Another great year for video producers at every level of expertise, 2014 has seen an expansion of the video production universe with editing systems in the cloud and 4K popping up all over the horizon. With options, features and quality on the rise and prices holding steady or on the decline, has there ever been a more exciting time to be alive and producing video? Well, probably next year — but for now, this has got to be the best yet.
With so many awesome goodies hitting the market, it’s never an easy task to select the best of the best but after several rounds of knock-down drag-out discussions Videomaker’s editors have done it again.
Here’s the lineup of the best video production products of 2014, selected by the editors of Videomaker. Drumroll please…
This is probably no surprise, given the versatility and overall awesomeness of its predecessor. The Hero4, of course, comes in two flavors: Black and Silver. While the two share similar features, such as capturing high-quality 12MP photos and built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capabilities, the Black captures 2x faster video frame rates than the Hero3 and sports a 2x more powerful processor – quite useful for capturing ultra high resolution, high frame rate video such as 1080p120 and 4K30! The Silver snags video at 1080p60 and 720p120 while touting a built-in touch display. Kudos and BEST Camera Under $1,000 go to GoPro for the Hero4.
It’s mirrorless, has interchangeable lenses and shoots in 4K. The Panasonic GH4 may be small but in reality, it’s a video monster with lots of recording options, data rates up to 200Mbps, a flip out 3-inch display, fast 49 point auto focus AND it shoots awesome 16MP stills. Add to that its ability to record in four different video formats (MOV, MP4, MPEG-4, AVCHD) and you’ll quickly see why it’s Videomaker’s BEST Interchangeable Lens Camera Over $1,000.
Sony has packed a ton of professional features into the PXW-Z100. It literally bristles with buttons, knobs and dials, including focus, zoom and iris rings, for maximum manual control. It records both cinematic 4K and 4K UHD as well as 1080p using the XAVC 4:2:2 codec. Zebras, focus peaking, flip out 3.5 inch LCD, dual XLR inputs, full manual audio controls and much, much more make the Sony PXW-Z100 an easy pick for BEST Fixed Lens Camera Over $1,000.
Corel VideoStudio Pro X7
Three tabs, Capture, Edit and Share, give Corel VideoStudio Pro X7 a very user friendly interface, as should be expected from an introductory editor. Its 64-bit engine effectively renders multitrack HD and 4K projects with hardware acceleration. Packed with lots of features and resources such as templates, transitions, titles, graphics, special effects, filters, paths, a sound mixer, motion tracker and subtitle editor, Corel VideoStudio Pro X7 is extremely versatile as well as easy to use and, therefore, a clear choice for BEST Introductory Editing Software.
Adobe Premiere Elements 13
Adobe Premiere Elements 13 sports a more refined interface and improved asset organization as well as cloud integration with the new Adobe Revel, which lets you organize and share photos and video with online access across multiple platforms. Guided Edits walk you through step-by-step operations. You can edit in single track storyboard mode or switch to Expert with a full timeline and plenty of editing tools such as Time Stretch, Remapping and Motion Tracking. Powerful tools coupled with a simple, refined interface and plenty of assistance makes Adobe Premiere Elements 13 our pick for BEST Intermediate Editing Software.
Final Cut Pro X
After a rough start back in 2011, the latest version of Final Cut Pro X, version 10.1, is definitely worth a serious look. This newest version has been optimized to use dual graphics cards for better playback and rendering, offers support for video monitoring up to 4K through Thunderbolt 2 and HDMI, as well as new 4K versions of titles, transitions and generators. Improved placement of newly ingested media to external storage, an improved multicam workflow and solid performance win Final Cut Pro X the honors as our BEST Advanced Editing Software.
Adobe After Effects CC
In 2014 Adobe After Effects CC received upgrades to improve performance, efficiency and usability. In particular, integration with Adobe Premiere Pro CC has been increased. Multiple masks and multiple effects can now be placed on a single clip in After Effects and masks created in Premiere Pro can be imported into After Effects for additional adjustments. With two new keying effects, Key Cleaner and Advanced Spill Suppressor, a brand new color swatch panel and improvements to the Curves effect, Adobe After Effects CC is the clear winner of the BEST Visual Effects Software slot.
