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By Michael Muchmore
At .99, Nero Video 2016 costs considerably less than most of the video editing software we've tested. And as you might expect, you give up quite a bit in terms of effect tools and support for newer video formats. It's also slower at rendering than most of the competition, and presents an outdated interface compared with other video editing software. All that said, it can still do quite a bit with your digital video content if you're pinching pennies. Just don't expect great speed or support for increasingly popular techniques such as multi-cam or motion tracking.
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Though it lists for .99 on Nero's site, the price is discounted to .99 as of this writing, for a perpetual software license. You can also download a free trial version for the price of an email address—with no credit card information required. The software requires Windows 10, 8, or 7 (32-bit and 64-bit are both supported). First you download a small stub program that downloads and installs the actual program, which takes up a surprising 1.7GB on your disk.
The installer also installed a separate Music Recorder app installation, which puts an icon in the system tray. this wouldn't be a problem, except that it turned out to be completely unrelated to Nero Video. I tested on an Asus Zen AiO Pro Z240IC running 64-bit Windows 10 Home and sporting a 4K display, 16GB RAM, a quad-core Intel Core i7-6700T CPU, and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 960M discrete graphics card.
Interface and Editing Basics
There's no desktop icon to take you directly to the video app: Instead, you run the tile-based suite start page and then choose Nero Video from that.
A registration dialog pops up when you first run the video editor, but you can bypass that. When you launch the video editor proper, its interface looks different from most editors, and it feels a bit outdated. Still, how to get going is clear enough: You can start capturing media from a device, open the editor or an existing project, or start a disc burning project. An interesting choice is Open Windows Live Movie Maker Project: That product, though still available, is no longer being updated by Microsoft. We're waiting to see if something replaces it soon.
When I first tried to import video clips, an activation dialog popped up telling me I needed to activate the software before continuing. A simple click later, my clips appeared in the video editor's content tray. You can adjust the ratio between preview quality and performance (the former reduces the latter on weaker hardware). I had no trouble importing 4K content from a Microsoft Lumia 950, but the software doesn't support the widely used XAVC-S format or H.265.
The default timeline view—Express Editing—shows clip thumbnails in storyboard format. Tapping the big vertical tab labeled Advanced Editing switches you to the more standard timeline track view. You can't switch back to Express if you make edits in Advanced. When you drag a clip onto the timeline, it nicely snaps next to the last clip. The timeline is easy to expand and contract with the mouse wheel.
One limitation is that right-clicking on a clip doesn't offer to show you its file information. There's plenty of undo levels, however, with a big button for that purpose along the bottom. As with Magix Movie Edit, the program displayed some iPhone and Windows Phone clips upside-down in my testing; other apps like CyberLink PowerDirector and Corel VideoStudio didn't have this problem. It's easy enough to flip the clip, though, using the Flip adjustment.
You can easily start full-screen playback with a button, or even view on a separate monitor. Double-clicking a clip in the timeline opens a trimmer window, which lets you precisely set start and end points, down to the single frame. But Nero doesn't offer PowerDirector's multiple in and out point editing. It does let you set markers, though. Cutter, slip, and roll tools enable those more advanced editing styles.
Express Editing is of course much simpler, and if that's even too much effort, Nero offers over 40 themes that automatically add intros, titles, transitions, and background music based on activities and styles, such as sports, kids, and retro.
You get a healthy selection of transitions, though nowhere near as many as Pinnacle Studio offers; there are some nice creative ones, though there aren't any true 3D choices among them. It's the only editor I've tested that doesn't have sample animations for the transitions, so you don't see exactly what they do till you apply them to your clip. Nero also lacks Final Cut Pro X's easy way of adding cross-fades by simpling pulling down the clip corders on the timeline to add the transitions. Adding transitions to the timeline is easier than in Pinnacle Studio, however; the program figures out the clip overlap for you. On the other hand, you can only adjust its duration, not the precise clip positioning, which may prove irritating at times. There's no search for transitions and effects, which is unfortunate, since they're all in one long list. You can easily add transitions to your Favorites section, however, and this can help you find them again more quickly.
If you're looking to do green-screen work, look elsewhere: Nero delivered the worst chroma-keying results I've seen in any editor. I used the same actor on an imperfect green screen background, which other programs like Premiere Elements were able to convincingly superimpose on background forest and beach scenes almost instantly. With Nero Video, the initial application of the effect was completely unusable, with parts of the model made transparent, even when I used the eyedropper tool to sample the green background shade. Using the Similarity slider to add back the missing parts of the model made things no better, as it also added back green background. Other editors get a better result on first click than Nero does after tweaking.
For picture-in-picture (PiP) effects, I like how Nero's video preview window has handles at the corners for resizing for PiPs. There's even a PiP editor with dozens of preset PiP designs. The program also includes stabilization, speedup and slowdown effects (though no specific freeze-frame tool), and tilt shift. There are also decent animated text options, clip art, and backgrounds.
Nero includes a decent selection of background music, and it lets you unlink audio from video clips. One very nice tool is Fit Music, but it just faded the song, rather than recomposing it as VideoStudio's tool does. Noise reduction, compression, reverb, de-ess, high-pass, and other standard audio effects are included.
Though it did not exhibit slowness or wait periods during simple and advanced video editing and importing, Nero was far slower at rendering a movie project to a video file in my testing than the leaders, CyberLink PowerDirector and Pinnacle Studio.
I test rendering time by creating a movie consisting of four clips of mixed types (some 1080p, some SD, some 4K) with a standard set of transitions and rendering it to 1080p MPEG-4 at 15Mbps, H.264 High Profile. The clip's audio is MPEG AAC Audio: 192 Kbps. I test on an Asus Zen AiO Pro Z240IC running 64-bit Windows 10 Home and sporting a 4K display, 16GB RAM, a quad-core Intel Core i7-6700T CPU, and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 960M discrete graphics card.
The test movie (whose duration is just under 5 minutes) took Nero Video 4 minutes and 19 seconds to render. The speed leader, Pinnacle Studio, took just 1 minute and 34 seconds to render the same project, and PowerDirector came in at 2:34. Nero did edge out two other contenders tested, VideoStudio, which took 4:20, and Adobe Premiere Elements, which took 5:18.
Sharing and Output
You get to Nero Video's output options by tapping the big Next arrow at the bottom of the editor screen. The program lets you output to a good selection of video file formats and also can burn DVDs, Blu-rays, and AVCHD discs. Supported file types include AVI, WMV, Flash video, MPEG-1, -2, and -4, and even AVCHD Ultra HD, which is a 4K format. You can also export audio separately, and send your movie via email. One surprisingly missing option is to the ability share video directly to online social networks, something found in abundance in the competition.
The Web output option simply saves a file in online-friendly formats. But after I chose Export to Web, rendered the video file, and installed another program update, the option to log into a account and upload to that site was added. Facebook and Vimeo were nowhere to be found, though. Nero's own online storage has been discontinued, and the company doesn't have an equivalent to CyberLink's DirectorZone for sharing movies and effects.
What's Missing? Is It Worth the Money?
Quite a few features that have made their way into competing enthusiast-level video editing software are not to be found in Nero Video 2016—like motion tracking, multi-cam editing, and some 4K support, just to name a few. But products that support those cost triple what Nero Video does. If you can live with that and you're looking to save some coin while getting a decent set of video editing tools, Nero Video could be for you—that is, as long as you don't mind its outdated interface, slow rendering, and lack of advanced editing options. For faster performance and a much fuller palette, look to PCMag Editors' Choices for enthusiast-level video editing software, CyberLink PowerDirector and Corel VideoStudio.
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