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Ulead MediaStudio Pro 7.0 review: Ulead MediaStudio Pro 7.0

Ulead MediaStudio Pro 7.0

Douglas Dixon

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4 min read

The installer CD installs the entire suite in one go. The process went smoothly for us, but it's a bit laborious; you have to wade through a good number of windows. During installation, MediaStudio Pro automatically loads Windows components, such as DirectX. Oddly, if Windows Media 9 Format SDK is already installed, it offers to uninstall itself, which forced us to cancel the routine. The program sucks up 160MB, including 50MB for sample files.

7.3

Ulead MediaStudio Pro 7.0

The Good

Power-packed application suite; advanced features and deep options; fast tape scan to DV-clip index; real-time preview.

The Bad

Busy and inconsistent interface; complex settings for even simple tasks.

The Bottom Line

This is a great tool for experimentalists who want to tweak under the hood for more power and better performance.
MediaStudio Pro 7.0, a significant upgrade of Ulead's video-editing suite, brings faster performance for real-time preview and on-the-fly conversion, improved editing functionality, and useful new features such as quick DV-segment indexing and animation tools. The package's working style is very different from that of competitor Adobe Premiere. Premiere has the fit and polish of a European sedan with integrated components, while MediaStudio Pro is like an all-terrain vehicle with extra gadgets and custom add-ons. The Ulead program actually comprises six apps, each with a profusion of features and options.

The five core applications are Video Capture, Video Editor, Audio Editor, Video Paint, and CG Infinity. Ulead VCD/DVD Disc Image Recorder is a bonus mini app for burning images to disc. You'll find them all in the Start menu's Ulead MediaStudio Pro folder. The company also tossed in a limited version of its DVD MovieFactory, which is designed for video export only; it doesn't have the full product's direct capture to DVD. Each app has a Switch menu for quick toggling between MediaStudio components and other installed Ulead software. Transferring media files between applications is easy, especially through the shared Production Library folder accessible from each program.

MediaStudio Pro's interface is on the busier side, with lots of windows and floating items. You'll see palettes, toolbars, and menus with text and icons, plus a profusion of sliders and direct controls for manipulating elements such as motion paths. What's more, these all provide access to a sometimes bewildering array of advanced options with multiple levels and dialog boxes.

Video Editor, a full-featured nonlinear editor, is the heart of MediaStudio Pro. Its familiar interface includes the Production Library for organizing media and effects, the A/B Timeline, and Source and Preview windows. Each element leads to a dialog box with extensive settings, from keyframed fades to Timeline-display options.

The impressive new Scan DV Tape feature alone is worth the upgrade. It prescans your tape at scan-forward speeds of up to about 10X (trading quickness for quality and accuracy), finds the individual clips, and places a thumbnail of each in a DV album. You can then batch-capture the full clips when you need them. The process works with any cassette that will record DV.

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The new Scan DV Tape feature prescans your tape and builds a DV album with thumbnails of individual clips.

MediaStudio Pro offers color correction for highlights, midtones, and shadows, as well as a broad selection of useful effects. The Video Paint rotoscoping application gives you more-sophisticated options, enabling you to perform manual retouching, insert and remove elements, and add overlay effects such as laser flashes that move across the frames. With CG Infinity, you can create dynamic titles and graphics, animate over time with keyframed motion paths, and adjust transparency.

As for audio, you can dynamically adjust levels with Video Editor's Audio Mixing panel, or switch to Audio Editor to edit clips and apply filters. Unfortunately, Audio Editor failed to start up on three different test machines; when it succeeded, it crashed when we tried to use it. After several rounds of discussion with the product team, Ulead replicated the difficulty: a conflict with other installed video programs. Ulead never identified the problem apps, but it provided a patch so that we could work around them; the company also said the solution would be rolled into online upgrades.

To capture and preview clips, you fire up Video Capture. Non-DV video--such as Windows Media files, DVD-VR from DVD recorders, and material in Sony's MicroMV MPEG-2 format--requires the Switch Capture Plug-in command. The same function enables real-time conversion of footage to MPEG, a new feature. No single integrated dialog box contains input-format selections. We had to poke around among multiple options and explicitly choose the appropriate property settings; for example, Video Capture for a TV and Device Control for a DV camcorder.

Video Editor now lets you preview in real time using the Instant Play feature, and the app happily played even complex scenes with overlaid motion effects and filters on our 2.53GHz P4 primary test machine. However, Instant Play takes a disconcerting five or so seconds to initialize each time it starts.

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Each element of the Video Editor interface opens yet another dialog box with extensive controls.

You can't preview via FireWire, but File > Print To Tape/Timeline lets you output the A/B Timeline to FireWire after rendering. You can also export in almost-real time directly from the Timeline; this approach quickly writes the output media file and doesn't require a separate rendering step--nice. The speed of this process is proportional to your system performance and the complexity of the production on the Timeline.

Since this program is loaded with cascading menus and advanced options, we were happy to find assistance at the ready. The package comes with a 400-page user guide packed with tutorials and information on the individual applications, plus a content CD containing more than 200MB of sample files but, unfortunately, no documentation. MediaStudio Pro also features extensive built-in help, including tool overviews and reference sections.

Among the numerous online offerings are product information, tutorials, FAQs, update downloads, and a searchable knowledge base. Ulead's Web site also links to user groups, discussion lists, and additional resources from corporate partners. Telephone and e-mail technical support is available on weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT.

7.3

Ulead MediaStudio Pro 7.0

Score Breakdown

Setup 6Features 8Performance 7Support 8