Video Editing - Choosing Software


The best video editing solution available in the world today is the iLife '06 suite of applications from Apple available for about $80 retail or $60 for academic users. The iLife '06 suite is available for free on an iMac or MacBook Pro notebook.


There are several high quality alternatives for video editing today. Best results (broadcast quality projects) are obtained by using a miniDV camera and then transferring the digital video directly to a computer using a Firewire cable (also known as IEEE 1394).

Some video recording methods (such as mini DVD) may exhibit some loss of quality in the initial compression phase and then again when the video is converted from digital (MPG) to an analog output and then converted back to digital (DV) when importing to the computer.

There are two preeminent consumer-grade video editing software providers for the Windows platform. These are Pinnacle and Roxio. The Roxio product is called Easy Media Creator and sells for about $80 to $100. More information is available online here:

For Apple computer users, the available programs are typically more powerful and cost less money. A comparison of the three Apple video solutions can be found here:

The three products from Apple are: iMovie, Final Cut Express, and Final Cut Pro.

Final Cut Pro is included with a suite of video editing programs called Final Cut Studio and sells for about $1,300. However, professional quality video production can also be achieved using the iLife suite of media programs which includes iMovie, iDVD, iPhoto, iTunes, Garage Band, and iWeb.

Because iLife is free with a new Apple computer, or if purchased about $1,200 less than Final Cut Studio, most individuals, small businesses, and organizations choose to use iLife for video production. In addition to the saving of money, many people appreciate the ease of use that iLife offers the user - saving precious and valuable time. Since iMovie (and iLife) are so easy to use, a novice can produce a highly appealing broadcast-quality video without much effort. In fact, most people would produce a better looking video in less time using iMovie rather than Final Cut Pro.

The complexity of Final Cut Pro may result in the user doing something wrong, and thereby actually doing damage to their project or accidentally deleting something. Or, their project completion may be delayed because the simplest of editing tasks are not intuitive by examining the user interface. The built-in help feature is of little use to someone who hasn't learned the language of the professional video production industry.


A user who has the time and money to invest in Final Cut Studio may still want to consider using iMovie to quickly and easily create a visual media "storyboard" of their video project. This can then be used as a template for a more detailed project created with Final Cut Pro.


The keys to making a high quality video have little to do with the quality of your software or computer. There are many factors to consider before the video even leaves the camera:

* Lighting. Be sure to have very good lighting for your video. Watch for shadows on people's faces. If a PowerPoint presentation is to be given, the speaker probably won't be lit well enough. Consider having the speaker well-lit and standing away from the screen in another part of the room. It may be possible to insert slides from the PowerPoint into the video later.

* Sound. Be sure to use a very good quality microphone, watch for audio that is too quiet or too loud and distorted, watch out for any static or hum in the recording. Watch out for annoying background noises such as hums, fans, doors opening/closing, or people talking. Watch out for annoying acoustic conditions such as an echo or "small room" sound. If outdoors, watch out for strong wind that might causing noise when blowing on the microphone.

* Framing. Just as with still photography, be sure to properly "zoom in" on your subject and only include what is necessary for the video. Whenever possible, move the camera closer to your subject rather than zooming. This should result in a brighter and clearer video.

* Tripod. Use a tripod. A camera that is moving will result in video that is difficult to watch.

* Quality Control. Whenever possible, test the video recording as you go or do a trial run prior to taping.

* Regardless of what software you use, it is very difficult to correct for poor light and audio later.


Here are some helpful analogies to help you consider if you really need to use high-end $1,300 video editing software.

* A very successful golf professional can play an impressive game of golf even without having the most expensive set of golf clubs. This is because much of the success in golf stems from the player's experience and vision. Similarly, a creative video can be produced by someone using very simple tools.

* A beautifully knit quilt is beautiful because of the creativity that went into designing it. Having the best needles or thread are not the primary factor in the end result. Similarly, with a video, it is the content of a video, not the flashiness of it, that hopefully is what intrigues the viewer.

* If Picasso were given some simple brushes and paints, he could still have painted a work of art. It wasn't the quality of his materials, but the creativity in his mind that made him a success.

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