Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Corel Video Studio Ultimate 2018 Review

Video Studio Ultimate 2018 is the latest release of Corel’s video editing package suitable for home and professional users. It may not be suitable for high-end pro users but it has everything that you’d need to make good quality promotional and educational videos for your company or to publish on YouTube.

You can scale and crop the videos interactively in the preview window (top left)
The user interface of Corel Video Studio provides a multi-track timeline, where you arrange your video and audio clips over which there is a video preview window and a Library pane in which source files are arranged. To the left of the Library there is a set of buttons that can be clicked in order to browse through sets of Transitions (fades, wipes, page-folding effects and so on), Titles (to add animated text effects), Graphics (static images), Effects (everything from coloured ‘filters’ to sparkles, ripples, distortion effects and rotations), and Paths (to move selected videos in predefined directions).

In addition to the video editing environment there are also ‘Capture’ and ‘Share’ environments. You can select these by clicking tabs at the top of the screen. In the Capture area you can grab video from a connected camera or you can start the screen capture tool to record video direct from your computer screen.

New Features

Video Studio Ultimate 2018 comes with a range of split-screen templates. These seem to be quite fashionable at the moment. For example, split-screen templates were one of the new features added to Cyberlink’s latest edition of the competing video editor, PowerDirector 16 (see my review). These templates divide the screen into multiple geometrical shapes. There is also a split-screen editor to let you make your own templates that can include all kinds of fancy shapes such as circles, stars and hearts. When you add one of these templates it automatically adds each ‘shape’ onto its own track in the timeline. You can then drag video clips onto these tracks. The keyboard shortcut for doing this is a bit weird though. You have to start dragging the clip without holding the CTRL button but you have to remember to hold down CTRL before you drop it. If you don’t hold CTRL when you drop it, the clip appears in a rectangle rather than filing the shape. But if you hold CTRL when you start dragging it (which seems the logical choice to me!) the drag operation won’t work at all.

Here I’ve dragged a split-screen view onto the timeline and I can drop different videos into each geometrical shape in the screen.
There is also a new 3D title editor. If you really want snazzy titles displayed in gold or silver text with bevelled edges and the ability to animate them across the screen, then this is for you.

Design fancy animated titles in the Title Editor
There are some interactive editing features. For example, you can scale and crop a clip right in the preview window just by dragging with the mouse.  And there are animated drag-and-drop presets that let you do smooth pans and zooms without having to keyframe yourself. And, once again, there is a new dedicated editor that lets you edit your own pan-and-zoom effects interactively in a preview window or in a keyframe editor (where keyframes are markers placed onto the timeline at points where a critical change to the video size or position occurs, and the software then automatically animates a smooth transition between the keyframes).

Other new features include simple ‘correction’ of wide-angle lenses to remove fisheye distortions and a preview capability for 360-degree videos.

Corel's introduction to the new features in Video Studio 2018

Some customisations of the user interface have been added to this release too. The height of tracks can be adjusted and you can configure the editing tools shown above the timeline to make sure that those you use often are shown while those you never use are not. A ‘speaker’ icon on each track lets you selectively mute individual tracks.

In spite of all these user interface improvements, the software still uses the horrible old-fashioned Windows file browser dialog. So when you want to load a project you have to scroll through directories in a fixed-size dialog box with no option of entering a pathname or resizing the dialog as in the Explore-like file-browsers used by many modern Windows applications.

In addition to all the new features, Video Studio has a good range of other features including lots of transitions and blends to merge one clip into another and special effects that you can drag onto a clip in order to make changes to its appearance, changing the colours, softening or sharpening the video or adding ‘chromakey’ (green screen) to help you remove a coloured background. Chromakey lets you show a person over a background image or video in much the same way that TV weather forecasters are dropped over a background weather map.

With chromakey you can remove a coloured background and add a person to a scene
Overall, this is a good quality, good-value video editing program which has pretty much everything the YouTube or home-video maker will need. It’s easy to use and quite feature-rich. It does, however, face some stiff competition from other products in the same niche, such as Cyberlink PowerDirector and VEGAS Movie Studio (see my reviews).   For fine-tweaking control over visual effects, I’d say VEGAS Movie Studio has the edge. For speed of production, PowerDirector is unbeatable. But for the non-specialist video-maker Corel Movie Studio is a good all-rounder that gives users a really good set of features at a good price.

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Windows update cannot currently check for updates – solved!

I just realised today that I haven’t been getting automated Windows updates for a while. I went into the Control Panel, clicked System, then Windows Update and I saw a nasty red warning message telling me: "Windows update cannot currently check for updates, because the service is not running. You may need to restart your computer". There was also a worrying message beneath this saying: "Find out about more free software from (null). Click here for details". 

My first thought was – Oh no! I’ve got a virus!

Frankly, that would surprise me. I keep Sophos Anti-virus running and up to now (over many years of use) it’s never, to my knowledge, let any malware though. Well, anyway, suffice to say I rebooted my PC. And suffice to say, that had no effect. I then Googled and found lots of other people who’d had this problem and lots of suggested solutions, many of which involved stopping and starting various services and deleting System directories, all of which sounded both complex and potentially error-prone. I eventually found a much simpler solution. Don’t ask me why It works but it does. I’ve applied this fix to two separate PCs with the same problem and it worked in both cases. I should say, both PCs were running Windows 7 and I don’t know if the same fix works on Windows 10.

Anyway, this is what I did:

1) Start Windows Defender (from Control Panel)
2) Update Windows Defender – it updates, runs, finds no problems
3) Go back to Windows Update. It is now enabled.
4) Run Windows Update

Don’t ask me why this works. I have no idea. All I know is that updating Windows Defender had the side-effect or re-enabling Windows Update on both my PCs. Incidentally, the weird message "Find out about more free software from (null). Click here for details". Has now been replaced with the slightly less weird message "Find out about more free software from Microsoft Update. Click here for details".