Cinematic

Although experienced users are unlikely to use the automated features of Cinematic, they do deliver surprisingly effective videos for novices.

Claims like 'you shoot the video -- we'll make the movie' suggest that, with Cinematic, MGI is hoping to attract the novice videographer looking for an easy editing solution. The result is an application with a number of automated features, but limited appeal to the more experienced user.

The first of these automations is CineMagic, a wizard that takes selected video files, an audio track and a theme (from a choice of five) and automatically trims, overlays and edits them to fit the total time of the audio. Although the end results have a somewhat random aspect, we were quite impressed -- particularly as a four-minute video sequence took us around 20 minutes to create from start to finish (including the time taken to render the output file). To create the same sequence manually, including all the cuts and transitions would have taken hours.

We were less impressed with StoryBuilder, however. This adds a degree of manual control to the wizard, allowing you to insert intro sequences, section breaks, titles and ending clips to your sequence based on presets such as Vacation, Children's Party and Winter Wonderland. The principle is sound, but the preset themes can only be described as cheesy, giving the finished video a decidedly tacky feel. We also experienced problems with audio corruption and poor synchronisation on some of the music loops.

If you prefer a more hands-on approach, you can edit the automated sequences after they've been built, or start from scratch using the internal editing program. This involves a simple drag and drop interface with a single timeline and transition slots between clips. You can choose from a wide range of video effects and transitions -- including slow motion, deformations and wipes -- by dragging them from the library onto the timeline. As with many consumer editing suites, this application has a fixed-resolution (XGA) interface, which will irritate owners of large monitors.

Direct video capture is supported if you have the necessary hardware installed, and Cinematic also allows you to grab audio tracks directly from CD (bearing in mind the usual copyright laws). You can export to file or to video output for tape archival, but there's no support for VideoCD or DVD creation here.

However, the simplicity with which a video sequence can be built using Cinematic is impressive, and although the end results may not be to all tastes, this hands-off approach will attract those who are intimidated by the complexity of video creation.

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