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Pinnacle Studio vs Sony Vegas Movie Studio vs Adobe Premier Elements

Let's get to the point: Sony Vegas 9 is the hands-down winner in this review. It totally rocks and I can't believe it took me so long to realize this.

The Story: I've been a die-hard Pinnacle Studio user every since I got a free copy of version 8 with my Canon camcorder in 2003. Every Christmas, I edit the previous years' video down from about 12 hours of raw footage to about 2 hours of clips and mantages. I've doggedly stuck with Pinnacle studio in spite of it's extreme bugginess because I mostly like the user interface and I've always been a sucker for cheap software. After version 11, however, I just can't take it any more with the problems. Since Costco has a special on both Sony Vegas and Adobe Premier Elements, I decided to spend the $100 on one of them, I couldn't find any websites that did a decent comparison of these products, so I downloaded the demos myself and created this web page.

Before I get started, here are some facts:

  • Versions: Pinnacle Studio 11, Sony Vegas Movie Studio 9, Adobe Premier Elements 7
  • Audience:  Amature users who are making DVDs of their family videos
  • Method: Pick a few standard procedures and figure out how to do each one in all of the video products. Spend at least 10-15 minutes giving it a good college try on each procedure.

Results: Here is my data. I've highlighted the winner in each category with a green square.

Pinnacle Studio 11
Sony Vegas
Movie Studio 9
Adobe Premier Elements 7
~45 Seconds
~30 seconds
~30 seconds
Load some video files

MP4, MPG, AVI supported

Dragging directly to video track supported

Internal Scene detection

MP4, MPG, AVI supported

MP4, MPG, AVI supported

Navigate video tracks, do some simple cutting

Only two video tracks

Scene cuts are intuitive

Deleteing scenes is a little different than Pinnacle, but easier to control

Cursor movement is also differnant easier to control

Deleting scenese is intuitive.

No mouse wheel zooming :(

Cutting function is a little hard to find.

Add a transition between video clips

Drag in a transtion from the transition library

Same as pinnacle, but fade transition are a 1st class citizen in the UI and are very easy to implement.

Same as pinnacle, drag in from a library.

Library has nice search capabilities

Add a bunch of pictures for a photo montage, insert transitions, add some music, add pan and scan effects

Has some nice automatic montage features

Transitions have to be added one at a time

Select all pictures and drag in a transition to apply to all. Easy!

Pan and Scan is simple to configure and extremely powerful

Could not find a way to apply a transition to more than one clip at a time.

Adding a pan and zoom effect was very non-intuitive, and hard to customize.

Create a stop motion video from individual frames

Change the default image length

Same as pinnacle

Tried to change the default image length, but that did not work.

Stop frame animation is supported as part of the software

Add text overlay

Separate text overlay track and a somewhat clunky text editor. Powerful customizations

Very easy to do with the media generator. Easy to control as well

Only way I could figure out was using "Titles" in the edit tab. The title has to be modified by hand to get plain text. Very clunky!

Picture in picture

Special effect. A little clunky and hard to control

1st class citizen in the UI. Uses Keyframes and is extremely powerful and fairly simple.

A little tricky to apply (I could not find a menu-way to do this) and appears to be limited to media that is dragged in from disk. I could not figure out how to do picture-in-picture from another video track.

Fade between sound tracks

Sound envelopes are a first class feature and easy to understand, however they are very buggy.

Limited to fade in/fade out controls. Overal envelop control accomplish by cutting scenes

Limited to fade in/fade out controls. Overal envelop control accomplish by cutting scenes

Create a DVD Menu with animated thumbnails

DVD menu feature is integrated with the application and shows up in the video stream. This can be somewhat nonintuitive, but it is mostly straightforward to control.

Buring a DVD requires separate (included) software. The model is menu based. It took me a little while to figure out, but I liked it WAY better than both Pinnacle and Adobe when I did.

There did not seem to be an easy way to cut a background video to the desired menu time length. I think this has to be done externally

Integrated with the video editing package.

Very difficult to tell where the menu markers go.

Demo had very limited menu customization features

Overall a little clunky to customize menus

OVERALL Simple to use, not as powerful as the others, lots and lots and lots of bugs. A delight to use! It was pretty easy to figure out and I found myself feeling eager to get back to my family movie projects after using this software. Has some great features, but the UI is very clunky and I felt tired of using it. I almost didn't finish the review because it was so unpleasant to figure out how to do things.

Conclusion: I'm buying Sony Vegas!