Video editing applications are starting to accept high-definition footage. But you may need to crank your PC up a notch: The shipping versions of Corel's Ulead VideoStudio 11 Plus and Pinnacle Systems' Studio 11 Ultimate require serious computing horsepower for editing in high def.
These apps are the first to let you edit footage captured in AVCHD (Advanced Video Codec High Definition, the newer of the two high-def formats); they also let you edit footage taken in HDV (High Definition Video). Both formats use very high compression, so they need a powerful processor to do the decoding.
Make that very powerful: For editing AVCHD footage, Pinnacle Studio Ultimate demands at least a 2.4-GHz Core 2 Duo CPU, a 256MB graphics card, and 1.5GB of RAM--2GB of RAM if you run the software on a Windows Vista PC. The program's requirements for HDV editing are lower. Corel's Ulead VideoStudio 11 Plus specifies at least a 3-GHz Pentium 4 with hyperthreading technology and 1GB of RAM for AVCHD or HDV.
I tried both applications on a 2.4-GHz Pentium 4 system and a new Polywell 2.66-GHz Core 2 Duo Extreme system. My older PC comfortably met both applications' minimum requirements for standard-definition video, and it had sufficient power to run either application. Both Studio and VideoStudio ran much more smoothly on the new system, of course, but VideoStudio outperformed its rival when working with high-definition video. Studio's interface was more lethargic when I performed edits in its time line.
When outputting video in VideoStudio, you can pause the intensive rendering operation. This is a great feature if you need to use your computer for something else while you're exporting a movie.
Both programs let you burn HD movies to HD DVD discs or standard DVD discs, and the burned discs will play in a PC's DVD drive with the aid of an application such as WinDVD 8 (which Corel includes with the Plus version of VideoStudio) or in an Xbox 360. At this point neither Studio nor VideoStudio supports Blu-ray drives, but Pinnacle and Corel are planning to release free patches to offer such support.
Studio lets you upload edited movies to Yahoo Video or to Pinnacle's video-sharing site from within the app (an account at the latter costs US$36 a year for 100MB of storage). The feature is easy to use, especially if you have a Yahoo account. The file that I uploaded looked okay, with good movement. I would prefer to be able to upload to YouTube, as well; Pinnacle says that it's working on adding other sites.
Studio 11 is more stable than Studio 10, but I still had problems with it. I experienced several crashes; and after each one, if I didn't restart my PC, the application would hang while reloading. The Instant DVD Recorder utility bundled with Studio wouldn't burn a DVD+RW or a DVD-R when I tried it on my older PC; instead, it kept reporting a 'Disc Error'. Two of the three burns that I attempted on the newer PC resulted in coasters. VideoStudio Plus never crashed while I was using it, though I worked with the same camcorders and files that I had used with Studio Ultimate.
If you own a camcorder that records in AVCHD format, I would recommend VideoStudio Plus on the strength of its stability and less onerous system requirements. If you own a standard-resolution camcorder, you could opt for the lower-priced VideoStudio 11 (no "Plus"); it doesn't handle high-def, but it costs less.
Pinnacle Systems Studio 11 Ultimate
Lingering instability spoils this editor's high-def compatibility and neat Web upload feature.
Prices: Pinnacle Studio 11 - AUD$149.95; Pinnacle Studio 11 Plus - AUD$199.95; Pinnacle Studio 11 Ultimate - AUD$299.95
Corel Ulead VideoStudio 11 Plus
Strong performer with high-def video; all video editors could use its "pause rendering" feature.
Price: Corel VideoStudio 11 Plus - AUD$199.00.