Video editing software

Turn your home movies into feature films.
 
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  • Updated:4 Mar 2007
 

01 .Introduction

Video-editing-software

Results for seven video editing programs priced from $119 to $219

We tested for:

  • Ease of use
  • Performance
  • Range of features

Findings:

  • It takes time to find your way around video editing software.
  • You'll need one with a simple, intuitive interface that won't take too long to learn.
  • High definition video requires extra computing power.

Please note: this information was current as of March 2007 but is still a useful guide to today's market. 


Our verdict

The Roxio Easy Media Creator 9 suite is the Best Buy because it has a combination of very good ease of use and performance. It's also one of the least expensive programs and includes a suite of other applications and extras.

We've also recommended Adobe Premiere Elements 3.0 because it had the highest ease of use score and a good performance score. For serious video editing, it's a good choice.

Ease of use is probably more important than speed when editing footage because if you can't figure out how to use a program, you might abandon it all together. There's a learning curve for all video editing programs, but some make it easier than others. The easiest programs to use have an editing desk window that's simple and uncluttered with menus and icons that make sense. A program with a cluttered interface that's unintuitive will make editing difficult.

Overall, the programs have a substantial range of functions for video editing and creating special effects and they can also burn DVDs. Roxio Easy Media Creator 9, Apple iLife 06 and Nero 7 Premium Reloaded are suites that include extra video, audio and photo editing programs. We only tested the video editing and DVD burning component. The suite name and the program name are given in the tables.

Products tested

  • Adobe Premiere Elements 3.0
  • Apple iLife 06
  • Nero 7 Premium Reloaded
  • Pinnacle Studio Plus 10 Titanium edition
  • Roxio Easy Media Creator 9 suite
  • Sony Vegas Movie Studio+DVD Platinum edition
  • Ulead VideoStudio 10 plus
 
 

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What to buy

  • Roxio Easy Media Creator 9 - $120
  • Adobe Premiere Elements 3.0 - $183

Software conflicts

Some video editing software can clash with other programs on your computer. We use a typical computer system and programs for testing and we didn't experience any problems. But if you're worried about software conflicts, many programs offer a free trial version for a limited time so you can try before you buy.

Results tables

    Features4
Program/version (in rank order) Price1 ($) Overall (%) Ease of use2 (%) Performance3 (%) Wizards Tutorials Number of video tracks Number of audio tracks Auto-chapter creation Renders while burning Chroma key
Adobe Premiere Elements 3.0
www.adobe.com.au
183 89 94 75 99 99
Pinnacle Studio Plus 10 Titanium edition
www.pinnaclesys.com
189 85 84 86 2 2
Ulead VideoStudio 10 Plus
www.ulead.com
199 85 91 67 2 2
Sony Vegas Movie Studio+DVD Platinum edition
www.sonymediasoftware.com
219 83 81 87 4 4
Roxio VideoWave (part of Easy Media Creator 9 suite)
www.roxio.com
120 82 82 81 1 2
Apple iMovie HD and iDVD (part of iLife 06)
www.apple.com.au
119 79 86 59 3 3
Nero vision (part of 7 Premium Reloaded)
www.nero.com
178 77 74 86 1 3
 

