With the change in seasons comes the chance to pull out your camcorder and capture a few memories at spring and summer special events like graduations and family get togethers. If you have the right PC video editing package, it’s actually possible these days for you to turn your rough home video into slick-looking movies perfect for sharing with others. These same software packages can make really cool gifts to people you care about on Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, or Graduation Day.
Not all that long ago, you needed to be a video professional – or at least a very serious amateur – to convert raw footage into impressive videos containing scene-to-scene transitions, titles, and special effects.
That’s no longer at all the case today, when decent video editing software such as Microsoft’s Windows Live Movie Maker and Apple’s iMovie is practically at your fingertips. If you’re looking for more choices, the range is practically endless. With so many products priced at around $100, or even less, you won’t need to spend a small fortune to get a package geared to ease of use, top-of-the-line features, or some combination of the two.
Meanwhile, video editing takes less time than in the past, and it can be less of a drain on PC resources. Vendors have been introducing new technologies for speeding up video rendering, as well as the task of encoding – or converting – videos into formats suited for sharing movies to DVDs, social networking sites, and iPhones and other mobile devices, for instance.
Easier and Easier!
Most video editing software packages revolve around a timeline. After dragging and dropping video clips to the timeline, you can apply transitions – including wipes, dissolves, and a wide variety of more innovative choices – to act as bridges between the clips.
Other common capabilities include tools for capturing video directly from videocams and still cameras; importing files from hard drives and memory cards; trimming clips; adding multiple video and audio tracks; making technical picture tweaks such as color adjustments and zoom; and adding blur, glow, and more exotic special effects.
Products can vary tremendously, though, in how these basic features are presented through the user interface (UI). However, greater ease of use is an ongoing and practically universal trend.
To give you one example, CyberLink PowerDirector 10 comes with a toolset known as PowerTools for easily cropping and zooming in on selected portions of a clip, playing a clip in reverse, adjusting the video speed, freezing a video frame, or rotating the clip within the video.
Corel’s VideoStudio Pro offers a set of already prepared templates called Instant Projects, which incorporate built-in (but customizable) titles, special effects, and background music.
Muvee Reveal X takes the templates concept a step further by automatically “analyzing” your video for “highlights” before automatically applying “styles” you’ve selected, which incorporate transitions, special effects, and music. Styles in Reveal X include Cube Twist, Ultra Plain, and Uncle Oscar, to name a few.
More and More Advanced Features
One leader in the sub-$100 category, Adobe Premiere Elements, offers advanced features that include support for up to 100 simultaneous video and audio tracks. Within the more costly (and complex) Sony Vegas family, support for simultaneous tracks is (theoretically, at least) limitless.
Other hot trends to look for in high-end features include stop motion, time-lapse movies, picture-in-picture, and 3D. Avid’s Pinnacle Studio includes a stop motion import feature aimed at making it easy to capture individual frames from a variety of sources for stop-motion video. If you double-click a video on your PC, the software will automatically detect separate scenes as you import the clip.
In the new X5 edition of VideoStudio Pro, Corel adds a stop motion animation capture that lets you capture video in increments of 1 to 30 frames. Onion screen functionality is included, for seeing through to the previous frame.
If you want to surprise friends and family with a 3D movie of a Mother’s Day celebration or a June wedding, you can produce one with Vegas. But there’s a catch. You’ll need to have access to a 3D camcorder such as the HDR-TD10 for importing 3D content. You’ll then be able to upload your 3D movie to YouTube or export it to Blu-ray disks. Sony includes a pair of 3D glasses in the Vegas box.
CyberLink, on the other hand, supports import, export, and editing of five different types of 3D video: Red/Cyan; Polarized; Checkerboard; Time-sequential; and HDMI 1.4. Both companies also claim to allow you to convert 2D into 3D (although the results of such experiments are not predicable, of course!).
Faster and Faster!
If you’ve always thought of video editing as a slow and unwieldy chore, it’s time to start rethinking. Vendors ranging from Sony to lesser known LoiLo are folding in GPU acceleration designed to speed encoding of file formats by offloading some of the processing from the CPU to the GPU. Sony Vegas uses GPU acceleration to convert video into Sony’s proprietary .avc format.
LoiLoScope 2, on the other hand, uses nVIDIA’s CUDA GPU acceleration for transcoding video into a wide range of formats, suitable for creating and burning either an HDV or Blu-ray DVD disk, exporting your movie to mobile devices, or uploading it to to either YouTube, Facebook, or Vimeo, for example.
For its part, CyberLink combines its own TrueVelocity 2 approach to GPU acceleration with proprietary technologies known as FastRender and Intelligent SVRT for boosting video rendering times.
Still, no two video editing packages are alike, despite these common trends toward greater ease of use, more advanced feature sets, and faster video processing times. In fact, you’ll see some big differences among these products on all of those scores. To find a package that’s right for either you or someone on your gift list, check out our list of five top product deals here. Hollywood, watch out!