We've seen lots of great updates in editing software this year on both the consumer and professional levels, giving the editor even more options to choose from.
Consumer and professional media creation is growing now faster than ever.
As more and more video makes its way into our everyday lives, manufacturers have to update, improve and add features to their editing and distribution software to keep up with the ever-changing demands of its users. We've seen lots of great updates in editing software this year on both the consumer and professional levels, giving the editor even more options to choose from.
In the professional market, the new feature trend seems to be adding support for beyond HD formats such as 2k and 4k. Most professional applications have also focused on adding support in one way or another for RED file formats, either natively or through transcoding. AVC-Intra support is a hot update as well. The key words in all professional application updates are "native editing support". Users are demanding that whatever type of media they wish to edit, they want to edit it without any conversions or transcoding.
There are numerous consumer level offerings and more and more pop up every day. Almost every new computer ships with some basic video editor installed, and in recent time we've even seen primitive editing functions appear on cell phones and pocket-sized recording devices. Technology markets are doing everything they can to help the consumer make more media and share it faster and easier than ever before.
Apple's iMovie '09 and iDVD '09 come as part of iLife '09 which ships installed on every new Apple computer and is available on its own for $79. iMovie is a very popular consumer video editing application that has seen a lot of support from 3rd party developers who make plug-ins to add increased functionality to the simple editor. With iLife '09 even the newest of users can edit their video in iMovie, create music for it in Garage Band and make a DVD with iDVD.
At this point nearly every current release of even consumer level editors supports HD video, outputting to DVD and compressing for web. Consumer editors like Roxio Creator 2009, Sony Vegas Media Studio Platinum 9, Pinnacle Studio Plus 12 and Corel VideoStudio X2 can be found on the shelves of any major technology retailer.
Adobe's Premiere Elements 7 (Windows only) and Final Cut Express 4 (Apple Only) are both great cross over applications for those looking to eventually jump into the professional realm. Not only are they very reasonably priced, but they operate in ways very similar to their big brothers and in a manner that's not overly confusing for the inexperienced editor who is computer-savvy. Both will provide the user with an edge when finally making the jump to a professional Non-Linear Editor (NLE).
Avid's recent price reduction in its Media Composer 3.5 software still keeps it at the most expensive software we're looking at in this Buyer's Guide, but makes it a serious threat to many of its less expensive competitors. Previous; more affordable versions of the Avid software such as Xpress and Liquid have had considerable limitations in the types of media they could work with. These prior limitations and pricey configurations have often only further cemented Apple's Final Cut Pro's foothold in the professional world, as an all in one postproduction solution. Avid is hands down the professional standard when it comes to editing, especially in the feature film world, and this price reduction makes it accessible to a whole new market. Media Composer 3.5 gives you full access to the power of Avid and is available for a reasonable but not wild $2499.
Adobe introduced new versions of everything with the release of Creative Suite 4 back in September of 2008. Photoshop and Illustrator have long been professional standards in many fields, including video, and After Effects is a staple in most every production or professional video service company. With the recent revision, Premiere Pro CS4 is quickly gaining more ground in the professional world. Already a very popular and affordable NLE, the CS4 update is breathing new life into Premiere Pro. One of the bigger factors is Adobe's native support of RED footage in both its Premiere Pro and After Effects applications. There are very few affordable NLE systems that do so, making Adobe stand out even more. This alone has kindled the interest of many non-Premiere users. Another trick in the Adobe bag is Encore. When it comes to authoring Blu-ray Discs the list of applications available is incredibly small. If you trim that list to things available for Apple machines, it's almost nonexistent. Being one of the few Blu-ray compatible options available for both PC and Mac gives Adobe a big upper hand.
Apple's Final Cut Pro is an industry standard and always on the heels of AVID looking to be the professional leader. The recent Final Cut Studio update includes Final Cut Pro 7, for editing, Sound Track Pro 3, for audio and music, LiveType 2, for titling and graphics, Motion 4, for motion graphics, Color 1.5, for professional color grading and finishing, Compressor 3.5, for compressing and converting video for output to just about anything you can dream up, and DVD Studio Pro 4, for making DVDs. One of the coolest new features is integration with iChat Theater. This feature allows you to share your edit in real time with your client over the web, which will prove to be an incredible time/money saver for a lot of remotely working users. Combine that with the over 100 other improvements and it makes this small update worthwhile. Accompanying the latest release was also a $300 price drop making it extremely attractive for current users and anyone looking to make the jump into an affordable and professional solution. At $999 for an all in one, incredibly powerful post-production suite, Final Cut Studio is a steal.
Sony Creative software introduced Vegas Pro 9 and DVD Architect 5 at NAB this year. Major new improvements include enhanced AVCHD and XDCAM support, native RED and 4k support and still image sequence support DPX and OpenEXR. Vegas Pro 9 also offers the option of working in full 64-bit mode, which allows users to take advantage of multi-core workstations and 64-bit operating systems. Vegas Pro 9 also allows you to burn a Blu-ray Disc straight from your timeline!
Media 100 is a long time professional staple that has had a slowly fading market share, but is long from gone. The Producer 13 Suite adds a lot of Final Cut Pro friendly features like Panasonic P2 support, support for all Quicktime codecs including DVCPRO and Apple ProRes 422 and FireWire I/O. Media 100 now also interacts well with Final Cut Pro with the ability to use media captured by Final Cut Pro, as well as the ability to share projects between the two systems. You can also send Media 100 projects to Apple's Color. Media 100 is worth a second look.
With rapidly changing technology and software price reductions, incredibly powerful editing tools are available to anyone even on a modest budget, closing the gap between consumer and professional tools even further. Most applications come with additional software for making DVDs, music, graphics or uploading to the web, making complete media workflows available to everyone. Not happy with your current editor? Dive into something new or refine your skills on the latest and greatest versions. Do your research and you'll find something that suits your needs, skill level and budget.
Nathan Beaman is an Apple Certified Final Cut and Motion Graphics Trainer.
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