The newspaper video group threw up an interesting issue this week as a member asked if there was something in between the simplicity of i-movie/movie-maker and the complexity and cost of Avid and Final-Cut-Pro. The answer, in this instance, was Final Cut Express. It’s a ‘cut down version’ of FCP with all the basics you would need.

But what if all of that makes no sense? Just what are the basics that you need and what software is out there.

Let’s start with the basics

The basics – Essential

  1. Cut/Top and tail
    This means the ability to take raw footage and define a section to keep, discarding the waste round the edges.
  2. Sequence
    The ability to join/sequence more video clips together
  3. Add a dissolve and a fade
    Dissolve between video clips and add fade-in and fade out effect at the start and end
  4. import graphics and audio
    Import external jpg, bmp and tiff, aiff, wav and mp3 files
  5. import quicktime, avi or wmv files
    export to quicktime, avi or wmv

These are the core things an editing package should be able to do for you. Regardless of the package you decide on you should familiarise yourself with the procedure for all of the above.

These are all nice things to be able to do with a single application but not necessary.

  1. Capture from a DV input
    If you shoot video with a stills camera or from a mobile phone then you will transfer your video, via usb or a separate software package, and import it in to the editing application.If you use a video camera its desirable to pick an application that will allow you to connect a camera using the firewire interface and capture the material directly in to the application. Perhaps with some control over the camera.
  2. Multiple video and audio tracks
    Allow you to place simultaneous video and audio on separate tracks to allow video overlay and multitrack audio.
  3. Split audio and video
    Allow you to use video and audio tracks independently of each other. i.e take the sound from one clip and use it with another. This combined with ability to edit on to multiple tracks is essential for easy packaging of contnet content.
  4. Add a video and audio effect
    As well as the usual fades and dissolbes, you should be able to manipulate the audio and video content. This could include equalisation, echo for audio tracks and brightness/contrast and mosaic effects for video(to mask identities.)
  5. Scale and move still images
    When you import images can you manipulate it to create a rostrum Ken Burns effect
  6. Create titles
    Generate text to overlay over the video for caption etc.

So bearing those things is mind, here is part one of a look at the key software that’s out there.

**Avid **

Avid are the longest standing player in the range of applications out there. They’ve been producing computer-based video editing apps since the late 80’s and they are pretty good at it.

The range is pretty extensive, from low end to full-throttle film and effects suites. The nice thing about Avid suites is that they all share a similar interface and editing methodology so learning your chops on a cheaper avid system won’t keep you from moving up.

At the lower end and only for PC is Avid liquid. This app includes, amongst other things, the ability to produce DVDs from the package. It retails in the sub 500 pound area for the software only version but the ‘pro’ version, with breakout box for better connectivity is still sub 1000 pounds.

Next in the range is Avid Xpress which is in the 1500-2000 pound range. It’s available for Mac or PC and it comes as a software only version or with a hardware accelerator called a Mojo. Those with deep pockest could look at the Avid Xpress Studio bundle which includes Xpress Pro, a Mojo, several production apps and a hardware audio interface. All for a cool 5000 pound.

Beyond that are Avid’s Media composer and Symphony suites but we are ranging a long way away from what a newsroom would need.

There is also a free version of Avid called Avid FreeDV. It runs on Mac and PC and despite some reports of instability – it can be picky about the system and version of your os -it might be an attractive proposition for the cash strapped newsroom.

Another part of Avid’s business is provision for the broadcast newsroom. This provision is mainly built around newsroom management and video play out systems (okay, I’m simplifying it a lot there) but it does include a news editing package called Newscutter and recently the introduction of a journo friendly package called Instinct.


Apple came in to the market for NLE’s in the late nineties but in a relatively short time, it’s main product, Final cut pro, has proved itself formidable competition for Avid.
Two areas have proved key to FCP’s popularity. First, the use of quicktime as its native format, taking advantage of the mac operating systems support of the format has meant the stability of the product is good.

Secondly, this level of support has meant cross-application support is easier. FCP, DVD studio, Motion, Soundtrack and Apples high end composting software Shake, all work together to make a formidable collection of programs that work, out of the box. But the integration with Apples lower end/ built in apps like i-movie and Garageband is also strong.

At the lower end of Apples video editing apps is i-movie. Free with new macs or available as part of the i-life suite, i-movie is a powerful app that will do most of what you want in an editor.

Final Cut Pro Express is a cut down version of Final Cut Pro. It retails at just under £200. The full-version of Final Cut Pro, version 5, is only available as part of Final Cut Studio which alos contains Apples other production apps Motion, for graphics, Soundtrack, for music, DVD Studio Pro for Creating DVD’s and Compressor, an application for encoding video for broadcast, web and DVDwork. The studio package retails at around the 600 pound mark. For a Mac user, its hard to look anywhere else.

Adobe Premier

Adobe Premier has had something of a rocky reputation amongst higher-end editors and although it has lacked some development in the past the latest version has proved a favourite with the windows crowd.

There are some similarities with Final Cut Pro in that its latest incarnation, Adobe Premier Pro, integrates with a suite of Adobe applications including Adobe After Effects, which has long been considered the bench mark for computer based motion graphics. It also has a cut down version of the software called Adobe Premier Elements.

Like Photoshop Elements, the cut down version of Premier is a great introduction to the software and its features would keep most newsrooms happy. Premier Element’s retails for less than 100 pounds which makes it pretty irresistible if you want cheap windows based editor with a big name behind it.

The full version of Premier retails at around the 600 pound mark or Bundles with Adobes other media apps in its Production Studio bundle at the 1200pound mark. They only run on windows at the moment although Adobe have announced a mac version of the Production studio will appear soon
**End of Part 1 **

That’s it for part one. In part 2, I will look at other names in the market that you might come across and some free/shareware apps that may work just as well or help along the way.