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 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 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.
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.