We have the best of both worlds in our home.

Our daughter takes great photos, shoots artistic video. Our son is fearless when it comes to making our family PCs the centers of our home entertainment.

Corel’s recent release of Ulead VideoStudio 11 Plus seemed to be a product all of us could use…simple enough for us to use without spending weeks pouring over the manuals but with enough depth to satisfy the household technophile.

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We chose the Plus version of the software (under $80) because it would enable us do our video in high definition when we used our PVR (personal video recorder) to save HD TV shows and show off the quality of our new, economic HDV camcorder.

The new VideoStudio software has an impressive list of new features/capabilities including a number of new smart video editing and menu options but we chose to focus on three capabilities first timers would use – DV camcorder to DVD, mixed media slide presentation and the intriguing ability to store HD content onto a regular DVD disc.

Once you have begun watching movies and shows on a HDTV, viewing them on “old fashioned” standard definition is painful so we were anxious to bring our family content into the HighDef arena.

VideoStudio 11 makes things easy from the minute you open the launcher. Without hunting or reading the manual it lets you choose the way you want to make your movie or slideshow simply by selecting VideoStudio Editor, Movie Wizard or DV-to-DVD Wizard. If you’re new to video editing or don’t do it often the Wizards automate the process so you can quickly and easily produce professional looking videos and slideshows.

Since most people seem to want to have folks tell them how great their videography looks, we chose to test the DV-to-DVD Wizard feature first. The idea behind the Wizard is to get your video off the camcorder and onto a DVD so it can be played/enjoyed.

We connected our DV camcorder to the PC and clicked on the start scan button. The content is quickly scanned to the system and VideoStudio shows you thumbnails so you can choose the video clips you want to include on the optical disc. It is a simple matter to choose a theme template and the quality/burning options before you begin the process.

The Wizard does all the rest. It captures the clips you have chosen, applies the movie template and authors the DVD with the menu and burns the finished video DVD. A little tool we found that will be handy later on was the ability to save scan results. The software produces a digest of the segments and produces a set of digests so you have a complete record of all of the shots on the DV tape including a thumbnail, the time code and recording time. It is a great way to find the segments you want later on for more in depth video post production.

If you simply want to get the content off the camcorder’s tape and archive it for later editing you simply use the Burn Whole Tape feature. All of the content is quickly read and burned to disc so you know it is safe for future use and you can reuse the tape to capture more family moments and memories.

The software is so intuitive; we were able to produce two very good looking videos in a couple of hours…all without opening the user’s guide.

While the DV-to-DVD Wizard is a great way to begin your video post production experience, you always want to do more and do it better.

VideoStudio 11’s Movie Wizard makes the entire post production process quick, easy and fun. After doing two family projects even our son was impressed with the effortless professional results that were achieved in three steps.

All of the tools you need are included so you can capture from HDV and import content from today’s new AVCHD camcorders.

One of the newest additions to VideoStudio 11 is the addition of Multi-overlay templates. The templates take the first video or slideshow clip and automatically create a very professional looking picture-in-picture opening sequence complete with music and motion. Last time we tried to do this with another pro product we spent hours working on the effect and finally gave up in frustration.

But with VideoStudio 11 it was completed in a few minutes and the results were outstanding!

Our daughter who carries her digital camera with her everywhere she goes, so she was anxious to test VideoStudio 11 to not only create an audio/video slideshow but also see how easy it was to produce a segment that incorporated a combination of her still shots and video clips.

Instead of leaving her photos in folders on her system’s hard drive she inserted the photos, arranged them in a sequence that told a story, picked an appropriate template and created her own custom titles. Before finalizing the project she went back in and added pan and zoom effects as well as transitions to make the slideshow almost feel like a video.

Her slide/video show was just as easy. Using standard drag-and-drop techniques, she loaded HD video content from a recent trip along with her photos onto the storyboard. She selected arranged the combination in a sequence to tell the story, trimmed the video segments, previewed the project and did some additional rearrangement and trimming to make the clipshow even more professional looking.

When she was satisfied with the results she used the Movie Wizard templates to automatically add the video/photo transitions and insert her custom titles.

After watching two of the segments we have to say incorporating stills into your video really adds interest and drama to even the best movie you produce.

But the real meat and appeal of VideoStudio 11 becomes apparent when you use the heart of the product – the VideoStudio Editor. The company included a very easy to follow workflow tool bar that lets you instantly know the stage of your project – capture, edit, effect, overlay, title, audio, share – even if you’ve been away from the video project for a few days or weeks.

Usually the most time intensive part of video post production is the editing process but VideoStudio 11 includes all of the controls, seasoned professionals can use and beginning videographers can understand. You have complete control over your clip duration, audio levels, fast/show motion, reverse playback and multi-trim video capabilities.

The software’s DeBlock video filters enables you to clean up and eliminate compression artifacts that often occur when you’ve copied content from VCD or the Internet. The DeSnow filter gets rid of digital noise that often crops up when lighting isn’t right or you’ve copied content from an analog source.

Unless you’ve got a warehouse full of lights, shades and filters shooting video with perfect lighting is futile. Fortunately, Corel Ulead has virtually eliminated the problem with their new white balance and auto tone capabilities. Borrowed from the company’s excellent PhotoImpact still photo production software, the color correction feature can make lighting problems a thing of the past.

Add this feature with the ability to choose the theme template, library of 162 transition effects that can be customized, wide array of overlays that allow you to add frames and flash animation and the ability to combine masks or chroma key and transparencies. In addition it lets you add music or voice audio tracks and a wide range of title fonts, styles borders and animation.

All of the video post production steps hide the complexity for the first time or casual user. But our technophile son also found that there is a lot of depth to the software. People who want to produce a really professional movie can drill down into the software’s capabilities and customize nearly every step of the post production process to produce an exceptionally professional looking movie.

When you’re satisfied with the project, VideoStudio 11 lets you output your video to virtually any file format you want to use to share your content. If you want a highdef video you can use MPEG-2 HD, HDV, WMV-HD or HD DVD. We copied our highdef content to standard DVD media which is a lot less expensive than the newer media and the viewing quality was excellent.

The kids used the MPEG-4/H.264 templates and were able to produce videos and slideshows they could play back on her iPod and his Sony PSP.

Its difficult to think of what they didn’t include in the latest version of VideoStudio since they even included an ad zapper function for the times we timeshift TV shows and don’t want to wade through the commercials.

And the company added a copy of their widely used WinDVD player software as well as a copy of DVD Copy which lets you make perfect copies of your video or music content in three steps in the package.

VideoStudio 11 Plus is a product that can make casual videographers look good and more serious professionals look outstanding. In addition to enabling you to enjoy your content at home or on the go, it is all ready to handle your HDV and AVCHD camcorder content and store it on tomorrow’s HD DVD and BD discs.

Best of all…no one falls asleep or runs from the room when we show our movies or our video slideshows. People enjoy them and they look outstanding on our wide format HDTV. You can find more information at www.corel.com or www.ulead.com.