Product Review (December 2007)
Pinnacle - Studio MovieBox Ultimate

Capturing movies has never been easier and more productive than with Pinnacle's new Studio MovieBox Ultimate. This powerful package provides a simple way for users to convert their analog and digital content to modern playable formats. The system includes the 710-USB Video Capture hardware and the highly acclaimed Studio Ultimate (version 11) software. Also included in the package are USB and FireWire cables, Green Screen backdrop, and the user's guide. Earlier this year, we reviewed Pinnacle's Studio Ultimate software and were impressed with the performance. Now, with the Studio MovieBox Ultimate system, the software is mated with the 710-USB video capture hardware and brings a whole new level of capabilities to the user. Converting older 8mm or Hi-8 video recordings from your aging camcorder to DVD or Video-CD is a simple process.

What sets the Studio MovieBox Ultimate apart from other software-only Pinnacle products is the addition of the stylish looking 710-USB Video Capture hardware. The A/V hub provides an easy way to connect analog and digital video sources to the computer that is used to capture and edit video content. Once mated to the Studio Ultimate software, capturing and editing video from virtually all formats is possible.

Video Inputs
Pinnacle's 710-USB capture device includes composite and s-video inputs along with two channel audio inputs. In addition, an IEEE-1394 (FireWire) input is also available for today's digital camcorders. Both standard definition as well as high definition camcorders are supported including DV, HDV and AVCHD formats. Our JVC GR-DVL9500U camcorder provided standard definition, while our Sony HDR-HC1 HDV camcorder provided high definition content.

Video Outputs
Similar to the inputs, the same set of analog audio and video interfaces are provided as outputs on the 710-USB capture module. This makes it convenient when connecting a television to the A/V hub for monitoring the edited video. The USB 2.0 interface connects to any compatible computer and provides a high speed link for the data. The 710-USB capture module sits firmly on any flat surface and has feet to keep it from sliding.

Studio Ultimate Version 11
The Studio™ MovieBox Ultimate comes equipped with the powerful Studio™ Ultimate software, designed to capture, edit and create professional quality video with DVD authoring in a single package. Pinnacle Studio™ Ultimate takes advantage of the latest in technology including high definition (HDV & AVCHD), Windows Vista, Web Publishing and more. A variety of fully-integrated pro audio and video tools give the user complete control over the quality and style of their video content. Studio™ Ultimate version 11 is fully compatible with Microsoft's Windows Vista™ operating system. Features include HDV & AVCHD native editing with HD DVD and Blu-ray output compatibility, picture-in-picture (PIP) and Chromakey effects, Keyframeable effects, Dolby 5.1 Encoding, Powerful Film looks and FXs, Advanced Sound Cleaning, Precision Pan & Zoom (Ken Burns), and Green screen capability. The Powerful Film looks and special effects comes from proDAD© VitaScene with tools to add high quality effects such as rays, blurs and more that really give your movies a professional look. Advanced Sound Cleaning is made possible with the BIAS SoundSoap™ Pinnacle Edition with audio noise cleaning tools and complete Dolby® Digital 5.1 audio encoding. Finally, precision pan and zoom effects are handled by StageTools™ MovingPicture where the software lets you use the same tool the professionals use to create precision pans and zooms.

Installation
We installed Studio™ Ultimate on our Sony Vaio VGC-RB34G (3.2GHz, 512 MB RAM) desktop machine as a test platform. This is not the fastest PC, yet provided us with enough processing power and hard drive storage to create impressive videos. This PC also has a dual layer (DVD+R DL) recordable drive used to create our test discs.

Once the Studio™ software is installed it requires the user to enter several activation codes for enabling different features such as Dolby 2CH/5.1 Encoding/Decoding, MPEG-4 Encoding/Decoding and Dream Glow RTFx. Several premium options are also available at an additional cost.

User Interface
Studio™ 11 has a new user interface that is scalable, making it perfect for working on widescreen monitors or optimizing the window sizes to get the tools you need. The basic features are not all that different from previous versions, so the learning curve is minimal for experienced users. Pinnacle has also improved the speed and performance in many areas with version 11. The software now installs faster and exports files of any type at twice the speeds of previous versions. However, results may vary depending on the machine being used.

