There’s no end to innovation in home video technology, whether that means 3D, 4K, or 360-degree VR video, and the software you use to edit all that content must keep up. Corel VideoStudio Ultimate does so admirably, and is chockablock with powerful video editing tools. It supports stop motion, multicam editing, motion tracking, time remapping, video masking, and audio ducking. The program is incredibly capable, and the 2022 release adds useful new tools like a GIF creator, speech-to-text autocaptioning, variable speed changing, and some fun face editing. The result is a solid, fast-rendering product with a clear interface that makes video editing a delight, earning it our Editors’ Choice award.
What’s New in Corel VideoStudio Ultimate?
We’ve been reviewing Corel VideoStudio since before 2012, and it has been one of our top choices for video editors for consumers in the past few years. It’s an easy-to-use and powerful tool. In addition to some enticing new features in the latest release, the app has all the standard tools you’d expect, such as timelines, storyboards, transitions, picture-in-picture (PiP), and sound editing. Corel also produces Pinnacle Studio, which is more for video professionals.
Here’s a quick rundown on what’s new in the 2022 version:
- Face Effects and Face Indexing. Most videos shots by hobbyists include people. The new tools let you both enhance people’s appearance and organize clips by Face Indexing.
- GIF creator. You’d think converting a video clip into an animated GIF would be simple—unless you’ve tried doing it in Photoshop. The new VideoStudio tool makes GIFs simply and lets you create a repeating animation.
- Speech-to-text converter. Adobe made a lot of the new speech-to-text auto-captioning feature in its pro-level Premiere Pro software, and Corel gets you a similar feature without so much complexity.
- Camera movement transitions. Camera movement transitions are similar to the seamless transitions that were hot in the enthusiast video editing community a few years ago. The effect uses blur to blend the scenes you’re joining.
- Enhanced audio waveform editing. The new version makes it easier to find and use audio editing tools.
- Variable-speed keyframing. Use preset templates or create your own for smoothly speeding up and slowing down your project video.
- Animated AR stickers. Similar to what you find in Snapchat or Facebook Messenger, these face overlays such as mustaches and hats can make an otherwise drab talking-head video more fun.
- New format support. The ability to export audio to HEVC MOV files and PCM 5.1CH has been added. The program can also create smaller proxy files using Apple ProRes format for more efficiency.
- Better media tagging. You can now use multiple keywords for media items; finding and renaming LUTs for color effects has also gotten easier.
Other recent version updates include performance and stability; a mask creator; the AI-powered Highlight Reel auto-movie creator; Slip, Slide, Roll, and Stretch editing modes; upgraded color grading replete with color wheels; a Painting Creator for animated hand-drawn text; Photoshop-like blending modes such as Multiply, Screen, and Overlay; and 4K monitor support.
How Much Does VideoStudio Cost?
Corel Video Studio is available at two levels: Pro ($79.99, or $59.99 for an upgrade from the older version) and Ultimate ($99.99, or $79.99 for upgrades). Both are frequently discounted online, and the pricing is one-time, so there’s no subscription required. I reviewed the latter edition.
The higher-end option adds effects from Boris, NewBlue, and ProDAD; lets you use six multicam tracks (as opposed to four for Pro); and lets you import XAVC (Sony 4K) content. By comparison, CyberLink PowerDirector Ultimate ($99.99) doesn’t limit the number of multicam tracks even in its lower-cost version. The more consumer-oriented Adobe Premiere Elements costs $99.99, but doesn’t include any multicam or 360-degree VR editing and offers limited motion-tracking capabilities.
VideoStudio runs on Windows 8, Windows 10, and Windows 11. The 64-bit OS versions are required. There are no macOS or Linux versions.
To get VideoStudio, you download an app that in turn downloads and installs the 2GB application; Ultimate’s included plug-ins grow this figure to 4GB. For comparison, PowerDirector weighs in at just under 1GB, while Premiere Elements takes up a considerable 3.5GB of disk space, sans plug-ins. You’ll need a pretty big hard disk anyway if you want to do hi-res, high-bit-rate video editing, especially if you work with 4K footage (which even smartphones can record nowadays).
The VideoStudio Interface
VideoStudio starts by showing you its Welcome view, represented by a house-shaped icon. Here you can find inspiration and instruction in the form of tutorials, videos, and templates. The interface sports clean, flat icons across the bottom rather than thumbnails. The Get Started section lets you create a new project or open one from a list of those you’ve already created. The Get More section offers extra-cost templates, filters, transitions, and overlays—great material for the video hobbyist.
The other three modes—Capture, Edit, and Share—are where you do real video editing work. Overall, the interface makes for a handy guide of taking you through the process of adding, editing, and outputting your digital movie.
In Editing mode, a pleasing dark-blue-gray interface uses the familiar three-pane view with source, effects, and your video preview. The timeline takes up the bottom portion of the window. Buttons for the most commonly used tools, such as transitions, titles, and effects, are on the right. I like the way icons in the source panel make it easy to show and hide video, photo, and audio content types.
