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4 video editors: Pro results for ambitious amateurs

By Serdar Yegulalp
April 26, 2013 06:00 AM ET

Corel VideoStudio Pro X6

Corel Corporation
Price: $79.99; Ultimate edition, $99.99
OS: Windows XP and later

Corel's press material describes VideoStudio Pro X6 as being for "multimedia enthusiasts, action videographers, educators, and social media marketers." In other words, folks who use prosumer-level hardware and expect professional-looking results, but can't afford to waste time learning the arcana of a program like Adobe's Premiere Pro.

The latest incarnation, VideoStudio Pro X6, keeps the simplified workflow of previous editions (the "capture/edit/share" tabbed interface), with most of its changes under the hood or outside the program itself in the accompanying suite of products.

Corel VideoStudio Pro X6
The motion-tracking function in Corel VideoStudio Pro X6 makes some normally very difficult processes (such as blurring a license plate) easier.

While the suite has been enhanced to support 4K video footage, it does not support importing Redcode at any resolution. It does, however, support AVCHD 2.0, which most consumer and prosumer video cameras shoot natively. To keep your system from choking when working with 4K footage, a "Smart Proxy" function generates low-res copies of footage for the editing process, similar to the same feature in Sony Vegas Pro.

One example of how VideoStudio Pro tries to package high-end features for non-technical users is the motion-matching function. Take a clip, mark an object in it with either a bull's-eye or with an area selection tool, and the program will attempt to follow the movements of that object and generate a motion path for it. You can then attach other objects to that motion path, such as a text label, or re-use the motion path elsewhere. Area-selected paths can also be used to generate a mosaic effect over part of the image as a way to, for example, quickly blur out faces or license plate numbers.

Powerful as this function is, it does require guidance. When I tested it, I found that the most accurate tracking came when I selected an object as close to its center as possible, or avoided objects that changed rapidly in size (in other words, quickly came closer or moved further away). On the whole, though, it's still far less tedious than trying to match-move things entirely by hand.

VideoStudio X6 includes a screen capture program called ScreenCap X6, which all by itself is a value-add: People editing tutorials or demonstration videos will love it. You can pick an individual application window to record from via a drop-down menu, draw a rectangle on the screen to delineate where to record from (you can automatically constrain the rectangle to the aspect ratio of your display), or simply capture an entire display. Audio can be captured simultaneously from a microphone or from the system's main audio channel.

When you're done, the resulting capture is added automatically to a VideoStudio Pro clip library and can be used immediately in a project. The number of frame rates you get for a given clip will vary depending on your hardware, but the program will attempt to capture at 15, 25 or 30 fps.

My one big complaint with ScreenCap X6 is that you can't adjust the capture area while recording -- in other words, you can't zoom in or out. You have to stop recording, alter the capture zone and start again.

Speaking of capture, owners of DSLR cameras -- such as my Canon Rebel XS -- can use them as full-motion video capture sources if the camera supports it, or use them to perform remote-controlled stop-motion capture. Note that any camera that works as a capture source can perform stop-motion capture, but with a DSLR's lenses you generally get much better capture quality than, say, with a webcam.

Video projects can be exported to a wide array of formats; for example, you can export a file encoded as H.264 or WebM so that you can embed it into an HTML 5 page. Projects can also be written to DVD or Blu-ray, exported to tape and tapeless cameras or uploaded directly to popular video sites such as YouTube and Vimeo. All of these options are wizard-driven, and can either use canned presets for common media types or be hand-tuned for the best results (for example, one-pass vs. two-pass compression).

The Ultimate edition of VideoStudio X6 includes a passel of add-ons, essentially plugins integrated into the main program. Among them are SmartSound QuickTracks, an audio library that adds automatically generated soundtracks to videos in a variety of styles, and adds a number of third-party effects from proDAD, such as RotoPen (which lets you draw on an image) or Mercalli, a video-stabilization plugin about on a level with the one in PowerDirector. One add-on that is a full program is Boris Graffiti 6, a very powerful titling and text-animation tool. It requires a good deal of expertise to use since it isn't anywhere nearly as straightforward as VideoStudio X6 itself, but its output is extremely slick and professional.

Bottom line

Corel VideoStudio Pro X6 is clearly aimed at non-technical users, but contains some powerful features, has a great titling add-on "Boris Graffiti" as part its suite bundle and supports many top-of-the-line video standards.

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Corel VideoStudio Pro X6 has a new task-based layout; there's a useful screen-capture feature; you can track the movement of an object and then overlay it.

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