AVCHD Editing
Something relatively new to many editing tools is the AVCHD (Advanced Video Codec High Definition) format developed by Panasonic and Sony for use in their consumer-based HD camcorders. This format supports both 1080i and 720p and is more space efficient (twice) than the MPEG-2/MPEG-4 formats making it possible to store more content on recordable media. Pinnacle Studio™ Plus and Ultimate users can now import and edit their HD content using the latest AVCHD format (projected to become the primary HDV format for Camcorder leaders like Panasonic and Sony). This is an important feature since many other camcorders may begin to use this format. HDV editing is also fully supported from other high definition camcorders such as our Sony HDR-HC1.

Picture-in-picture
Studio™ 11 offers advanced editing features, special effects, and integrated DVD authoring, all within their intuitive user interface. The picture-in-picture feature gives the user several options and includes 3-D shadowing effects. The PIP position and size can be changed with simple mouse strokes. Users also have access to HD editing, custom key frames, Surround Sound editing, graphic overlays, scrolling titles, Picture-in-Picture or ChromaKey (green screen) for the ultimate in creating backgrounds without having to be on site.

Green Screen
Have you ever wanted to create a background on a person or object for a cool visual effect? Well Studio Ultimate version 11 makes this all possible with the Green Screen backdrop included with the software. Now it is possible for users can create professional looking ChromaKey effects with full adjustments to optimize the performance of the setup. Proper lighting is important so that the software will recognize the unique background color and replace it with any background the user chooses. Controls are provided for Video Transparency, Tolerance, Minimum Saturation, Softness and Spill Suppression. Choosing the optimal color for detecting the green drop is selectable by the software using the color chart. This allows for the color differences found in different video cameras that are used to capture the picture.

Web Publishing
Creating videos for the web has never been easier than with the latest Studio™ 11. As more people begin to place their video content on the web, Pinnacle Studio makes publishing it virtually automatic using Yahoo! Videos. Other file formats are also supported for the web and portable media players. Creating different file formats is easy and there are many file types to choose from. AVI, DivX, Apple iPod, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, Real Media, Sony PSP and Windows media are available options. Each of the file formats has additional options for optimizing picture quality or minimizing file size.

HD Workflow
As mentioned, Pinnacle offers a complete HD workflow with HD DVD format authoring on standard DVD media. This provides a way to capture high resolution content and store the media on inexpensive, readily available recordable DVDs. Studio supports native HDV or AVCHD content and can authors HD DVD format discs that will play on the latest HD-DVD players. Video will be “up-sampled” to HD resolution when mixing content that includes both standard and high definition video as well as photos. The workflow shows the user a timeline that includes video, audio, text, and music

Once the content is created, the user has the option to choose the media type, which includes AVCHD (Blu-ray), HD-DVD, DVD, S-VCD, and VCD. The content can then be targeted for disc, file, tape or the web.

Performance
Our version of the Studio™ Ultimate 11 came with version 11.1. This update is also available for download from the Pinnacle website for those who need it for the initial version 11 release. We have to admit we anticipated computer crashes during our review period, but never encountered any. The stability of this new version put a smile on our face especially as we began to work with high definition content from our HDR-HC1 camcorder. Editing HD content was just as easy using the workflow environment.

We were fortunate to have both HD-DVD and Blu-ray in our arsenal of products for review. This came in handy during our tests as we wanted to see just how good the high definition content looked when we created it. We used our Sony HDR-HC1 HD camcorder to capture video in 1080i. Using a standard 4-pin IEEE-1394 cable, data was transferred from the camera with full control of the playback functions. In the end, we were able to create professional looking DVDs, HD DVDs, and AVCHD discs for Blu-ray players.

High definition content can also be recorded onto standard DVD discs and used in both HD-DVD and Blu-ray players. I didn't realize this was actually possible until I ran some tests and lo and behold I was watching my HD content using both my Toshiba DV-A1 and Sony PS3 players.

