Sony Movie Studio 12 Platinum Suite: is It Worth It?

Sony Movie Studio 12 Platinum Suite: is It Worth It?Sony may have decided to drop the Vegas branding from its consumer-targeted Movie Studio software, but does that mean it also dropped in functionality and power? Not hardly. In fact, this version of Movie Studio is 64-bit (with 32-bit optional), which makes previews and other tasks a bit peppier. GPU acceleration is also a part of Sony Movie Studio 12 Platinum Suite, which means your rendering times should be reduced significantly if you’re working with a good GPU.

I spent some time with Sony Movie Studio Platinum 12 Suite this weekend to see whether or not this version has what it takes to keep up with the demands of a frequent video editor. To my surprise, Movie Studio 12 maintains all the quality of previous versions (including those which were granted the Vegas brand) in the home studio category. It may not have the detailed editing tools of Vegas Pro, but it does deliver quite lot of bang for the buck.

Strengths

64-Bit + GPU Acceleration
Being a 64-bit program with GPU acceleration makes Movie Studio 12 Platinum no slouch in the rendering department. Things are fairly zippy from start to finish, which is a welcome relief from most consumer software that either lags heavily in the face of 1080p video or becomes unstable. Shouldn’t all consumer video editing software use these tools by now? They don’t, which makes this a rare bonus.

Wizards and Welcome Screens
The Welcome screen should most certainly be considered a win. It guides the home producer through a wizard that makes setting up a new project very easily. You have immediate access to some basic controls such as determining if you’re using AVCHD video or 3D Internet video. You can name your project and choose whether or not project files should be managed for easier long-term editing. Once you’re through there, you can go back to the project properties by hitting Alt+Enter to fine-tune things even further.

NewBlue Titler and Video Effects
Another strength of this program comes in the form of extras you receive with the Suite. The NewBlue Titler is excellent if you want to create 3D titles for your videos. These titles can be rotated and positioned however you’d like, and a variable depth makes it easier to create titles that appear to be more physical in your videos.

SoundForge
The suite also comes with SoundForge, a powerful and very useful audio editing program that works very well with Movie Studio 12. Audio is one of the biggest problems I’ve faced with consumer video editors. It’s typically an afterthought. Manufacturers love holding out on advanced audio editing tools for pro versions of their software, and seeing something like SoundForge included in a suite that costs less than $150 is a bargain. You can also take advantage of the iZotope plug-in to remove vocals from songs which gives you a little more flexibility on your video’s soundtrack.

Red Giant Magic Bullet Quick Looks
This is another bundled extra that comes with Sony Movie Studio 12 Platinum Suite. It’s actually a set of visual effects that can change the look and feel of an entire scene with a click of the mouse. Turn your video into something from the ’50s or make it look like you’re on an alien planet. This is one of the cooler plug-ins I’ve seen for Movie Studio, and it bridges the gap between consumer and professional videos very nicely.

DVD Authoring
Being able to send your video to DVD is a grueling process if you don’t have the right software. Sony Movie Studio 12 Platinum Suite comes with DVD Architect Studio 5.0. This is an excellent solution for sending your projects to DVD. Menus, chapters, and other features are at your disposal. This can also help you if a Blu-ray is what you’re after.

Consistency
This is a great upgrade for current Sony Vegas Movie Studio or Movie Studio 11 users. It’s consistent in terms of quality and the UI hasn’t changed much over time. Using Movie Studio 12 was natural to me as I have used Vegas software in the past. This is a welcome relief from the rest of the editing world where interfaces change every other version. Just ask anyone that transitioned from Final Cut Pro 7 to X how easy that transition was for them.

Weaknesses

User Interface
I’ve long been an advocate of changing the Vegas UI. It looks like an older open source project at first glance (back when open source meant function over form in virtually all aspects) and it’s somewhat difficult to adjust to after working with Adobe Premiere or Final Cut Pro. If you were to put Movie Studio (or any Vegas product for that matter) against iMovie, it would be hard to tell from the UI that Sony actually makes a superior editing platform.

This to me one of the biggest reasons Sony’s software doesn’t get enough respect from the home editing community. It’s an unfair but reasonable assumption. If the UI looks blocky and basic, all the features in the world won’t convince a home user that it’s actually more powerful without actually diving into it and seeing for themselves.

That said, a lot of the decisions Sony made with the UI make total sense. It’s one of the easier editing programs to navigate around after just a few minutes of using. Things are exactly where you’d expect them to be, and the tools are actually professional grade.

Windows Only
If you’re running anything but Windows Vista or Windows 7, you’ll have a tough time running this software. Sony has only recently started making software for OS X, and unfortunately the Movie Studio series hasn’t quite made the transition just yet. Windows XP is also not officially supported, so you’ll need a modern version of Windows to run it.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of Sony Movie Studio 12 Platinum Suite for the purposes of this review.

Image: Sony