In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the idea of a graphical editing system was a futuristic dream for many video professionals. Rumors swirled of these powerful systems in the works, hidden behind the walls of Industrial Light and Magic, Skywalker Ranch and other Hollywood post-production houses. Fast forward to 2018 and the landscape of software available to videographers is immense. Gone are the days of cutting film strips, tape decks and linear editing. Today, video editing is a digital non-linear process and an incredibly important part of video production. It is the mechanism by which content creators assemble the story of the video and determine the pace at which that story is told.
Know What You Need
First and foremost, when choosing an editing program, think of purchasing software as buying into a suite that will help you tell stories through editing. With the rise of subscription-based software, you will likely be using the same software for years to come, so it is important to choose a system that best fits your needs. Each system has its own workflow and its own nuances, and what you prefer will depend on how you work.
Each system has its own workflow and its own nuances, and what you prefer will depend on how you work.
With the relatively recent rise of 360 video and 4K, content editors and editing systems need to stay up to date with the changing landscape of video and content creation. While these new forms of production help filmmakers and videographers tell stories from new angles, editors now need to take an entirely new look at editing and how these technologies will shape their work. Some software comes with native support for these emerging technologies while others require the user to install a plug-in. Keep this in mind as you shop.
Most beginners will start with a drag and drop style editor, some version of which comes standard on many computers. These free options are fine for simple cuts, but beware of downloading free editing software from disreputable sources, which can come with drawbacks like malware, viruses and other problems. They’re also often limited when it comes to input and output formats and the interface can be pretty clunky. It is advised that you seek out more professional software if you are serious about editing video.
Corel VideoStudio Ultimate X10.5
Moving beyond free editing tools, Corel VideoStudio Ultimate X10.5 is another software platform worth mentioning that is really poised more towards beginners. It doesn’t have the same capabilities or support as some of the other software in this article, but is user friendly and is an affordable option at 99 dollars. It’s not quite a full professional-grade suite, but it is a great option for a new editor who wants to learn how to edit and upgrade from the free or less versatile software. Corel is a great option at a great price especially for the young videographer.
Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve 14
If you need more, but aren’t ready to shell out the cash for a top-tier editing suite, Blackmagic’s DaVinci Resolve 14 is a robust free editing platform that also includes industry-leading color correction tools. Being a color focused editing suite gives Resolve an edge over software like Final Cut and Corel VideoStudio. While other software has some color support, Davinci was built specifically for color correct. Since color is an important tool to help set the tone of a particular scene or entire film, Davinci being built around this principle gives it an edge — especially for the videographer who wants to be able to edit and color grade at the same time.
Davinci Resolve comes in two flavors: the free version and the Studio version available for 300 dollars. This is great for both beginners and experts because it allows you to use and work with the software before committing to a purchase — and unlike most free versions, DaVinci Resolve 14 only lacks a few of the features found in DaVinci Resolve Studio. It’s also worth noting that hardware interfaces for color and editing are available directly from Blackmagic. These are great tools to help elevate your editing experience and your craft. Resolve is a robust free option but will come with a learning curve in order to get the most out of it.
Making the Investment
Years ago, your status as a beginner editor or a pro made a huge difference in your purchasing decisions for software. Today most pro software comes with enough resources for the beginner or professional to get started without much trouble. If you’re serious about editing, there’s no reason not to start with pro software like Adobe Premiere Pro or Apple Final Cut Pro X. These and similar options are much more capable than most consumer editing software and offer a plethora of resources if you need help getting started. With a pro editing suite, you can experiment while learning the skills you will need to edit video like a pro.
Most pro software today is at a point where most people can buy and learn to use it without too much struggle. A single license for Apple’s Final Cut Pro X, for example, comes in at around the 300-dollar mark. Not exactly a bargain, but it’s definitely nowhere near the same cost factor of other video essentials like cameras and production equipment. Adobe’s software as a service model sets users up with monthly payments and keeps them updated with the latest version. A single user license for one application comes in at about 20 dollars per month, with the full adobe suite costing around 50 dollars for a monthly subscription. Still Corel Video Studio Ultimate X10 is by far the most affordable option, costing around 100 dollars for a perpetual license, along with the free version of Davinci Resolve 14.
While price is one area to consider, functionality is another important area to think about. If you plan on working with 4K, multicam, 360 or other complex forms of video, you’ll need to find a software that can support that workflow. Adobe, Final Cut and, to a lesser extent, Resolve all support 360, 4K and multicam editing — check the features list for other software you are considering. In terms of computing power, you’ll need to make sure your system is up to par to be able to handle not only the software, but the video you are working with. Always check the minimum system specifications before making any software purchase. You’ll also want to make sure the software you buy is compatible with any plug-ins you might want to use now or in the future.
The Big Three
Avid Media Composer 8
Avid Media Composer was the original nonlinear editing suite and is still a widely used and powerful editor for many professional editors in Hollywood and small production houses alike. It’s a robust all-around tool, and though it is has a history of being less flexible than other editors, keyboard-based editing and other pro features make this a strong choice for editors who need fast, consistent turn-arounds. It has adapted over the years to support 4K and many other formats natively while sticking to its roots as a video editing and compositing tool. For a taste of Media Composer, check out Media Composer First, Avid’s free starter version.
Final Cut Pro X 10.4
If you work on a Mac, Final Cut Pro X is a great option. For many years Final Cut Pro was considered the industry standard of editing software, but in recent years, other software suites have become more popular. However, Final Cut is still a powerful and versatile software for Mac users and had regained its footing with pros since X’s initial launch by keeping up with the functionality pro editors expect while refining the interface and timeline. Final Cut Pro supports 4K video resolutions and comes with Logic Pro, a versatile and useful audio editor, and Motion, which supports the creation and compositing of motion graphics and effects. Final Cut Pro X is an all-around great piece of software for Mac users and is still the standard in many studios.
Adobe Premiere Pro CC
Adobe Premiere Pro CC is a great option for both beginners and experts. It comes with support for both windows and Mac and is a part of the larger adobe creative suite of software. Combine the power of Premiere with the rest of the Adobe suite and you have an incredibly powerful storytelling toolkit. With the entire Adobe Creative Cloud you can expect support for everything from color grading to media encoding and delivery along with photo editing and graphic design tools. Adobe’s Creative Cloud is by far the most versatile suite you can buy.
The Choice is Yours
Video editing is an essential step in the production process. It is the place where the story is truly told. While the camera helps a director paint the picture of a scene or shot, editing reveals the entire story. Editing is how we set the tone, pace and feeling for a piece of content. While there are many different programs available, it is important to consider your needs as an editor and purchase the software and system that best fits your production workflow.
Chris Settineri is the CEO of Studio 10 Films. He is skilled at shooting, directing, and editing video productions.