Home video editing is really this easy

25 May

May 25, 2006

By Geoff Meeker

“I don’t understand this whole video editing on computer thing. It’s definitely too complicated.”

That’s what someone said to me a while ago. And until you sit down and fiddle with a home editing program, how could you know any different?

The truth is, things have changed in the last little while. Editing home video on computer – and actually burning your own DVDs – is remarkably simple. If you can click and drag a file, you can edit home video.

Last week, I bought a new video camcorder. My iMac computer was already loaded with iMovie editing software so, as an experiment, I shot some goofy video of our dog Carm, downloaded to computer and edited about 10 minutes of raw footage into a one-minute clip. As witnesses, I have two children who co-directed and had a lot of fun.

You can view the clip at http://tinyurl.com/8xcys9s.

It’s purely amateur but shows what can be done in an hour or so. Allow me to demonstrate by walking through the basic steps.

First, shoot some digital video. Then, connect the camcorder to your computer, using a standard firewire cable. Open your iMovie software and switch on the camcorder. The computer automatically detects the camera, and displays the ‘import’ command. You click the button, and watch it happen. You don’t touch anything on the camcorder – the computer tells it what to do.

That’s good but this is better: while importing raw footage, the software creates a separate clip for every new shot. (A video editing program won’t cut it without this feature, called Automatic Scene Detection.)

All the clips are then displayed, in clearly visible little windows, on a clipboard to one side of the screen. Click any clip to watch in a larger window, in better detail. On the bottom of the screen is the project window, resembling a linear film strip, where you drag your favourite clips and arrange them in whatever sequence you like. When satisfied with the arrangement, that’s it – you’ve created a basic home movie.

The transitions between scenes are seamless, and you have the option of adding fancier effects. In my linked video, I used an expanding circle after the title, and fades on the three final scenes. I could have added music and closing titles, but wanted to show what can be done in just an hour or so.

Of course, you can edit your clips before assembling the movie. Just click and drag markers to where you want to start and end the clip, and hit the ‘crop’ button. Or snip one long clip into a bunch of smaller ones. If you make a mistake, go to the menu and undo it.

To save for viewing, go to the ‘Share’ menu and choose from burning to DVD, compressing to a smaller file for email or even saving as a podcast. And it happens with a simple command or two for each. Awesome.

The software is so easy to use that it’s addictive, which is a good thing if you have a stack of home movies that need to be transferred to DVD. You might get around to actually doing it.  Even better, you might pick up the camera and capture some history of your own.

Similar programs are available for PC, such as Windows Movie Maker, but I suspect they aren’t as user-friendly as iMovie. Note as well that for professional video work, you need Final Cut Pro, which is complex, costly but very cool.

And what do you think about that silly little dog? I think she belongs on David Letterman.

Useful links:

www.apple.com/ilife/imovie/

www.windowsmoviemakers.net/

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