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An overview of video editing software

This article lays out the basic differences between three popular video editing suites for the hobbyist video user. The article does not attempt to answer the question of which of the three is better or why, because they are very different products and all are suitable in their own right. The hobbyist video user is probably using a digital video (DV) camera to capture footage of family festivities, celebrations, and special events and needs video editing software to edit and collect clips into one enjoyable continuous “story.”

Therefore, ease of use is an important consideration along with editing tools, transitions between clips, and the final production of a video that can be easily copied to DVD or uploaded to YouTube or other social networking sites.

1) Windows Live Movie Maker (Free)

Windows Movie Maker comes free with the Windows operating system. It works with all versions of Windows from Windows 95 onwards; download it from the Microsoft website. Windows Movie Maker 2.1 is for XP operating systems and Windows Live Movie Maker 2011 is for Vista and 7 operating systems.

Both versions are very similar. They are easy to use for importing video clips from your camera, editing them by trimming and cutting, and placing them on a ‘timeline’ for your storyboard. You can then add special effects such as pixelation, turning the clip black and white, or producing a very grainy and bouncy “old film” effect.

Watching a series of often unrelated clips can be quite disconcerting as the movie ‘jumps’ from one scene to the next, so adding some cool transition effects makes the movie look more professional. Fade from white or black, dissolve, checkerboard, and fill from right/left or top/bottom are available.

The film’s soundtrack can be adjusted to be at the same level from clip to clip, and narration can be added to the film via a microphone to the computer. This is a much clearer and more controllable method than using the microphone on the DV camera.

2) MoviePlus (around £60 including VAT)

Available at many outlets, including the high street and online, MoviePlus is from the Serif stable of software. The movie is produced by adding video clips and still images to a storyboard and manipulating them in the same way as Movie Maker. However, there is much more control over the workspace. You can adjust the strength, style, and speed of change of special effects; how they affect your video clips; you can consider speed, direction and color; plus just about everything else, from a myriad of transition elements, dissolves and freezes.

MoviePlus has the ability to play a picture within a picture for an unusual special effect. Backgrounds can be animated, recolored, or removed entirely. Blue dithering is the professional way to change the background of the original image. Handy wizards help you import, export, and organize your images and video clips.
With unlimited tracks on the timeline and greater control over your soundtrack, truly impressive movies can be produced quickly and easily. You can then burn them to DVD with the built-in menu designer, or upload them directly to YouTube or other social networking sites.

3) Adobe Premiere Elements 9 (around £100 including VAT)

Available directly from Adobe or from resellers like Amazon and, Adobe Premier Elements is the little brother of Adobe Premiere Pro, chosen by professional video editors (including Hollywood!) and costs almost 10 times the price of Elements.

Premiere Elements 9 will happily import video clips and images in almost all possible formats, including ASF, AVI, AVCHD, SWF, DV, DVD, H.264, HDV, MOD, and TOD (JVC Everio, import only), MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, MP3, WAV, QuickTime, Windows Media, and WMA. Adobe Elements Organizer is used to organize all your video clips, still images, and audio files and other resources.

Like the two software suites described above, the assets used to make the video are imported into the ‘timeline’ where they can be heavily edited and manipulated. The handy pop-ups help you to perform quite complex tasks without any prior knowledge.

There is a set of six audio effects to clean up the soundtrack. This is very useful for removing background noise such as hiss, traffic noise, airplanes, or wind hitting the DV camera’s microphone.

For a user just starting out in video editing, Windows Movie Maker is a very good place to start and perhaps move to any of the paid programs as confidence and ability grow.

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