Editing Indie Films with Pinnacle Studio

Travis White serves as Senior Product Manager for the Home Editing line of products within Pinnacle Systems. Marketed throughout North America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia, Pinnacle products are the most widely recognized and successful home video editing software programs available today.

As a product manager in the consumer video and multimedia software space for over 8 years, White has launched over 50 successful software and hardware products into world-wide markets. During his career, White has gained extensive experience in all aspects of product management and marketing for a variety of multimedia software solutions spanning from consumer home imaging and 3D applications to professional video and DVD authoring systems.

White has been a key speaker and influencer on many industry panels and is a published technical editor and software trainer.

Cinema Without Borders: International and independent filmmakers are always looking for a powerful and affordable solution in filmmaking tools. Could Pinnacle Studio packages be the right choice for a professional filmmaker?
Travis White: Yes, Pinnacle Studio Plus or Studio Ultimate is a great value for those interested in creating quality films from digital camera sources. In fact, the issues which revolve around creating a good story are that the quality of the image is upheld, and that the right cut tools are available – two areas where Pinnacle Studio is solid. Things like color correction, white balance, and multiple cut modes are the meat and potatoes of a movie-making workflow and Studio has always been reported to have strong render quality.

CWB: Most filmmakers use DV and HD formats. Can Studio handle them properly; in regards to the speed of the software when working with these formats and the easiness of using it?
TW: Pinnacle Studio has been handling the DV format since its inception back in 1996 with quick handling and low quality loss when renders are needed (i.e.: effects applied). The minimum specification for editing DV in Studio represents a system sold back in 2001, so there is little chance a current system will have any issues with even more effects-laden projects, such as blurs, 3D motions and chroma key effects.
The HD formats handled are HDV and AVCHD in 1280×720, 1440×1080 and 1920×1080. These formats are edited natively, without the use of proxy files or intermediary formats. All the same processes that one can apply in a DV project can also be applied in an HD project within Pinnacle Studio. More horsepower is needed to edit these file formats, but the specs are well within the “consumer” range of system power. Any multi-media machine from your standard providers of home PCs will do the trick. If a particular system is not as responsive as one would like, there are always the options to reduce preview resolution to ¼ res, which is still a very good image for preview. This change does not affect rendering or output quality at all, as Studio is still working with original source files natively in the timeline.

CWB: The quality of the output is another major issue. How high is the output quality of Studio? Is it good enough for a digital film planned for theatrical screening?
TW: The output quality of Pinnacle Studio is the same quality which many broadcasters, news houses and new-media producers demand. This is due to the fact that the core video engine under Studio is derived directly from the Liquid editing system which is used extensively in these professional applications. Precision color-safe gates, image processing and codec quality are all top-notch. Studio has always been known for its quality of output.
If a film were going to theatrical screening, I would highly recommend an HD workflow, especially with the affordability of these cameras recently. This gives the “cinematic” widescreen look of 16:9 and gives a level of detail that will be appreciated on the big screen. HD footage will also hold up better to color grading and other effects being applied. Chroma key for example, tends to perform better in HD formats, using 4:2:0 color space vs. the 720×480 DV format with its 4:1:1 color space.

CWB: Are there any limitations for importing footage into the Studio? Are there any compatibility issues with new HD and DV cameras?
TW: Pinnacle Studio is built to handles almost all DV and HD formats available today. The import and export options of Studio are well covered. However, every system has advantages when the workflow allows the core editing software to be the capture or import tool. Pinnacle Studio handles almost all video formats available today, but the “wilds” of encoding tools and codecs out there may reduce the performance and image quality of a specific workflow where files from other sources are used. For example, HDV is best edited in Studio if the capture is made with Studio itself. During capture, the transport stream is demuxed, or separated in the background, into separate audio and video, allowing faster edit response and lower loads on the video pipeline. HDV-spec MPEG files from other sources can be imported and edited in Studio, but the performance may not match a native capture within the Studio capture utility.

CWB: Could Studio perform frame accurate editing? This is an essential part of film editing and how easy is that?
TW: Pinnacle Studio always works with frame-accurate editing. Some other solutions cannot perform this because of how modern codecs are structured. For example, some systems can only do a cut on an I frame (information frame) which may occur only once in 15 frames in the case of MPEG video. Studio on the other hand can cut any given frame and will restructure the GOP (group of pictures) so that a new I frame is created to “cap” the edit.
Traditional J,K,L keyboard controls are also available for shuttling control as well as numerous ways to do frame-by-frame seek, cut, trim and ripple-editing. For example, if a scene needs to be trimmed, there are many ways to approach the task, depending on the preference of the user. The trim tool can be used, which gives visual previews of the “in” and “out” frames of the cut. Mouse moves over the scene can drag the trim points on the timeline, achieving either overwrite or ripple editing. Shortcut keys allow ripple, overwrite, or rolling trims to be performed frame-by-frame, etc. The key is that all edits give real-time preview and playback is always real-time. Edits can even be viewed full-screen on an external NTSC/PAL display, or second computer screen, while keeping the editing interface on the primary monitor.

CWB: Please tell us about sound editing features of Studio. Are they sufficient for a pro sound editor?
TW: Pinnacle Studio offers waveform views, audio-scrub preview and VST audio plug-in support. In addition, there is a full mixing consol to allow a user to adjust volume and pan on various tracks while playing back the production. Once edits are made, the production can be played back again, but with the recorded edits dynamically being automated in the mixing consol. The trim tool can also be applied to audio clips, so that precise edits can be achieved on the waveform. Not only does Studio work with stereo audio and 48K, but the mixing consol also offers a Surround Sound panning tool to mix 5.1 output in Dolby. This is particularly helpful when creating a theatrical production.

CWB: What DVD recording formats are supported by Studio?
TW: All DVD recording formats are supported by Studio, including dual-layer burning for longer form projects. Beyond standard definition DVD, HD DVD format discs can also be authored. This unique approach allows standard DVD media and burners to be used, but the resulting disc can be played on an HD DVD player. Besides HD DVD, AVCHD and Blu-ray is also supported. The authored discs carry the H.264 high-definition format and can be played on Blu-ray players.

CWB: Are there any additional tools available for Studio by Pinnacle?
TW: Pinnacle offers a number of supporting hardware solutions for Studio, as well as additional effects and content. One valuable piece of hardware is the Moviebox Ultimate (710-USB) video capture hardware. This USB-connected device allows for either analog capture or 1394 capture from DV and HDV camcorders. It also incorporates device control through the 1394 interface. Once material has been brought in and editing has begun, the same device allows for full-resolution output to NTSC and PAL monitors for checking title-safe, color-safe and general field issues.
Additional effects and content can be found for Studio as well. For example, Moving Picture, by Stagetools is the defacto photo-animating tool, used by Ken Burns himself. Gorgeous pans and zooms can be achieved on 8000 pixel images, for strong story telling. Content such as DVD templates and complex title designs can also be found.

CWB: What are the future plans for the Studio products?
TW: Pinnacle plans to continue the Studio line of products well into the future. Look out for further support of blu-ray and blu-ray burners, continued additions of HD formats as camera manufacturers roll out new product, and further enhancements to the editing tools.


About Author

Bijan Tehrani

Bijan Tehrani a film director, film critic and writer, works as editor in chief of Cinema Without Borders while teaching Language of Film and Film History at workshops nationwide. Bijan has won several awards in international film festivals and book fairs for his short films and children's books.

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