Ours is a video generation. We grew up with parents shooting camcorder footage of every birthday and graduation, and most of us have hours of movie footage without any cohesive organization or engaging content. Any novice with a video camera can benefit from editing. If you’ve ever forced your friends and family to suffer through six minutes of boring for two seconds of awesome, I’m talking to you. Before you post that cell phone video to YouTube, a little polish with a free editing program can make your friends actually want to click on your Facebook links.
While Adobe Premier is widely held to be the most comprehensive video editing software available, I’m hesitant to suggest a pricey application to learn a new skill. Luckily, there are some great free or cheap programs available. All of my recommendations support clipping, drag-and-drop editing (to change the order of clips) and splicing several smaller videos or photos into a single cohesive video with the addition of transitions (like fading from one scene to another). You can use any of them to convert your camera’s output into a format accepted by YouTube, social media sites, or recognizable to your DVD player.
For novice videographers using Windows, download the free Windows Live Movie Maker (http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows-live/movie-maker-get-started), a program packaged into Windows Live Essentials. Microsoft provides some basic tutorials and how-to videos to get you started. It’s a decent beginner product with a relatively easy to follow interface. Opt for one of the AutoMovie themes for an easy way to convert your clips or photos into a more professional looking video with intros, transitions and effects. There’s an integrated one-step upload option to post your masterpiece to YouTube, should you be so inclined.
Note: The link provided on Microsoft’s site installs the Windows Live Essentials suite of products. Select “Choose the programs you want to install” to avoid installing a bulk of software you may not use.
If you don’t like the interface or find Windows Movie Maker too bulky or difficult to use, a great alternative option is VideoPad Video Editor Pro (http://www.nchsoftware.com/videopad/index.html). The catch is that VideoPad only offers a 14 day free trial, after which my understanding is that the software will continue to work but only allow you to created limited types of videos. However, the product is only $30 (according to current pricing on their website) so it’s not too expensive if you try it and like it.
VideoPad is an easy-to-use solution that brings advanced features to the beginner’s reach. Record your own voiceover narration, or import recorded narrations, something Movie Maker lacks. Also, the full product lets you create BluRay DVDs, a feature that typically requires the purchase of additional software.
Mac users probably don’t need me to mention iMovie, Apple’s movie editing software. Packaged into iLife, the software suite is included on all new Macs. iMovie has more themes than Window’s Movie Maker, more advanced audio editing (like the ability to adjust volume of a single segment and integrated background music options), and “People Finder” that will scan your clips to find additional footage with your intended subject. Overall, it’s widely held to be one of the most easy to use video editing software applications around… provided you have a Mac.
One last note: video editing is time consuming and taxing to your system resources. If you are using a slow or under-performing PC, your system may not be able to handle the task of editing videos. Save your project often if you aren’t sure that your system is up to the task. If your system crashes frequently during the process, try a different editing program, but your system may not be powerful enough to handle the editing process.