Previous versions of Studio have been plagued by reliability issues, so we were pleased that version 12 crashed only once during testing, and an auto-recovery function saved our work.
Its format support is impressive, accepting footage from all the video cameras we tried it with and covering all the export options we could hope for. This includes Blu-ray as well as AVCHD on DVD media, which allows high-definition playback on a Blu-ray player without the expense of a Blu-ray writer.
Another strength is the friendly interface. The welcome tutorial starts with the absolute basics and includes a sample project to give users an idea of what to expect. Media, effects and transitions to import to the timeline appear as a column of tabbed icons at the top of the screen, and double-clicking an object on the timeline brings up an alternative set of tabbed icons. This proliferation of icons can make it hard to locate a particular feature, but it doesn’t take long to find your way around. The fixed preview size is far too small on a 1,280×1,024 display, although it’s fine on a 1,920×1,200 screen.
The SmartMovie feature edits video automatically, but the results look random. Anyone looking for classy results without the effort should use the Montage feature. This comprises various ready-made themed short edits, usually involving animated graphics. Most take the form of an opening sequence or extravagant transition. You simply select one to five clips, depending on the chosen template, insert text as necessary, and the finished montage appears on the timeline.
Sadly, Studio’s friendliness is undermined by its performance. It often stopped responding for a second or two, then suddenly caught up and reacted to our input in undesirable ways. Proxy files enable smooth previews, but because they’re generated for the timeline rather than the source footage, they have to be updated every time an edit is performed. This made AVCHD editing slow, and we often had to wait for the proxy to update before we could preview an edit. Proxy files aren’t generated for sections of the timeline that consist of a single clip with no effects. Previews of single AVCHD clips often began smoothly but slowed to a crawl within seconds.
With only two video tracks, this isn’t an editor for those who want to experiment with ambitious multi-layer effects. It’s surprising, then, that the Ultimate edition comes with a green sheet for shooting weather presenter-style overlays. The necessary chroma keying effect is available, but it won’t appeal to casual users. The Ultimate edition also includes three effects plug-ins covering animated text, film simulation and a batch of more conventional effects. Each one is capable of impressive results, but their complex interfaces and poor integration with Studio won’t please casual users.
Studio lags behind the other packages here for power, and its poor performance means it scores badly for ease of use, too.