It's always been the impression by the casual observer or the uninitiated that in order to produce professional-looking imagery of any kind that you *have* to use professional tools to do the job. Actually, nothing could be further from the truth; it's not the equipment that makes or breaks any shot or production it's the person using the equipment. Give an amateur professional tools and you'll get amateur-ish results; give a pro anything and they'll make amazing imagery and maximize the capabilities of whatever they're using.
The perfect case in point is the advent and subsequent explosion of the use of DSLR's for pro filmmaking. Nobody, not even Canon saw or predicted how their digital still cameras would completely turn the video and filmmaking world upside down and sideways. Now we have multi-million dollar productions being shot with cameras that cost less than $2000 dollars, where before they'd have either been shot on traditional film cameras, with their associated costs of film, processing and the telecine process or, "digital cinema" cameras like the Thomson Viper or Sony F35; both of which will set you back nearly $500k for just a single camera fully rigged for filmmaking.
So it stands to reason that the tools used in editing these films or videos would also eventually have their low-cost versions to handle the job. Typically a pro editor in Hollywood would be using Avid or, in the indie film market it would be a competitive wash between Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro or Sony Vegas Pro. But all these NLE's (non-linear editors) have pro-level costs associated with them and, because of that the assumption that only a "pro level" edit platform can do a professional job. To a certain degree that's usually true, since the aforementioned editing suites have capabilities that consumer-grade software just can't match.
Well, that was then and this is now. Enter: Sony Movie Studio HD Platinum.
For exactly $100 USD you can have a well-rounded editing suite that does most of what those professional applications can do but at a fraction of the cost. And, if that's not enough, you can even do some things they *can't* (not just yet anyway) without additional plug-ins or software being added - and for additional costs too. So what's so great about this consumer-grade video editor?
For starters is does exactly what most editors need; it will cut up to 10 tracks of video (along with the associated audio), allows unlimited cuts, rolls and general edits along with hundreds of video and audio effects and transitions built-in. Add to that some advanced tools such as chroma keying (green screen compositing), basic primary and secondary color correction, external AV monitoring and audio restoration tools. It talks to HDV, AVCHD, standard DV/DVCAM formats and has a plethora of final output options including print-to-tape. All those things and more encompass about 80% of what all video editors use on every project.
Now Movie Studio HD Platinum is of course a consumer editor, so it can't use professional camera formats such as XDCAM, DVCPRO-HD, HDCAM or others. It also lacks advanced final color correction or mastering audio tools, but for $100 you wouldn't expect it to either. And it does have it's limits when it comes to the amount of video and audio tracks it can handle, 10, total.
There are some features that make this $100 program really stand out. One, it's fast, really fast when it comes to rendering. I'd put it up against any pro-level NLE currently available, whether it's PC or Mac based for rendering speed. Plus, it can take AVCHD files and immediately edit them, that equates to a "drag-and-drop" to the timeline scenario. None of the pro NLE's can do this just yet; Final Cut requires transcoding into ProRes, Premiere Pro can drop directly to the timeline but you still have to render it for a full preview. I haven't reviewed the latest Avid yet so I'm not sure how that compares.
But Sony "MSHDP" also has a few tricks up it's sleeve that are normally only found in a pro editor. One, it has a built-in "rolling shutter correction" tool. This is huge as every DSLR camera on the market today has a rolling shutter and it's subsequent image-skew issues that go along with it can really be a deal-killer for certain shots; that feature alone isn't even available in any pro-NLE - yet - without buying third-party software. There's also software frame stabilizers (reduces shaky footage), the ability to time-remapp (stretch or compress time) and use keyframes for all effects and filters. And because it's PC-based you can actually output a final movie as a Blu-Ray disc! It's a simple track-only encode, similar to what Toast 10 does, but it's more than what you can do with iMovie!
In fact, I can't think of *any* video editing software regardless if it's PC or Mac that can do as much as MSHDP can for such a low price. iMovie certainly can't pull off all these tricks, Windows Movie maker...what a joke, and the plethora of sub-$200 editors on the market today? Not even close.
For $100 you absolutely can't go wrong with Sony Movie Studio HD Platinum. Heck, if you pony up for just another $30 dollars you can get a lot more features and built-in effects plus add a stock sound library to the mix! And all for less than $150! Sony's got a real powerhouse here, and certainly a nice lower-cost compliment to Vegas Pro.