Video-editing tools cut to the chase

The GCN Lab tests 4 suites that can give your video clips a professional look

Adobe Premiere Elements 7 guitar girlIt’s safe to say that President Barack Obama’s inauguration resulted in more video footage than any other inaugural event in the country’s history. And that’s not even counting all the security footage from a thousand different angles. Government agencies will edit, alter and enhance many of those clips for a wide range of purposes. Some federal organizations, such as the Smithsonian Institution, will use video clips for historical archiving. Other organizations, such as the Secret Service, might analyze the footage for training purposes.

Regardless of your need to edit or analyze video footage, it’s a major misconception that the most complicated process in creating the final video product is learning how to master an advanced video-editing program. It’s also a common misconception that a powerful video-editing program costs thousands of dollars to buy and set up.

Most video-editing programs come with software wizards that include many features the average professional uses. And as this review reveals, the latest versions of the programs have easy-to-understand interfaces that reduce the intimidation factor often associated with this type of technology.

We looked at four of the leading video-editing programs and graded each on performance, features, compatibility, ease of use and price. Our test machine had a 3 GHz Pentium 4 processor, 2G of RAM and a built-in Intel video chipset.

In video editing, the features form the basis for all other grading criteria. When editing videos, you must be able to change the playback speed, stabilize shaky footage, and delete or shorten clips. Also, no camera can automatically compensate for environmental factors such as lighting, so a good piece of software must be able to correct lighting, enhance colors and alter the aspect ratio. The products in our review earned special favor if they offered the ability to place text in a video, add audio tracks, or pan in or out for certain shots.

However, those features mean nothing if performing one task takes hours, requires a master’s degree in film or costs an excessive amount of money. The performance grade reflects the ability to use the features quickly and efficiently. Ease of use is based on how simple it was to execute the features.

The criterion for compatibility is simple: Does the program come in Mac and Windows flavors? Even the most die-hard PC gurus often admit that Macs have a slight advantage over PCs when it comes to video or audio editing. So we dinged vendors that do not offer a Mac version of their video-editing programs.

About the Authors

Carlos A. Soto is a former GCN Lab technology analyst.

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