The best news about Studio 9 is that Pinnacle hasn't messed with a good thing. Studio 8 was an Editor's Choice winner because it sprinted so far out ahead of the competition with the timeline-based DVD menu generation concept (all menu links set directly in the video editing timeline) and because that concept's execution was so effective. Studio 9's main interface will look familiar to users of Studio 8, with its tri-partite nature (Capture, Edit, Make Movie). The capture interface still looks good and works well; I've been capturing video every couple of nights for the last two weeks and have dropped less than a dozen frames, and that's coming from an impatient guy who repeatedly runs other applications like Word and Outlook and Internet Explorer while capturing even though he knows it's ill-advised.
The Edit window, where you do most of your work in Studio, looks about the same too: you've got your assets album up top and either the storyboard or timeline down below. Using the icon panel on the left you can branch off in various directions, to bring still images or audio files into the album, or to view transitions, titles, or menus. You drag and drop clips into the storyboard or timeline, double click on motion video clips once they're in your project to open the clip properties window and get to work, trimming, adding effects, and the like. With still images, double click and you'll open a title overlay screen. But you can also add effects to still images, with several options not available in Studio 8.
The Edit window is a little spiffier than it used to be; the new toolbox icon, for toggling between the audio and video toolboxes, has definitely upped its cool factor a bit. And the audio toolbox has a new look and a new sound—with a nice visual/spatial interface for customizing your multitrack mixes and fades.
They call it surround sound, which it's not, but having a visual representation of your sound fading activities helps you use Studio's advanced multitrack mixing much more professionally, and one of the interesting things about Studio 9 is that its various enhancements—though modest compared to the leaps made in the 7-to-8 transition—look in both directions, to the more consumer (think: automated video production) to the more advanced (more audio options, greater customization, a broader effects palette bolstered by partnering for third-party plug-ins).
This Studio also works on three levels: Standard, Plus, and Pro (effects pack upgrades $30-$130). The prosumer-level effects options really kick in with the Pro stuff, and the third-party plug-in effects—like StageTools' Moving Picture, a still-image panning plug-in (unpriced at press time). Pinnacle has previously opened the architecture of their high-end Liquid Edition tool to StageTools for plug-in development; doing likewise for Studio 9 isn't the software's only expansive move, either; one of the best parts of Pinnacle's Studio product has always been their willingness to infuse it with more sophisticated features from its higher-end, higher-priced brethren.