Pinnacle Studio 19.5 Ultimate


Corel develops both the VideoStudio and Pinnacle Studio enthusiast-level video editing software, so it only makes sense that features in one would show up in the other. This latest version of Pinnacle Studio gets some capabilties that VideoStudio has had for a few years, including a stop-motion tool and multi-cam editing. Both now also have audio-ducking, which lowers background music during dialog, but Pinnacle still lacks motion tracking. Nevertheless, Pinnacle feels more professional, and its rendering speed is now at the top of the class.

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Pricing and Starting Up
Like most video editing software lines, Pinnacle Studio is available in good, better, and best levels, with the entry level Pinnacle Studio 19.5 listing for $59.95, Plus for $99.95, and Ultimate (reviewed here) for $129.95. If you need to edit 4K content, such as that shot in Sony XAVC format, you'll need to spring for Ultimate, which also adds high-end effects from NewBlue and music and speech cleaner tools from iZotope. There's no free trial download version.

When you purchase the software online, the download page includes license keys for both Pinnacle Studio 19.5 and iZotope. You only download a stub program that handles full download and installation. This app also gives you choices of 64-bit or 32-bit code and whether you want to download bonus content.

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Getting Started and Interface
When you first run the program, a dialog on top of its window tells you that its Importer is your friend in that it lets you record or open media files. Under that is another window asking whether you want to participate in the product improvement program by sending anonymous application data. The software can import 4K content, and you can star-rate and keyword-tag any content items, which facilitates searching for them, but the search bar lets you find content you haven't marked thus.

The interface design in the Importer window has been updated with flat, 2D icons, and a pleasant black and gray color scheme. Unlike VideoStudio and more in the vein of a pro-level app, Pinnacle Studio uses the concept of Project Bins, in which stash all the content for a given movie project—clips, photos, and sound files, but not effects and transitions, which more-pro-level apps such as Final Cut Pro X include. The whole window is topped by three mode-switching buttons: Organize, Edit, and Author.

In Edit mode, the standard three-pane editor interface is used, with source content occupying the top-left quadrant of the screen, the preview window at the top right, and the timeline across the bottom half. You can change the relative size of the panels, add a source-video preview, and switch movie preview to full screen. But you can't pull panels off or change their positions, as some other editors such as Sony Movie Studio allow. The preview window includes detailed controls such as jog and shuttle, frame advance, and rewind. You expand and contract the timeline (either the main one or the one in the preview window) with a clever mouse-drag action.

You can search and sort any content, which is more than I can say for some video editors, such as sister application VideoStudio. You can also very easily hide and show items by content type—video, audio, photo, and project. There's also an enormous and customizable assortment of keyboard shortcuts. You can choose which buttons you want to display on the timeline toolbar, including things like Split, Add Marker, and Trim Mode, and now Multi-Cam Editor and Audio Ducking.

Basic Trimming and Transitions
Pinnacle uses a magnetic timeline, so any clip you drag and drop into it snaps to any existing clips, but you can turn off that behavior if you prefer. Dropping a clip inside another splits the original one. Dog-eared corners of adjacent clips let you adjust transition lengths between them. You can also enable dynamic-length transitions, or just stick with set-length transitions.

The Trim Mode button opens a second preview window so you can see the first and second clips' states at the trim point. This is supposed to help with effecting slip and slide trims, but I found it less intuitive than other programs' trimming windows, such as those in CyberLink PowerDirector and VideoStudio.

Cross-fades are accessible right on the timeline via those dog ears, but the place where you get your fancier transitions is somewhat hidden, compared with how other video editors present it. They're also not as simple to add to timeline clips, with no automatic duration option. Sometimes I'd drag a transition between clips and nothing would be added. There is, however, a very full selection of transitions, grouped as 2D-3D, Artistic, Alpha Magic, and more.

Multi-Cam Editing
Like its stable mate, Corel VideoStudio, Pinnacle Studio now lets you simultaneously edit multiple clips of the same event shot at different angles. The base version allows 2 camera angles, Plus makes it four, and Ultimate gives you six. The tool did a good job of aligning my clips using their audio tracks, but you can also align using time codes and markers. As with all these tools, you switch among angles by tapping a clips box in a grid. There are even boxes for switching to clear and black, which could be great if you want to add B-roll later.

When you hit OK, a new clip shows up in your project, not in the timeline. What's really nice is that you can right-click and choose Edit Movie to fine-tune angle shifts in a timeline or even reopen it in the multi-cam switcher window.

Stop Motion
Stop Motion is one of the most appealing types of animation in my book. Just think back to Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer or more recently to Chicken Run and Wallace and Gromit. The Pinnacle tool lets you take shots automatically at time intervals you specify, and can show ghost images of your last shot so you know how to position the next one. You can then send the captures to the timeline and adjust duration and apply any other editing. You can't, however, create animated GIFs, and the comparable tool in VideoStudio is more sophisticated, with controls for connected DSLRs, such as ISO, aperture, and white balance.

