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Software Options for Your Digital Film Edits

How do you choose the right software to edit your DSLR movie footage? Use the correct program for your needs and budget, and your audience won’t know or care how you did it. But there’s quite a difference between producing a simple short film you hope to go viral and a more sophisticated documentary short.

Edit film with free software

If you own a Mac or a PC, you have a pretty decent moviemaking program already built in — iMovie for the Mac and Windows Live Movie Maker for the PC. That means in a pinch, you’ll have something to edit your movie.

In any case, here they are:

  • iMovie: Standard issue on Macintosh computers for more than a decade, iMovie, is a popular choice for amateur video editors for putting their movies together. It has tons of effects and full integration with other programs in the iLife Suite such as iTunes, iDVD, and iPhoto.

    Pros: It's easy to use and includes lots of functions and cool themes.

    Cons: It makes it hard to do more advanced editing like selecting a portion of a clip.

  • Windows Live Movie Maker: Included with most Windows-based PC models, this powerful little program lets you easily make movies. It replaces Movie Maker, which was included on models before Vista.

    Pros: It's intuitive to use and includes many fun effects.

    Cons: It saves in only the .WMV format.

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Edit film with pro software

At one time, pro editing software was financially out of reach for many users. Then Adobe Premiere and Apple’s Final Cut Pro came along and changed the landscape.

  • Apple Final Cut Pro: This is the one that defined the craft. Robust, powerful, and filled with every imaginable function, this complex video-editing program lets you do just about anything. And because it’s open to capture or transfer just about any type of video format and export it with a great deal of flexibility, it's a necessary program to learn if you want to work in the business.

    Pro: If you can imagine it, you can do it with this hearty NLE on steroids.

    Cons: It works only on a Mac. Also, it has a steep learning curve to master.

  • Adobe Premiere Pro: One of the oldest and most established non-linear editing programs on the market. Premiere was one of the first consumer-level, non-linear editing programs. Still, Premiere provides the ability to help you edit professional-quality movies, and it integrates nicely with Adobe After Effects and Photoshop. Native DSLR Editing Presets on the newest version make it ideal for our kind of moviemaking.

    Pros: This full-function NLE runs smoothly on both Macs and PCs.

    Cons: It doesn’t function well unless the workstation has more than the minimum requirement for RAM and a decent video card.

Inexpensive film edit options

Besides Adobe Premiere Elements, here are a few inexpensive non-linear editing programs that can get the job done. Every one of them retails for less than one hundred bucks.

Check these out:

  • Sony Vegas Pro Movie Studio: If you’re looking for video-editing software that’s affordable and lets you edit pro-quality movies, there are worse choices. Designed for the professional on the go, the program includes a healthy selection of effects for video, audio, and presentation to add the right touch. It also offers great audio capability to shape the sound of the movie, as well as a selection of “canned” soundtracks.

    Pros: It has lots of bells and whistles and 3D capability to boot.

    Cons: It doesn't offer the most user-friendly experience, but after you get the hang of it, you’ll crank out some quality material. No Mac support.

  • Corel VideoStudio Pro X5: Retailing for about $69.99, it provides quite the bang for your buck. Fast performance, multiple import and export choices, and 3D capability make it a viable option to edit your next movie.

    Pros: Affordable, powerful, and great stop-motion effects make it a great choice.

    Cons: It's a little cumbersome to operate, allows only four tracks of audio, and is available only for Windows-based machines.

  • Pinnacle Studio HD: This consumer-level entry from Pinnacle offers a nice set of features. Don’t expect it to have lots of bells and whistles, but you can make a successful movie.

    Pros: It’s a solid performer with a wide range of features to create your movie.

    Cons: It's quite complex for an inexpensive program. No Macintosh support.

  • CyberLink Power Director 10 Deluxe: One of the most feature-packed non-linear editing applications on the market. It's not just bells and whistles, but also an accelerator that works in conjunction with the computer processor for better performance. It does 3D too.

    Pros: It has tons of functions and features for an inexpensive program.

    Cons: It only runs on a PC.

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