The Consumer Video-editing Revolution

The line between consumer- and professional-grade content-creation tools continues to blur thanks to advances in processor, storage and video technologies. Today’s video and still cameras, cell phones and computers all let you shoot and store video digitally.

User-friendly consumer video-editing software such as Avid’s Pinnacle Studio family of products and Corel VideoStudio make it easy for anyone to create great-looking HD movies — complete with Hollywood-style transitions, effects, sound and animation — at home using off-the-shelf PCs equipped with the latest processors.

Avid’s Pinnacle Studio product line consists of Studio HD, Studio Ultimate  and Studio Ultimate Collection . Building on Studio HD as a foundation, Studio Ultimate and Ultimate Collection provide additional functionality through plug-ins by Red Giant.

These plug-ins enable users to create advanced effects typically associated with Hollywood productions, such as video with a cartoon look, lens flares, special film looks that recreate popular visual styles, and more. With release 14, the Studio line is even more user-friendly, thanks to a newly designed drag-and-drop user interface. And because Avid engineers have been collaborating closely with processor manufacturers to tune and optimize their code to take advantage of the latest processing speeds, Studio products are more responsive than ever.

Corel VideoStudio Pro X3 enables enthusiasts to create professional-looking productions in a simplified and streamlined environment that combines video editing, media authoring, and real-time effects, as well as DVD and Blu-ray burning. Other features include professionally designed project templates by RevoStock to help jump-start productions; NewBlue FX filters to easily add advanced, keyframeable effects; new multi-track overlay effects and enhanced title effects to merge graphics and video content; and a Mood Mapping music tool from SmartSound  to match the style and mood of a project’s soundtrack and video.

Storytelling in the Time of YouTube

Informed by television and online video-sharing sites such as YouTube  and Vimeo , consumers know that it’s possible to make affordable, cool videos. Many, however, are put off by a process they perceive as being overly complicated.

Video editing is essentially a straightforward process that starts with pictures and sounds that, when arranged, tell a story. Video professionals use daunting technical terms to describe the process: “preproduction,” “acquisition,” “postproduction” and “delivery.” In lay terms, “preproduction” simply means planning. “Acquisition” means taking pictures, shooting video, and recording sound. “Postproduction” refers to the editing and arranging phase. And “delivery” is just what it sounds like — the finished story gets sent out to the world.

Within each phase of the video workflow, even scarier techno-babble lurks:

  • Video and still cameras record pictures and sound in various “codecs” and “formats” with techie names such as MPEG-4 Part 10, h.264, AVI, AAC, and AVChD
  • The vocabulary of editing uses terms such as “transitions,” “dissolves” and “cross-fades”
  • Title graphics use “fonts” of varying “point sizes” that can be “kerned”
  • Sound gets “normalized,” “EQ’d” and otherwise “processed”
  • Music can be “quantized”
  • The jargon is as endless as it is seemingly intimidating.

“One of the challenges,” says Jan Piros, who leads product management for Corel VideoStudio Pro X3, “is making the complexity and sophistication of what’s going on under the hood invisible to the consumer video-editing revolution users. Modern camcorders, point-and-shoot still cameras, and DSLRs give people the ability to shoot very high-quality HD video, but many consumers don’t understand the nuances of all the different formats. Our goal is to streamline the workflow so people can start being creative immediately.”

Bringing media — pictures, video, sound, music — into consumer video-editing software typically involves one of two processes: capture or import. Capturing video involves connecting a device such as a video camera to a piece of external hardware and playing the video. The hardware box takes care of converting the video and sound into a format the computer can understand. Importing video and sound simply means moving a digital file from whatever device it was recorded on — say a CF memory card, a hard disk drive or a DVD — to the computer’s file system.

Sharing Finished Videos

Both Pinnacle Studio and Corel VideoStudio Pro make sharing finished videos easy with the ability to, for example, burn a DVD, output an Internet-friendly file for viewing on Facebook, upload straight to YouTube or Vimeo, or export just the soundtrack as an MP3 file.

Corel VideoStudio Pro X3 comes with DVD MovieFactory 7 SE for creating DVDs and Blu-ray Discs complete with Hollywood-style menus, titles, transitions, and effects. In addition, thanks to the ability to burn AVCHD-format files onto regular DVDs, users can save HD movies on DVDRs and view them from a Blu-ray player.

Armed with all these professional tools, any of us can try our hands at creating the next Avatar or Star Wars.