Commentary: Pinnacle's Studio 8 Couples Video Editing and DVD Authoring
Posted Aug 1, 2002

Through seven software revisions, Pinnacle Systems' Studio editing software has been the little engine that could. A modest consumer editing tool designed with ease of use in mind, it's continued to grow in feature range and give otherwise unsophisticated and unsuspecting consumers creative possibilities. Now, with version 8—announced at DV Expo in New York in June—Studio becomes the first editing interface, at any level, to combine non-linear editing and DVD authoring in video tracks of one timeline-based interface.

It's been several months since the discipline of DVD authoring started peaking over the steep hill to the editor's side. Sonic's DVDit! and, more recently, MyDVD have been incorporated into countless editing product bundles. Sonic's AuthorScript has allowed NLE vendors like Avid to effectively create DVD authoring output modules from an editing interface. And software editing veteran Ulead gets credit for first putting editing and authoring in a single package, though its offerings haven't yet fully broken the dual-mode, editing-then-authoring, paradigm. Studio 8 is the program that has finally pushed authoring over the top—and it's sure not to be the last.

Studio 8,through the seemingly simple addition of a new tab in the asset and effects bin area of the editing interface, now lets users drag DVD menus directly into the video track right in between the media. Any edit points that come after the inserted menu immediately become chapter points or new clips, automatically linked to the menu with menu navigation buttons smartly added. Buttons are laid out in the menu according to a template chosen by the user.

Interestingly, while few DVD authoring applications use a timeline interface, there is another that does. Pinnacle's own (near-$1,000) Impression DVD-Pro authoring interface creates menus in the very same way, bouncing forward and backward within the timeline to produce fairly sophisticated navigation. Studio essentially pilfers that expertise from its higher-end sibling.

This has always been the special fire in Studio's engine. With Pinnacle's product offerings ranging from consumer through true broadcast products, Studio has plenty of role models and hasn't hesitated to use them. Studio's consumer titling feature leverages technology straight from Pinnacle's five-digit Deko graphics generator. Its automatic capture and logging mode, as well as the I/O hardware included when sold in a bundle package, are borrowed from Pinnacle's prosumer analog and digital video capture cards. Studio was also one of the first editing applications, at any level, to record narration audio direct-to-the-timeline.

Maybe it's a bit surprising that it would be a consumer application that would push forward with integrating DVD authoring, rather than a more professional tool that would better absorb the added complexity. But Studio is no normal consumer product. It takes the bold step of assuming users aren't entirely without imagination and initiative. That may ultimately be a problem for Studio in the consumer world; DVD authoring may be the one extra feature in the interface that turns the corner on amateur-user confusion.

Meanwhile, Studio has become—over the years, and particularly with DVD authoring built-in—a serious tool for not-full-time-video professionals. If you want to do a little editing, but don't want to get tied up in learning a complicated tool, Studio may be just the ticket. It is for a surprising number of anonymous Pinnacle employees with access to far pricier and more sophisticated tools.