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Video Toolbox : Post-Production

Get Editing! An Editing Software Buyer's Guide

by Michael Fitzer   © 2006 Videomaker, Inc.

Whether you edit feature films for a living or your daughter's birthday party for your family, non-linear digital editing has changed the way professionals, hobbyists, and everyone in-between work with media.

Videomaker Magazine

It used to be that hardware/software-based NLE (non-linear editing) systems were out of the price range for most enthusiasts. "Please don't lose that dongle. It costs $1,500 to replace!" But, as video technology has become easier to use and those who use it have begun to conquer their technophobia, the editing software industry has stepped up to the plate to deliver easy-to-use and affordable software solutions from a wide range of companies. The only problem is deciding on which one best fits your needs.

Less than $100

Nero, best known for CD ripping and DVD creation, actually packs a pretty powerful editing application within its box, along with other features like photo media management and archiving, all for $100. Nero 7 Premium, just released, supports Microsoft's new Windows OS, Vista. The initial release will only include Blu-ray/HD DVD data recording features.

Craig Campbell, Technical Director for Nero, says that the program supports both HD DVD and Blu-ray, as well as navigating between all different media formats. The program incorporates the entire video producing experience, allowing users complete control of their video from beginning to end, regardless of the type of digital media they are using. You can also capture directly to disc through Nero, and it offers AACS protection, more 3D animations and graphics, and easy-to-create DVD menu making.

Magix Movie Edit Pro 11 has a simple one-punch titling option that gives you a plethora of pre-designed titles along with movement; all you have to do is change the words. There are also dozens of easy-to-use preset effects that will keep the beginner and hobbyist editor happy for a long time. Pro 11 was released early this year, and new features include HD support, drivers for DirectX and menu reading for DVD creation.

"The trend is leaning towards HDV and HD, and our newest releases will always stay up on the changes," says John Auvil, Magix Customer Service Manager for North America. This is the 3rd release of Movie Edit Pro, and it can edit 16:9 and burn to HD discs. All it takes is a system capable of handling HD frame-accurate data. He stresses that Movie Edit Pro can achieve long-GOP frame-accurate editing because it has very sparse system requirements, preferring the program to utilize code and driver applications already on a user's system.

Pinnacle Studio has long been a beginner's platform, and the Studio Plus 10.5 Titanium Edition has undergone some changes to make file transferring into mobile devices or the internet even easier. With its "Capture. Edit. Share." theme, Pinnacle wants to make sure beginner aren't bogged down with too many confusing steps between transferring raw video from their cameras and seeing polished results that can easily be shared with family and friends. Travis White, senior product manager, says, "Pinnacle offers both software and hardware solutions to better cover customers' needs from beginning to end. With Pinnacle Studio, customers can be confident that they are getting all the components they need to easily create the high-quality results they want without a lot of hassle."

As video technology has become easier to use, the editing software industry has stepped up to the plate to deliver easy-to-use and affordable software solutions from a wide range of companies.

For example, Pinnacle's internal and external cards have video output that can hook up to a regular TV and don't need outside support cards. White adds that "users can easily check out true colors and effects on an average TV monitor," saving a lot of wasted time burning and disposing of DVDs if you discovered you needed to make some changes after viewing your final project.

The Titanium Edition includes an MPEG-4 codec, which allows DivX output, and has presets for Sony PSP and Apple iPod output. "There have been many modifications and improvements to the Studio product family over the years," says White, "but the easy interface and workflow concepts have remained consistently intuitive," so that users of, say version 7, know what to expect when they upgrade to 10.5. "It has a new engine underneath," he says, "but the interface is just as easy as ever." Studio's autumn all line will have even more additions, including more video tools and home movie making options. Studio Plus 10.5 Titanium Edition: $99.

Ulead VideoStudio 10 Plus also sells for less than $100 ($99), and coming from Intervideo, it includes the WinDVD player for sharing your video in standard and high-definition video (MPEG-2 HD/WMV-HD). It also has support for MPEG-4 for direct downloads to iPods, SmartPhones and the like. The suite includes DVD authoring and authors can make menus with moving video and text using a variety of pre-designed templates.

"One of the big improvements is support for Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound. " Says Vinson Chen, VideoStudio Product Manager for Ulead. "Clicking one button lets users switch between stereo and surround sound modes." He adds that a simple technique for creating a surround mix for home movies with a music soundtrack is to leave the audio from the camcorder video untouched while zeroing the center channel level and reducing the overall level for the background music in the music track. "This ensures that important dialog remains clear but still lets you use music to establish mood and emotion. It's what they do in the movies."

New to Ulead this year: Ulead's VideoStudio10 Plus edits in HD and standard, has 5.1 surround sound editing capability, and a few new filters including the Anti-Shake filter which stabilizes video, good when you're stuck editing someone's shaky hand-held footage, and an Enhance Lighting filter that lightens dark clips. There's also a fun Fish Eye filter to give a clip a bubble-like distortion.

Whichever system you buy, make sure you have fun with what you're doing and explore everything your new system offers.


Sony Media Software's Vegas+DVD Production Suite is a combination suite that focuses on four areas of integrated function: video editing, audio sweetening, encoding and DVD authoring. The suite includes Vegas 6, DVD Architect 3, and Dolby Digital AC-3 encoding software. The production suite allows editors to work with several formats on the same timeline, including DV and HDV as well as SD/HD-SDI. "All of the common delivery methods are possible and easy to apply with Vegas 6," says Dave Hill, VP for Sony Media Software, "including use with games, HD cams, PSP mobile devices as well as the traditional TVs or computers." The Vegas Suite networks across the suite apps seamlessly and easily. Hill recommends HDV users codec their footage using the third-party app, CineForm. You'll then be editing transitions and simple effects in real time without the need to wait for that rendering time-suck until the final project render. Once your project is edited, the suite's DVD authoring program is an easy drag-and-drop application. MSRP begins at $675.

