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Comparing Video Editing Programs

Anyone who's had to sit through someone else's amateur home movies knows why video editing software is so crucial. Too many blurry, shaky images, stomach-wrenching zooms, and abrupt pans, and you find yourself clutching the arms of your chair and hoping you don't have to sit through much more.

Even professionals fall prey to these common mistakes, which is why pros shoot at about a 20:1 ratio — that is, they expect to have to shoot 20 minutes of tape to capture 1 usable minute of video. Be kind to your audience and do what the pros do — ruthlessly cut your video down to only the very best moments, and arrange segments so that they have a logical beginning, middle, and end.

Every program listed in this article lets you perform basic editing and cutting as well as create fade-ins. The programs also support the addition of special features, such as opening titles, voice-overs, and music tracks. As you go up the price scale, you add features for creating special effects, slow motion, fast motion, and even filters that can make your video look like a scratchy sepia-toned 1920s era silent movie.

The following are some of the more popular video editing programs on the market today:

  • Adobe Premiere: This high-end video editing program is comparable to the Hollywood standard, Final Cut Pro, but it's not quite as expensive and it works on a PC. To use this program effectively, you need a very fast computer, gigabytes of available hard drive space, and a lot of free time.
  • Adobe Premiere Elements: This new "lite" version of Adobe Premier is much better suited to a home user. It costs about $600 less (retailing for about $100) and the menus and options are much simpler to master. Unless you've managed to get your mitts on a $30,000 high-definition video camera, Premiere Elements is more than enough for your needs.
  • Pinnacle Studio Plus 9.0: This program is aimed at the "prosumer" market, meaning it's designed for people who have some familiarity with shooting and editing video and want a lot of features but aren't professionals and don't have a company expense account to cover their costs. Studio Plus does the basics, capturing video and allowing you to cut and paste scenes, dub audio, and create titles. It also includes some special effects (such as slow motion, burring, and stretching an image) and even a blue-screen feature, which lets you film against a blue background and then combine video files to create movies of things that aren't possible, like making it appear as though your hamster can dunk a basketball as well as Michael Jordan can.
  • Ulead MediaStudio: This programincludes both VideoStudio and a useful audio editing program. "Lite" versions of Ulead's products are often bundled with capture cards or other hardware and provide basic video editing features. MediaStudio is designed for people who want to make their own versions of music videos on a tight budget. You can also add plug-ins that enable MediaStudio to work with high-definition video and do basic retouching of the images.
  • iMovie: Part of Apple's iStudio suite and an excellent video editing program, iMovie is available only for the Macintosh. Many Macs now come with iStudio already installed, so if you have a newer Mac you probably already have this editing program. Acclaimed for its intuitive interface, iMovie is fully integrated with the rest of iStudio, which includes iPhoto, and works seamlessly with Mac's DVD and CD creation software.
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