 4.5 GB of hard disk space for every 20 minutes of video captured at best quality

  • Hard disk capable of sustained throughput of at least 4 MB per second. All SCSI and most ultra direct memory access (UDMA) drives are fast enough; dedicated hard drive recommended. (Studio will automatically test your hard drive for sufficient speed for real-time video capture when you first enter Capture mode.)

  • CD-Recordable or CD-Rewritable drive for creating VideoCDs or Super VideoCDs that will play on most living room DVD players

  • DVD-Recordable, DVD-Rewritable, or DVD+RW drive for creating DVDs

Disk requirements

A faster processor and more RAM are certainly better when it comes to video production, but the most significant area of potential trouble relates to disk requirements. Here's a quick example that illustrates how to estimate how much disk space you'll need for your projects.

Assume that you've shot 60 minutes of video that you want to edit down to a 30-minute production. You plan on including both a narration and background audio track, and will burn the result to DVD.

Table i.1, which presents a worst-case estimate of required disk space, assumes that you'll be applying edits to every single frame in the production footage. If you edit more sparingly, you'll need less space.

Table i.1. Calculating Disk Requirements
Capture footage60 minutes21612.96 GB
Production footage30 minutes2166.48 GB
Narration track30 minutes10.5315 MB
Background audio30 minutes10.5315 MB
DVD files30 minutes601.8 GB
Total disk space required: 21.87 GB

In 1994, the required 22 GB would have cost close to $30,000, and your electrical bill would jump significantly. Today, you can buy an 80 GB drive for well under $100, a great investment if you plan on pursuing multiple editing projects.

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