Are you looking for a consumer-level digital video editing package whose workflow is so easy you barely need to read the documentation? Consumers aren't trained Hollywood professionals, and just want to get their footage onto a DVD as quickly and painlessly as possible. Ulead VideoStudio 10 Plus ($100) is one of many consumer editing packages claiming to deliver that kind of ease of use, and adds the ability to capture and edit HDV footage and in addition to a few professional-level effects and cleanup tools. I poked and prodded it to see if it could deliver on these promises.
Taken in its simplest form, VideoStudio 10 Plus (VS 10) really couldn't be easier than when you're using its Movie Wizard. Plug in your DV camcorder, and it quickly and automatically captures each scene for you, depositing each shot in a bin as an individual clip. After a simple click of the Next button, you decide which clips you'd like to keep and which ones will hit the cutting room floor. Then, add a few titles if you'd like, and the helpful wizard will edit the movie for you including a handsome open and close. The whole thing looks great and is a joy to use. You can make it even simpler than that, asking the software to move your footage directly from DV tape onto a DVD by using the DV-to-DVD Wizard. I can't imagine how Ulead could have made this easier.
For bolder or more-advanced consumers, VS 10 offers more control of the editing process, giving you a choice of either a Storyboard View or a Timeline View when working with your clips. When you drag and drop your clips onto the timeline, they automatically show up in storyboard mode by default. From here, it's easy to shuffle the clips around, moving them into the order you think best. Select a clip, and then you drag little markers for your In and Out points in the viewing screen above, which is extremely responsive and easy to use. As you drag these In and Out points, you can view the video as you drag.
It's not quite as easy if you try to do your editing in the Timeline View. Unfortunately, unlike many other editing packages, when you drag an edge of a clip as it sits on the timeline in this view, there's no "edge-drag" capability, that is, you can't see the video footage moving as you're reducing or adding to its length on the timeline. That's not a showstopper, though, because Storyboard View's editing is so efficient and responsive, you'll end up doing most of your fine tuning of the clips in that mode. Anyway, because I'm so accustomed to editing on a timeline, I found VideoStudio 10's Timeline View sorely lacking.
Movie Wizard guides you through, helping you pick clips, add music, create gorgeous effects and insert your video into them.
When you're done, you can either send your production to DVD or back to videotape, or insert that segment onto your timeline.
Back on the plus side, the pure editing experience of VS 10 is quite good. When editing DV clips, the software gives usable and smoothly-playing real-time previews. This means that after you add, say, a transition from one clip to the other or a text overlay to your video, you don't have to wait for the computer to combine those two video elements -- it happens right away, in real time. This is true even when you add three or four effects at once, and there are thousands of effects included in this software package.