Choosing video editing software is a bit like deciding on a motor vehicle. Consider cost, engine power, speed, steering assist or self-driving. Making a commitment involves quite a few factors around mobility, flexibility and whether assistance or independence for more intricate work is required.
Back in the day, the arrival of Final Cut Pro X caused a television industry furore. A common lament was that Apple had abandoned television editors and was catering to non-industry users who would account for a bigger share of paying customers and therefore a far larger source of revenue. Fast-track to here and now and the saying ‘everyone’s a critic’ can change to ‘everyone’s an editor’ – and we all want the best software.
Choosing leads to two basic questions:
1. What do you want to do?
2. How much money do you have?
Some editing software and apps are free. Da Vinci Resolve to name but one.
The first step in discernment is to establish how many layers of video and audio are available to manipulate. Among the 5.5 million apps that inhabit our world today, social media are the most popular. As light is to day, videos are to social media.
Apps for video editing
Lose the wordy text in Facebook, the internet-wide video shares, inject with creativity from our visually literate, playful generation Z, and welcome 2016’s TikTok. The shoot-edit-upload app. TikTok is a platform that can involve minimum editing effort for maximum viewership and hosts a batch of users who dislike traditional looking advertising. Businesses wanting to make video for social media apps means paying work for video editors.
So back to the question of what is it that you’d like to do, or perhaps you need to know how complex the edit will be. TikTok videos are relatively simple and users could use TikTok’s own video editor, InShot or VLLO which both have only 2 layers of actual video. Adobe’s Premier Rush app works on any device and can be imported into and manipulated in its powerful big brother, Premier Pro.
The catch with Rush is that ‘free’ amounts to the ability to export 3 projects only, it cannot keyframe, fast motion or reverse play. It goes for $9.99 per month.
KineMaster and Luma Fusion
Both Rush and KineMaster are available across Android and iOS. KineMaster can be downloaded for free but you’ll have to pay an annual subscription fee $39.99 and monthly subscription S4.99 to remove their watermark. Grading on KineMaster is not as sophisticated as Luma Fusion which has a bonanza bonus of a once off cost of $29.99, but is sadly limited to iOS.
For a further fee you can add LumaFX to Luma Fusion and for another fee purchase the ability to export your project to Final Cut Pro X.
With 6 layer video and 6 audio, Luma Fusion can keyframe, speed adjust and chroma key – as can KineMaster. However, Luma allows you to choose frame rate and can link to an external monitor.
Television and video are synonymous with technology in camera design, broadcast systems and editing software. Interesting when you consider Android OS started out aimed at camera function. For a pro-editor single layers of video and audio are limiting-to-the-teeth-gnashing-extreme. However, if you are using a phone to shoot and uploading clips at speed to hype an event, limited tracks may be suited to the task.
Fundamentally, editing apps easily change format suited to your choice of social media platform and export super efficiently.
Taking a discerning look at edit software from a professional level is deeper than finding the most ‘intuitive’ system as used in this way, intuitive means able to navigate something for the first time. Initial operation of software must shift to motor memory and in turn reflex action.
One of the fundamental differences between phone editing apps and more complex software is the sheer quantity of footage and time. If you are doing very short form with an economical amount of shots, simplicity is key.
On the other hand, music videos, dramas, documentary and commercials can involve whole libraries of categorized footage. Complex edits require a whole host of video and audio tracks. As editor on these costly productions, you cannot afford to grapple with software. The notion of peering at tracks or using a single finger as an operating tool is laughable at best, suicidal at worst!
