Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Video Editing Frustration: NYE Fireworks

I've been playing about with the HD Video features on the Canon EOS 5D MkII recently to get more experience in shooting and, more importantly, editing the resulting footage. Editing is always the frustrating bit. I love to shoot video, but turning it into 'watchable content', that's the hard bit.Here are a few operating tips that you might find helpful:
1: Decide on the right software first off. By 'right', I mean software that's easy, does a good job, is stable and doesn't cost the earth.
2: Work out if your computer is powerful enough to drive the software correctly or, as I found out, whether it's just going to be a frustrating road of stop/start, stop/start delays/crashes and hangs.
I began using Adobe Premiere Elements 7.0 because that's what I had. At first it seemed OK and, as a low cost video editor, it can do good stuff. It also has a bunch of professional features and a very cool Instant Movie feature that allows you to create a movie simply by opening a few clips and letting the software do the rest. Here's an example:

One problem with PRE 7.0 is that, even after repeated 'Saves', once the app is re-opened it loses contact with the media - you get an Offline warning. You don't have to make all the links again (thank God!), simply select everything on the timeline (video, images and sound clips) right-click, then choose the Enable function. Turn it off then turn it on again - this 'refreshes' the code somehow so everything reappears as online - a frustrating waste of time. The Internet is packed with threads from frustrated video editors because of this error. It's less prevalent in PRE 9.0...

3: Interestingly, the footage shot on any DLSR might not be the best format for editing - PRE prefers DV AVI files - the Canon 5DMkII saves Quicktime .MOV files so, unless these are converted somehow, the edit workflow does get slower. The biggest hurdle is in being able to view work in real time. That is, being able to scroll through the frames seamlessly without the vision appearing jerky. Whenever a change is made to a video clip in PRE's timeline, that part of the clip must be rendered for smooth playback. Rendering takes time, especially if there's not enough HDD space, not enough RAM or the CPU is slow. It's a major point of video editing frustration. Anyway, I got over this by instigating as many changes as possible before rendering each sequence - I must have rendered this movie more than 200 times before it was finished.

Then I discovered Windows Live Movie Maker for Windows 7. It has a number of advantages over PRE:
1. It appears to be stable (i.e. never crashes)
2. It's easy to use
3. Has a good range of transitions and effects
4. Has a sensible output window (easy to choose the correct format for finishing the movie file. PRE is a bit unclear and in my opinion provides too many options)
5. The BEST bit is that as it imports files, they get converted to a more efficient low res format that's FAST to work with  -  you can drag the cursor through the timeline to accelerate, replay, or go slowly, and it never flickers or jams like PRE does.
- Editing scope is limited
- You can't over-dub sound or video
- You can't modify sound files
- There are no post-production effects possible on the clips (lightness, colour, contrast) but, as the adverts claim, it's simple and easy. I love it. Here's one I just finished using Movie Maker:

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