Fast and furious editing can come in many different packages and download sizes, but finding one that feels right, is well - like buying a car.
Picture if you will, the well-known thoroughbred sports car, the Porsche 911 Carrera, which will cost you roughly about $82,000 new. Then picture alongside the Porsche, another well-known vehicle, the Honda Civic DX, which will cost about $16,000 new. If you can overlook the $66,000 price difference, there's a great deal of commonality between these two vehicles, yet, aside from this article, you're unlikely to see the two cars compared side by side ever again.
The obvious questions are: Why the $66,000 price difference between vehicles, and, what does either of these vehicles have to do with video editing software? Allow us to answer both questions in terms of vehicles and video editing.
Both vehicles will get you from point A to point B in the same amount of time (providing you drive the speed limit) and both share numerous similarities with combustion engines, rubber pneumatic tires and so on. That said, hit the throttle on each of these vehicles, as they sit side by side, and the rationale for the vast price difference becomes immediately discernible. Don't get us wrong. We love Hondas (some of us drive them). But, we appreciate what a Porsche is and what it can do compared to almost every other car on the road.
Now, did you really think that video editing and editing software were any different than this car analogy? Well, they're not. Video editing and the software that makes video go from the camera - point A, to the final cut - point B, are every bit the ubiquitous sedan vs. the elite sports car analogy in terms of video and film.
Not everyone needs a sports car that costs as much as some houses, and similarly, not everyone needs an editing suite that costs 10 times more than its consumer version. The idea with editing and editing software is to first learn how to drive and then as the stakes get higher, and you "go pro" so to speak, to make sure you have the vehicle that will get you across the finish line - engine humming, or, engine screaming - if you choose. Whether you're a beginning editor, or among the very best and most experienced video pro, there is surely an editing vehicle that will suit your current and future editing software needs.
Consider this article as Videomaker's "dealer catalog" for video editing software. Here we'll list the pricing, features and options to your editing software vehicles.
Entry Level Editing
Don't let the entry-level or mid-level labels fool you. Both entry and mid-level options for video editing software are, now more than ever, relative terms. Today's consumer video editing software is capable of easily producing professional-looking results for little or no expense.
Simple timelines, preview panes and source media panels are easily navigated due to their intuitive interfaces. As easily as you can select, drag, and drop a video file, type titles or click the "make movie" button, you can have edited videos with almost no learning curve.
The feature list of these entry-level and mid-level video editors is long and impressive. HD, 3D, picture-in-picture overlays, cinematic transitions with visual effects and titles, are only some of the features you'll find in these capable video editing programs.
ArcSoft and Serif offer an array of affordable, easy-to-use, yet feature-packed video editors. ArcSoft MediaImpression 3 HD ($80) and Serif MoviePlus 6X ($80) both make light work of video editing with professional-looking results. Serif MoviePlus X6 also includes one-stop editing and disc authoring, while ArcSoft also offers ShowBiz 5 ($80) with expanded video editing tools and disc authoring as well.
If you're willing to spend $30 on video editing software, Nero Video 11 can fit your need - it has unlimited tracks and keyframe control. These are already great features for the cost of a couple Blu-ray movies, but if you're looking for a couple more advanced features, Nero 11 Platinum, $130, adds playback for Blu-rays and is a disc ripper, allowing you to get files from DVDs.
CyberLink's PowerDirector 10 ($82) is another great choice in the simple-meets-powerful, video editing arena. In addition to the standard tracks, transitions and titles, it boasts access to more than 270,000 free effects downloads - talk about unleashing creativity.
Corel VideoStudio Pro X5 ($80), Roxio Creator 2012 Pro ($130) and MAGIX Movie Edit Pro 18 MX ($70), offer features more commonly associated with their pricier professional cousins, like particle generator effects (for snow, rain and fog, for example), multi-camera editing for professional Hollywood-style cutting from multiple video sources, tilt-shift, image stabilization, stop-motion animation, keyframing control, color correction and the list goes on (and on).
This year's crop of entry and mid-level video editing software has never been so capable. Think of these editing programs as entry to mid-level vehicles, with so many options and extras, you may wonder why anyone would want the ultra-expensive Porsche Carrera in the first place.
Intermediate Level Editing
What exactly is considered intermediate level software? This may be best answered by not only classifying "intermediate" as being feature-packed (like the aforementioned entry and mid-level editors), but, in addition to their features, may actually have more to do with their pro-like interface and the availability of their pro-version upgrade.
