It’s not quite free if MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 support is needed, but the low price and unrivalled simplicity will appeal to casual users
Free video-editing software is thin on the ground so we’re delighted that Pinnacle has risen to the challenge to produce VideoSpin. There is a caveat: in order to be able to import and export MPEG-2, MPEG-4 and related formats beyond a 15-day trial period, you’ll need the Spin Pack add-on, which costs £7 including VAT. That’s reasonable, though, as Pinnacle must pay royalties in order to include these codecs.
Without the Spin Pack, VideoSpin can still be used to edit MiniDV footage plus clips from stills cameras that record in Motion JPEG format, with exports in DV or WMV format. There’s no facility to capture from MiniDV tape, though, leaving users to grapple with freeware utilities. Virtually all modern cameras record MPEG-2 or AVC (a variant of MPEG-4), so the Spin Pack will be an essential purchase for most users.
It’s also important to note that, while VideoSpin can import HD footage, it can export only in standard definition. There are lots of standard-definition cameras in use, of course, but normally we’d be nervous to recommend a product that’s not equipped for an HD future. However, this software is essentially a stripped down version of Pinnacle Studio, so projects created in VideoSpin will open in Studio if you decide to upgrade.
With a single video track and no effects whatsoever, the editing controls are as simple as they come, but that’s great news for casual users. A friendly tutorial sits centre-stage and explains everything in a matter of minutes. It’s a shame that it can’t be hidden after viewing to make more room for other features – and particularly the preview window, which is fixed at a tiny 267×200 pixels. A button switches to full-screen preview, although it doesn’t support dual monitors. The fixed 1,034×778-pixel application window size is another potential frustration, but the interface fits comfortably within this space, which is good news for laptop owners.
Editing couldn’t be easier, with the project’s aspect ratio and frame rate adapting automatically to match the first clip added to the timeline. The timeline controls, taken straight from Pinnacle Studio, are straightforward and responsive. It was also reassuringly stable in our tests. It doesn’t explicitly support Windows 7 but we had no problems while testing.
We didn’t miss having lots of wacky effects but a basic colour correction effect would be welcome. There’s a clutch of simple transitions to choose between, though, plus a dedicated track for text. The text designer is surprisingly sophisticated, with borders, drop shadows and the ability to include shapes and graphics. Scrolling text is supported too but it didn’t reach the edge of the screen before disappearing. The remaining two tracks are for sound effects and music.
Various sound effects are provided, and although most are fairly silly, there’s some surreal fun to be had from adding duck quacks, wolf whistles and gunfire to home videos. There are no disc-authoring facilities but projects can be exported to hard disk and sent to Windows DVD Maker.
There’s not much to VideoSpin but it succeeds as a simple editor for truncating and combining clips and sharing them on YouTube. The lack of HD export is frustrating but it won’t bother some people. The small amount of time required to learn the software won’t be wasted if you later decide to upgrade to the excellent Pinnacle Studio.