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Pinnacle Studio 26 review. Mastering Video Magic: Pinnacle Studio 26 Unleashed.

Pinnacle Studio Ultimate, now in its 26th version, is a video editing application that's steadily become speedier and more powerful with each iteration. Pinnacle is aimed at near-professional enthusiasts, featuring excellent editing features and effects such as stop-motion video, multicam editing, and motion tracking. The company behind the software, Alludo (formerly Corel, which continues to use Corel in some brand names), also makes the consumer-grade VideoStudio. Thankfully, Pinnacle lacks the steep learning curve associated with pro video editing software, though in terms of performance and usability, it still lags behind our Editors' Choice winners, CyberLink PowerDirector and Corel VideoStudio.

How Much Does Pinnacle Studio Cost?

Pinnacle Studio is available at two levels with the entry-level Pinnacle Studio listing for $59.99, and Ultimate (reviewed here) for $129.99. An Ultimate Bundle option adds loads of content and effects, plus membership in Pinnacle's Studio Backlot online community, which provides training, support, and stock content. Prices are for perpetual licenses, with no recurring subscription fee. Upgraders from previous versions of Ultimate save $40 off the full price.

If you need to edit 360-degree or 4K content, you need to spring for Ultimate, which also adds color grading, video masking, and high-end effects from NewBlue, along with unlimited video tracks. It's the only level that includes some of the new features detailed here. New since our last update of this review is a free 15-day trial version of Pinnacle Studio. Competitors, including Adobe Premiere Elements and CyberLink PowerDirector, also offer free trials.

The prices are in-line with the competition. For example, you pay close to the same amount ($139.99) for CyberLink PowerDirector Ultimate, $99 for the less-pro-level Adobe Premiere Elements, and $99.99 for Corel VideoStudio Ultimate. Pro-level competitors cost more, with DaVinci Resolve at $295, Final Cut Pro at $299, and Premiere Pro at $239.88 (annual subscription).

Can My PC Run Pinnacle Studio?

Windows 10 (64-bit) or Windows 11 is required to run Pinnacle Studio, and you need an Intel Core i3 or AMD A4 3.0 GHz or higher, an Intel Core i7 4th generation or later or AMD Athlon A10 or higher for UHD, multicam, or 360 video. The software requires at least 4GB RAM, with 8GB recommended. Note that there's no macOS version.

To get going you first download a small installer stub app, which then downloads the massive full program. It's more than 2GB and takes up 3.5GB on disk after installation, so you want a fast internet connection and plenty of space on your hard drive. Of course, if you're editing 4K video, you need a big disk anyway. The installer also installs separate MultiCam Capture Lite, MyDVD, and several content packs—which can add several GB more—if you choose the full installation.

Pinnacle Studio Importing and Interface

When you first run the program, you're invited to the program's User Experience Improvement Program, which sends anonymous usage data back to the company; turning it off is straightforward if you don't want it. Next, a dialog tells you that the Import feature lets you record and open media files.

Import takes up the full program window, which makes it easy to pick the types of importing you need, whether it's from DVD, computer folders, stop-motion, snapshot, or multicam. The software can import 4K content, and you can star-rate and keyword-tag content at import, which helps you find it later. The search bar also helps you find content you haven't marked in this way, searching instead for words in the filename.

One option on the Import mode is MultiCam Capture, which opens an external app that lets you record your screen along with any webcams you have connected or built into your PC. You can use function keys to start and stop recording, and the tool produces separate, synced clips that you can add to your project bin. It lets you adjust lighting and sound sources, and in my testing, it worked flawlessly.

Pinnacle's editing interface is pleasing and flexible. It sports flat, 2D icons, and a black and gray color scheme. The program uses the concept of Project Bins, in which you stash all the content for a given movie project—clips, photos, and sound files, but not effects and transitions. This approach is common for pro-level apps such as Adobe Premiere Pro, and it's a feature that Alludo's other line, VideoStudio, does not include.

The whole program window is topped by four mode-switching buttons: a Home icon, Import, Edit, and Export. The first is simply a Welcome screen offering tutorials (including the excellent Studio Backlot videos), info on new program features, and additional assets and programs for sale. One thing I miss on this page is quick access to projects you're working on, something most competitors include on their welcome screens.

