This article sets out the basic differences between three popular video editing suites for the amateur video user. The article does not try to answer the question about which one of the three is best or why, because they are very different products and all are suitable in their own right VIDEOMARK. The amateur video user is probably using a digital video (DV) camera to capture images of family festivities, celebrations and special events and needs the video editing software in order to edit and collate clips into a continuous and enjoyable ‘story’.
So, ease of use is an important consideration along with the editing tools, transitions between clips and the final production of a video that may be easily copied to DVD or uploaded to YouTube or other social media sites.
1) Windows Live Movie Maker (free)
Windows Movie Maker comes free with the Windows operating system. It works with every release 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 to import video clips from your camera, edit them by clipping and cutting and place them on a ‘timeline’ for your story board. You may then add special effects such as pixelate, turn the clip into black and white, or produce a very grainy and jumpy ‘old film’ effect.
Watching a string of, often unrelated, clips can be quite disconcerting as the movie ‘jump’ cuts from one scene to the next, so adding some cool transitional effects makes the movie look more professional. Fading in from black or white, dissolves, chequer-boarding and filling in from the right/left or above/below are all available.
The soundtrack to the movie can be adjusted to be at the same level from clip to clip and a narration to the movie can be added through a microphone to the computer. This is a much clearer and more controllable method than using the microphone on the DV Camera.
2) MoviePlus (about £60 incl. VAT)
Available from 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 far more control over the workspace. You may adjust the strength, style and rate of change of special effects; how they affect your video clips; you may consider the speed, direction and colour; plus almost everything else from myriad transitional elements, dissolves and freezes.
MoviePlus has the ability to play a picture within a picture for an unusual special effect. Backgrounds can be animated, re-coloured or removed altogether. Blue screening is the professional way of changing the background from the original image. Handy assistants help you to import, export and organise your images and video clips.
With unlimited tracks on the timeline and a greater control over the soundtrack, really stunning movies can be produced quickly and easily. You may then burn them onto DVDs with the built in menu designer, or upload directly to YouTube or other social media sites.
3) Adobe Premiere Elements 9 (about £100 incl. VAT)
Available from Adobe directly or from resellers such as Amazon and Play.com, Adobe Premier Elements is the baby brother of Adobe Premiere Pro which is chosen by professional video editors (including Hollywood!) and costs nearly 10 times the price of Elements.
Premiere Elements 9 will happily import video clips and images in almost every format possible 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 Organiser is used to organise all your video clips, still images and audio files and other resources.
In common with the two previously described software suites, the resources that go to make the video are imported onto the ‘timeline’ where they may be edited and manipulated to a high degree. Handy pop-ups help you carry out quite complex tasks without any prior knowledge.
There is a suite of six audio effects for cleaning up the soundtrack. This is very useful for removing background noises such as hiss, traffic rumble, aircraft or wind buffeting the DV camera’s microphone.