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If you're a chef at a fine white linen restaurant, I'm sure that when you have friends over for dinner, burgers on the grill just won't do. You have to impress, amuse and delight.

Well, I can't cook worth a hoot, but as a writer and reviewer in the digital video space, I feel a similar pressure to perform when it comes to home movies. The video has too look great, the editing must be crisp, the titles and effects amusing and enhancing and the background music just like they have on 60 Minutes or The Fantastic Four. I have to make my little girlies laugh, the grandparent smile, friends remain awake, and most of all, please my wife so she doesn't mind the football sized camera I drag around on vacation and other family events.

We're talking pressure.

And the reason I like Pinnacle Studio so much is that it helps me deliver. Over the last three revisions, the program has evolved from a reasonably well featured, easy to use editor to an effects powerhouse with outstanding DVD authoring capabilities.

When I say effects, I don't really mean Star Wars-like effects, I mean color correction that can fix mistakes like the improper white balancing when I videotaped the kids at the Atlanta Zoo back in '03. Or bad lighting at the high school reunion dinner in '04 (and I'm not telling which one). Or stabilizing the parade and concert videos shot in '05. We're talking a pre-eminent ability to clean up your videos so they look like you knew what you were doing when you shot it. Hey, even cooks make occasional mistakes.

Of course, Studio excels when you actually start to edit your video, with multiple trimming options, great precision, an excellent titling tool, an amusing set of thematic transitions and an expanding base of Star Wars like effects when I decide I want to use them. Plus the ability to automatically generate background music and mix the background music with other audio tracks quickly and easily. The new Overlay track added in Studio 9 Plus gives me chromakey and picture-in-picture capabilities while pan and zoom features let's me use the images shot with that lovely Canon Digital Rebel that showed up last holiday season.

When it's time to build my DVD, Studio offers the most flexible authoring tool this side of $300 standalone authoring programs, with completely customizable menus.

I personally adore Studio because it helps me produce home videos that meet the expectations of my wife and kids, other family, and most importantly, me. And I'm sure it will help you do so, as well.

What's New?

Not much; how 'bout with you?

Sorry, couldn't resist. Actually there's lots new with Studio 10. Here are some highlights.

Most significantly, Pinnacle merged Studio's polished interface with the editing and rendering engine from big sister product Pinnacle Liquid Edition. In addition to providing support for new formats like Microsoft Windows Media video and high definition video (HDV), this professional strength technology delivers additional speed and robustness to the Studio product line.

If you shoot with a DVD camcorder, you'll be happy to hear that Studio can now capture your video, while all producers will appreciate the ability to capture video from non-copy protected DVDs (see Chapter 6 for this last item). Pinnacle also threw in Pinnacle Instant DVD Recorder to help you quickly convert analog and digital tapes to DVD (See Chapter 16). Also new is the ability to preview video output on a second monitor or television set, as detailed in Chapter 2, which provides a more accurate preview and more efficient editing workspace.

On the editing front, Pinnacle added the ability to control audio and video effects with keyframes, providing near infinite customizability (Chapter 9). Pinnacle also added several new cleaning effects to improve video quality, and many other audio and video effects.

Other noteworthy features include the ability to “scrub” audio on the Timeline, the ability to output progressive scan DVDs for your new DVD Player, additional SmartMovie styles, and more choices for producing high quality, slow motion effects. If you're producing longer movies, you'll adore the new ability to record to Dual Layer (DL) DVDs.

Overall, when you throw in the additional Overlay track and pan and zoom capabilities introduced in Studio 9 Plus, the jump from Version 9 to Version 10 is both significant and impressive. Most importantly, Pinnacle retained Studio's straightforward, easy to use interface. Much more powerful, but with the same basic interface we've all come to know and love.

Using This Book

If you bought Studio 10 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 are 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, Chapter 15 details how to convert tape based videos to DVD with Pinnacle's Instant DVD Recorder.

System Requirements

Most products ship with two sets of requirements, minimum and recommended. Here are Studio 10's minimum and recommended requirements:

  • Intel Pentium or AMD Athlon 1.4 MHz or higher (2.4 GHz or higher recommended).

  • 512MB RAM (1 GB recommended. 1 GB required for HD).

  • Windows XP.

  • DirectX 9 or higher compatible graphics card with 32 MB (ATI Radeon or Nvidia Geforce 3 or higher with 128 MB recommended for SD. 128 MB required for 720p HD. 256 MB required for 1080i HD).

  • DirectX 9 or higher compatible sound card (Creative Audigy or M-Audio recommended).

  • 500 MB of disk space to install software + 3 GB to install bonus content.

  • DVD-ROM drive for installation.

  • CD-R(W) burner for creating Video CDs or Super Video CDs.

  • DVD-/+R(W) burner drive for creating DVDs.

  • Sound card with surround sound output required for preview of surround sound mixes.

  • 16:9 compatible camcorder for capture of 16:9 video.

  • 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.)

Note that if you're going to edit HDV with Studio, you'll need a bear of a system, including a mind boggling 256 MB of video memory in your graphics card.

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.

Some Final Notes

All things in life involve some compromise; balanced against an exhaustive survey of new features like HDV and DVD camcorder compatibility was an onerous deadline and other things like two little girls who like seeing their Daddy every once in awhile. I think we hit the high points, but I wish we could have done more.

But I do have in my possession a brand new Sony HDR-FX1 camcorder, so HDV testing will come, and I plan to bum a DVD camcorder from Sony for the next round of PC Magazine and EventDV testing. Hey, I know there's a lot of you out there using these devices, and I want to be responsive.

So I plan to write a few how to's regarding new formats and some of the newer programs that will be showing up in the Studio family like Jasc Paint Shop Pro and Steinberg's WavLab audio editor. Please check www.doceo.com for these updates as time goes by in 2005 and beyond. Until then, thanks again for buying this book, and may all your movies have happy endings.

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