Edit mode uses the standard three-pane editor interface, with source content occupying the top-left quadrant of the screen, the preview window at the top right, and the timeline across the bottom half. If you're used to having preview on the left, a handy switcher button lets you move it there without any fuss. The Ultimate level allows an unlimited number of tracks, as mentioned earlier. The Plus level limits you to 24 tracks, and Standard to six. You can change the relative size of the panels, add a source-video preview, and switch the movie preview to full screen.

Interface panels can be pulled off and you can change their positions, as you can in some other editors, such as Magix Movie Edit Pro. The preview window includes detailed controls, such as jog and shuttle, frame advance, and rewind. You can also switch the preview between source and timeline. You expand and contract the timeline (either the main one or the one in the preview window) with a clever mouse-drag action, but I wish there were a mouse wheel option for resizing the timeline.

Searching and sorting are available for any content, which is more than I can say for some video editing programs, such as Studio's sister application, VideoStudio. Hiding and showing items by content type—video, audio, photo, and project—is simplicity itself. There's an enormous and customizable assortment of keyboard shortcuts. A helpful Project Notes panel, to help you keep track of work progress (Vegas Pro's similar feature goes a step further by attaching notes to particular timecodes). You can also choose which buttons you want to display on the timeline toolbar, including Split, Add Marker, Trim Mode, Multi-Cam Editor, and Audio Ducking.

Basic Video Editing and Transitions in Pinnacle Studio

Pinnacle uses a magnetic timeline, so any clip you drag and drop into it snaps to any existing clips, and you can turn off that behavior if you prefer. Dropping one clip inside another splits the original one, and a razor icon offers clip splitting, as well. One thing missing is a button to drop a selected clip into the timeline at the current insertion point—most editors have it.

The Trim Mode button (or just double-clicking a join point) opens a second preview window so you can see the first and second clips' states at the trim point. It's supposed to help with effecting slip and slide trims, but I find it less intuitive than the trimming windows of CyberLink PowerDirector and VideoStudio, among other apps.

Three- and four-point editing offers more in- and out-point precision. You switch into this editing mode from the same button on the right side that switches among Smart Editing, Insert, Replace, and Overwrite modes. With the three-point option, you specify in and out points on the timeline, and an in or out point in the source clip. This way, when you insert the clip onto the timeline it will fit to your specification.

Masks With Motion Tracking in Pinnacle Studio

A Mask button right above the source panel accesses two kinds of masks: Shape masks and Panel masks. The first sort can only create one 2D effect, but Panel masks can be manipulated with 3D motion effects. You can create masks starting from a square, circle, pen, brush, text, or Magic Wand selection. The last option is tricky to get an effective mask with; it took me several tries to get one that worked. You can apply a mask per clip, rather than just per track.

By default, each time you click on the image with the Magic Wand tool enabled, it selects everything of the same color, regardless of whether it's contiguous—but now there's a Contiguous check box, which addresses that problem. You can hold down Control while selecting to add to the selection, and an Eraser tool lets you further refine the selection. Even with all these options, it's hard to select a subject that's not a single color.

Much more useful is the Paintbrush tool, with its very helpful Smart Edge option. It's best for selecting objects that aren’t all one color, such as people in colorful clothing or a vehicle. The Face option identifies where a face is and places an oval matte over it. It's useful for obscuring identities with the Mosaic option—best of all, it offers a tracking option. In my testing, it did a good job following and resizing along with face movements. The other mask types require you to edit keyframes to change their position and size.

Standard Motion Tracking in Pinnacle Studio

You can get to Pinnacle Studio's standard Motion Tracking tool by right-clicking on a track, by tapping the Motion Tracking button above the timeline, or by double-clicking on the clip in the timeline to open the Effects window. First, you mask the object you want to track; unlike the mask tracking mentioned above, this tool only lets you use a rectangle or oval for tracking. It took a few tries to get it to follow my masked biker, but the tracking worked about as well as it does with other similar tools. You can retrack if the followed object is lost. As with mask tracking, it's a slow process, taking a little under a second per frame on my test system.

