Pinnacle Expression, VideoWave Movie Creator

Camped out at the end of one of your local computer store’s aisles — where it’s likely to snare impulse buyers — a simple all-in-one video editing/DVD application such as Pinnacle Systems’ $135 Pinnacle Expression or Roxio’s $US80 VideoWave Movie Creator may catch your eye. If it does, my advice is to keep on walking: in trying to make things easier, the vendors have eviscerated these products.

I tested Movie Creator and found its interface likely to confuse both experienced and novice users. It consists of five separate but related tools: one for capturing video, three for generating a movie, and one for exporting to DVD or videotape. To jump between these tools, however, you must first save your project and back out to the main screen.

Movie Creator’s CineMagic, one of the movie-generation apps, is straightforward. You point to a video file and an audio file, and select a style; the program then generates a finished video. But the application inexplicably requires that the video be twice the length of the audio, or it will refuse to work — a requirement that I’ve never encountered. Worse, it won’t allow you to trim the video to fit; for that, you must use StoryLine Editor (discussed below).

In addition, CineMagic won’t let you preview a style before you choose it, so you must process the entire clip, then abandon it if you don’t like it. Finally, if you remove a file from the library, the program will ask if you want to delete it from your hard drive as well — and the default is Yes. Goodbye, file. Movie Creator’s StoryLine Editor — the best of its movie applications — worked more like a traditional low-end video editor with a storyboard interface. It let me trim audio and video, as well as add transitions, text and effects. Although it offered a good selection of transitions, it lacked fade-ins and fade-outs, and overall was too limited.

Pinnacle Expression was a bit more intuitive than Movie Creator — you click on one of three icons (clearly labelled 1, 2 and 3) at the top of the screen to capture, edit or export. In the editing section, though, if you customise one of the templates and then decide to scroll through the options again, your previous template disappears. See here for screenshot.

Expression has even fewer editing tools than Movie Creator — to keep things simple, according to Pinnacle. Nevertheless, the program makes you take multiple steps to accomplish some basic tasks. For example, to trim a video clip, you must play it to the desired starting or end point, split it into two clips, and then delete one. And the buttons offered to perform these tasks are unlabelled icons, so sometimes it takes a second for you to remember what they do.

One nice feature: you can set the application to adjust its video export settings automatically to the highest quality that fits your recording media.

Just about all that either of these applications can do well is a slide show. Drop in a group of still images, and each program quickly makes a high-quality slide show with simple but effective transitions. Beyond that, this kiosk-level software will rapidly bore even novice video auteurs. For a little more money, you can buy a true video editor (such as Pinnacle’s $279 Studio 8) that does a far better job and is much less frustrating to users of all skill levels.

In brief:Pinnacle Expression

Reasonably integrated tools, but too few of them.
Price: $135
Distributor: Pineapplehead
Phone: 1800 657 601
URL: www.pineapplehead.com.au

VideoWave Movie Creator

Okay for slide shows, but Movie Creator’s video tools are much too awkward.
Price: $US80 (Australian pricing TBA)
Distributor: Lan 1
Phone: 1300 301 053
URL: www.lan1.com.au

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