Taking the Digital “Leap”
You’ve made the decision to go for it. The time for you, your media team and/or your ministry for tapping into the power of producing your own videos has arrived. You are the one. This is the place. But what is the “solution”? To say there are a lot of options out there is a bit of an understatement. Fear not, I bring you good tidings of great joy. There are very capable and very affordable digital editing solutions for every budget and every level of “tech-knowledge”. Let’s begin with the “broad strokes” of choosing a video editing solution.
99.9% of the options for digital video editing fall into one of three categories: 1) PC-based 2) MAC-based and 3) Standalone systems.
First, to the masses-PC-based. If you’re looking for a PC solution your options range from Windows Movie Maker which comes bundled free with Microsoft Windows XP to professional level applications loaded with sophisticated editing and compositing features. Second, for you Mac loyalists (zealots?) there are far fewer options but the quality of those few options make quantity a moot point. And the third “non-partisan” option is a standalone “editing appliance” dedicated to one thing-editing video.
It’s beyond the scope of this article to highlight all the pros and cons of each of these editing categories but it’s important to know they exist at the outset. No matter which of these three “platforms” with which you are hoping to edit video, here are some important things to consider before “swiping the plastic” at your local electronics super store or clicking your way to the checkout counter with some faceless on-line merchant.
Pre-checkout questions to check out:
1. Do you need to import/edit non-digital (analog) video (VHS, SVHS, 8mm, Hi8, etc.) in addition to digital (miniDV, Digital8) video?
2. Are you adding video editing capabilities to an existing computer or buying/building new? Laptop or desktop?
4. If adding video editing to an existing computer, does the computer meet the minimum system requirements (operating system, RAM, hard drive space, etc.) as outlined by the software manufacturer. Usually the minimum is sufficient but not desirable. (What do you want for Christmas? Easy more RAM, and a bigger hard drive!)
5. What kind of tech support (“live” and on-line) is available with the application under consideration?
6. Do you know anyone who is using the editing solution under consideration? Don’t buy without speaking with them first.
7. What is your budget?
Terms of endearment
If you’re a “newbie” to the world of computer-based (digital) video editing, 17 minutes into your journey down this powerful production pathway (and very shortly in this article) you’re going to encounter some new vocab words. Not unlike the students in our ministries, the world of computer-based editing comes with it’s own “lingo” which can be a little intimidating (not to mention confusing) to the uninitiated. Here’s a few terms you’ll want to become familiar with.
TIMELINE – The location of your primary audio and video clips for your video production. The timeline displays your video from start to finish, left to right on your computer screen. Some systems offer a visual (icon-based) type of timeline called a “storyboard” such as iMovie on MAC computers and MovieMaker on the PC.
FIREWIRE – The digital connection used to transfer digital audio and video to and from digital camcorders, (miniDV, Digital8, DVCam, etc.) hard drives and computers. Not all computers are equipped with a firewire connection so make sure you request one when purchasing a new computer. You can add a firewire card/connection to a desktop computer for about $50.00. Firewire also goes by IEEE1394 and iLink. There are 2 primary types of firewire connections: the 4 pin variety found on miniDV and Digital8 camcorders as well as laptop computers. Most external firewire hard drives and firewire cards for desktop computers have the 6-pin variety. Firewire cables are available for whatever firewire pin configuration you need. (4 pin to 6 pin, 4 pin to 4 pin, 6 pin to 6 pin).
REAL TIME & RENDERING: Oh, little ads, be careful what you say!
In their sometimes overzealous efforts to gain a larger share of the digital video editing market, software manufacturers tend to over promise (big surprise) when it comes to the features and capabilities of their products. Unsuspecting and uninformed would-be video editors are often not able to distinguish fact from marketing hype and digital “double talk”. No phrase is more misrepresented and misunderstood than the term “real-time”.
