Getting Started with VideoStudio 8 SE VCD

Although Ulead VideoStudio 8 SE VCD has some limitations (it only exports to VideoCD) it's an excellent intro­duction to intermediate video editing. When you start the application for the first time, you'll be faced with a panel that gives you two options: Movie Wizard or Editor. I'll be concentrating on the VideoStudio Editor here, so click on this to start the program.

The application is separated into five key elements; a preview/playback window, a dynamic task pane to the left, a library pane on the right, a timeline at the bottom and a row of seven task-oriented buttons across the top - see Figure 1.

You can import existing video files by clicking on the folder icon at the top of the library pane in the Edit view (click on the Edit button if you're in a different view) and navigating to the folder where they're stored. If not, you'll need to use the capture tool.

Make sure your camera is connected and powered on, and then click the Capture button at the top of the screen. You can capture from almost any video device here (including live video from webcams), but bear in mind that you may need some extra hardware for analog sources like VCRs or 8mm camcorders, and MiniDV camcorders require a FireWire connection. Digital camcorders can be controlled using the software, while analog models will need to be cued up manually.

VideoStudio can capture video in a range of different file formats. However, while MPEG-2 and WMV captures may save on disk space, they're not good for editing with, so if you're unsure, stick with DV AVI. If you're using a MiniDV camcorder, you can capture only the clips you need by clicking the Batch Capture tab and using the tape preview controls to find and mark the in and out points of the clips you want. When you're done, clicking the Capture Video icon will automatically go back and capture the segments you've selected.

Get to work

Now that you've got some clips in the Edit view's library pane (click on Edit, then select Video from the drop-down list under where it says VideoStudio 8 if you're not in the right view), you can build your sequence. Just drag the thumbnail of your clip from the library pane onto the storyboard placeholder (where it says "Drag and Drop Video Clip Here") to create a basic running order. To remove clips, click the placeholder and hit <Delete>.

If you only want to use part of a clip, double-click it - either in the library pane or the storyboard - to bring it up in the preview window (note that the word "Clip" is now highlighted instead of "Project". You can now trim the front and back of the clip (called the in and out points) by dragging the markers on the blue bar underneath the screen to the points you want.

You can also perform this task on the timeline itself, but you need to select the Timeline View button first - you'll find this to the left of the timeline itself (see Figure 2a showing the Storyboard view and Figure 2b showing the Timeline view). This lets you see the running time, clip length and location of everything on your project, and gives you more control over your work. To trim your clip while it's on the timeline, move your mouse over the yellow bar at each end and drag it to resize. When you do this, you'll note that subsequent clips will move to take up the slack - this is called Ripple editing, and is a behaviour that cannot be changed for the Video track (the top one).

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Effects and transitions

VideoStudio comes with a wide range of effects and transitions that can liven up your project. To browse through the available options, use the drop-down menu to select an effect type, and animated thumbnails will appear in the library pane.

When you find the one you want, drag it from the library and drop it on the clip you want to apply it to. Transitions are dropped on the space between two adjacent clips, while effects and filters are applied to the clip directly.

When you do this, the left-hand pane will show various options like presets or customisation tools that let you play with the way the effect works.

You can apply multiple effects to a single clip (called "stacking") by deselecting the "Replace last filter" option (see Figure 3), but bear in mind that excessive effects can ruin a good project and will slow down the preview due to the extra processing required.

You can add picture-in-picture (PIP) effects by dragging clips onto the overlay video track, and VideoStudio 8 lets you add background music from music files or audio CDs. You can also record your own narrative track - assuming you have a microphone handy - and use the Title editor view to add titles, subtitles or even opening/closing credits to your work.

Finished

When you've got your work looking the way you want, click on the Share button to bring up the export options. As mentioned, this version doesn't support DVD export, but you can create a VideoCD that virtually all DVD players and PCs can play back.

Like a DVD, a VideoCD has an opening menu, which lets the viewer skip to chapter points within the project.

Clicking on the Create Disc option will start the VCD creator (see Figure 4), where you can add your whole project or individual clips, as well as selecting chapter points. There's a range of preset menus to choose from, and you can customise them with different background images or music. The next stage lets you preview the disc, and when you're happy with it, you can burn as many copies to CD as you like.

Not just for video

Even if you don't have a video camera, you can use VideoStudio 8 SE VCD to create a montage of digital photos that you can give to others to watch on their TV.

Click on Edit, select Image from the library pane's drop-down menu, then click on the folder icon and browse to the images you want to use in your montage.

Construct your sequence by dragging the image thumbnails down onto the timeline in the order that you want them to appear. You can add effects, titles and transitions in the same way you would with video clips, and the rotation tool (it appears in the left-hand pane when you have an image selected) can be used to quickly turn portrait images the right way up.

You can also add motion to your stills by using VideoStudio's Pan and Zoom tool. Select the image you want to apply this effect to and click on Pan & Zoom in the left-hand pane, then Customise Pan and Zoom to bring up the custom settings window.

Here, you can see start, middle and end points for pan and zoom settings, as well as previewing your effect before returning to the timeline. Just bear in mind that slow, controlled pans are much more effective here - too much speed will make your montage difficult to watch.