By focusing on the two most important factors in consumer moviemaking -- ease of use and professional-looking results -- Ulead has turned out a winner with VideoStudio 8.0. Most consumers who edit video want to turn their special event videos into something they can show off to the neighbours, without the process becoming a chore. VideoStudio 8.0 ensures that even novices and impatient amateurs can make attractive home movies.
Installation from the CD's splash screen is a snap, and the box even includes a second CD full of extra background images and video clips for you to use. Just keep in mind that you'll need a PC running Windows 98 or later.
Ulead VideoStudio 8.0's new Movie Wizard makes moviemaking as easy as 1, 2, 3.
When you launch the program, VideoStudio prompts you to choose either the wizard interface or the standard editing interface. The wizard, similar to the one in Roxio's excellent VideoWave Movie Creator program, is new to this edition. Although the tool won't thrill seasoned moviemakers, it's handy for beginners. All you need to do is select a video, and the wizard leads you through adding text, selecting music, and burning a disc (or simply saving the file).
The standard interface hasn't changed much from that of the previous version, and it's still one of the better-laid-out editing tools available. VideoStudio 8.0 includes some welcome additions, such as the ability to edit and encode MPEG-4 Simple Profile video -- provided you have your own MPEG-4 codec or have bought Ulead's Plug-in for US$29.95. Ulead has also buffed up the audio options; VideoStudio has some new audio filters and the ability to make the audio pan across the left and right speakers. Plus, the program now has a "rubber band" time line for the audio track, like the one in Apple iMovie, which lets you raise and lower audio for different sections simply by clicking and dragging the volume time line. The most interesting new audio tool, however, is the Auto Music Generator, which tailors music to fit the length of a scene. You can incorporate the included audio clips to create an instant soundtrack. But trust us: don't use it with long scenes, or the music gets way too repetitive.
With the new "rubber band" audio editing, you can click and drag the audio level, here shown in the audio time line on the bottom of the screen.
In this version, you can also dress up your still photos by using the new pan-and-zoom effect. Plus, Ulead includes more DVD templates than before (30, though we'd still like to see more), so you have more options when you burn your creation to disc.
In our testing, importing, editing, and burning went smoothly, although there was an all-over sluggishness to the program that made it feel less responsive than it should have. But for ease of use and fun features, VideoStudio is an excellent choice.