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When you specialise in any field you will inevitably get people, friends, family or complete strangers asking you for advice on something to do with that field.
Now I highly recommend that you help as much as you can, but sometimes I’ve discovered that because you’ve specialised so much in that field, that you actually aren’t equipped to effectively help someone who is passing through or starting out in that very same field.
For me it used to be that way, many friends and family tended to ask me what is the best way to start editing and what are cheap alternatives for editing software. And most of the time I didn’t have an answer because I’d become so far removed from the world of the beginner that it was quite difficult for me to answer a question like that.
Therefore, this piece isn’t about teaching editing but about what the best low budget editing software is out there to get you started on producing content and answering the most common questions I get.
If you’re interested or would like to learn more about editing and the skill and theory behind it, then I recommend that you buy Walter Murch’s book “In the blink of an eye”. This is a great starter book for those getting into film editing.
Whenever someone asks me about film editing software, 3 questions always jump to mind:
1. How much are you willing to spend?
2. What level of skill do you have with video editing?
3. How quickly do you want or need to produce content?
You need to answer these questions to be able to effectively judge or be judged on what is possible.
There is no point saying that you are a novice, but are willing to spend $900 on software and have a week to produce your first video. You’ll be wasting time, money and probably disappointing yourself or a client.
You’ll have more luck with $100, being an amateur filmmaker and a few weeks to produce something. If that’s your answer, or close enough to it, then hopefully I can help you a little with this piece.
This blog is more for those that have roughly $0-$200 available to them, have little or very little experience in editing and can either set their own deadline or have one that’s at least 2–3 weeks in the future.
Editing software is a tool, and like many tools, you need to feel comfortable with it if you want to use it effectively.
What I’m going to do is order the editing programs in price, from highest to lowest, often this correlates with number features. You can that as an indicator of how difficult the program might be. Most of the programs do have a free trial version available, and I’d highly recommend you try each free trial to make up your own mind.
I’ve placed Adobe at the top, slightly against what I said about highest price first. Adobe stands apart because their professional selection is subscription based. Which means that it can actually work out cheaper or more expensive for you. But you’ll have to do the math with the budget you have.
I personally use the Adobe CC suite and I find that it has all the things I require from it. The CC subscription also means it’s regularly updated, fixing bugs and improving features.
If you’ve ever worked with Final Cut Pro, then you will instantly be familiar with the user interface for Premiere Pro. And if you’re at intermediate skill level, then this is probably the best buy for you, if you want to achieve a professional quality with your video exports.
If you are thinking about Premier Pro, then there is a 30-day free trial, give that a go first before you make any financial decisions about it.
Hitfilm is an independent editing software IP. If you have the benefit of not being overly prejudiced by years of using other editing software like the offerings from Adobe, Appel or Avid, then Hitfilm is a great and intuitive tool. But you will need some familiarity with editing software, as it might be very overwhelming for a complete beginner to use it.
It is unfortunately on the pricey side, around $300, give or take. They do have sales very often so you can pick it up for less. The benefit of this is that it’s a onetime purchase and updates are given very regularly for such a small independent company.
Additionally, it offers colour grading and motion graphics/effects tools as well, all in one package. With Adobe, you would need to subscribe to at least 2 other programs to get the same amount of bang for your buck.
Great thing about Hitfilm is that they offer a free version as well; Hitfilm Express. So yet again, give it a go, see what how it feels for you and what you think of it.
Next up is Adobe Elements. This is cheaper than Hitfilm and Premiere Pro (over a decent period) but also offers a little less in the professional area. It is still a great product, especially if you’re starting out.
Most of the interface and interactions are straightforward and intuitive. It has good export capabilities for Youtube and Vimeo, so it won’t stop you for very long from getting your content out there.
I will say that some training is necessary with it, even though it is a simplified version of the Pro Adobe variants.
Pinnacle studio is roughly in the same price area as Adobe Elements, and offers pretty much the same thing.
Visually the interface is similar, or reminds you of other interfaces, like Final Cut Pro. It’s also very intuitive and gives you the same quality in exporting video to Youtube and Vimeo, at least for the beginner.
Pinnacle does offer varying packages for different prices, and each has more features. Read through them, make your decision about what you need. Be honest with what you need.
I have limited experience with using it, but I can say it was very quick and easy for me to get into and start using it.
Lightworks is completely free, there is a Lightworks Pro, but the basic one has enough features on offer.
For free software, it is actually quite robust in terms of the number of settings and elements that you can use. Though don’t think that just because it’s free it means its simplified or beginner friendly. Some of the varying options can be overwhelming for someone starting out.
I found it to be more similar to pro level software in certain areas, such as importing footage and so forth. The actual editing part of setting in and out points was pretty intuitive (once you figure it out).
If you are strapped for cash it is a very good option to start with.
If you want a free and very easy to use piece of software, then Filmora is the one for you. Its naturally limited in certain aspects, but it will definitely get you on the ground running.
If you’re one of the many people that feel a need to give video making a go, put some stuff on Youtube but don’t want to spend the big bucks just yet, then go for this one.
As a professional editor, I’d personally like a few more technical features, but hey that’s me, and maybe not you at this stage.
7. Windows Movie Maker or Apple OS iMovie
I don’t have a handy link for you for this one, because it should already be on your computer. And if it isn’t I’m sure you know how to use google.
I purely mention these because they are the cheapest or freest editing software programs you can get.
They are very easy to grasp and they do all the basic stuff you would need to get content edited quickly and uploaded.
So, what are you waiting for?
If you’ve made it this far in reading, and haven’t just skipped this, downloaded some software and started editing, then well done and thanks for getting this far.
But why aren’t you editing yet? Is there another barrier? Maybe you’re not sure if you have the skill yet to edit, and you’re hoping something in the rest of this article will magically give you that skill.
Sorry to burst the bubble but software, like I said, is a tool. You need to practice with it to get better at using it. I’m pretty sure you hit your thumb a few times when you first grabbed a hammer, right?
The question I want you to ask instead is why you’re editing? And most answers to this will be fine, like “I don’t have the funds to pay for a professional editor”. Fine, but take into account you’ll need time to learn yourself.
Or “I’m a control freak, and need to keep everything under my purview.” Again, fine, and yet again, give yourself time. But also, learn to delegate, doing everything yourself is very tiring, and working in a team is more enjoyable.
The last answer is probably the most common: “I don’t know any editors, that’s why I’m editing”.
Well that’s a tough one, but luckily for you, you have the internet. There are a number of great places that offer cheap, reliable, safe and good video editing services.
Go check out Fiverr.com or Peopleperhour.com, both of these have some great professionals on there for very reasonable and competitive prices.
I’ve reiterated this a few times so far, and don’t let barriers stop you from making, creating, documenting whatever it is you want to do.
If you really need to be a one-man band, at least at the start, then don’t let complexity get in your way. Set aside a Saturday, try out all of the above programs, find one that lets you be quick and start making stuff.
Good tips to lessen the complexity in your edit is to rehearse A LOT! Trust me, the more you rehearse, the less extra takes you’ll film and the less stuff you’ll have to grind through in an edit.
Also, try to get as much done of you want in-camera, once you’ve imported it, you just align, clean up and export, ready to show to the world.
I hope that this piece has given you some food for thought and helped improve your own methods or at least offered a different viewpoint to consider.
Please do check out the other posts on æStranger.com, and please do leave a comment or contact us if you have some ideas of your own that you wish to discuss or if you would like to see other topics discussed.
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