Conclusion
Pinnacle Studio MovieBox Ultimate is a comprehensive
video editing software package that brings a new level of performance at a very affordable price. The hardware included with this system adds a powerful way to increase the capabilities of video capturing and editing. Full support of HDV & AVCHD native editing for Blu-ray and HD-DVD discs is where the future is going and Pinnacle is providing users with this now. The Blu-ray and HD-DVD support allowed us to capture, edit and render high-definition video content that could be played back on our PlayStation 3 and Toshiba HD-DVD players. Once you see high-definition content captured on the screen, it is difficult to go back to standard definition Video. The video we created was absolutely amazing and with more and more users migrating to high definition formats, it won't be long before everyone will want movies in high definition. Pinnacle's Studio MovieBox Ultimate brings it home, right here, right now and it's actually affordable. For those wanting a more affordable version of this system while still maintaining most of the core features, Pinnacle also offers the Studio MovieBox Plus version for only $119.99.

- Kevin Nakano








Review System

Laptop: Sony Vaio VGC-RB34G (3.2GHz, 1.5 GB RAM)


Review - At a Glance


Pinnacle Systems - Studio MovieBox Ultimate



Minimum System Requirements

  • Windows® XP with SP2 or Windows Vista™ operating system (32-bit Windows Vista recommended)
  • Intel® Pentium® or AMD® Athlon® 1.8 GHz or higher (2.4 GHz recommended)
  • Intel Pentium HT or AMD Athlon 2.4 GHz or 1.6 GHz Dual core required for Windows Vista
  • Intel Core™ 2 Duo 2.4 GHz or higher required for AVCHD editing
  • 512 MB RAM (1 GB recommended)
  • 1 GB required for HD and/or Windows Vista (2 GB recommended)
  • 1.5 GB required for AVCHD (2 GB required on Windows Vista)
  • DirectX® 9 or higher compatible graphics card with 64 MB (128 MB recommended)
    • 128 MB required on Windows Vista (256 MB ATI® Radeon® 9600+ or NVIDIA® GeForce™ 6 or higher recommended)
    • 256 MB required for HD and AVCHD editing (ATI Radeon 9600+ or NVIDIA GeForce 6 or higher recommended)
  • DirectX 9 or higher compatible sound card
  • 1 GB of disk space to install software and 3+ GB to install bonus content (optional)
  • 1 USB 2.0 (Hi-Speed) port
  • DVD-ROM drive to install software
  • Optional:
    • CD burner for creating Video CDs or Super Video CDs (S-VCDs)
    • DVD burner for creating DVD, HD DVD and AVCHD format discs*
    • Sound card with surround sound output required for preview of surround sound mixes*


Hardware Specifications

Inputs & Outputs

  • Composite video input/output (RCA connector) PAL, SECAM (input only), NTSC
  • S-Video input/output (mini-DIN connector) PAL, SECAM (input only), NTSC
  • Stereo audio input (2x RCA connectors)
  • IEEE 1394 In/Out connector (6-pin type)

Video Capture to Computer

  • Analog PAL & SECAM/NTSC input
  • DV (IEEE 1394) camcorder capture 25 Mbit/s. Full camera control support
  • Compression: MPEG-2, MPEG-1, DV, MJPEG (User-selectable. Available real-time capture formats depend on CPU speed.)

Video Playback from Computer

  • Analog PAL/NTSC output
  • DV (IEEE 1394) output to camcorder 25 Mbit/s. Full camera/device control support

Import Formats

  • Video: AVCHD*, DV, HDV, AVI, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, DivX®*, MPEG-4*, 3GP (MPEG-4)*, WMV, Non-encrypted DVD titles*
  • Audio: WAV, MP3
  • Graphic: BMP, JPG, PCT, TGA, TIF, WMF

Export Formats

  • Video CD (VCD) or S-VCD with optional CD burner (CD-R or CD-RW)
  • HD DVD*, AVCHD* and DVD* format disc with optional DVD burner (DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD+R or DVD+RW, dual layer)
  • Apple iPod and Sony PSP compatible (MPEG-4) formats*
  • DV, HDV, AVI, DivX, RealVideo® 8, Windows Media® 9, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4* files
  • Dolby® Digital 2 channel* and 5.1 channel* audio

* Requires free product activation via Internet at the first use.


Company Information
Pinnacle Systems
A division of Avid Technology, Inc.
280 North Bernardo Avenue
Mountain View, California 94043

Phone: 650-526-1600
Fax: 650-526-1601

Website: http://www.pinnaclesys.com

Source: Manufacture Supplied
MSRP: $149.99


Any comments or questions regarding the LAAF Web Site should be forwarded to webmaster@laaudiofile.com

Copyright © 1985-2007 L.A. Audio File.