Final Cut Pro X VS. Premiere Pro VS. Da Vinci Resolve
|Final Cut Pro X||Premier Pro||Da Vinci Resolve|
|Cost||$299,99 Once off Payment||$24.14 monthly ($289.68 p/year)||$299 Once off Payment|
|Ram||4GB of RAM (8GB recommended for 4K editing, 3D titles, and 360° video editing)||8GB; 16 for HD footage ; 32 for 4K and higher||Minimum 16GB Recommended 32GB|
(Graphics Processing Unit)
|Minimum of 2 GB of GPU VRAM; Recommend 4 GB of GPU RAM||Minimum 4GB VRAM, Recommend 8GB+ VRAM|
|Hard disc space||8 GB of available hard disc space. Will not install on removable flash storage. Additional high speed drive for media. Recommend fast internal SDD for app installation and cache. Additional high speed drive/s for media.||Minimum SSD or Raid|
|CPU||The more CPU cores the more power you’ll have. Most current models are dual-core or quad-core||Intel Core i7 or AMD Ryzen 7|
|Internet||Some features require Internet access; fees may apply. Blu-ray recorder required for burning Blu-ray discs. Video output to VR headset requires Mac computer with discrete graphics running macOS Mojave. 27-inch iMac with Radeon Pro 580 graphics or better recommended.||Connection and registration are necessary for software activation, validation of subscriptions, access to online services.||Connection necessary for software download and updates.|
|Operating system||MacOS 10.14.6 or later||Mac minimum requirement Intel 6th Generation or newer CPU Mac OS 10.13 (or later) on Mac hardware from 2016 or later||Intel Core i7 or AMD Ryzen 7|
The reason speed is essential is not only about deadline and cost, but also the creative process. An editor wants to flow intuitively in the creative domain and not to have that faculty restricted by cumbersome software.
This is but one element of the historic advance of non-linear editing. It no longer involves a physical cutting action and pieces of sticking tape. Pulling a raw clip onto the timeline and trimming it there (as the more basic phone editing apps do) is abhorrent to editors for whom the selection process occurs prior to the footage hitting the video track.
Editors build as they place clips or ‘selections’ of footage on the timeline with the in-point and out-point already chosen. This first decision, laid on the track, isn’t cast in stone. True, editors watch for the moment a shot dies, but then level up to the sequence phase which is all about the relationship between one shot and the next, then further between one sequence and the next.
You’re using “muscle memory” for the software and critical thinking about the edits as feature and documentary editor Megan Gill explains.
Critical to this freedom at the very outset, is the capacity and discipline involved in organizing footage. Commercials editor, Willie Saayman, maintains this is a real powerful advantage to working in Final Cut Pro X which has a number of ways to filter footage.
You may encounter a single clip during which the camera rolled on the very same action 10 times. Label the clip and apply multiple in and out points, listing them as favourites. Thereafter anything you did not choose will be excluded.
Issue an instruction to show everything not used and you’re able to scrutinize any footage you may have overlooked if you need to. Even on a drama where takes are meticulously identified and recorded there are occasions where camera rolled with unidentified repetitious takes.
Shortcuts for Premiere & Final cut
As editor when you view raw takes your brain stores information on every frame. Intellect and insight engage performance, narrative timing, the value and potential of every split second of material. You then act on the assessments gained when scrutinizing footage. These intuitive abilities become highly evolved.
Evidence that this intense speed of thought is catered for in the software is to be found in the way that Premier Pro, Avid, Final Cut Pro X and Da Vinci Resolve all use the hot keys ‘I’ and ‘O’ for in and outpoint respectively. On the keyboard layout, I and O are alongside. Directly below are another set of hotkeys, once again universal to all above mentioned software: J, K, and L which are Play backwards, Stop and Play forwards respectively.
Seasoned editors will be going over their edit a number of times and they eliminate extraneous or unnecessary re-looking at footage. Therefore, as they watch, miniscule finger movements fire beginning and end points onto a clip as it plays. Premier Pro works beautifully in that just below J, K and L are comma (,) and full stop (.).
These trigger keys insert or overlay the selected part of the clip to the timeline. Here, I consider the Premier Pro default keyboard settings to perform like a musical instrument. Like vision mixing (live editing) for a multi-camera concert, it becomes poetry in motion as in and out points are applied, and clips are laid onto the timeline with just three fingers.
This leaves your left hand to change functions on the left-hand side of the keyboard. Tuning in is important, the focus is sharply on audience and manipulation of meaning. Unavailability of multiple functioning hotkey dexterity, speed and creative freedom involving a host of tracks are the deal breaker when it comes to cellphone edit apps.
However, I whole heartedly agree with Megan, who advises that if new to editing, you remain open to learning more than one software and if you’re uploading clips at an event where it is live or almost live you won’t be required to manipulate 30 tracks.
