Presto! VideoWorks 6 Platinum seemed dated when I set it up. But so am I, along with some of my favorite software apps. I was hoping the four year lapse in updates meant that it was rock-solid, performed its designated tasks well, and that it ran on older and newer Windows systems alike. Not quite.
In mid-2003 NewSoft announced Presto! VideoWorks Platinum as a complete video editing and DVD authoring suite with a FireWire (i.Link) card. A major feature in the announcement was that Presto! VideoWorks Platinum could take video directly from a DV camcorder and save it to your hard drive as MPEG-2 files in real time. Users wouldn't need to deal with the large AVI files or have long waits while rendering or re-rendering.
Presto! VideoWorks 6 Platinum is a suite of two apps.
- Presto! Video Works 6 (to make and edit videos).
- Create Video Disc (to author and burn discs: VCDs, SVCDs and DVDs).
NewSoft's current information doesn't mention Vista, but the installation to both my XP SP2 and Vista Home Basic laptops went without issue. It was only when I opened Presto! Video Works 6 on Vista that I found it doesn't run there unless you have it in 'XP compatibility mode.' That turned my review efforts to the XP system.
As I browsed the newly added folders and files, I noted how dated the files were. The newest one, the Readme file, is four years old. With video in the limelight today, and lots of newer products and versions to select from, software that hasn't changed in four years doesn't seem right for a new purchase.
Price to Value
Presto! VideoWorks 6 Platinum is in the same ballpark, in price, as the software listed below but it's not in the same league in terms of overall performance.
Adobe's Premiere Elements (http://www.brighthub.com/review/Adobe-Systems/Brian-Ricks-MVP/article/364.html
) and Sony's Vegas are routinely available for less than $100, They include both video-editing and disc-making features.
Installation & Setup
There's no trial version to download, and Presto! VideoWorks 6 Platinum didn't open on Vista unless I ran it in 'compatibility' mode, which jogged my screen settings down to a lower level until I closed it. [See images 1 and 2] Running in a reduced mode isn't a good idea unless you already own Presto! VideoWorks 6 and are waiting for the release of an update that promises to be Vista compatible. I didn't see any mention of an update.
While browsing the older files before opening Presto! VideoWorks 6 Platinum, I started to see issues you might run into. The video files in the sample and VideoFun folders didn't play in Windows Media Player and/or Movie Maker on either my XP or Vista systems. The older Cinepak codec used to make them isn't as widely supported on today's Windows systems.
The Presto! Video Works6 working window looked great at first glance, but I soon ran into two major annoyances.
- The main working window isn't movable or re-sizable. It fills about 1/3 of the space on my laptop's widescreen higher resolution screen, and I run with lots of other apps open. Desktop icons behind the Video Works6 window can't be reached unless I minimize it. [See image 3]
- The import video clips window is folder-oriented, a major issue to the way I work. When I tried to import just one of the files in a folder of test files of different types, it automatically connected to the full set... or better said 'tried to connect'. It got hung up on one or more of them, with no messages about which one(s) were the issue, I couldn't resolve it by moving the file(s) as I didn't know which one to move. Making matters worse, closing Video Works6 when it was hung resulted in a looping issue. When restarting, it remembered the folder I was last working in and quickly got stuck again.
VideoWorks 6 and Create Video Disc have lots of good features. The three main tabs of VideoWorks 6 are intuitive and easy enough to use without needing instructions. [See image 4]
- Import tab: You don't really import files but rather link to them, one folder at a time as you drag selected ones into the project timeline/storyboard. It auto-detects scene changes in DV-AVI files as you add them. The timeline has one video, one audio, and one text titling track.
- Edit tab: Here's where you can spend hours, weeks, or more on a project. There are lots of nooks and crannies to explore and enjoy. The Cutting Room has a nice 'Crop feature,' [See image 5] Color Effects, and Special Effects that include reversing motion. Magic Touch, Mixer, and Video Fun for adding lightning, rain, or snow are just some of the many professional touches that make things easy for your project editing. [See image 6] Audio Effects can be applied to a clip or the whole sound track. Transitions and Text Effects with 3D and shadowing options add even more. [See images 7 and 8] Much of the over 200 MB file download provides you with a slew of powerful editing features.
- Produce tab: When your project is finished, that's where you save or render the movie to one of six major file types: AVI, DV-AVI, MPEG1, MPEG2, WMV, or Real Media. [See image 9] Each of these main file type options has lots of additional settings to balance file size, quality, and the players of your audience.