Advanced Effects
Pinnacle claims to offer more than 2,000 effects. That's a greater number than anyone really needs, and many are duplicates with transitions. Some are hard to find, too. When you do find them, many turn out to be goofy overlays. There are a lot of impressive ones, though, such as Dream Glow and Old Film. And the included third-party ones, like NewBlue's Drop Shadow, Shredder, and Photon Blast, are of professional quality.

Some techniques you won't find support for in Pinnacle Studio are motion tracking and tilt-shift. It does however offer strong tools for 3D editing, though that's gone out of fashion for the moment. Picture-in-picture is also well supported, though it's easier in PowerDirector, which also has more PiP templates.

The Chroma-Keying tool worked well with my test green-screen footage, nearly perfectly removing the somewhat imperfect green background. The Stabilize tool lets you adjust borders and zoom, and you can have it work in the background, as it is fairly time-consuming. My shaky footage came out somewhat smoothed but, as with all similar tools, it's no substitute for in-camera stabilization or a tripod.

Titling is a strength for Pinnacle, though it's fallen behind some competitors such as Final Cut Pro X, Magix Movie Edit Pro 2016, and PowerDirector, which have all added some nifty new title tricks in recent versions. There's a good choice of animated text options, all of which you can edit on-screen in WYSIWYG fashion.

Pinnacle Studio's screen-cam capability is something you'll also find in Corel VideoStudio. The tool comes as a separate application called Live Screen Capturing. This worked perfectly.

Sound for your digital movies is another strong point in Pinnacle Studio. Right from the timeline, you can display level controls, and toolbar buttons take you quickly to a selection of background music and to voiceover recording. You can even raise and lower clip volume by dragging a clip's audio line up and down, as you can in Final Cut Pro.

The Scorefitter options stretch background music of various styles to fit your movie; just drag its timeline entry to fit, and after processing some rendering, presto, instant background music! The source panel's Sound Effects tab offers a wealth of sound clips, from birdsong to strong wind to all manner of vehicles. There are also audio cleaning tools like the speech de-esser (to remove sibilance) and a noise reducer.

New for the two upper levels of the program is audio ducking, which automatically lowers background music during speech. The tool worked well in a test video, with more control that its VideoStudio counterpart. I could set the threshold for it to kick in and the amount of reduction in volume of the background music.

I wasn't prepared for how fast Pinnacle was at rendering my test video compilation this time: It came out on top of the entire field of products, beating the time needed by the previous performance leader, PowerDirector, by a whole minute. And in general editing use, Pinnacle was responsive on my test PC in normal editing use and even with multiple PiP objects, which slows down most software.

I tested rendering time by creating a movie consisting of four clips of mixed types (some 1080p, some SD, some 4K) with a standard set of transitions and rendered it to 1080p MPEG-4 at 15Mbps, H.264 High Profile. Audio was MPEG AAC Audio: 192 Kbps. I tested on an Asus Zen AiO Pro Z240IC running 64-bit Windows 10 Home and sporting a 4K display, 16GB RAM, a quad-core Intel Core i7-6700T CPU, and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 960M discrete graphics card.

The test movie (whose duration was just under 5 minutes) took Pinnacle Studio just 1 minute and 34 seconds, besting erstwhile speed leader PowerDirector, which came in at 2:34. Among other contenders tested, VideoStudio took 4:20 and Adobe Premiere Elements took 5:18.

Sharing and Output
The program includes a full disc-authoring module with support for Blu-ray discs, accessible from the always-present Author mode button up top. A good selection of menu styles is at your disposal; you add chapter markers to taste and preview with on-screen disc controls.

As for the more modern output method—sharing online—Pinnacle's Export dialog's Cloud selection offers direct uploading to Facebook, Vimeo, YouTube, and Box. When I tried the first, I was thankfully able to set the privacy level before uploading, and had a choice of video quality from 360p to 1080p.

You can also simply export to disk in a wide range of file formats, including AVCHD, DivX, WMV, MPEG-1/-2/-4, MKV, and QuickTime. Presets let you target your output format to popular viewing devices such as the iPhone and Xbox. Missing, however, is exporting to H.265 HEVC format.

Pinnacle Studio 19.5 Ultimate impresses with its many powerful video editing tools, and even more with its rendering speed. Of course, if you're not running it on a sixth-generation Intel processor, you may not benefit from the latter. It's really a near-professional-level product. Its usability, however, is somewhat behind that of our Editors' Choices, CyberLink PowerDirector and Corel VideoStudio, and it lacks those products' motion-tracking capabilities.

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