Pinnacle Expression review: Pinnacle Expression

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CNET Editors' Rating

4 stars Excellent
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good Well-designed onscreen controls; easy for first-timers; makes attractive, customized DVD menus.

The Bad Few editing controls; no transitions or effects.

The Bottom Line Beginners will adore easy Pinnacle Expression. It makes video authoring as simple as it can be.

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Is the video software market going downscale, or are developers finally realizing that people don't want an excess of editing tools if they can't figure out how to use them? Whatever the case, ease of use seems to be the watchword in the current wave of so-simple-your-grandmother-could-use-it video apps. Pinnacle Expression, a $49 CD- and DVD-authoring app, makes video production as easy as pie and produces great-looking results. Is the video software market going downscale, or are developers finally realizing that people don't want an excess of editing tools if they can't figure out how to use them? Whatever the case, ease of use seems to be the watchword in the current wave of so-simple-your-grandmother-could-use-it video apps. Pinnacle Expression, a $49 CD- and DVD-authoring app, makes video production as easy as pie and produces great-looking results.

It doesn't get any easier
After installing Pinnacle Expression--a quick and painless process--you'll find yourself staring at three of the biggest, friendliest icons across the top of the screen and one of the easiest interfaces ever, outside of software designed for tots. The big buttons take you to the main content areas: import, edit, and export.

The import screen displays an enormous video camera on the left and a list of imported video clips on the right. Unlike most video tools, including Roxio VideoWave, Expression won't capture footage from analog cameras--it needs a digital video (DV) camera or a VCR with a FireWire connection. It will import video (AVI, DV, or MPEG-1 or -2) or photos (BMP, JPEG, PCD, PCT, TGA, WMF, TIFF) that are already on your hard drive. Expression automatically breaks up your video into scenes for easier editing.

Editing for the low-tech crowd
We have yet to see a newbie-level video-editing tool that makes the process both feature rich and simple. Some apps, such as VideoWave and Video Explosion Deluxe, throw in a spate of advanced features and hope users will grow into them. Expression skips those features entirely, offering only simple trims or a tool for combining clips, but that's all. Don't plan on working with timelines, overlays, transitions, or soundtracks, either; Expression doesn't offer any such tools.

Pinnacle went a little too far making this product easy to use; we'd prefer a few more tools. While fast and simple, this app won't grow with your movie-making skills. Oddly enough, if you're making only a slide show with digital still images, you have more editing possibilities: the ability to set how long each image will display on the screen, transitions, and soundtracks. These are tricks that we'd like to work on video, too.

So many menus
We particularly like Expression's DVD menu-creation tools, which, like the slide-show tool, are much stronger than the video-editing options. After you've imported video or pictures, Expression arranges them into a sample menu in the tool's preview screen. The Style Chooser, a small drawer on the left side of the screen, allows you to choose from 44 menu templates, 6 of which have full-motion backgrounds. Or, you can click the Custom Menu button at the bottom of the Style Chooser to create your own image combination from existing templates. If you don't like any of the templates, which are attractive but not as professional as the ones found in Apple iMovie or VideoWave, simply import one of your own pictures to use as a background.

Once you're ready to burn a disc, Expression offers video CD (VideoCD), Super VideoCD (SVCD), and DVD. We found the burning speeds to be roughly average and the resulting quality acceptable, if not outstanding. Expression also includes a typically easy-to-use label-making component, which can automatically make professional-looking booklets and CD labels that incorporate the button pictures from your onscreen menu.

Aside from the software, Expression comes with a plastic DVD case, a plastic tool that helps you apply disc labels so that they line up with the case edges, and a few blank labels ready for your printer. Should you have any trouble and need tech support, Pinnacle offers well-organized and extensive FAQs, forums, and e-mail help through its Web site. Sadly, though, there's no phone support.

The right tool for the right person
If video editing sounds like nothing but a headache to you and you simply want to get your footage onto DVDs and into the hands of your friends, Pinnacle Expression is a great tool. It isn't full featured, and at $49, it's priced a tad too high, but it is a winner for ease of use and attractive results.



Expression features a preview interface that's as easy as pie. The Style Chooser, on the left, offers a variety of templates, while the meter at the bottom shows how much time is left on your disc.

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Where to Buy See all prices

Pinnacle Expression

Part Number: 210100215 Released: Sep 24, 2002
MSRP: $49.99 Low Price: $49.99 See all prices

Quick Specifications See All

  • Release date Sep 24, 2002
  • Category creativity application
  • Compatibility PC