Equipment for Everyone

At Videomaker, we know lots of different kinds of videographers: moms and dads with kids, weekend professionals who shoot weddings, corporate trainers, you name it. And all of them wait patiently each year for this issue, because it’s the one that contains our yearly survey of digital video editing tools. The problem is, each Videomaker reader is different, and each one has different needs when it comes to digital video editing. Whether we’re talking about a full-featured turnkey video editing system or just the latest titling software, the types of products you should be looking for will depend heavily on what type of editor you are. With this in mind, we’re going to approach each of the ten product categories we’ve lined up for you this year from the points of view of the following people:

  • A hobbyist, Joe Camera, who edits videos of his family vacations for fun.
  • A professional videographer, Josephine Pro, who shoots weddings, events and commercials for a living.
  • A hospital administrator, J. Corporate, who is not a videographer, but needs to produce a series of training videos for the staff.

    Whichever Joe you may happen to be, we hope you find this year’s digital video editing products buyer’s guide to be useful and informative.

    Modern Machines

    The standard modern machine is a general-purpose computer that edits video more than adequately. Many new machines are ready to edit right out of the box.

    Joe Camera knows that when he buys a Windows PC for the home, all he has to do is make sure it comes with a FireWire card installed, a decent hard drive and Windows XP with Movie Maker 2 software. Joe Camera‘s wife, a university professor, loves the simplicity of the Apple computing platform and is delighted that every Apple Macintosh computer ships with a FireWire port and iMovie software.

    Josephine Pro will only look at a standard turnkey computer if it comes with at least one large, fast hard drive, plenty of RAM, professional software and a superfast processor. She leans toward the Dual-processor Apple G5 machines ($2,999), which she can order complete with Final Cut Pro ($999) to make it a complete turnkey system.

    J. Corporate is most familiar with the Windows computers in his office, so he leans toward the Gateway 710XL Digital Film Maker ($4,250) because it comes with everything you need to begin professional-quality video editing.

    Custom Turnkeys

    Custom turnkeys are desktop computers with video capture cards and other hardware installed by the manufacturer or reseller. Think of them as video hotrods. Custom turnkeys are explicitly designed to edit video by companies that specialize in video editing.

    Joe Camera finds the custom turnkey computer a bit intimidating, but he might think of adding a Canopus ADVC-100 Analog/Digital Video convertor ($299) when he orders his standard system so he can convert his archive of analog tapes to DV for editing.

    Josephine Pro likes this category best of all. She dreams of owning a full-blown system that will deliver uncompressed Hollywood feature-quality video, something like the Avid Media Composer Adrenaline system ($24,995).

    J. Corporate leans toward the low-cost, real-time editing machines, such as the Canopus RES-150 Realtime Editing Station ($5,499). J. Corporate knows that time is money and although these turnkeys cost more initially, the time they save translates into cash in the long run. Besides, missing a training deadline is not an option.

    Editing Software

    Editing software is the interface that helps computer video editors splice, dice and otherwise produce their final video masterpieces.

    Joe Camera leans toward the simple and inexpensive, so he likes iMovie and Movie Maker (both free), but he might also take a look at Ulead’s VideoStudio ($90), Dazzle’s MovieStar 5 ($50) or ArcSoft’s Video Impression ($50).

    Josephine Pro likes the more full-featured apps that give her the power she needs to please her clients. She also sometimes collaborates with other pros, so she is looking at as Apple’s Final Cut Pro 4 ($999) and Adobe’s Premiere Pro ($699).

    J. Corporate only produces video internally, so the company needs something fast and easy to use. J. does need more power than the simpler editing software provides, so Apple Final Cut Express ($299) is looking good, but so is Canopus Edius. Ultimately, the software is going to have to match the hardware and that will be the deciding factor.

    Standalone Editing

    Leaving the world of general computers behind, standalone editing appliances offer video editing in a single box that edits video and nothing else.

    Joe Camera likes the simplicity of the editing appliance, but finds them a little expensive for his budget. He’ll probably leans toward the less expensive options like the basic Casablanca Avio ($1,499).

    Josephine Pro prefers the wide-open expandability of a computer-based system, but likes what she’s seen of the Edirol DV-7 ($4,499) with the DV-7R Pro Expansion Kit ($395), which adds over 50 effects and features to the basic system.

