Homebrew Digital Film Editing

So, my eldest who usually expresses little interest in anything other than playing video games and the odd bit of theater told me how much he enjoyed a film editing workshop he had done, and that he wished he could do some stuff for himself at home. Naturally I wish to encourage any sort of indication that he’ll be anything other than a spotty idler.

Specifically he wants to shoot some video himself, capture some stuff from the PC (ie in video games), edit and manipulate the sound track. Cut and rearrange the video etc. I think he has a couple of mini projects in mind. Hopefully not porn.

Now last time I did this myself was back in the early nineties on an enormous AVID set up which cost more than my house. What software/hardware would people recommend? From the ludicrously expensive to within a reasonable budget - MAX 8 and Photoshop I have already, everything else I’ll have to acquire.

I guess it depends on how old your son is and how serious you think he might be about it.

Not sure it matters, but I actually am a film editor by profession (currently work on tv commercials for an ad agency) and I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt that you do not need the full Avid setup of yesteryear. Most professional places in NYC do one of the two following:

Get a system and install Avid DV Express Pro (can be PC or Apple).
Get a Mac and install Final Cut Pro.

My office actually uses a full blown avid, but we’ve realized since buying it that we probably could have easy used the DV Express Pro. Either software package can be had for roughly a grand and work great with just about any current, DV firewire based, digital camera.

If your son is young and you’re not sure how this will all pan out, there are much cheaper, stripped down versions of both packages for about $300. Personally, I like working on the Mac, but I know that at least with the full blown Avid systems, the most current versions run better in Windows. A lot of editors use G4 powerbooks to take work home on the weekend, so you don’t need an absolutely killer Mac to do Final Cut or Avid DV.

One trick will be to get footage from video games. He may have to get a camera with some sort of S Video/Audio in jacks and then use the camera to convert it to a DV signal through the firewire (I’ve done this myself, just need the right camera and its no big deal). If/when he starts to really go for it, After Effects or Motion would be a good thing to check out as well (these are basically musts - at least a few basics - in professional editing… some photoshop basics also really helps).

If you think he has the interest to maybe start seeing this as a potential profession, I might just go for the full version of whatever software you go with. Avid is still the most common, but I know some places are starting to switch. Had Avid not come out with the DV package, I’m sure most places would have jumped to some Final Cut setup. The next trick will be to see how Avid manages Apple’s move to Intel. If they do it poorly, there may be more Final Cut converts.

Anyway, I’ve probably blathered here, but I would be willing to answer any questions I can if you have some. Good luck.

In the end, you can’t really go wrong with either, and it may stun you to see just how much an easily obtainable editing package can do.

For non mac recommendations, I can’t sing the praises of Vegas Video highly enough. In my opinion it bests Final Cut Pro. And it certainly beats the pants off of Premiere. And yes, I have used it professionally.

For hardware, really you just need a DV cam and a firewire card… Plug it in, use software to grab the video. Also, plan on having a lot of free HD space to store it.

I don’t believe Vegas is very expensive, and I think there’s a trial version. Go Vegas 4.0+… 3.0 had some issues.

I’ve actually heard some really good things about Vegas as well. Vegas pioneered some great features that were promptly “adopted” by Avid DV and FCP. It wouldn’t surprise me if Vegas comes out with some great new features with each version that FCP and Avid would have to catch up on.

My only hesitations are based on second hand knowledge that maybe Backov can dispel. First I’ve heard the interface is a little different because the package was originally based on an audio editing program, so the knowledge may or may not transfer well. Second is only relevant if this becomes something more than just a hobby which is that Avid is by far the industry standard with FCP starting to come up a bit more.

This is for your kid to screw around with? Window Movie Maker/iMovie. Once he outgrows that, the higher-end stuff makes more sense.

windows movie maker 2 + fraps. when he hits the wall on those, buy vegas or a mac+FC pro.

Vegas works pretty much exactly like every timeline based video editor, just quite a bit slicker. You can of course add as many different audio and video tracks as you want for stuff like dissolves/fades/transitions/titling… It’s just a damn slick package.

It even has a shuttle that behaves exactly like you were using a tape editor, with the squeaky voices and everything.

I don’t think I would recommend WMM for anything, but FRAPs is a useful tool for capturing in game video.

I’m using Pinnacle Studio 10 for my DV editing, etc. Would my video editing life be significantly better with Vegas or some other package? (Purely non-commercial work for me.)

Yeah, yeah, I know, but I wouldn’t really recommend spending a lot of money on a kid who may lose interest in it quickly either. Let him do a couple of projects for free, and if he’s still interested, then drop some coin on it.

Ya, I can dig it for sure. I just have a hard time recommending POS software. :)

As for Pinnacle - my partner uses both it and Vegas, and he prefers Pinnacle, but I think that’s just because he was using it for years before he got onto Vegas. Also, Pinnacle takes better still screen captures for some reason.

Thanks for the suggestions. Very helpful.

Vegas Video has a free trial. Also, I wonder if there is a copy knocking around work I can borrow for a week. I’m loathe to spend $450 on something he might use just once. I may spoil my kids, but that’s just a little bit too much.

Vegas is a very complex software. For video editing, it’s relatively simple compared to some, however professional video editing is always a very tough thing for anyone to do. I would definately recommend sticking with Windows Movie Maker - at least show that they’re trying to learn and adapt. Or the Vegas Trial. Vegas isn’t a software you can simply pick up and use - it takes a lot of time to even figure out the basics.