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Pinnacle Systems VideoSpin VideoSpin is useful for free video editing software, but watch out for the ads.

By Alan Stafford


Quick, easy to use
Lots of transitions
No video effects
Must purchase codecs to output to DVD or iPod

Pinnacle Studio is far from my favorite video editing application, but Pinnacle's VideoSpin, a new, free editor based on Studio, does a pretty darn good job compared with most free video tools. Though it doesn't match the sophistication of paid-for applications, it does let you perform basic edits and output movies for use online or--if you're willing to sacrifice the cost of a cheap lunch--on your iPod or on a DVD.

VideoSpin has some strict limitations. You can't import from DV camcorders, since the application works only with files on your hard drive. You can't edit audio, except for levels. And since the software has no video effects, you can't brighten dark movies. Unless you purchase add-ons, you can export only to AVI, Flash, Real, or MPEG-1 format; you can't exchange files with Studio, either. And the interface size is fixed, so you can't view it full-screen.

You also must put up with advertisements--for Pinnacle products, and even for products sold on in the top-middle of the interface. I didn't find them intrusive, but like Studio, VideoSpin has a few spots where you must watch where you click. If you select 'More Transitions' from a drop-down menu, the application will open your Web browser to an ad for upgrades. That's more annoying.

The application provides a surprising number of video transitions, and though it has merely a handful of title templates, you can customize them to your heart's desire. It has several cheesy sound effects, and you can import audio files for use as a soundtrack. When you're done, you can use VideoSpin to upload movies directly to YouTube or Yahoo Video easily; the process takes just a couple of simple steps. Alternatively you can output in DivX, MPEG-2, or MPEG-4 format to your hard drive, albeit only for 15 days; after that you can purchase the set of codecs for $15 or pay $5 each for individual codecs.

Perhaps because VideoSpin has been stripped of so many features, I have few complaints about its stability, as I have had with Studio. It crashed every time the Windows Vista laptop I was using it on went into hibernation; but when I restarted the application, it reopened my project quickly.

VideoStudio is head and shoulders better than any other free video application I've seen; Adobe's Premiere Express online editor is practically worthless in comparison. I'd still recommend that most people buy a full video editor, but VideoSpin is a good option if all you want to do is dress up clips before uploading them to an online service.

--Alan Stafford

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