There are many types of editing software available in the market today and, with the right editing application, anyone can edit.
Nowadays, you get a lot more for your dollar than just editing software. Some come integrated or bundled with DVD authoring, encoder, effects and titling applications. Deciding which one to buy depends on your skill level, how much you want to spend and what you are planning to edit. If you are clear on these issues, choosing the right editing software should be a breeze.
For the Novice
If you are just starting out, and your interests don’t go beyond creating videos of your family or vacations, then consider a simple, user-friendly editing application. These programs require little expertise, and most beginners can guess their way through them. Usually under $99, they provide a great place to start editing.
A beginner-level program allows you to assemble your movie with drag-and-drop simplicity, then just edit and preview on your monitor window. Some also import from HDV and DVD camcorders and allow you to share videos anywhere, including DVD, the Web, mobile phones and portable media players.
Others in this category include DVD authoring software, so you can create a movie with an authored DVD menu in three easy steps. Still others include pan and zoom features to create photo slideshows; assorted effects and video filters are also common.
Some beginner programs are slightly more elaborate, with multiple video and audio tracks, and a real-time audio and video reverse feature that allows for changes to your video, keeping the original file intact. Zoom, rotate and pan across photos to animate still images, and create your own DVDs with motion menus straight from the timeline. As a beginner, consider what you want to do with your video before you buy, as some of the beginner programs are limited on some features. However, don’t try to go for everything; there are many features you won’t use, and other features might distract you or complicate your editing experience. We recommend checking out some free downloadable trial versions.
Beginning editors might be more comfortable editing with a Storyboard layout rather than a Timeline layout. Check the Feature Headings on our accompanying grid under User Interface for Storyboard abilities.
For the Intermediate Hobbyist
Intermediate-level programs feature hardier editing software and are sometimes bundled with third-party programs. Some also come with the hardware that provides both analog and digital inputs and outputs. They run from $100 to $900. Included are advanced features such as color correction, perfect audio sync and playback, a quality MPEG-2 encoder, multiple layers of audio and video, and real-time performance.
Many editing software titles in this category are for DV-only editors needing a more professional-looking production. The advanced toolsets provide a stable workflow, especially for long-format productions. Editors can make frame-precise edits with a complex trim tool, organize footage into bins with a media management tool, make notes on every clip and work on multiple timelines within the same project.
This category has more features and some programs can deliver videos with 3D transitions and effects in real time, while constantly rendering clips and saving your work automatically in the background. You can also create and author a DVD straight from the timeline.
You can export and import most video, audio and graphic file formats. Archive media and make edits in one step, using advanced tools. Some come with scopes, a titling tool and a number of keyboard shortcuts. Editing software in this category is considered the most professional you can buy for under $1,000.
For the Hard-core Pro
In this category, you will find editing software designed for professional editors. They are complex and powerful and can handle the toughest editing tasks. However, once you master the initial learning curve, you will find these high-end applications surprisingly simple. Most of the editing software in this category is integrated with other equally-powerful applications for creating professional, broadcast-quality productions. They are generally priced over $900.
And you do get what you pay for. For $1,000 and up, you can buy high-end software with advanced animations, a powerful audio design, DVD authoring capability and an industry-standard encoder. Powerful multi-camera editing, native HDV support, real-time processing, color correction, image manipulation filters and audio control surface support are among the powerful features you get. Several popular editing software titles in this category now run natively on both Intel- and PowerPC-based Macs.
Beginning-to-end, concept-to-conform, flexibility is another goal of editing software in the professional category, combining video, audio, film, effects, DVD authoring and encoding tools, plus custom music creation tools, for both Mac and PC. Open timeline technology combines multiple formats in their native form. Trim tools, multi-cam editing, automatic color correction, image stabilization, pan and zoom of oversized stills and real-time animated alpha channels are among the features you get with professional editing software.
The professional editing programs usually meet all the requirements of high-end broadcast environments. They can support non-tape forms of video recording and storage; mixed format HD/SD editing; complete I/O support for high-end formats; unlimited video, audio, title and graphics tracks; real-time HD/SD effects; and render-free DV output. They boast multi-cam editing of up to eight different sources simultaneously, nested timeline sequences, HDV timeline export, multi-format video exporting, direct-to-DVD timeline export and motion titles and graphics.
Programs to Match Your Talent
Using the right editing program to match your needs and skill level is crucial. You can have the most sophisticated application and be frustrated, not knowing what to do with it. On the other hand, you can have a very simple program that does not match your creativity. The right software can make the difference between a good movie and an awesome one.
You really need to research what your needs are, and truly look at your skill set and designs, before making that software purchase. If you think you might want to start low and move into a higher-end program someday, check to see if the platform of the one you’re thinking of purchasing is exceptionally different from something you might want to upgrade to. Every time you change programs, there’s a new learning curve, and even the long-term pros have to go through that when they change. Don’t buy software to edit a very special once-in-a-lifetime event and not give yourself time to learn it, regardless of your computer skills or editing knowledge.
Teresa Echazabal is a Hollywood video editor and producer.
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