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Sony Movie Studio 13 Platinum review

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £60
inc VAT

Revamped interface brings mixed blessings, but this is still the most refined and efficient consumer editor around

We’ve been heaping praise on Sony’s consumer video-editing software for over a decade, but in recent years the competition from Adobe and Serif has caught up. Movie Studio’s main strength has always been its ability to perform simple edits quickly and precisely, but it’s not as approachable as most home-oriented editors and doesn’t include as many bells and whistles.

For version 13, Sony has made a big effort to welcome new users with a Simple mode. It’s generally well executed and hides obscure features that most people will never miss, yet it retains enough similarity with the old interface – now known as Advanced mode – so that making the jump isn’t too nerve-wracking.

Not all of the changes are entirely successful, though. Simple mode prevents users from undocking or closing panels accidentally, which makes sense, but it’s a shame you can’t resize panels. There was a lot of unused space on our 1080p monitor, leaving less room for the preview and timeline panels. The new Add Effects button is larger and easier to find than before, but clicking it before any effects have been added brings up an unappealing text-only effects browser. It’s much easier to drag and drop effects from the Video FX tab.

Sony Movie Studio 13 Premium Simple Mode
The new Simple mode provides a shallower learning curve by hiding the features that new users don’t need

There’s an Auto Ripple button, which allows users to decide if they want clips to shuffle along when earlier ones are inserted, truncated or removed. However, in Simple Mode this function doesn’t remain synchronised across tracks, so music, text and video and graphic overlays slip out of sync. The Advanced mode includes an option to ripple edits across all tracks, but it’s not as easy to find as it was in version 12. The Make Movie export wizard has been overhauled, but the export templates are poorly configured. Most users will still have to grapple with the advanced options in order to achieve high quality exports.

Advanced mode more closely resembles Movie Studio 12, but there are some changes here, too. The buttons have been rearranged, with editing functions in a strip at the bottom of the screen and project-management functions along the top. It also shares Simple mode’s use of larger buttons, which makes them look a little friendlier and easier to use on touchscreen devices. As before, dragging the left or right edge of a clip trims its start and end point, but it’s no longer possible to fade a clip in and out simply by dragging handles on the upper corners. Instead, the Fade tool must be selected first. This is presumably to avoid fiddly buttons that wouldn’t work on touchscreens, but it means mouse-driven operation isn’t as fluid as it was.

Movie Studio 13 also introduces support for Ultra HD (4K) video with resolutions up to 3,840×2,160. There are currently very few consumer cameras that can record at this resolution, but with various models recently announced at CES in January, now’s the perfect time to bring software up to speed.

Ultra HD has four times as many pixels as Full HD video. Handling this much data puts a big strain on even the most powerful PC hardware. It’s therefore great to see the simultaneous arrival of proxy editing. When Ultra HD footage is imported, the software automatically makes 1,280×720 copies and uses these proxy files during editing to ensure smooth previews. When it’s time to export, the software reverts back to the original 4K footage. It’s a superb system that rival editors have used for many years, and it’s great to see it finally available in Movie Studio too.

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