Most video editing suites are aimed at either the consumer or the video pro. But what about business users, who fall squarely in the middle of these two categories?
Today's midlevel editing packages offer a good deal of flexibility and power when it comes to working with videos. In fact, features that used to be available only in professional editing software a few years ago are now commonplace, like the ability to remove jitter from footage.
Of course, professional-level video editors provide support for professional-grade cameras and other hardware, and they allow for more detailed tweaking during the editing process.
But midlevel applications offer ease of use, a valuable commodity for business users who may not have a great deal of experience with video. These users might need that much more guidance in the form of tutorials or walk-throughs (at least at first), but they also need a program that can offer them a fair amount of power and not be hidebound by arbitrary restrictions often imposed on beginning users by "starter" software.
For this roundup, I tested four major prosumer-level video editing packages to see how suitable they are for business users who need sophisticated functionality combined with ease of use: Adobe Premiere Elements 9 Plus, Corel VideoStudio Pro X4, CyberLink PowerDirector 9 Ultra64, and Sony Vegas Movie Studio HD Platinum 10.0. I looked at these programs from several perspectives: how easy they were to start using, what kinds of editing-assistance features they offered for nontechnical users, and what kind of "canned" content (stock footage, templates) was packaged with each.
I ran each program on a system equipped with a quad-core Intel Core 2 Q6600 with 4GB of RAM, running the 64-bit edition of Windows 7 and using a dual-GPU Nvidia GeForce 9800 GX2. With each program, I imported video from cameras that generated .MOV-format H.264 files.
Note: Of the four applications, only Adobe Premiere Elements offers a Mac version.
These midlevel packages have some rather sophisticated features that you may want to look for. One that's quite useful, especially if you're dealing with footage created on a less-than-professional camcorder, is the stabilization function. This takes jittery imagery and automatically removes a fair amount of the shaking. However, to make this happen, a certain amount of picture information is trimmed from the edges of the frame, and the remainder is made larger to compensate for the lost edges. The more shaking there is in the video, the more trimming that's required.
Another feature can be used to add interest to a video: It automatically edits clips together using a given visual theme or by following certain parameters about the content of the footage. Adobe's InstantMovie feature does this; ditto for CyberLink PowerDirector's Magic Movie Wizard. This feature seems mostly useful for generating filler montages where dialogue isn't crucial, since these auto-generated edits can be rather patchy and arbitrary.