Ulead is slightly better known in the UK for its PhotoImpact! Range of software and also Cool3D as bundled with early All-In-Wonder Radeon range. VideoStudio is the company’s flagship title though, now here in its eighth version.

Recognising the digital demands of the modern market, a new Movie Wizard is the guided and automated way to import, process and output your footage from presumably digital tape to either disc or tape again once reassembled. If you’re an old hand from the previous seven versions you won’t bother with this but for newcomers it may be one of the main selling points.

MPEG-4 recognition including the famed DivX video codec is another milestone, given that it’s rare to see game movie trailers and other streaming footage that fail to use this format for its space efficiency and more than acceptable quality. CD is a much more established benchmark for audio quality so in addition to the existing sampling ability, you can use Quicktrack Libraries to assemble your own soundtracks, mixing four tracks together (after you change their volumes independently).

To maximise the benefits of improved text handling - or promote another package- when you outgrow the text capabilities of VS 8 that’s when you can install Cool3DSE to go even further with animated titling and other effects.

When you’re working though, trying to use the trademark preview window at full size for every single effect on trial will severely stress out the test machine unless you go over the true 2GHz mark and have at least 1GB of fast RAM rather than the 512Mb that is claimed as satisfactory. However videocapture is one of the last of the great resource-sappers so your machine will be pushed to its limits, even if that’s the sole task of the PC at the time. 4Gb is required for samples but we’d make that 20Gb minimum and if you could dedicate a hard disk to videocapture, that would ease the resource demand- slightly.

There are also different filters to apply to the video and while Sepia tones are represented (called Duotone instead) it’s easy to see some are useful while others may be tested and discarded, never to be used again. However this resembles the free mode-changers in the hardware of any camcorder you ever bought. Picture in picture may receive more attention than most however, so you can’t write off all of the effects before seeing them all.

Distribution is high on Ulead’s priorities, so if you want lots of people to view your movies, Neptune have partnered up with Ulead for a free time-limited introduction to the MediaShare service. Then you just direct people to your space to download the movie. That time limit’s a week before they require just under £30 a year to allow you to carry on hosting but you can add still pictures to the site as well.

The program is strongly documented; no PDF mass printouts here. Instead sit down and read the 200-page manual to the program itself before digesting the 50 pages of professional hints on DV filmmaking by Douglas Spotted Eagle.

What you have here is a slick refinement of a venerable program, backed up with killer documentation (even if it is slightly sad to be praising the kind of manual that all complex software should be bundled with) and so to beginners, this is the first step to take. This is assuming that your preferred videocapture method is already installed in the machine and won’t cause a knock-on cost.

Price when reviewed:

Best of all, Ulead is so confident about VS 8, that there's a 30-day demo of the whole program available to download from its website so even at this ridiculously cheap price for the amount of power it offers, you can try it for nothing before you buy for almost a month and familiarize yourself with the interface before buying. That way you will at least have half a clue what you're doing from day one, and you can pick up the rest from the great manuals. Since that means there's nothing to lose, you can form your own opinion of VideoStudio 8 for just a few hours of your time. For the street price we can't complain. If you're not going straight up to the cut-down versions of Adobe Premiere or Avid's suite, then this is certainly a good first rung on the DV editing ladder.