You will find other well used hotkeys universal to Final Cut Pro X, Premier Pro and Da Vinci Resolve. Command Z for undo. Both Premier Pro and Da Vinci Resolve use the keyboard hotkey ‘e’ to extend or withdraw the a highlighted beginning or end of clip to the playhead whereas for Final Cut Pro it is Shift X.
But here’s the thing: all software allows you to customize your keyboard and save those settings according to your personal preferences. On Premier Pro ‘C’ activates the razor (think c- for cut), on Da Vinci and Final Cut Pro X it is ‘B’ (think b for blade – and the icon looks like a blade). If used to Final Cut Pro X and you’re hired by a company that uses Premier Pro; and you’ve been flying to ‘B’ to change the function of the selection tool to make a cut and not ‘C’ – just open keyboard settings and specify ‘B’ to activate the function instead of ‘C’.
Final Cut Pro X, Premier Pro, Da Vinci Resolve and Avid users all have reasons why they love their chosen software. An excellent feature belonging to Final Cut Pro X is that it can open a number of projects and lay them out in front of you like index cards, making it super simple to access elements from timelines across projects.
It also lists all titles to be scrolled through and read easily. Select one and you fly to that point on the timeline thus removing time consuming scroll-searching of the entire timeline to tweak titles. A groundbreaking time saver the software’s background auto–render which has won it plenty of fans. Tricks to speed up the working process makes for well-loved software. Premier Pro initially won favour away from Final Cut Pro X because of its inability to handle different media formats which lost them a lot of users when it first arrived.
FCPX Developers have made this a thing of the past. However, handling different formats in the most stable way is an attribute awarded to Avid. Apart from a costly monthly subscription, a criticism of Premier Pro is that developers update expecting editors to be working on top of the range machines (2016 up) which they certainly do not always have.
Final Cut Pro X has had 27 updates since it first arrived with only one initial payment required. Da Vinci Resolve is well loved because it is free. This is sure to earn it a lot of loyalty as it nurtures entry into the realm of more complex editing. It is phenomenal grading software and has become a powerful editing tool as well.
I know of editors who have purchased Da Vinci Resolve software out of loyalty. They love that Resolve is constantly in development and seem to listen to recommendations from operators as well as the fact that purchase is a once off payment rather than a continual quest for finance.
All software has specifications that must be taken into account and Da Vinci Resolve is resource intensive. So while it may have a free version, the specifications must be met for it to run at full capacity. Not all of the software is available until a purchase is made, but exceptional mileage can be gained without the additional tempting perks.
In my experience, running the free version on less than minimum system requirements will make it unable to render out some fusion titles with effects on them. Premier Pro has extensive online editing tutorials, some of which are totally awesome.
Their multi-camera music video tutorial which provides a comprehensive guide along with a full range of actual footage to work with is mind blowing. Final Cut Pro X users love the look of the interface and find the audio sync exceptional.
Speaking of which – Luma Fusion has had an audio sync update. Entering the trim function with two shot edges becoming visible alongside each other is another AVID function that is hailed as superior to any other editing system.
After years of tracking changes in edit software and working up a sweat deciding which to use, I believe they all have unique and powerful facets and that each will get your story told with equally remarkable prowess. Understandably, editors seeking the best are looking for the least labour intensive methods to streamline hours of detailed work.
As editor, develop your motor-memory with hotkeys to hone your craft and activate your own free-flow interpretation to the max. It is free flowing because it is instinctive; involving timing, perception, world view and life experience focused on the great art of storytelling or audience engagement and manipulation. Editing software is just the tool to facilitate all of that.
The more simple apps seem to capitalize on the way novice editors tackle first encounters with edit software. They utilize the mouse alone, click-clicking and dragging along slowly. It takes some time for them to graduate to both hands and the keyboard short cuts. Even at this stage, however, they make unique, beautiful, inspired work.
It’s essential to recognize that if, as editors, we are not interested in what we craft, no-one else will be either!
As Megan explains, editing is about making choices and thinking; otherwise open yourself to the possibility of some beautiful mistakes.
Working on a deadline with a reputation to maintain along with your income, may make the latter a little too random.
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