VideoStudio lets you resize and move the interface panels, and you can even pull them out into separate windows. You can also choose which buttons appear on the toolbar above the timeline (including buttons for the Pan and Zoom and 3D Title Editor) and set three custom interface layouts and easily switch among them. Multiple-screen support lets you see your video full-screen on one and all of your editing tools on the other, for example. VideoStudio offers one of the most flexible UIs in the space.
Tools in the preview window give easy access to cropping, scaling, and moving your video content around in the frame. Guidelines help you center and align overlays and text. A cue/chapter marking tool is at your disposal below the preview window. You can adjust a track’s transparency from a button in the track head area, near the Track Muting button and Ripple Editing button. You can resize the timeline tracks simply by dragging the lower edge in the header down or up.
One qualm about this interface is that although the company says VideoStudio supports high-DPI displays, that’s not the case on my test Surface Laptop 3, which has a 2,496-by-1,664 display resolution. The menus look tiny on this high-res screen unless I change the overall Windows display scaling setting.
Importing, Organizing, and Basic Editing
To start a new project, choose File > New Project. While most other video editing programs display a dialog box at this point to help you choose your project settings, VideoStudio just immediately throws you into adding content and building a timeline. I’d love to see choices about my new project’s format, or an option to use FastFlick or Instant Project, the app’s simplified editors. On the other hand, I’m certain some advanced users just want to start editing, without any hand-holding.
Capture mode (press the large Capture button at the top) lets you record from a connected camera, scan a DV source, and import from Digital Media or a mobile device. Getting media into VideoStudio is simple, and now you can use a tagging capability as you get with Adobe Premiere Elements, though the Corel tool is not as streamlined as Adobe’s. A search box lets you more easily find media and effects, and you can sort source content by name, type, or date.
Another new organization tool is something that’s more common in photo editing software than video editing: Face tagging. VideoStudio can identify faces in a clip and let you name them so you can find them later. You right-click on a clip containing a face and the app finds any faces in the media and lets you select which ones to index. It then creates Face Indexing Sets in your Media section. Like most of these tools, it works fine for full face views, but not so much with profiles.
Back in the main editor, you simply drag and drop a clip from your source tray to add it to your timeline. If you double-click on a clip in the source tray, it opens in the Single Clip Trim window. This provides a handy way to set the start and finish markers of the section of the clip that you want to add, with precision to the individual frame level. Corel has increased the maximum number of tracks from 20 to 50; competitors like PowerDirector offer 100 or more, but few hobbyists will find that to be a major stumbling block.
The program’s Replace mode lets you drag a clip onto the timeline instead of leaving the one there and moving it to the side or splitting it, the new clip simply replaces it. This mode is especially useful when you’re working with templates, and indeed when you drag and drop onto a template, you see a message box asking if you want to switch to Replace editing mode.
The app also supports editing modes familiar to professionals: Slip, Stretch, Roll, and Slide. These simply give you more options for moving media around on the timeline. The Stretch option is notable for slowing down or speeding up a clip when you use it. I’ve circled these edit mode tools below.
You can use these options in conjunction with Replace mode, though they’ll only affect what you do after the clip replacement.
The Multitrim Video tool lets you set multiple in and out points, so you don’t have to create a lot of separate clips if you just want to remove some dead space in the middle of a clip. It also lets you detect ads in TV content. PowerDirector matches this multitrim capability, but most other editors lack it. The Corel trim tools offer easy, clear navigation, including a jog wheel and zoomable selection scrubber. That’s far more than you get with Vegas Movie Studio Platinum.
As with Apple Final Cut Pro X’s Clip Connections, VideoStudio lets you group and ungroup clips. It can make editing complex projects much easier. Moving or trimming a grouped set of clips keeps them together, so you don’t have to realign everything after making an adjustment.
Easy Movie Creation
VideoStudio has not one, but three instant movie creation features: Highlight Reel, the newest and slickest; Instant Project, a template system; and FastFlick, a separate but included program that offers even easier template-based editing.
Before pressing the Highlight Reel button, which looks like a camera aperture, you need a library or folder in the source panel. The tool does face recognition, so that’s one way to organize media, but it also shows media by date. When you press the aforementioned button, it asks if you want to import all videos and photos into the Highlight Reel. Once you do that, the program takes you to a smaller, less complex Highlight Reel window.
You then choose All, Year, Months, Days, or Faces, and tap the blue Create button. Doing so applies Auto settings for duration and transitions .You can customize them, as well as any content that appears in the movie. To test the feature, I dumped 135 videos and photos from a vacation trip. An “Analyzing…” dialog appeared for a couple minutes.