In the case of Sony's Vegas Movie Studio Platinum 12 ($100) and Adobe Premiere Elements 10 ($100), each has significant user interface (UI) similarities to the pro versions which bear a similar name and company, making any transition to their pro-level software, that much easier.
In the case of Pinnacle System's Pinnacle Studio HD Ultimate Collection 15 ($100), you get plug-ins usually associated with pro-only editing software. Specifically, these are the famous Red Giant plug-ins used in big-budget productions. A few Red Giant plug-ins include Magic Bullet Looks, Trapcode 3D Stroke, and Trapcode Shine (color grading/correcting, 3D animation/effects, and advanced lighting effects, respectively).
The combination of added control, shared UI or both, make these intermediate editors the obvious next-step for aspiring video editors.
Many of the wide-open capabilities and features found in the pro-level editors are present here, but in a more manageable form, with a distilled interface and lower entry price. In terms of our guide these intermediate editors might be considered the aspiring professional's first foray into the realm of entirely affordable, while still fast and furious-capable editing vehicles.
Advanced Level Editing
This brings us to the Porsche Carreras of advanced, pro-level, editing software. While the first pure performance editing vehicles were rather few and far between, no more than a decade ago (starting with Apple's Final Cut Pro in 1999), currently there are more than a dozen video editing software companies vying for your attention with their version of advanced video editing software.
There are many considerations unique to the differing and demanding needs of professional video editing software and the consumer applications for video editing. First, advanced features are all present in full, without limits, in professional video editors. Pro-level audio mixing, keyframing, chromakeying, motion tracking stabilization, color grading, multi-camera editing, support of 4K resolution, infinite items, are all possible features of advanced editing software. Equipment specific integration of pro-line cameras and audio equipment, like the Canon EOS 5D Mark III and RED's SCARLET-X, among others, is another common feature of advanced editors. Pro-level also denotes end-to-end workflow solutions that meet the needs of the film and TV industries. And finally, advanced editing software often requires equally capable 64-bit engines, multi-core processors, dedicated system and video RAM, GPU acceleration and solid state hard drives.
Advanced editing programs begin at around $300, thanks to Apple's latest version of Final Cut, Apple Final Cut Pro X. Sony Vegas Pro 11 offers its professional editing software starting at $600, while Adobe Premiere Pro CS6, Grass Valley Edius 6, and Avid Media Composer 6, sell for $800, $800 and $2,500 respectively.
Beyond these high-performance NLEs, there are also the one-stop production solutions. Avid Media Composer 6 may seem inordinately expensive at $2,500 but in relative terms Avid is priced in line with the Adobe CS6 Production Premium suite at $1,900. Both are examples of one-stop solutions for professional video editing, motion graphics, sound mixing and disc authoring. Many of the editing software makers offer production suites for end-to-end solutions similar to those offered by Avid and Adobe.
Super-Tuning and Super-Charging Plug-ins and Software
Super-tuning and super-charging, for the professional video editor, comes in many forms. Plug-ins like those found in GenArts Sapphire Visual Effects ($1,700) and Sapphire Edge ($299) are excellent examples of software meant to literally "plug-in" to your professional editor and offer both time-saving and eye-popping visual effects to your video.
Autodesk can super-charge your professional video with its Maya ($3,675) and 3ds Max ($3,675) software. Both Maya and 3ds Max offer high-end professional 3D animation, motion graphics and compositing, as either stand-alone editing software, or as companions to the many professional video editing programs.
Sidebar: Mobile Editing for Tablets
Apple iMovie was the first-ever video editing app to reach to the popular iPad tablet. The latest update, while adding useful features like audio trimming, doesn't quite elevate iMovie from novelty status.
Avid Studio for the iPad goes just beyond basics to allow for slightly more complex editing. Photo on video, more versatility with titles, and simple but solid transition effects give Avid the title of best video editor on the iPad - for now.
Android tablets do have some video editing options available (V-Cut Express and VidTrim Pro - Video Editor) but compared to current video editing apps for the iPad, they are notably more basic, lacking both the polish and the features.
Click here to download a PDF of Videomaker's Editing Software Buyer's GuideMark Jensen is the owner of a video production company specializing in commercial and industrial video. He is also a freelance technical writer.