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Got a few minutes to spare? That’s all it takes to create and edit movies on your PC. Add special effects and sounds, with nothing more than a mouse-click, plus a little imagination...



Barely half an hour after loading Videotrope I had created a rather eye-catching and dare I say, thought-provoking movie clip, lasting a full 30 seconds! Using only picture and sound files found lying around the PC, it juxtaposed the ironic and metaphysical displacement of a pink parrot and racing car with a reverberating ‘You have new mail waiting’ from CompuServe and an echoing ‘Aye Caramba’ from a Simpson’s screen-saver. Spielberg and Tarrentino watch out...


Videotrope from Digital Workshop is a fast, modestly-equipped yet affordably-priced movie editing package, designed to get you up and running as quickly as possible.  It will run on a fast 486 but unless you enjoy watching paint dry don’t try using it on anything less than a P133 system, with 16MB of RAM and plenty of room to spare on the hard disc.


Flexibility is important in PC video so the designers have decreed that Videotrope can read and write in most common file formats and use all of the Codecs (compression and decompression systems) installed on the host PC; if it can’t read a file it can be easily upgraded. Editing and processing video can be a notoriously slow business, particularly after a few effects have been added to a movie file. To help speed things up Videotrope has an unusual rendering facility, that creates a temporary uncompressed copy of the work in hand. This includes all changes to date, so that it can be viewed at optimum playback speed. However rendering doesn’t mean the movie is fixed in stone and changes -- even those made before rendering -- can always be undone.


The intro screen has three options: open an existing file (.bmp, .tga, .pcx, .avi etc.), build a movie from stills, or continue with the last file worked on. Once the file has been opened the screen changes to a fairly conventional-looking video window, with a set of player control buttons and scroll bars, plus boxes for displaying and entering frame numbers. Several windows can be opened at once, so frames and sequences can be easily cut and pasted between open files. In order to move or copy a sequence from one file to another, simply define the frame or frame numbers for the start end of the sequence, click on copy from the edit menu, move to the window and the point in the movie you want it to go, and click on copy. It couldn’t be much easier.


The size of the image can be altered from the zoom menu, and its shape changed using ‘re-size’ on the Video menu. Other options include flip, mirror and overlay/underlay effects -- useful for titles -- plus change boxes for the frame rate and file conversion utilities, to and from 16.8 million and 256 colours.


However, the two most important drop-down menus on the toolbar are Edit and Effects. Edit has the single most useful utility -- undo -- which reverses the last actions, in the order that they were made. The Effects menu includes all of the visual goodies. There’s routine things like brightness, contrast and colour adjustments, as well as the more creative stuff. This includes sharpen or soften the image, add or remove noise, positive/negative colours, emboss, texture and watermark. This is where the fun really starts, and there’s always the safety net of the undo facility, if you end up making a dog’s dinner of it.  


Noise adds a random granularity to the image, the amount or gain and the colour can be changed. Adding a just a little noise helps liven up flat-looking colours no end. Sharpen and blur do precisely that; the effect can be applied to single frames, or the whole movie. Emboss make the image look as though it has been cast in metal, the depth of the effect can be varied, along with the position of a virtual light source, to control the effects of shadow. Texture superimposes one of 30 different monochrome patterns, from brick to wood grain, on to the image. Watermark works in a similar way, this time superimposing coloured patterns.


The movie can be previewed at any time. If adding an effect is likely to reduce the speed of playback to any extent -- the exact level  can be set -- then Videotrope will advise creating a rendered file. Whilst it is possible to step a frame at a time by clicking on the scroll bar a separate frame advance button would have been welcome, as would a variable-speed playback function.


Adding sound effects is equally straightforward -- using the same copy and paste techniques with WAV files. The choice is confined to volume adjustment, adding echo, reverb and something called ‘tube’ In case you were wondering this makes the audio file sound as though it is coming from inside a tube...


If you want to get into video editing fast, without spending a fortune, wading through three-inch thick manuals and learning loads of new tricks then Videotrope is the way to go. The only points to make is that it works best with relatively short clips -- less than a minute long, and it is quite basic  -- no fancy time-lines here. It’s quick and dirty, but it gets the job done.


What is it?

PC movie editing package with visual effects and sound facilities

How much                                 £47

System requirements                 Windows 95 multimedia PC, 486/66 minimum with 16Mb RAM, Pentium 133 recommended

Features                                   video editing and animation; cut, paste and delete pictures and sounds, video effects (brightness, contrast, re-size, flip, mirror, negative noise, texture, watermark, colour depth conversion, soften, underlay/overlay, emboss, volume, 60-day moneyback guarantee and free lifetime support

Digital Workshop, telephone (01295) 258335,                                    



Features                       ****

Ease of Use                  ***

Value for money            ***

Overall rating             83%



Ó R. Maybury 1997 2107




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