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Review: Roxio Video Lab HD

25 January 2011, Mike Williams

The consumer video editing market is a competitive place, packed with impressive-looking apps, each vying for your attention.

And yet, Roxio’s new Video Lab HD, originally a component of Roxio Creator 2011, still manages to stand out from the crowd, thanks to a lengthy feature list.

The core 32-track video editor, for instance, can import your footage, then apply various corrections, and add professional video or transition effects.

It works with standard, High Definition and even 3D footage, being able to import clips directly from many 3D cameras. You don’t have one? No problem, the program can also convert your 2D movies or images into 3D.

When your work is finished then Video Lab HD can help you share it with the world, by authoring DVD or Blu-ray discs, exporting video files, or uploading clips directly to Facebook and YouTube.

And there are no shortage of bonus features. So Video Lab HD can help you create slideshows in a few clicks; browse and manage your media collection; play videos, design disc labels, and convert video files into a format that will play on your iPod, iPad, Blackberry or many other portable devices.

Sounds interesting? We thought so – it was time to take a closer look.

Interface

Video Lab HD is a suite of programs, rather than a single application – at heart it’s Roxio Creator 2011 with most of the music, audio and photo functionality stripped out, but the Blu-ray authoring plug-in included.

So for example VideoWave handles your video editing requirements, while MyDVD is responsible for DVD and Blu-ray authoring; Video Copy & Convert converts movie clips or streaming video sources into other formats; CinePlayer plays videos and DVDs (though not the Blu-rays you’ve authored, oddly, unless you buy an additional plug-in); and Label Creator is a capable disc label designer.

As usual in this kind of suite, there’s a front end menu system that will help you quickly find whatever you need.

This opens on a Frequent Tasks page, where a single click on an icon like Edit Video will launch the relevant application .

And other functions are grouped as appropriate under “Data – Copy” or “Video – Movies”. So if you want to put a particular clip online, say, clicking Video – Movies > Share Video will fire up the appropriate tool.

It’s all very straightforward, providing an easy-to-use way to locate and access the video functionality you’ll need.

Editor

If you’re looking to edit a video then you’ll find Video Lab HD’s front end makes two options available.

The first, “Edit Video – Automatically” launches a copy of Roxio CineMagic Assistant. This is very easy to use: just choose a few images or video clips, select an appropriate template (“Holidays”, “Party”, “Sports”, “Travel” and so on), add a soundtrack, and the program will quickly produce a polished video.

This is ideal if you’d like to produce a video slideshow from a few photos, say, especially as it can then upload the finished results to YouTube or FaceBook. But you get very little control over the results. So for most video editing tasks, then, you’ll want to choose “Edit Video – Advanced”, which fires up a copy of Roxio VideoWave. And this features a very familiar user interface, so if you’ve ever used any other Windows video editor then you’ll feel immediately at home here.

There’s a media window that shows the images and videos on your PC, for instance.

Right-clicking these reveals various useful options, such as the ability to extract the audio from a movie, or use automatic scene detection to break it down into its component parts.

You’re then able to drag and drop your chosen media onto a storyboard or timeline view of your project.

If a clip has technical problems then you can apply options to tweak colours, adjust brightness, contrast, saturation and more, and clean and edit the clip’s audio, while an easy-to-use Stabilize filter does a reasonable job of compensating for shaky camera work.

And of course there are a range of video effects that you can drag and drop onto a movie. These are relatively limited: there are “only” 115, most of which aren’t configurable in any way. There are no particle generators or other advanced options allowing you to create new effects from scratch, and you can only apply two video effects to any one clip.

Still, to be fair, VideoWave is only a basic consumer video editor, and at that level it works quite well.

There are some useful video effects, from capable lens flares, to 3D options that will, say, place your clip inside a sphere.

You can apply Overlays to your movie, themed borders like “Birthday”; there are no less than 245 transition effects; and while the text effects are initially less than intuitive, once you’ve figured out the basics you’ll be able to quickly create scrolling credits, captions and more.

So while it may not be Adobe Premiere Elements, if you’re an editing beginner then that probably doesn’t matter: VideoWave is likely to provide everything you need.

Another Dimension

The headline new feature in Video Lab HD is 3D, and this is supported in several different ways.

You’re able to import and edit 3D videos in several common formats, for instance: RealD, Fuji FinePix REAL 3D, anaglyph red/cyan, over/under full and half height, side-by-side full and half-width.

The program can also import a 2D clip and convert it to 3D: well, probably. In our brief tests we found crisp outdoor footage could look surprisingly good, while softer indoor clips appeared much worse, so just as with every similar tool, it’s all down to the source material.

Still, it can be fun to convert old home movies, in particular, to 3D.

And you don’t need a 3D display to enjoy them: just export your work in anaglyph red/ cyan and you’ll be able to get the effect simply by wearing a pair of those cardboard 3D specs that you get with 3D DVD or Blu-ray discs.

It may also be worth taking up Video Lab’s offer to upload your finished video to YouTube or Facebook. Most people have a spare pair of 3D specs lying around somewhere, or know someone who does, so they’ll also be able to view your work in its full three dimensional glory.

And if you just want to watch a regular video or DVD in 3D then Video Lab’s CinePlayer should be able to help, as it can convert 2D movies to 3D in real time. This didn’t always run as smoothly as we expected and has several restrictions – not XP-compatible, can’t be used with HD videos, doesn’t work unless the player is full-screen, and so on – but when it works, this can be a fun new way to watch some movies.

Other features

Once you’ve finished an editing project then Roxio’s MyDVD app allows you to author a DVD, Blu-ray or AVCHD disc. As usual, you can accept the plain default menus, apply one of many different menu templates, or customise these to suit your needs. This isn’t quite as polished as, say, Nero Vision, but it’s very flexible and seems marginally faster when burning discs.

Other simple authoring options allow you to burn data discs, work with disc images and so on. They’re easy to use, but incomplete, as for instance there’s no way to create or rip audio CDs. And so you’ll probably be better off sticking with your existing disc burning package for non-video projects.

The suite also includes Roxio Media Manager, an Explorer-like tool for browsing and organising your media files. While generally unimpressive, it can synchronise your music or videos with some mobile devices, which may come in useful.

But the real highlight of the bonus features is Roxio Video Copy & Convert, which imports videos from the web (YouTube clips, say) or your hard drive, then converts them to formats that will play on the iPad or iPod, smartphones, games consoles and more.

Video Lab has some irritations, then. The inability to immediately play back the Blu-ray movie you’ve just burned is annoying, for instance, and the lack of audio and music features leaves a hole: if that may be a problem then you might want to look at Roxio Creator 2011, instead.

If you’re primarily after video features, though, Roxio Video Lab provides a capable suite with plenty of interesting tools, and it could be the right choice for you.

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