The tool automatically puts blurred side panels on vertical smartphone video, adds elegant cross-fade transitions, and shows the date in the margin. I was happy to see that it didn’t include multiple takes of the same shot, but just chose one the AI considered best. It was quite successful. Unlike with some easy creators, there’s no automatic background soundtrack, but you can add one in the Movie Settings and still retain the audio from the video clip. One error I experienced was the inclusion of a completely blank video clip.
When you’re finished creating the reel, the program doesn’t open it on the standard timeline, but saves it as a project file, which you can open for detailed editing. You’ll want to export to a viewable format like MP4, as well. Another such limitation is that the only audio file type accepted is MP3. If you choose to match the video with the music, you get a choppier result, with all clips and photos about the same time length.
You can get to Instant Project by clicking the button with the magic wand icon in Edit mode, right below the Media button. This is simply template-based movie creation, with templates for your movie’s beginning, middle, and end. You can also create custom templates. Double-clicking a template fills the timeline with placeholder clips, transitions, and a background music soundtrack. It’s not as helpful as Adobe Premiere Element’s templates, which give you a storyboard of what kind of shots work in each placeholder.
Corel includes templates targeting intros, video montages, split screens, webcam overlay (useful for gaming or instruction) social media posts, sales, and portrait-to-landscape. These populate the timeline with set effects, text, and PiP layouts, and all you have to do is drag your clip into placeholders in the timeline. You can get more templates from the Welcome screen’s Store section.
Split Screen templates appear at the top of Instant Project. Drag one onto the timeline, and, again, you’ll see placeholders for PiP clips. You need to hold down the Ctrl key while dragging a clip into a placeholder, which is less intuitive than simply dragging it on top of the placeholder, as you do in Premiere Elements’ similar Video Collage feature.
The separate FastFlick app is much simpler to use than Instant Movies. You just pick a template, add your media, and let the program do the rest. It’s perhaps a bit too simple, producing cookie-cutter results. You can, however, transfer its creations to the full VideoStudio editor for customization.
You can start FastFlick from its own desktop icon or from the full program’s Tools menu. It’s also available as a standalone product for $19.99. You can create your own templates, as well. One template applied the nifty effect of turning my video back and forth from a sketch look. This feature is only partially touch-friendly and didn’t let me use Windows 10’s on-screen keyboard in my testing.
Text tiles and background music are customizable, though, if the template you choose doesn’t already have titles, you can’t add them. I like the slider that adjusts the relative volumes of the clip audio and background music. When you’re done, a button optionally takes you to the full editor. Otherwise, you can produce your video in a variety of standard file formats or share it online.
Video Corrections, Transitions, and Effects
Corel VideoStudio offers 150 transitions in 21 categories, ranging from the basic fades and wipes to 3D effects, peels, pushes, and stretches. Adding transitions to the timeline is a very simple drag-and-drop operation. If you drag a clip to overlap its neighbor, the default transition is inserted. In my test movies, the transitions were smooth and well-rendered.
The Camera Movements group joins the cool Seamless Transitions and adds more distorted, blurred, spinning movement effects than Seamless’ simpler panning.
The most common use of Seamless transitions is when the view pans to the sky and lands on the second clip. Inserting these transitions works well automatically, but you can adjust the effect in an Options Panel.
The panel itself includes sliders for horizontal and vertical position and scaling, but it’s not at all visual. Clicking on the Customize gear icon lets you actually see where your clips are joined, as well as how these vertical, horizontal, and scaling adjustments look in your clips. I was able to get a more impressive transition by aligning the sky in two clips using scaling. The Corel transition gives you a lot of control, letting you mark multiple points on a line that match an area of one clip to one in the next.
Dozens of special effects include diffuse glow, mosaic, and water flow. Among these effects, too, are image-correction tools such as anti-shake, color balance, noise reduction, and light enhancement. The anti-shake worked well in my testing, even on 4K footage, though it doesn’t show you a progress bar the way Premiere Elements does—handy for a task that can take a while. As in any high-end video editor, you can set any effects on and off with keyframes, and Corel provides a separate window with side-by-side original and preview views for working with them.
Adding montage layer tracks is extremely intuitive: You add an overlay track with the track manager and drag the new content into it. A PiP appears in the middle of the preview window, and you can resize and drag this around.
Another flavor of PiP is produced by the Dynamic Split Screen Video Template Creator. It has its own program window and lets you split the screen with lines or shapes. Unlike most similar tools, this one is customizable and flexible. As you add splits and shapes, boxes appear where you drop in your clips. Time your splits and shapes to move based on keyframes, and then save your work as a template to use in later projects.
The color picker for shapes and text lets you choose from themed palettes. That’s in addition to several other ways to zero in on the color you’re looking for, including RGB sliders and an HSL (hue, saturation, and lightness) color map.
The app’s chroma-keying tool does a decent job of cutting out a green-screen background in test clips, especially when using its color dropper tool. Finally, the Graphic tool lets you add solid colors, objects, frames, and even animations like a spinning globe to your movies, for extra bling.