All the well-filmed video footage in the world does you no good without a powerful video editing software solution. The specific product you use is going to depend on your needs, of course, and on your budget. But it's a good idea to know something about how all of the different products on the market work, what value you'll get for your price, what kind of options you'll have for compressing and distributing your video--and what certain video editing products won't do for you.
Some General Features To Watch For
You want video editing software that makes it easy for you to capture video from your camera and painlessly import it into a form that you can work with. Bad video editing software will make you download extra codecs, configure hardware in your operating system, or use extra third-party utilities to let your camera interface with your editing software. Good video editing software should be as easy as plugging in your camera or your mini-DV tape, waiting for the footage to download automatically, and then it's right there for you in the editing room to do with what you will.
You want video editing software that makes it easy for you to cut out footage and splice in footage wherever you need. A drag-and-drop interface is the perfect tool for this. (For an example of a drag-and-drop interface, take a look at the first screen shot on this page:
If you click on the screenshot you'll see a much larger image that shows you the interface and its features in detail.)
Drag-and-drop video editing is intuitive, gives you precise control over exactly when cuts should happen, lets you visualize the finished product, and sidesteps the need for a lot of tedious time coding, storyboarding, and other processes that give professional editors more control at the cost of time and money.
There's no excuse to use an editing package that doesn't feature drag-and-drop editing, considering how easy and time-effective it is. If you want to make Citizen Kane, make Citizen Kane. If you want to sell products effectively and quickly, use a drag-and-drop solution.
You want video editing software that makes it easy for you to add whatever audio effects, music tracks, or other bells and whistles (sometimes literally) that you need to achieve your design concept. This should also be a drag-and-drop situation. Unfortunately it can be difficult to find an editing package that gives you as much control over your audio tracks as it does over your video tracks. One good solution in a pinch is to try out Audacity, a free, open source drag-and-drop audio editor for a variety of operating systems.
Audacity will let you take your raw audio track, tweak it however you might want, then re-import it as an mp3 or other appropriately-formatted file into your video editing package. If you can find a package that gives you good integrated audio editing as well as video editing, by all means use it, but if you can't find a package that works for you, try this free solution.
You want video editing software that makes it easy to preserve your raw footage while still experimenting with different cuts, arrangements, and music mixes. Traditional film editing is destructive, requiring an editor to physically cut the film and splice it into different arrangements.
There's just no reason to accept this restriction when you're dealing with digital video, which after all is just data and which can be easily manipulated and rearranged. Most commercial video editing software is non-destructive, so this isn't a huge thing to worry about. But if you see any video editing software that emphasizes memory conservation, speed, or similar features, you should double-check to make sure that the software is non-destructive.
Non-destructive solutions preserve your raw footage by making a backup copy and allowing you to edit and manipulate that copy without touching the original footage. This is safer, but means that you have two gigantic movie files in your computer's memory. Accept the tradeoff in terms of speed and memory and pick an editing solution that preserves your original data: you don't want to have to re-shoot anything just because you tried to get a little bit creative with your editing.
You want video editing software that makes it easy to tweak and polish your footage to ensure that it looks as good as possible. Color correction, precise timing, control over the speed that footage plays, and the ability to hand-edit individual frames to fix minor problems are all nice features to have, are generally easy to use, and translate into a much tighter and better product in the end.
The ability to color-correct shouldn't be the major determining factor in which video editing package you choose, but if you can get it without spending a significantly higher amount of money, get it.
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