    J. Corporate loves this category, since the products are such reliable workhorses, and might consider buying an editing appliance like the Applied Magic Sequel ($1,999) or Screenplay ($3,495) rather than mess around with all the hassles associated with setting up and running a computer-based system.

    Laptop Turnkeys

    Laptop turnkeys are just what they sound like: laptop computers with turnkey video editing capabilities.

    Joe Camera finds that the Apple iBook with iMovie ($1,099) is a great companion on family road trips, because it is a simple, inexpensive portable video-editing platform.

    Josephine Pro requires more raw video editing power, so she’s more interested in features and muscle. A DVLine ProLaptop ($2,399) might be right or maybe a 1 Beyond DV Pro 3216-X ($5,495) that looks like it could easily replace last year’s desktop is what is required. She’s definitely making sure that the computer has USB 2.0 as well as FireWire so she can connect additional external hard disk drives.

    J. Corporate is looking for something affordable, reliable and portable, such as Sony’s VAIO PCG-GRT240G notebook ($2,099).

    External Digitizers

    Once upon a time, all digital video capture devices were internal cards you had to install in your home computer. Now, high-speed connections like FireWire and USB 2.0 mean that you can get video onto your computer without opening it up.

    Joe Camera loves these products, because they allow him the possibility of using his existing computer to edit video without too much trouble or expense. Pinnacle’s Studio Moviebox USB ($200) and Dazzle’s Digital Video Creator 150 ($150) are very interesting to him, because they come bundled with simple, basic video editing software.

    Josephine Pro and J. Corporate don’t care much for the external video digitizers as a product class, primarily because they mostly digitize video to the compressed MPEG-2 format, which does not have the quality they need for their work.

    Internal Digitizers and Hardware-Assisted Rendering

    These products consist of expansion cards that must be carefully installed into an existing computer and they include both cards with analog inputs (true digitizers) and FireWire-only cards. Hardware-assisted rendering cards can render effects in real time and are a boon when time = money.

    Joe Camera might be interested in purchasing a FireWire card to upgrade his existing computer so he can begin editing his DV or Digital8 footage. Pinnacle’s Studio DV ($100), complete with Studio 8 editing software, is one such option.

    Josephine Pro reminisces about the days when video capture cards were the core of every desktop video system. Today, she might be interested in products like the Matrox RT.X10 Suite ($699), because it includes many popular bundled software titles and real-time effects.

    J. Corporate might not like the idea of setting up and installing a card in the computer and so would go instead with a turnkey. That turnkey, however, would definitely include a hardware-assisted rendering card of some sort.

    Titling Software

    This category covers all kinds of software used in creating titles and credits for videos.

    Joe Camera probably wouldn’t consider purchasing or using titling software, aside from whatever titling capabilities already come with his video editor.

    Josephine Pro wants professional-looking moving titles in all kinds of fonts and styles. Something like Boris Graffiti ($249) easily fits the bill. She is, however, just as likely to use a 2D or 3D compositing package to create her titles instead.

    J. Corporate has the same concerns as Josephine Pro, but a more limited budget and even less time, so something like Wildform’s WildFX Pro ($99) might be in the cards.

    Compositing and Effects Software

    Compositing software is used to meld together, or composite, two sources of visual media to create an effect using alpha channel, blue screen or other techniques. Effects software ranges from simple pre-configured transitions to full-blown 3D software used by Hollywood film professionals.

    Joe Camera doesn’t have much interest in learning fancy compositing techniques, so he wants something simple and pre-configured, like the plug-in transitions of Pinnacle HollywoodFX ($150).

    Josephine Pro plans to rule the world with Adobe After Effects ($699) or discreet Combustion ($995).

    J. Corporate doesn’t have much use (or time) for a lot of fancy effects, but needs something businesslike and straightforward, like Digital Juice’s Jump Backs collection of still and moving backgrounds.

    Audio Editing Software

    Because editing audio is at least as important as editing video, this category covers a product range nearly as diverse as the video editing field itself.

    Joe Camera might like to get his hands on a copy of the inexpensive, but full-featured, GoldWave ($42).

    Josephine Pro leans toward something powerful, with options not found in most video editing software, such as Steinberg WaveLab ($600).

    J. Corporate needs the tools and filters for solid, clear and clean audio, so Sony Pictures Vegas ($560) is not only the video editing software of choice, but also the audio tool that is required.

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