Red Giant Universe
The Red Giant Universe is a community that provides access to a large and expanding library of tools, effects and transitions. Membership is free as are most of its assets such as Camera Shake, RGB Displacement and Simple RGB Separation. Premium tools such as Knoll Light Factory EZ, Holomatrix, ToonIt and Retrograde are available as well. All of this plus fast rendering due to its ability to take advantage of GPU processing make the Red Giant Universe the Videomaker choice for BEST Plugin of 2014.
Excellent build quality, ease of operation and the ability to record directly to the timeline make the Audio-Technica AT2020USB+ a very useful piece of equipment indeed. Hiss is practically imperceptible, it features zero latency monitoring through the headphones and exhibits very good off-axis rejection. All of this with CD/DVD quality recording garnered the Audio-Technica AT2020USB+ the top spot as BEST Microphone.
The Fostex DC-R302 3-channel audio mixer comes to the rescue of ailing DSLR audio. It mounts beneath the camera, has XLR inputs, easy-to-read meters, individual phantom power, gain controls with three choices for high pass filtering and loads of monitoring options. All-in-all an easy choice for BEST Audio Recorder.
Sound Devices PIX 240i
Where the Fostex DC-R302 comes to the aid of DSLRs in the audio arena the Sound Devices PIX 240i handles many of the video needs of today’s DSLRs. The PIX 240i provides a large 5-inch display built onto a recorder capable of capturing 4:4:4, 12-bit HD video – with pro audio capabilities included. Storage options include CompactFlash and a hot-swappable SSD caddy. Dual XLR inputs, SDI in and out and a ton of other pro-level features, such as focus and exposure assists, make the Sound Devices PIX 240i a slam dunk for Best Field Monitor.
Visual Buddha 1x1 Bi-Color
The Visual Buddha 1x1 Bi-Color is designed to provide full LED functionality at a more affordable price. It’s one foot square of high quality LED lighting with adjustable intensity and color temperature controls. The Buddha is battery power capable with a Color Rendering Index of 93+ and full control over intensity and color temperature, as well as DMX controls for remote operations. With these features, all at a lower price point than the competition, the Visual Buddha 1x1 Bi-Color LED panel shines above the rest as the BEST Field Light.
KinoFlo Celeb 400
With a power equivalent of 1,000 watts, yet carrying only an eighth the amperage of a typical 1K tungsten, the nearly four foot long KinoFlo Celeb 400 is a wonder to behold. It boasts adjustable color temperature (in 1K increments), adjustable intensity, DMX remote functionality and tons of soft, even, beautiful light. For BEST Studio Light supremacy, the KinoFlo Celeb 400 is the clear choice.
The Syrp Genie is a motion control device designed specifically for time-lapse photography. It pans, tilts and executes shoot-move-shoot dolly functions – all while video is recording. It’s compact in size, lightweight, easy to use and highly versatile. It can pan 360 degrees in a mere five seconds and travel three feet in forty five seconds. Truly magical in its performance, the Syrp Genie stands out as the BEST Advanced Support System.
The MoVI M5 is designed to provide the ulitimate in DSLR stabilization and deliver shots not possible with other types of stabilizing systems. Its 3-axis gimbal is easily controlled using the MoVI's handles and there's even a remote control unit available to allow one operator to concentrate on framing while the other controls movement. For extreme versatility and control coupled with fast and simple setup, the MoVI M5 wins BEST Stabilizer hands down.
Benro S6 Monopod
The Benro S6 monopod provides a lighter, less bulky alternative to stabilizing your shots than a typical fluid head tripod system. It has a lightweight, though solid, aluminum construction, is highly mobile and versatile, features a fluid head with 3-step counterbalance, lighted bubble level and pan and tilt drag controls. For run-n-gun versatility and close quarters shooting the Benro S6 Monopod is our choice for BEST Tripod.
