Multimedia tools are nothing new to Corel, a company now responsible for titles in the Ulead family and Video Studio Pro. But the particular combination of features in Corel Digital Studio 2010 (Windows) is something new. Or rather, a it's a fresh take on Corel's existing technology.
The software suite marries editing and project creation tools for photos and videos, giving the application interfaces a tinted look and rounded corners that share the philosophy of Apple's iPhoto and iMovie. Corel's goal was to provide an entry-level media manipulation package for home users that is also appealing to look at and natural to get around, and the company has largely succeeded.
Corel Digital Studio 2010 is comprised of main four applications: the photo studio, video studio, DVD burning app, and WinDVD, Corel's video player. (There's also a desktop gadget with its shortcut buttons to each of the four programs.) With them you can open media from just about anywhere, edit videos and photos, and fashion a whole lot of fun photo and video projects. The video studio, known formally as Corel VideoStudio 2010, has a built-in movie maker that looks good and is approachable for novices looking to get their feet wet. There are a few templates (but a few more wouldn't hurt), for automatically creating videos out of video clips or photos, or both of them together--you'll have an opportunity to tweak transitions and other details later.
The photo app harbors a creation workshop for collages, cards, calendars, and photo books, all of which you can print from your home computer or order from Corel online, if you'd like to turn your digital media into physical form. As with the movie maker, there are templates for getting started (the same ones, in fact.) The limited templates may get old pretty soon.
The other options for releasing photos and videos from your desktop include burning them to disk (with Corel DVD Factory 2010), e-mailing them, copying them to a number of devices, including the iPhone and Sony PSP, and uploading them automatically to Flickr, Facebook, and YouTube. We had some trouble uploading to Flickr in our initial tests, but according to Corel, the bug we encountered is unusual.
Corel Digital Studio has a few other rough spots. We've mentioned the premade project templates, which could be more numerous. We feel the same way about the number of effects in the photo editor--there are a meager four. The software could run a little faster, and there are a few tweaks we'd make to some of the tools; for instance, if you could adjust aspects like saturation and brightness by typing a value into a blank field in addition to the current method, where you set it with a slider bar.
Each application's tool set in Corel Digital Studio 2010 is much beefier than your basic freeware apps like Google's photo manager, Picasa, and Microsoft's recent Windows Live Movie Maker. Compare the features with other multimedia suites in its price class, and the $99.99 studio falls in the middle. Part of that is intentional. By slimming down the feature offerings, casual consumers won't get lost in a morass of menus. Make the product too simple, though, and nobody will buy it. Corel has struck a fair compromise that will give the company's home user audience plenty to do to, both in terms of editing media and in terms of ultimately sharing that media with others.
In the end, Corel's new multimedia studio doesn't introduce any groundbreaking capabilities to the field. Comparable software suites, like Roxio Creator 2010 and Apple's iMovie/iPhoto combo, have the sharing features, automated movie makers, photo book and calendar creators, and then some. Roxio Creator 2010 also has several more audio tools, extra copying options (like to TiVo), and express burning you can jump-start from the desktop or even automatically from the DVD drive. iPhoto and iMovie include sundries such as detecting recurring faces in photos, and more advanced video editing options that take the audio track into account.
At this point, it may seem that we're a lot further away from proclaiming that Corel has largely succeeded in its mission to create a solid, user-friendly multimedia app than we were at the beginning of this review. However, we're still of that original opinion. Those folks seeking more advanced tools, like that separate audio track and finer tuning, should seek a different media suite that's more consciously geared to enthusiasts or professionals. What Corel Digital Studio 2010 offers is a navigable, eye-pleasing design for people who want one place to go that gives them beyond-the-basics tools without opening too many cans of worms. (The package is an especially fair price if you were planning to buy DVD-playing software for your computer anyway--don't forget that it includes WinDVD 2010.)
There's much more to explore in Corel's quadra-app suite, and some system requirements that you should be aware of before you download even the trial. For details, tune into the First Look video above, slide on over to the photo gallery, or read our hands-on review. If you'd like to test it for yourself, Corel Digital Studio 2010 is free-to-try for 30 days.