Ulead MediaStudio Pro 6.5

Hot on the heels of Adobe's significant upgrade to video-editing market leader Premiere, Ulead has updated its application, MediaStudio Pro 6.5.

Professional DV applications have a reputation for being inscrutable. Newcomers may initially be perplexed by the fact that MediaStudio is divided into five modules. These components are a video-capture application, video and audio editors, and painting and titling tools.

The big disappointment with MediaStudio is its manual and inline help menu files. Despite DVD being the big drawcard, the inline help for the video editor makes no mention of DVDs or how to use this feature. To make it worse, you get three printed manuals: the manual for version 6, the 6.5 addendum and a tiny eight-page foldout for the DVD plug-in. The manual for version 6.0 was confusing enough for newcomers, but now you have to cross-reference three different documents - this is inexcusable for a $1200 program up to a 6.5 release.

The engine room of MediaStudio Pro is found in the video-editing module, which supports up to 99 tracks. Its timeline-based interface, complete with source and preview windows, will be familiar to Premiere users. A significant difference, though, is MediaStudio's Production Library, a multifunction tool that gives swift access to an impressive range of more than 100 transitions and filters, including excellent 2D and 3D motion effects. The Production Library doubles as a media asset tray and storyboard editor, allowing you to sort clips before adding them to the timeline.

Standard project export formats are enhanced by support for variable bit rate MPEG-2 encoding, which permits higher-quality video with smaller file sizes.

MediaStudio's excellent vector-based character generator, CG Infinity, allows you to design animated titles that can be imported directly into the editor's timeline. Basic titling functions - including text with shadow attributes - are also available in the video editor itself.

At this price point there's little to match the features of MediaStudio's paint module. You can paint directly over any video frame in a sequence, a feature rescued from limited appeal by its excellent macro-recording feature that allows you to apply paint effects over time.

MediaStudio's capture tool is used to grab video from sources ranging from analog video recorders to DV cameras. Attached USB or FireWire source devices are automatically detected, and our test DV camera was recognised as soon as it was plugged in.

As a high-end production tool, there are hits and misses. An attempt has been made to let you instantly try effects without having to wait for them to be built. This rendering time appears to be shorter than in previous versions thanks to the introduction of an instant playback feature. This promises to let you see the results of applied transitions and effects in near real-time, although, in practice, workable results will only be obtained on PCs with top-end processors.

MediaStudio also breaks new ground in partially satisfying growing user demand for DVD-authoring features via an included plug-in that allows you to export to DVD format via a wizard-style workflow. However, with so few DVD burners on the market, it will be some time before this will become a useful feature.

Ulead MediaStudio Pro 6.5

Price: $1150 (full version); $879 (full version education); $490 (upgrade); Distributor: Pineapplehead Distribution; Phone: (03) 9852 7444; 1300 302 306; URL: www.pineapplehead.com.au; www.ulead.com

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