Editor’s Note: This is the second article in a weekly series on video editing presented by C_Cage. Tune in next week for more video production wisdom, tips and tricks.
Video editing is an interesting skill. There are some people who think it is as simple as pressing a few buttons and magically you won an Oscar. Then there are the people who think of video editing as a dauntingly challenging task that only an elite few can master. I’m here to tell you that both of those people are wrong. Video editing is fairly simple to start with, but can take a long time to become an expert at. There are hundreds if not thousands of editing softwares out there, so it may be difficult to choose which one is the right one for you. The purpose of this guide is to help you narrow down your choices and pick one that suits your needs.
Before we get into the programs, there’s a few things you should know. Video editing is a resource hog. If you are going to be using a higher end program, it could be using gigabytes of your systems memory at a time. Because of this, an editing computer requires a powerful CPU and a decent amount of RAM. My current rig has an i7 processor and 16 gigs of RAM. This is great for my needs, as my projects tend to use around 20 GB of footage at a time. If you are a PC gamer (and if you’re reading this, chances are that is you) then your current computer will likely suffice as an editing machine. The GPU isn’t as important as it is for gaming PCs, but it comes in handy if you are doing 3D modeling or a lot of special effects.
One very important thing to know about putting together an editing rig: Never install your editing software on the same hard drive as your operating system. The reason for this goes back to the amount of memory these programs use. If the software was to ever crash, all of that memory would be dumped into the same area of your operating system. This can corrupt essential files and require a reinstall of your computer. This happened to a few of the machines at my school.
Now, for the editing systems. In the digital age, editors use a technique called non-linear editing. This means that you have the ability to edit a piece together in any order you want. If I filmed a ten minute movie and want to edit the middle first, then the end, and finish with the beginning, non-linear editing systems (NLE’s) allow me to do that. I have compiled a list of a few programs that I think are great for YouTuber / Twitch streamer’s needs. I have separated them into three tiers: Casual, Serious, and Professional. As this article goes on you’ll see what I mean by that.
Casual Tier: Free/Low cost programs, easy to use, lack certain features. For those who only need to put clips together set to music.
- Windows Movie Maker: Free, comes bundled with most versions of Windows
- This program is good for very basic projects. It allows you to piece together pictures and clips into essentially a home-movie slideshow. If you’re looking to do something like that, then this program would work for you. However, it is very limiting in what it can do and does not teach you techniques that are helpful in other programs.
- iMovie: $15, Mac only
- Offering much more features than Windows Movie Maker, I find this more useful for basic editing needs. It offers the ability to edit multiple video tracks and has some audio editing tools. Its export settings are pretty solid and it can handle HD video easily. It lacks proper import encoding settings however, so large video files can take a long time to get into the timeline.
- Lightworks: Free
- I’m not going to lie here, I’ve never used this program. However, looking at it’s website, I see that it can handle video footage up to 4K resolution (which is the resolution Hollywood films are shot in). It seems to offer a lot of features that professional systems have, as well as a lot of online tutorials to help you get into the software. I don’t have the experience with this software to make an opinion, but it seems like a very powerful system, especially for free. Why not try it out?
Serious Tier: $100 or less, offers more features
- CyberLink Powerdirector: $70-100 depending on the version
- This was how I learned to edit. I can’t give this program enough praise for its price. Fairly simple to use, great layout, and very powerful. If you want a piece of software that can playback HD video flawlessly, has built in audio editing, powerful options, and a helpful online community, I recommend this program for this price range.
- Adobe Premiere Elements and Sony Movie Studio Premium: $95-99
- These two programs are stripped down versions of their parent programs: Adobe Premiere and Sony Vegas. I say stripped down, although the same basic features are there. These two programs are actually fairly powerful, albeit not as powerful as the more professional ones. However, if you want a decent software from a large name company, I’d say give one of these a shot.
Professional Tier: $200+, used by professional editors
- Avid Media Composer: $999, $295 for students
- This is my editing software of choice. Yes, the price point is steep. Being a student, I am able to take advantage of many discounts available to me. I know not everyone has that luxury, but this is the software that is currently the Hollywood industry standard. Virtually every major studio movie you’ve seen has been edited with this program. It’s the industry standard for a reason, because it is fast and powerful. However, it is a major pain to learn how to use. It does not hold your hand or tell you how to do anything. It relies on many keyboard commands yet does not kindly tell you what those commands are. However, once you learn its ways, Avid Media Composer is (in my opinion) the most efficient way to edit high-quality videos.
- Adobe Premiere Pro: $60 a month with the Adobe Creative Suite, $20 a month for students
- I’ve noticed that Premiere has become more common lately in larger productions. I’ve used it several times, however I’ve noticed that I keep coming back to Avid. However, the biggest advantage Adobe has over its competitors is Premiere’s ability to seamlessly work together with its other programs, namely Photoshop and After Effects. The Creative Suite is actually a pretty sweet deal. For $60 a month, you get virtually all of Adobe’s products, most of which go for around $300-400 each. Again, as a student you get a better deal, but if you’re looking for a very powerful system that is fairly affordable, this is a pretty good deal.
- Sony Vegas Pro: $599, $349 for students
- This is the software my professor swears by, but I personally can’t stand it. To me, this software has a lot of power and strength, however it dumbs itself down to appeal to consumers. I’ve noticed that it uses the incorrect names of effects and commands to make it simpler for newer editors. This isn’t a bad thing if this is you, however as I’ve been editing for almost four years now, I find it very annoying. I will say though that Vegas makes rendering the finished product extremely easy. It has around a hundred default templates, including YouTube and Vimeo. You can also customize these templates to suit your needs. Vegas is also noticeably less of a memory hog than Avid and Adobe’s products.
So there you have it, these are my opinions of some popular software that is out there today. Obviously I have not included every NLE that is out there, but I think that this list is good to get you on the right track. As with anything, don’t make your decision on just one person’s opinion, do your own research, read reviews, and decide for yourself what you think would be the best investment for you.