Corel Digital Studio 2010

Posted by Kathleen Maher on October 28th 2009 | Discuss
Categories: Software Review,
Tags: media corel video photoshop ilife studio editing elements

Digital Studio tries to make every step as easy as possible for users. In this case, the program provides a clear cue for adding a voice over and you can always see where you are. (Source: Jon Peddie Research)

We believe that there are about 16 million people working with digital media all over the world—and around 35% of them are in the United States. The vast majority of those people are not professionals, they are people who are taking pictures, editing them, and creating videos and picture books, because they like it. Some of them are good at it, many of them wind up spending a lot more time on what they’re trying to do than they ever intended.

Corel has taken a look at the market and brought a new suite for working with video, pictures and creating DVDs. The company has come a little late to the party but they have taken a very careful look at what people want to do with their media and they have tried to streamline the process.

Media Studio is a suite but, unlike similar products, it’s very focused. Earlier examples of suites have tended to be loaded with programs and, in many cases, the programs have not worked well together. Another failing has been that products developed for consumers have been dumbed down with dopey interfaces that seem to be developed for children.

Corel’s Media Studio has avoided most of these pitfalls. The suite includes:

VideoStudio Express 2010—a time-line-based video editing tool with a few basic templates and effects. It encodes to iPhone, online, DVD, etc.

PaintShop Photo Express 2010—photo editing with the basic features: crop, rotate, red-eye removal, basic lighting adjustments, and sharpen. The application enables easy upload to photo sharing sites such as Facebook and Twitter. It also has projects for making books, calendars, cards, and gifts. Corel has teamed with Fuji to enable books to be created, uploaded, and ordered.

  • WinDVD 2010—Corel’s DVD viewing technology.
  • DVD Factory—DVD authoring for photos and audio. It allows back up and provides templates.
  • Corel Instant Viewer—a quick content viewer.
  • Digital Studio Gadget—the gadget can auto start with the computer and sits on the desktop at the ready.

It’s a little disconcerting to load Media Studio and find that it has taken over as the handler of choice for all media files and as the media viewer. We’ve had the same experience with Photoshop Elements and we understand that the software developers have weighed the options and have come down in favor of making things as easy as possible for consumers. However, if their users are all that inept, then they’re going to be even more frustrated and dismayed when their computer starts doing things that they didn’t tell the computer to do and they’re not sure why. Although it’s a simple matter to reset format associations and default photo viewing associations, I’m not sure Corel’s Media Studio will like it if you do this. When I did, the program had trouble finding media.

Corel looked at products like Picasa, Photoshop Elements and especially Apple’s iLife tools and it tried to do just a slightly better job. It has succeeded in many areas. Every module has a consistent look and behaves the same way. And here let me say that every digital media user, including professionals struggling with idiosyncratic professional tools should give a silent nod of approval to Corel’s efforts here. It’s a beautiful interface. It’s consistent, clear, and next steps are obvious.

At first in fact, the interface was so clean, it took me a while to track down some basic capabilities. In all fairness though, it comes pretty rapidly. At first though, it’s almost like looking at a blank page. Once I got the hang of it, I appreciated the ability to go to a few simple actions.

One of the nicest features of the Media Studio are the app tools for creating projects—especially books. Some sites require that you upload images and then arrange them in books. This makes me nervous because I’m not sure of the output quality that I’m getting. Digital Studio does all the work on the computer and when you’re happy with the book you can upload the whole shebang and order online. The book-making utility also warns about images with low resolutions that might not print acceptably.

When it comes to working with photos I suspect that users may quickly outgrow the Digital Media’s feature list and they’ll add on another product like Picasa or maybe even something like Adobe’s Lightroom or Apple Aperture. However, in digital content creation the 80/20 rule tends to apply – most people settle into a routine of just using a few features and Corel has hit most of them.

I can easily see relying on Digital Studio to make books. Corel tells us that they’re planning to add to the library of available templates. What they have now is fine but limited. Fortunately, there are simple options that are likely to be the ones used most frequently.

But let’s talk about video now, because that’s where Digital Studio shines. Video is hard and I use several video products both for JPR’s online content and for fun. I’d love to experiment with effects and improving the video, but what’s most important is to get it done fast and that’s what Digital Studio offers. The video screen is just as clean as the photo app. It offers a few simple templates for opening titles and the ability to trim video, add music, and even add a voice over. This is a really handy feature for creating online slide shows if that’s the sort of thing you want to inflict upon the world. Background sounds and added music tracks are automatically brought down when the voice over comes up but the program gives the user control over that feature as well.

Figure 1: Nearly 16 million people play with digital media worldwide—most are enthusiasts. (Source: Jon Peddie Research)

When finished, Digital Studio supports output to iPhone and other MPEG-4 variations for devices as well as online for YouTube, Facebook, etc. And, of course there’s always the option of outputting your creation to DVD using Corel’s DVD Factory tool. As you might expect, the DVD Factory module offers the same family of templates to put together a DVD. DVD Factory can also be used as a computer backup utility. However, DVD Factory does not support Blu-ray. I’m not bugged by that because I’m not creating huge HD videos but this will be an issue before too long. There are a lot of HD cameras out there, Blu-ray media is coming down in price and people will come to expect it very soon now.

Although it’s a program for beginners, it’s not really a program for lightweight computers, which is not really surprising for video and photo apps—they’re resource hungry.

System requirements:

  • Intel Core Duo T2400 1.83 GHz, or AMD Athlon 64 X2 3800+ (2.0 GHz or higher recommended).
  • Microsoft Windows 7, Windows Vista, or Windows XP with latest service packs installed.
  • 1 GB of RAM (2 GB or higher recommended).
  • 128 MB of VGA VRAM or higher (256 MB recommended).
  • 4 GB of free hard-drive space.
  • 1024 × 768 minimum display resolution.
  • Windows-compatible sound card.
  • Windows-compatible DVD-ROM for installation.
  • Recordable DVD drive for creating DVDs.
  • Internet connection for online features

A word of advice, try and resist the urge to multi-task while making videos. You should know better than this anyway, but it is hard to resist. Nevertheless, work on your zen breathing, get up and walk around while video is processing. This is not advice specific to Media Studio, it’s always true when working with mainstream machines and video—and besides, it’s better for you.

Digital Studio has been optimized for Windows 7—it takes advantage of gestures and multi-touch if you have a touch screen.

Price: $99.95.

What do we think?

In the brief time we spent with Digital Studio I found it to be useful for photos and valuable for videos and DVDs. Although Corel is building Digital Studio for the very casual user, I still think it’s good manners to ask about assuming authority and making itself the default app for relevant file formats and that goes for installing gadgets, and putting itself in toolbars and on the desktop.

I love the book making and video features and it is likely to remain the first program I turn to for those capabilities. Although any user will appreciate clean interface and the directness of the program, Digital Studio is most definitely an entry level product and you’ll be much better off with a new computer with at least a dual core processor and plenty of RAM.

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