When it comes to digital video editing “real-time” refers to the software and/or hardware’s ability to play your entire timeline, or any portion of it, to the screen immediately at any time during the editing process. This is a very important capability, saving you, the ever-busy ministry-minded tech/servant, valuable time. In general the more expensive the editing program/package, the more real-time capabilities you will experience while editing but editor beware – all editing solutions in the same price range are NOT created equal when it comes to real-time capabilities.
As you ask your computer and the editing software to perform more and more simultaneous tasks (playing multiple audio and video tracks, special effects like slow motion, motion blur and color correction, and titles) all video editing solutions eventually come to a point where they say “Enough is enough. I CAN’T DO ALL THAT IN REAL-TIME. I’VE GOT TO STOP AND RENDER FOR A PERIOD OF TIME in order to output all you’ve asked me to do.”. Just make sure you are well aware of the “real-time” capabilities and limitations of whatever editing solution you purchase. In short, redeem the time, buy real time.
The opposite (and evil cousin) of “real-time” is “rendering”. When the editing application cannot process portions of your timeline your computer will inform you that rendering is needed. The amount of time required for rendering (processing) is determined by the speed of your computer, the power of the editing application you are using and the complexity of the scenes being rendered.
Just remember, if an editing system requires you to wait while it renders that is time not available for editing/creating. Fortunately, there are some very affordable editing solutions which require little or no rendering. (see Top 5 PC editing solutions). And if you see the phrase “real-time rendering” (a digital oxymoron) you know you’re dealing with an especially insidious software manufacturer marketing department.
Digital Creature Features
If your hoping to train multiple “editors” in your ministry then “ease of use” may be a high priority. Of course, what is “easy” to one person may be “totally Greek” to another so do enough research until you are relatively certain that the approach a particular editing package takes to editing video “makes sense” to you and your ministry team.
Here’s some additional features to be on the lookout for:
-Encoding. If you would like to burn your own VCD’s and DVD’s then you’ll need to compress/encode your completed video program to another format such as MPEG1 (VCD’s), MPEG2 (DVD’s), Quicktime or one of several other compression formats. Having that ability within your video editing program saves you the money and hassle of buying another program to accomplish this task. Several companies are putting together bundles that provide at least basic and sometimes advanced capabilities for capturing, editing, encoding and burning to DVD.
-Multiple video and audio tracks. Nearly all editing except the most basic provide at least 2 video and 2 audio tracks. Most mid to upper range programs give you the ability to layer multiple audio and video tracks on your timeline. Several programs (Adobe Premiere Pro, Canopus Edius, Apple Final Cut Pro & Express) allow for as many video and audio tracks as your system can handle with varying degrees of rendering required with some packages.
-Number and type of audio and video filters. What types of special effects does the system provide through it’s built in audio (echo, graphic equalizer, delay, pan pot balance, etc.) and video (monochrome, old movie, blur, motion blur, color correction, slow motion, etc.) filters. And just as important, how many of these filters can you apply to the same video clip before rendering is required?
-Titling. Does the editing package allow you to create and manipulate text adequately? Nearly all editing solutions provide some level of text generation although some products provide more features than others when it comes to creating and animating on-screen text.
-Audio tracks. How many are possible? What audio file formats can be imported into the editor and are you able to easily “strip” the audio off of the video tracks?
-Transitions. Does the package contain a good selection of transition effects? More important than quantity is the quality of those transitions. We’ve all seen productions with way too many special effects and transitions so try to avoid a similar mistake although it is nice to have a good library of transitions from which to choose 2 or 3 to use with purpose.
We are out of space for this “leg” of our journey together down the path of using video and media in ministry. It’s an exciting time to jump into the world of digital video editing and with a little research on the web, a little communication with real-world users, and a little “shopping around” you’ll soon find yourself seated in front of your own “studio-in-a-box” producing all manner of effective video ministry tools uniquely suited to your calling, congregation and community. Now, go ye into all the world…and CAPTURE!