So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
Sony Vegas Movie Studio Platinum 8.0
- HDV/AVCHD friendly, huge array of effects and transitions, very easy to use
- Training video is for uber-novices only
This is a feature-rich and user-friendly package that should suit amateurs and semi-professionals alike.
Price$ 239.95 (AUD)
Do you regularly put people to sleep with your short movies? Do your dinner guests share wild looks of panic when you pull out the holiday videos? Do your shots seem to last twice as long as the event you were filming? If this sounds uncomfortably familiar to you, chances are you need a new editing package. A production's final cut is what separates an engaging video from an insomnia curing snore-fest -- no matter how 'smooth' or 'in focus' your footage happens to be. Now up to its eighth iteration, Sony's Vegas Movie Studio will definitely inject your production with the professional pizzazz it needs. Whether you're an occasional dabbler in video or a budding Stanley Kubrick, its wealth of features and ease-of-use make it one of the best editing packages around.
Despite being a stripped-down version of the professional Vegas package, Movie Studio still provides more tools and options than most users will ever need. Over 500 video effects and transitions are included, allowing you to make your movies as stylised or avant-garde as you like. The audio options, which have been reworked with a new multithreaded engine, are also highly extensive, including support for Dolby 5.1 surround sound and the ability to extract audio from CDs. This is one area where many non-professional editing packages fall down, so it's nice to see plenty of advanced options.
Sticking to the by-now standard tri-pane interface, everything is clearly laid out and highly intuitive. Once your footage is captured, editing is a simple matter of selecting a clip and dragging it onto the editing timeline, where effects, titles and transitions can be applied with ease. The menus are particularly helpful and the entire process quickly becomes second nature. (One great feature is the ability to automatically convert 4:3 screen ratios to 16:9 (widescreen) and vice-versa; ensuring your mixed footage will match regardless of what ratio it was shot in.)
As with most editing programs, you can spread the interface over two monitors; a useful option for those who want to take advantage of full-screen previews. Incidentally, the default preview window will still give you a pretty good view of the action, even on medium-sized monitors.
Even those who have never used a video-editing program before will find themselves in good hands thanks to a range of in-depth tutorials; covering everything from colour correction to DVD burning. Unlike certain other tutorials which simply regurgitate the manual, Movie Studio 8.0 features step-by-step instructions built right into the software. This allows virtually anyone to edit with confidence straight from installation. For the truly camera shy, a bonus training DVD has also been included, though we feel it might be a bit too basic for its own good (does anyone really need tips on how to hold a camera?).
As you would expect from an editing package of this pedigree, Vegas Movie Studio supports all the latest video formats and codecs, including AVCHD. This is basically essential in today's digital world, particularly for those with non-tape-based camcorders; such as HDD or DVD. Windows Vista users are also supported.
DVD authoring is where Sony Vegas Movie Studio truly comes into its own. Once again, Sony has bundled DVD Architect Studio (4.5) with the package, which combines functionality with ease-of-use. While it's more powerful and complex than some of its rivals, basic tasks are still quite simple to achieve. A series of easy-to-follow steps will have your movie burnt to DVD, VCD or CD in no time -- you can even export directly to a Sony PSP, or reformat files for use on your iPod.
All up, this is a comprehensive editing package that we feel no hesitation in recommending. It strikes an admirable balance between complexity and ease-of-use, making it ideal for any type of user.
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