Program/version (in rank order) Minimum system requirements5 Extra software
Adobe Premiere Elements 3.0
www.adobe.com.au
1.3 GHz processor, 512 MB RAM, 4 GB HDD, Directx9 capable graphics card, XP Nil
Pinnacle Studio Plus 10 Titanium edition
www.pinnaclesys.com
1.4 GHz processor, 512 MB RAM, Directx9 capable graphics card with 64 MB RAM, 1 GB HDD (3 GB+ for bonus content), XP Pinnacle RTFX vol 1 and 2, Pinnacle Hollywood FX vol 1, Pinnacle Premium pack vol 1
Ulead VideoStudio 10 Plus
www.ulead.com
Pentium 4 processor, 256 MB RAM, 1 GB HDD (4 GB for capture). XP Win DVD 7, Pocket DV Show MCE version, Cool 3D 3.0 special effects
Sony Vegas Movie Studio+DVD Platinum edition
www.sonymediasoftware.com
800 MHz processor, 256 MB RAM, 200 MB HDD, XP Video and sound special effects
Roxio VideoWave (part of Easy Media Creator 9 suite)
www.roxio.com
1.4 GHz processor, 256 MB RAM, 1 GB HDD (+1 GB HDD for every minute of video capture), XP Roxio 9 suite of programs
Apple iMovie HD and iDVD (part of iLife 06)
www.apple.com.au
Mac PowerPC G4 or Intel Core processor; 733 MHz for iDVD, 256 MB RAM, OSX 10.3.9, iTunes 6.0.2, 10 GB HDD iTunes, iPhoto, iWeb and GarageBand
Nero vision (part of 7 Premium Reloaded)
www.nero.com
800 MHz processor, 128 MB RAM, Directx9 capable graphics card, 600 MB HDD, XP Nero 7 suite of programs
 

Table notes

1 Price paid in February 2007

2 Ease of use (75% of Overall) how easy it was to perform a range of tasks including installation, inclusion of help files and instructions, default settings, capturing video, editing video and burning a DVD.

3 Performance (25%) how quickly the program rendered video and burned to DVD, and visual quality of video output.

4 Features:

Wizards— guide you through the editing process
Tutorials— to explain how the software works
Number of video tracks— is the number of video sources that can be overlaid
Number of audio tracks— is the number of sound effects, music, dialogue etc that can be overlaid onto the footage
Auto-chapter creation— creates separate chapters when it detects transitions in the edited video footage
Renders while burning— incorporates all the editing elements into a complete video file while writing to DVD
Chroma key — tool for super-imposing one image over another (see Special effects).

5 Minimum system requirements— as listed by the manufacturer. All programs require enough hard drive space for video capture, which can vary depending on the amount of video. High definition video requires significantly more hard drive space and graphics processing power.

Profiles are listed in rank order

Adobe Premiere Elements 3.0

Price: $183

Good points

  • Best overall score
  • Excellent ease of use score
  • Includes tutorials
  • Most video and audio tracks
  • Excellent editing tools
  • Excellent help score

Bad points

  • No extra software

Pinnacle Studio Plus 10 Titanium edition

Price: $189

Good points

  • Includes tutorials
  • Excellent editing tools
  • Very good performance
  • Excellent help score

Bad points

  • Equal lowest installation score
  • Requires 256 MB graphics card to process1080i HD video
  • Requires extra payment to activate some special effects
  • Must download large update

Ulead VideoStudio 10 Plus

Price: $199

Good points

  • Excellent ease of use score
  • Excellent editing tools

Bad points

  • Must download plug-in to capture high definition video
  • Auto scene detection default turned off

Sony Vegas Movie Studio+DVD Platinum edition

Price: $219

Good points

  • Best performance score
  • Includes wizards and tutorials
  • Short installation time
  • Excellent help score

Bad points

  • Most expensive
  • Must download large update
  • Cluttered editing deck
  • No auto-chapter creation
  • No magic movie creation

Roxio Easy Media Creator 9 suite

Price: $120

Good points

  • Includes other programs
  • Relatively low cost
  • Includes tutorials
  • Very good performance score
  • Excellent help score

Bad points

  • Video capture process not straightforward

Apple iLife 06

Price: $119

Good points

  • Relatively low cost
  • Includes other programs
  • Includes tutorials

Bad points

  • Lowest performance score
  • Must download large update
  • No manual included
  • No auto-chapter creation
  • No chroma key
  • No picture-in-picture ability

Nero 7 Premium Reloaded

Price: $178

Good points

  • Includes other programs
  • Short installation time
  • Very good performance score

Bad points

  • Lowest score overall
  • Must download large update and help files
  • Least easy to edit
  • No chroma key
  • No picture-in-picture ability
  • No magic movie creation
  • Equal lowest installation score

Computing power

Video editing requires plenty of computer power and a hard drive large enough to store all the video footage. You'll need a fairly new computer to ensure the process runs smoothly and you don't have to wait too long for the computer to slowly process each new edit. The programs list their minimum system requirements, but it's best to have more processing power and hard drive space.