Grass Valley, long known for professional cameras, switchers, routers and servers, recently brought Canopus under its umbrella and recently released Edius Pro version 4, which is geared towards the intermediate to advanced user. Like its pro brethren, Edius has some powerful pro features in its editing software, including multi-camera syncing and editing, sequence nesting, and keyframe color correction. You can sync up to 8 cameras using the multicam feature on the timeline, with a real-time preview monitor or a master channel displaying all 8 cameras. The pros that make live switchers made this editing software work and feel like you're switching live, but with an editing platform's flexibility.

"Nested timeline supports gives users a more simplified editing process, allowing users to separate full sections of complicated segments and nest them back into the master project," says Brandon Higa, Canopus' product marketing engineer. "Edius also incorporates native HD editing rather than having to convert to a QuickTime format." You would decompress from disk to the timeline, without conversion, unless you render a file or portions to a disc. Users can make frame accurate edits in real-time, using mixed formats such as HD, HDV, DV, MPEG-2, lossless and uncompressed SD video. MSRP is $699 for Edius Pro v4 and $999 for Edius Broadcast v4.

Avid has long been associated with high-end post-production hardware and software systems. Late last year, Avid introduced the Avid Liquid product line for users who want a single software application for delivery of professional-grade video on the Mac or PC. Jim Thill, Product Manager for Avid Liquid, says "the Avid Liquid system offers users all the capabilities they need to produce professional edits in one software solution, with a great range of real time effects, integrated DVD authoring, Dolby Digital 5.1, and an incredibly smooth work flow."

While the Avid Media Composer is an industrial-strength tool with a rigid structure, Thill says, "Liquid is a product that is approachable for the novice user. It focuses on the needs of the videographer."

At just $499, Avid Liquid ($999 for Avid Liquid Pro) includes custom music creation, native editing of multiple codecs, an open


A completely software-based editing solution for Mac users, Final Cut Pro is "a simple, intuitive, user-friendly program," says Lowell Kay, President and owner of the DR Group, a Los Angeles-based post-production and media services provider.

"Apple provides a whole suite of products," says Lowell. "The software remains exactly the same for DV, SD and even HD" and "it's great for compositing and effects-laden projects. You can just read the instruction manual and go!"

Final Cut Studio 5.1 is a bundle of complementary software, including Final Cut Pro, with precise editing tools that work with almost any format, including fully uncompressed HD. Add that to Apple's Soundtrack Pro for advanced audio editing and sound design, Motion 2 for the design and easy integration of real-time motion graphics, and DVD Studio Pro, featuring high-quality distributed encoding of DV, SD, HD video and film, and you have a complete editing solution right at your fingertips and all for just $1,299.

What's more, as your skill level and production needs increase, FCP is deep enough to keep up. There's no need to purchase additional hardware to upgrade your system; that is a real advantage for the cost-conscious pro or amateur videographer.

Adobe has long been a trusted source for solid, intuitive creative software applications for Mac and Windows users alike. Adobe's Premiere Pro is no different.

As with most editing systems, Premiere offers all the standards for today's hobbyists and pros, including real-time playback of multiple channels without time-consuming renders. Features include: 5.1 surround sound; programming of customizable keyboard shortcuts; enhanced color-correction and precise keyframe controls; and support of multiple formats, including DV, Digital Betacam and even D5 HD. However, some formats may require that you purchase some additional hardware.

When asked "why beginning editors should consider using Premiere Pro," a Premiere marketing manager responded by saying, "It's easy to learn, with a drag-and-drop editing interface providing all standard editing techniques that seasoned professionals expect. It (also) integrates seamlessly with other Adobe applications, which together provide a total solution for video production that save time and money while giving (users) total creative control." Additionally, "With the widest hardware support, Premiere Pro is a solution that will grow with you as your production needs change."

For those looking for a complete audio and video editing solution, Adobe recommends Adobe's Creative Suite Production Studio. At just $1,699 for the premium package or $1,199 for the standard package, Production Studio combines Adobe After Effects 7.0 Professional, Adobe Premiere Pro 2.0, Adobe Photoshop CS2, Adobe Audition 2.0, Adobe Encore DVD 2.0, Adobe Illustrator CS2 software featuring Adobe Dynamic Link and Adobe Bridge. Adobe's Premiere Pro as a stand-alone software solution currently retails for $849.

What's in YOUR Software?

We've only skimmed the surface of what's available and these editing solutions are not the only ones available for today's beginning and professional editors. While all have some unique features, most of their primary features are now standard fare because it's what both today's pros and novices demand. So, before making your final decision on an editing solution, you may want to consider these basic questions:

  1. Does your current computer system meet the minimum operating requirements for the editing system?
  2. Will the editing system you're considering allow you to do all of the creative things you want to do?
  3. Do future upgrades of the editing system require the purchase of additional hardware, and if so, is it a purchase you're willing to make?
  4. Does the software come as a bundle, including other sophisticated and complementary software?
  5. What do other users of the product say about ease of use, reliability and depth of the program?
  6. Do you know anyone using the software who can answer your questions when you get stuck?
  7. Is there a large user group online that can help with technical issues?
  8. Can you download a trial version?

You will likely have other questions you'll want answered before you buy; however, these basics will get you thinking in the right direction. Whichever system you buy, make sure you have fun with what you're doing and explore everything your new system offers. Now go create and get editing!

Michael Fitzer is an Emmy™ Award winning writer and producer, and Jennifer O'Rourke is Videomaker's managing editor.

This article was initially published in the October 2006 issue of Videomaker Magazine. For more info on video production, visit their site or return to the Video Toolbox.

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