360-Degree VR Video in Pinnacle Studio

Like CyberLink PowerDirector, Pinnacle Studio lets you work with 360-degree video. You can either do some basic editing while maintaining the 360-degree aspect or convert the 360 to standard 2D view. I tested footage from the latter. Confusingly, you have to add the 360 clip to the timeline first and then right-click on it and choose Add as 360 or 360-to-Standard. Several of my sample 360 clips didn't play at all in the app, even though I could view them in Windows Movie Player.

Multicam Editing in Pinnacle Studio

Like its stablemate Corel VideoStudio, Pinnacle Studio lets you simultaneously edit multiple clips of the same event shot at different angles. The base version allows two camera angles, Plus makes it four, and Ultimate gives you six. The tool did a good job of aligning my clips using their audio tracks, but you can also align using time codes and markers. As with all these tools, you switch among angles by tapping a clip's box in a grid. There are also boxes for switching the output track to clear and to black, which is great if you want to add B-roll later.

When you hit OK, a new clip shows up in your project, not in the timeline. I like that you can right-click and choose Edit Movie to fine-tune angle shifts in a timeline or even reopen it in the multicam switcher window. Some multicam tools, such as that in VideoStudio, simply create a new clip that's not adjustable after the fact. Note that I couldn't use an HEVC clip in this tool; I had to convert it before use.

Stop-Motion in Pinnacle Studio

Stop-motion is one of the most appealing types of animation, in my book. Just think back to Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer or more recently to Chicken Run and Wallace and Gromit. The Pinnacle tool lets you control a connected camera to take shots automatically at time intervals you specify, and it can even show ghost images of your last shot so you know how to position the next one.

You can then send the captures to the timeline and adjust duration and apply any other editing. The tool now includes DSLR support, and circular guides that tell you how far to move an object to have it cross the screen in a specified period of between 0.3 and 10 seconds. Note that you need to allow Pinnacle access to your camera in Windows' privacy settings for it to work.

Advanced Effects in Pinnacle Studio

Pinnacle claims to offer more than 2,000 effects. That's more than anyone really needs, and many are duplicates with transitions or, worse, just goofy overlays. Pinnacle would do better to trim out the fat and combine the duplicates to make effects easier to find and use.

Keyframing. For those who want the ultimate control, Pinnacle lets video editors time every kind of effect and adjustment with keyframes. That includes position, size, rotation, opacity, borders, corrections, filter effects, pan/zoom, transitions, and time remapping. Keyframing lets you evenly increase or decrease an effect over time. Once you've got a video project set up the way you want, you can save it as a template from the File menu. You specify which clips should become placeholders, which you can fill in subsequent projects with different clips. You can also select multiple keyframes as a group and modify them together or duplicate them.

Nested Clips. Nested Clips is a useful capability, especially for intros and outros, which you use over and over again. You nest by selecting several clips on your timeline, right-clicking, and choosing Group > Save Group as Project. It collapses all the selected clips into one, letting you edit it as a unit.

Color Grading. The Standard and Plus editions add some basic color adjustments, but Ultimate offers pro-level color grading. Choose the top-left panel's Editor button, choose Color, and you see four numbered options: Basic, Tone Curve, HSL Tuning, and Color Wheel. Basic offers White Balance, Tone (which includes exposure, contrast, and other lighting options), and Basic Settings (vibrance, saturation, clarity, and haze correction).

Testing Pinnacle Studio's Performance

Pinnacle feels snappy when working with the timeline, especially on my new test system (specs below). During testing, I didn't run into any program stalls as I have in the past, because stability has improved.

To test render speed, each program joins seven clips of various resolutions ranging from 720p all the way up to 8K, and applies cross-dissolve transitions between them. I then note the time it takes to render the project to 1080p30 using the H.264 codec and 192Kbps audio. The output movie is just over five minutes in length. For this test, I use a Windows 11 PC with a 3.60GHz Intel Core i7-12700K, 16GB RAM, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 Ti, and a 512GB Samsung PM9A1 PCIe 4.0 NVMe SSD.

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