Create Video Disc has 25 well designed disc template styles as well. [See image 10]
Presto! VideoWorks 6 felt a bit sluggish and clunky on XP, crashed a little, and took a long time to render or save clips or movies.
Codec issues abound in the digital video editing arena, and running into them isn't unusual. I can't fault VideoWorks 6 alone for the hangs or crashes, but one codec issue is determined by the software. When saving clips from the Cutting Room it uses the Cinepak codec, an older codec and about the slowest to render files with. [See image 11] I didn't see any option to change it.
Here's my overview of performance in the three phases of making a video with Presto! VideoWorks 6 (the three workspace tabs):
- Importing: It accepted some of my test files and not others. It gets accolades for how well it handles MOV files, even from new Canon HD camcorders, along with some WMV files including those made by PhotoStory 3. It didn't accept Divx and Xvid encoded AVI files, and WMV files captured by Vista, all of which came in as audio-only. Types that didn't come in at all included dvr-ms, MPEG2 DVD files, and MPEG2 SVCD Tivo files. It didn't begin to recognize the FLV, GVI, OGG, M4V, and RM clips in my test folder. It was interesting that it didn't accept MPEG2 files, considering the opening announcement years ago, going from a camcorder directly to DVD quality MPEG2 files. To check that one closer, I connected my camcorder by firewire and gave it a whirl. VideoWorks 6 captured the video fine, and made a set of DVD quality MPEG2 files on my hard drive, as promised. [See image 12] But trying to use them was another matter. My other video editing and disc making software played and used them fine, but neither Presto! VideoWorks 6, which had created them, nor Create Video Disc, would accept them as valid video files. [See image 13] It was a major strike against the software.
- Editing: In the cutting room, when browsing a file to determine where to cut it, Video Works 6 said it was going frame by frame, but the test file with numbered frames I was using showed it randomly skipping over a frame here and there. [See image 14] The project files that made it into and through the editing phase saved fine. Each of the options to produce a saved movie worked well. The rendered AVI, DV-AVI, MPEG1, MPEG2, WMV, and Real Media file types were good playable videos. The dated aspects of the software showed again when, instead of making WMV9 videos with the latest codecs on my system, it produced WMV7 files.
I haven't covered the Create Video Disc app very much, as it's second in line to VideoWorks 6. I liked the disc previews, which looked and worked well. [See image 15] Saving a test disc to an iso image file on my hard drive also went well.
Help & Support
The help files in Presto! VideoWorks 6 and Create Video Disc are well done.
NewSoft's main website includes a tech support section with some Product FAQ info about VideoWorks. Here's a couple things I noted.
A December 2004 note listed the file formats supported by VideoWorks.
- Import video file: AVI, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, FLC, FLI, QT, MOV, WMV, ASF.
- Import image file: BMP, JPG, TIF, PCX, TGA, WMF, PICT.
- Import audio file: WAV, AVI, MOV, QT, MP3, MPEG-1 (MPEG-1 Layer2), WMA.
An October 2007 item said the original software installer didn't support Windows Vista, and offered steps to use the compatibility mode. That confirmed my experience.
Your Multimedia 'Toolbox'
When you work with pictures, video clips and sounds, none of the software packages provide everything you need. I encourage everyone to have a 'toolbox' of apps and move files around as needed. When something needs enhancing and the features to do it are not in the app you're working with, you should be able to easily export or save the item, take it to another app for the fixing or enhancing, and bring it back into the working project.
A number of things in this Presto! VideoWorks 6 Platinum suite show it working by itself rather than as a complimentary and cooperative tool among many. Items include not accepting dragging and dropping from a file manager, not letting the main window of VideoWorks be resized or moved, not supporting the importing of a single file in a folder of many, not letting you change the compression codec for clips saved from the Cutting Room, and producing WMV7 vintage files when the system has the latest version 9 codecs.
If Presto! VideoWorks 6 Platinum was updated to run on Vista without being in compatibility mode, this would let the user move the working window around on the desktop, and support the importing of a single file from a folder. It would then be an enjoyable and useful video editing and disc making tool.
The world is revolving around online and disc-based videos. Many companies and products are moving forward or jumping on the bandwagon, but Presto! VideoWorks 6 Platinum is standing still.
Spend the money on another more current video editing and disc making suite that runs as well on Vista as it does on XP.
Adobe Premiere Elements, Sony Vegas Studio, Pinnacle Studio