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The Best Home Video Editing Software


By: Lance Carr

Multimedia Choosing the best video editing software for you can seem a daunting task given the wide range of products available at the moment. Add in the many and varied recording devices, video formats and recording media and it is easy to feel there is no way out! However with a little help to remain focused on what is important you should be able to make a good choice.One of the key, overriding points to keep in mind throughout the selection process is, "What is it that I am I REALLY going to do with the video editing software that I choose?" The answer to that question has to remain uppermost in your mind when selecting the best video editing software for you. It is easy to get distracted by all the "bells and whistles" on offer but the reality is that many of those features will ultimately prove useless to you. All of the major home video editing software companies offer camcorder to DVD video editing solutions that make them almost inseparable from each other. So concentrate on what you REALLY need.

Formats:

This first thing to establish is what is the format of the material you will be working with and what will be the formats that I will want to produce in the end. Input will be determined by your camcorder or your DVD recorder or whatever the source of your material is. At the moment you will come in under one of the following headings from the point of view of video editing software. These formats are what you need to be aware of in judging the capabilities of the video editing software you choose.

Input:

Standard Definition (SD):

DV.AVI video recorded to mini DV tape on a camcorder.

MPEG2 video recorded to mini DVD either on a camcorder or DVD recorder.

MPEG2 video recorded to an inbuilt hard disc drive on a camcorder or DVD recorder.

Any of the various high compression formats such as MPEG4, H.264 recorded to flash type memory on camcorders.

High Definition (HD):

HD MPEG2 recorded to mini DV tape on a camcorder.

AVCHD (an MPEG4 variant) recorded to inbuilt hard disc drive on a camcorder.

AVCHD recorded to DVD on a camcorder.

AVCHD recorded to solid state (flash etc.) memory on a camcorder.

Output:

DVD. This will be in the form of MPEG2 files authored (organized and written) to the DVD standard.

Completed projects or edited material written back to the original recording device. E.g. A completed project written back to a tape camcorder for archival purposes.

High Definition material written to a standard DVD.

High Definition material written to a Blue Ray disc or a HD D...oops! I guess we don't have to worry about that one now!

Any of a number of very highly compressed formats for viewing on computers, handheld devices or loading on to internet services such as YouTube.

As an added note here you also need to be aware of the various Dolby sound recording formats if your particular recording device, camcorder or DVD recorder uses it. Dolby licenses that technology and it may be only included with some software as an add-on.

So, your first task in deciding on what video editing software is suitable for you is to work out what your most common source files will be and what your most common output will be. That represents the core of what you will be using the software for and should be your main focus.

Bells and Whistles!

Like any other competitive market video editing software is caught up in a never ending race to keep up with technology as it develops and still make the product seem "sexy" to the customer. The point is you probably don't WANT to buy video editing software. What you WANT is a finished video production. The problem for the software company is that they know you NEED to buy video editing software but that is not what you WANT! They have to make you WANT it! And because of that we get "bells and whistles" features that make you WANT IT but most likely will never need.

Transitions:

These are the little inserts that go in between two clips to make the scene change. If you look at a movie you will notice when the scene changes it either cuts to the next scene with no transition, this is called cut or a straight cut. It fades to black then fades into the next scene from black called a cross fade through black. Or, finally, the two scenes merge into each other softly and this one is called a cross fade. There you have it, pretty well the entire gamut of transitions that professional video editors use! All video editing software programs offer at least 50 transitions each. You can get granny's head to separate and spin, turn into a dog and then that becomes you father's belt buckle from which you now zoom back into the next scene!...ok I am exaggerating! The point is that newbies use ALL the available transitions because they look cool the first time they see them. The reality is NOBODY ever, ever wants to go back to their house again to look at their latest production because their heads are still spinning from the last one! Ignore transitions as a deciding factor, all video editing software programs have them and they all have more than you need.

Overlay Tracks:

An overlay simply put, is the ability to put one video in the background and have another visible on top of it. It is that "picture in picture" effect you have seen on TV and in movies. You can also put subtitles in an overlay track or still photos or a bunch of other things to really get creative. If you watch the news these days you will see the main track is the person on-air, then you may see a ticker tape readout running below, the station logo at the top right and video of the "at the scene" reporter getting ready to make a report. All of that is done using overlay tracks. You need about five for good control but you would never use more than that otherwise, once again, no-one is going to want to watch the mess you have created!

Audio Control:

There is no video editing software at the consumer level that offers truly excellent audio control and features. Got it? They are video editing programs not audio editing programs. Some have pretty good control, some don't, if you are going to demand pro level audio then you need dedicated software for that. The ability to handle Dolby 2 channel is a bare minimum and 5:1 Surround should be standard. The program should offer two audio tracks to play with in addition to the sound in the video track. That leaves you plenty of room for music, narration or effects.

DVD Authoring:

What you are looking for here is the ability to fully author DVDs either in standard definition or in Blue-Ray if you are using high definition source material. The program should offer 10 to 20 preset menu templates for you to choose from that are fully customizable.

Smart Render:

Rendering is the term used when the video editing software is making the final file of your newly created video. Up until rendering, in any consumer level video editing software, all the cuts, additions, changes and adjustments you have been making are "virtual." The original footage is never touched. So rendering puts all that together and produces your final file in the format you have chosen as the viewing format. Any of the highly compressed formats such as MPEG2 (for DVDs), MPEG4 etc invariably suffer from loss of quality when they are re-rendered. The degree of loss of quality varies but it is essential that any video editing software you choose has the ability to recognise those files it does not need to re-render and simply copy those sections resulting in the high quality possible being retained.

So there you have it, stay focused on what is important and keep the "gee whiz" stuff to a minimum and you will do fine!



Lance Carr is an ex-patriot Australian living in Taiwan running a business consulting company. His grasp of the Chinese language ranges from poor to laughable and in most circumstances his actual use of the Chinese language results in laughter. The silent conversationless world in which Lance lives leaves him plenty of time to research things and that is what he does well. Video Editing Software
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