Video Editing Software

About once a year I go searching for a better software package for editing videos. I tend to use a combination of Avi from my camcorder, MPGs from my camera, and a variety of wmvs, MPGs, and avi files from a variety of sources.

Some of the files that I edit are pretty large, in the couple of gigabyte range, some are much smaller. I need to be able to cut, trim, move, merge, etc. in an intuitive and smooth manner. I also need to be able to overlay music or other soundtracks. Something that is pretty critical is the ability to add nice titles within the movie, as well as overlay a title on the actual video (and the ability to create nice overlay text/titles, with some flexibility in terms of text background, size, easy placement on the video, etc.) is important. And then I’d like to be able to render it and burn it to a DVD in less that 20 hours or so. (That last was sarcasm - some programs take forever to actually render the DVD material.)

I started with Pinnacle back in the Studio 7 era, and have upgraded it each iteration up to 10. As much as I like many things about it, it continues to irritate me with speed, crashes, how picky it is with what you can and cannot import (such as wmv files,) etc. Ulead’s program felt clunky and a step backwards. I tried Premiere, and even though I love and use Photoshop, Premiere just felt like too much work and oddly too many areas, such as types of files it would import, where it felt “amateur unfriendly.”

I’m currently using Magix Movie Edit Pro 11. It tends to do a lot, and once you learn its interface you can insert all manner of cool fades, transitions, overlay multiple sounds tracks, etc. The TV cropping feature solves some issues I had with my movies never completely fitting on the TV screen. But it is pretty slow, awkward in many ways, renders fairly slowly, and again is pretty clunky.

Reviews tend to be mixed and lack a common recommendation, and many recommend programs or knock programs based on features I don’t currently care about (such as HD capability.) Read user reviews on, say, Amazon and everyone kinda hates everything.

So - what are the experiences of people here? What do you use, what would you recommend, what would you warn people away from?

edit: removed snarky ‘get a mac’ response.

Yes, spend a couple grand on a new machine, and buy all new software for it too.

I used to use various versions of Adobe Premiere, and I found it pretty intuitive despite the fact I was only using a tiny fraction of its features. Maybe Premiere Elements is up your alley.

I have used various versions of Vegas Video + DVD from (now) Sony for a few years and I love it. The performance was great, even on low end machines, and the ability to quickly hop into any part of the timeline or any of the tracks and quickly make meaningful edits was a savior when I was trying to finish several projects. If you can find it with an educational discount it is a great bargain.

So, just looking in the FAQ at Adobe’s Premiere Elements forum - one of the first questions was around editing MPEGs. The response: “Common symptoms of Premiere Elements projects produced from MPEGs include video with no audio, audio with no video and audio and video out of sync.”

That pretty much takes Premiere Elements out of the picture for me.

Editing MPEGs? shudder That should always be considered a “final” format. Stacked compression artifacts are a horrible, horrible thing.

I tried Premier, Pinnacle and maybe one other, but I found the learning curve really steep (even though I’ve done analogue video editing) and I don’t really need all the bells and whistles. Windows Movie Maker works well enough for me, although it’s a little annoying that it forces WMV for the output.

You can do lossless editing of MPEGs if you use an editor that works on group-of-picture boundaries (or at least minimizes re-encoding to frames around the cut points). Most tools like that are your usual kludgy, buggy freeware though, and I’m not sure about professional tools.

Really? How do you make DVDs from your projects if it forces WMV as the output?

My favorite mpeg editor.

It’s great if you want to cut out commercials and such from TV card captured content.

I’ve been learning Premiere at work over the last few days, and I’m finding it really fairly accessible. From what I gather the interface has been overhauled to some extent from the last version, so it may be worth another look.

I’ve heard great things about Vegas as well.

I don’t, but I imagine avi2dvd would do the trick.

Edius Pro - whoa, a bit out of my budget range. I can go up to a bit under two hundred bucks, but anything over that would be too much for my amateur usage.

Looks like a cool app, but be aware that it uses USB dongle-based copy protection. I don’t much care, but I know some peoople really hate that shit.

I’ve tried just about all of them.

Premiere Elements had too many quirks introduced to keep it from competing with Premiere. (And Premiere has a horrible user interface.)

Pinnacle has the best UI and the worst stability, as you know.

In the end, I went with Vegas + DVD. Its UI is pretty easy to learn, and it’s very full-featured. And it’s crashed maybe twice in all the time I’ve used it. If you don’t need major multi-track support, it looks like the consumer edition has most of the features of the full program at a much lower price.

I know you were using Pinnacle a while back, when I was using it. Sounds like your path took you to Vegas + DVD, mine to MEP 11. I’ll buy a copy of that and see how it works for me after working with it for a while.

Denny, what specific version are you using? I saw Sony Vegas Movie Studio + DVD Platinum edition at Best Buy, and I also have read about Vegas 7 + DVD, and I’m a little confused as to the branding/versions.

Wow, that’s a sweet deal!

FWIW, Vegas Movie Studio + DVD (NON-platinum edition) is on sale at BB for $49.95 – just got a copy tonight. That’s a great deal, assuming the software doesn’t suck.

I hear you. I haven’t even been able to afford an HD TV yet. Camera’s a long way off.