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Choosing Between Professional and Amatuer Editing Software

written by: Shane Burley•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 7/4/2011

Picking the right editor is important, but there are benefits and detractors for each classification of editing software.

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    Editing At Home

    As digital video made home filmmaking within the grasp of most consumers the number of editing software began skyrocketing. Not only has professional editing software become useful to many users, but low end basic editing programs have become standard for all operating systems. Now with such a high number it is difficult to pile through much of what is available and find exactly what is needed for you. The main choice ends up being whether or not you should invest in large editing packages or stick with the simple ones found already in your hard drive or free online.

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    The biggest thing you have to look at is the type of films you will be working on and how often you will be doing it. Basic software will do only basic functions, such as simple cutting, compiling, transitions, effects, and titles. Along with this is usually a very basic amount of export options. This is often good for home videos, such as sports games and family trips. If you do not intend on doing much more then it seems as though you are not going to need to spend the hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars on professional suites.

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    If you are unsure of how you intend to proceed then you have a little more to consider. Any form of filmmaking is going to require a complete editing package to get what you need done. Simple software like Windows Movie Maker and iMovie may not suffice, and instead you may need to upgrade to something like Final Cut Express. The two hundred dollars that Final Cut Express costs is a reasonable jump up for someone just getting to know editing software and does not put you into too high of a financial bracket.

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    Moving Up

    If you intend on doing serious amounts of filmmaking and learning how to do real editing you are going to have to prepare to get high end software. Final Cut Express may still be a good place to start because of its low price, especially since it rests on the main principles of non-linear editing software. Windows Movie Maker and iMovie can be powerful enough for most casual uses, but they are not a good training program for better software. The workflow tends to be different and will not help you as much to get ready for higher level programs.

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    Another thing to consider is the time that it takes to finish your project. The more options and features that are included in the software extends the time you have to take to do even a simple job. The reason for this is that there is a more complicated interface, more options for each action, and a more difficult learning curve. Doing a simple graduation video in Avid Media Composer is going to take exponentially longer than in iMovie.

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    If you intend on working with multiple video and audio tracks you are going to be forced to hit more advanced software. If you are considering layering videos and photos on top of each other as well as including multiple music and sound effect tracks then you will have to jump up to something like Avid Media Composer, Adobe Premiere, or Final Cut Pro. Even the mid range software will not be able to handle this kind of use.

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    The same is true about the amount of control you want over each image. Editing software is a tool for expressing an artistic vision and the simple truth is that more advanced software gives you a more free control over how the product ends up.

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    Think about the entire workflow of your post-production process and you will end up seeing what you have on your plate. If you want to work with fixing sound from your video, adding animated title sequences, and compressing for serious DVD authoring then you need something that can handle all this. Apple's iLife series, which includes iMovie and iDVD, has most of the things you will need for a basic version of this but you should not expect that it will turn your office into a production house. Instead you need to look into spending the money on an advanced system like Final Cut Suite. These are expensive and time consuming so make sure that it is worth it before you go into debt trying to pay for it, especially when you begin thinking about adding effects programs like After Effects to the mix.