Apple Mac Pro
Somewhat reminiscent in appearance of Star Wars droid technology, the Apple Mac Pro packs a ton of firepower into a radically redesigned space. An 8-core Intel Xeon E5 processor, 64GB of RAM, Dual AMD FirePro D700 graphics cards with 6GB of video RAM apiece and a 1TB SSD make for a video editing and computing monster of epic proportions. Combine all this with six Thunderbolt 2 ports and a host of other I/O options and it becomes the natural choice for the BEST Workstation of 2014.
With room for four Enterprise-class 7200RPM hard drives, total storage capacity of up to 24TB — that’s right, 24 TERRAbytes – and a sustained transfer rate of 660MB/s, the G-SPEED Studio RAID is a file storage behemoth. It’s configurable to RAID 0, 1, 5, 6 or 10 and owes its lightning speed to Thunderbolt 2 connectivity, making it easy to daisy chain to Mac computers and other devices. With loads of capacity and the speed to match, it’s easy to see why the G-SPEED Studio RAID is Videomaker’s BEST Storage choice for 2014.
Pinnacle Studio for iPad is a well-equipped editing app for video editors on the go. This latest version features more than 30 brand new montage and title templates and fast, easy importing of audio and video files. It integrates easily with YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook and Box. With the purchase of the Cloud Connection Pack, files can also be shared to Dropbox, Google Drive and Microsoft Drive. For all this, Pinnacle Studio earns BEST Mobile App honors.
Acer TravelMate P645
Weighing in at just over 3lb., Acer's TravelMate P645 packs big power into a small package. Solidly built, yet lightweight, this high-performance laptop is ready to follow you on location and beyond. The Intel Core i7 processor and dedicated AMD Radeon GPU provide speed and performance to rival some desktops, while a high-quality display and robust speaker system are sure to keep you entertained. Pair these features with a long-lasting battery and the Acer TravelMate P645 stands out as Videomaker's top pick for BEST Mobile Workstation.
Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve 11
Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve 11 Lite is a robust editing and color correction program with a Lite version that is available for free, without watermarks or limited layers. The paid version opens up collaborative tools, noise reduction, motion blur and a few other effects, but Resolve Lite still has what it takes to give your work a well deserved, high-end finished look for the low cost of $0. With a fully featured editing interface, amazing color correction capabilities and 170 new features, Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve 11 is Videomaker’s pick for the 2014 Editor’s Choice award.
Read the full Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve 11 review.
Congratulations and thank yous are in order to all of this year's winners. Your dedication and innovation have made our year a fun and exciting one. Thank you all.
What does the future hold? 4K momentum is strong and one can expect it to continue providing an ever widening sea of choices for producers at every level. LED lighting choices can also be expected to broaden and continue to produce more and more affordable options for independent producers. As with preceding years, you can expect the year ahead to be an exciting one for those of us dwelling in the video production universe.
- The Editors
Best Products Award Criterion
For a product to qualify for our Best Products of the year, it must have passed through the Videomaker headquarters in 2014 for examination by our editors. From there, we judged products based on the following seven criteria:
- Empowerment: How effective the product is at helping videographers be more effective at video production.
- Ease of Operation: How user-friendly it is.
- Affordability: The product must provide a good value for the price.
- Quality: It must be put together well, durable and show excellence in its category.
- Innovation: It should have some inventive or original features.
- Dependability: It needs to be able to endure the rigors of active video production.
- Performance: It must work consistently and effectively.
Disclaimer - This Year Defined
Due to advanced publishing deadlines, we are unable to consider products that were received in the Videomaker headquarters after October 31, 2014. Therefore, the "2014 Best Products of the Year" implies products received from October 31, 2013 to October 31, 2014 — a full year, but not a typical calendar year. Many fine products came in after that time, and will be candidates for the "2015 Best Products of the Year." Similarly, you'll see products that appeared in some late 2013 issues that qualify for consideration this year due to the date they were received by Videomaker. This is also not a completely comprehensive list, as it includes only products that passed through the doors at Videomaker. There are many fine products on the market that we didn't review, and our ethical standards won't allow us to award them honors if we haven't had any chance to look the product over, test it and give it some use time.