Capture and editing

The first step is to capture the video by transferring it from the camera and storing it on the computer. Then, it's time to start editing - removing unwanted scenes, putting segments together, adding transitions between scenes and creating special effects.

All of the tested programs can automatically separate the captured video into scenes when importing video footage from the camera onto the PC.

All of the tested programs can create video in the PAL standard for Australia as well as NTSC, which is used in the US. Some programs prompt you to choose the standard during installation and others may require you to set the default yourself. If your video is jittery when you watch it, check that the default is set to PAL.

Wizards and tutorials

These can help make video editing software less complex and confusing. Tutorials explain processes and can usually be found in the main editing window or from the Help menu. Wizards appear on the screen as small windows with step-by-step instructions. Not all the tested programs have tutorials and windows (see tables).

Special effects

Special effects are an important part of video editing software. You'll want a program with a good range of tools to create interesting transitions, titles and effects in your video. Most of the tested products allowed plenty of choice for special effects.

  • Chroma key will let you film a person or object against a solid background colour and transpose the object onto another background. All of the programs, except Apple and Nero, can create chroma key images.
  • All of the programs, except Apple and Nero, have a picture-in-picture tool, which allows you to place one image inside another image in the video.
  • All of the programs, except Sony and Nero, have the magic movie creation feature, which provides a choice of templates to create a movie.
  • Animated titles make the video more visually interesting and can be used to create rolling credits that move across the screen at different angles, speeds and size. All of the programs can create animated titles. If you intend to create layers of video or audio, the number of video and audio tracks is important. (See the tables for more.)

Rendering

Rendering is the process of incorporating the transitions, edits, special effects, titles and still images into a complete video file to be burnt onto a DVD. Programs that render while burning provide a simple process to author, or create menus and burn, a DVD. Apple and Pinnacle render before burning the DVD, which can lengthen the time it takes to create each edit. The other programs render when you create the final video.

Auto-chapter creation

This is a useful, time-saving feature that places section markers into the edited file between segments of edited video footage. It saves you having to manually place markers to create sections, which can be time consuming with long videos.

Section markers are used to skip forward and backward in chapters within the video once it has been burned to DVD. All of the tested products, except Apple and Sony, have this feature. Ulead requires the default settings to be changed to enable auto-chapter creation.

Most of the products provide plenty of choice for transitions, video effects and templates for burning a DVD, although Ulead doesn't have many templates.

High definition hassles

High definition (HD) describes a video and television format that broadcasts at a minimum of 576 horizontal lines progressively scanned in a vertical line across the screen that's repeated 25 times a second. It's expressed as 576p resolution.

A high definition camera can record in the higher 720p, 1080i and 1080p resolution. The i stands for interlaced and refers to a process where the screen shows odd and even lines in alternate scans.

When you capture HD video footage, the computer's graphics card must be able to process the higher resolution. The computer may downscale, or reduce the resolution, to enable it to be edited. For example, Pinnacle requires a computer with a 128 MB graphics card to capture HD video footage at 720p resolution and a 256 MB graphic card is needed to process 1080i footage.

If you intend to edit HD video, you'll need computing power and hard drive space well above the minimum requirements. For example, one minute of uncompressed 1080i HD footage equatesabout 7 GB space on your hard drive. Of course, you'll also need a camera capable of capturing video in high definition.

All of the tested programs can edit HD video, but we had to download a separate component (called a plug-in) to enable the feature in Ulead. To edit, you'll need a graphics card that's capable of handling 1080i HD footage. If you don't have one, you may find that you can't even capture the video because the graphics card won't be able to process the footage or scale it to a lower resolution. You'll also need a very large hard drive, or an external hard drive, to store and edit HD video.

There were no extra tools for editing HD video, but the editing and rendering takes longer because of the higher resolution and larger file size. The other issue with HD is the lack of standardisation when exporting the file to burn a DVD. The programs offered a range of resolution options from 1080i to customised output resolution and there was very little help to translate the terminology.