Computer EditingO.k., you've decided to go it alone: You're going to edit your own video. We'll assume your computer has a video capture card, a sound card, editing software and, if you decide to use certain programs, hardware called an "accelerator card" as well.
The starting point for decisions about all of this is the editing software. The guiding principle here is KIS -- Keep It Simple. Don't buy a more powerful software program than you need to do your job. Salespeople will try to convince you to buy Adobe Premiere. It's an excellent product. At around $750 or more it ought to be! But buying it for the beginning amateur editor is like buying a $100,000 Maserati to drive six blocks to pick up the kids from Cubs! Too much tool for the job.
If you use a Mac there's iMovie, which comes free with the Apple Operating System and Apple's Final Cut Studio the Maserati here, way too expensive at $1300 and way too complex for most amateur users.
If you use a PC there are numerous software programs for computer editing, ranging from Corel's VideoStudio ProX at $60 and Sony Vegas Movie Studio and DVD at a street price of about $90.00 to Vegas Video Pro 12.0 at about $350, to Avid products in excess of $10,000 (yup! The zeros are correct.)
There are major factors to consider in deciding what software is right for you. Get on the WWW and find out as much as you can about software you're considering for purchase. Look at:
All editing programs require a substantial investment of time to learn, so consider that a given. Beyond that, how difficult is a program to remember? One program I saw a few years ago consisted of dozens of nested pull-down menus. Unless I remember that the command for "Audio EQ" is three levels down in a "Tools" sub menu, not in the "Audio" menu where I'd expect it to be, I'm going to have a very difficult time using this program.
Some questions to ask:
As well as instructional books, Sony Vegas, Premiere and many other mainstream programs have third party DVDs and CDs available that will take you through every feature of the program, allowing you to see how it's done and often having on-line tutorials that allow you to work along as you're learning.
The computer manipulation to finalize special effects, transitions and the like is called rendering and it takes time to happen. Not a lot if you're doing a single cross fade, but quite a bit of time if you're doing multiple cross fades, plus color correction, brightening up a few scenes and making adjustments to the audio (sound).
What is "rendering?"
Lets say you bring some video of your vacation property at the ocean into the computer; lets represent it digitally as 1111111. You bring in another clip -- of your house in Phoenix -- and it's represented as 0000000.
You'd like to create a cross fade here, so that the ocean fades out and the desert fades in. Think of what the computer has to do like this: it moves the "1s" apart -- 1_1_1_1_1_1_1 to make room for the "0s," and slides the "0s" in between the "1s." And it makes the "1s" smaller -- i.e., it decreases the strength of the ocean picture -- as it makes the "0s" bigger -- i.e., as it increases the strength of the Phoenix picture.
Now the picture looks like this: 11o1o101010100. At the beginning the ocean information dominates the picture (big "1s") and the Phoenix information is subordinate (little "0s"), but by the end of the cross fade the ocean is subordinated to Phoenix, and we see big "0s" in the last positions.
All computer editing involves rendering. The question is how long will it take, and at what point in the process is it done. Rendering can be done entirely by your computer, or it can be speeded up by adding special hardware in the computer, an accelerator card, a kind of video computer-within-a-computer. Rendering can take place in the background, while you're continuing to edit, or it can be done all at once, when the entire project is completed.
The trade-off in time is the cost of accelerator hardware and the instability it can introduce into the computer environment.
Back in the 1990s there was the Apple, which was designed from the outset to handle video, and there was the Amiga and the Video Toaster, specifically designed to deal with video on the non-Apple side of things. They did an excellent job.
Since then, however, PC's have either accommodated video through software which works entirely with what's in the PC when you buy it off the shelf at Best Buy, or through the introduction of add-in "video cards," electronic components that allow the electronic architecture of the PC to interface with video.
Unfortunately the union of PC and video card is not always a happy one. Online bulletin boards resound to the cries of videographers whose programs keep crashing because of often unfathomable "hardware incompatibilities," crashes that result in what has become known as the "Blue Screen of Death." In an attempt to avoid the dreaded blue screen and the message "System Failure," professional videographers often purchase computers that have been pre-configured to support the hardware and software combination they wish to run, often at considerable expense.
So what this all boils down to is your comfort zone. If you're a "computer person," you shouldn't have any problem dealing with the demands of software and hardware installation and operating system configuration.
If, on the other hand, computers aren't your friend, you'll want to seek out software that installs easily and performs just like the information on the back of the box says it will.