Now that you have a video camera, what can you do with all the videos you captured? Naturally, subject your relatives to an excruciating marathon of your enfant terrible's latest highlights! To keep your captive audience captive, you could tie them down. But the kinder, gentler way to subject folks to your videos is to edit them well and wonderfully. It doesn't matter if you like Apple or Windows: now there are programs and platforms that make editing home videos a snap! And using Firewire (or IEEE 1394 as it's known in the non-Apple world) makes transferring video out of your digital camera and into your computer simple.
Apple's new 14" iBook
Great, portable system to edit home movies. This top of the line portable iBook features a 600 mhz G3 processor, not the fastest, but a good chip. It includes Apple's iMovie already installed. (More on that below.) This $1800 model features a DVD/CD-RW drive. It's got a Firewire port for speedy transfers to and from your digital video camera, and the screen is beautiful (and so is this elegant machine!)
Apple's iMovie is without question the greatest entry-level video-editing program on any personal computer platform, period. This free software is included on every new Mac computer with OS10. It's the easiest to work with and produces videos that rival much more expensive systems. Featuring beautiful dissolves, transitions, text, credits, etc. It's extraordinarily easy to add music, voiceovers, just about anything. Trust us: try this program once and you'll become DANGEROUSLY ADDICTED.
Apple's Final Cut Pro 3
For those who want to make a quantum leap upwards (once you've mastered iMovie and have developed a passion for editing), consider upping your investment with Final Cut Pro 3. This is far more than a souped-up version of iMovie. Final Cut Pro 3 is a real, professional-grade, $999 editing program used by Hollywood and ad agencies to create a lot of what you see in commercials, on MTV, and for corporate videos. It even is HDTV compatible and makes editing for DVD's a snap. Definitely draw the line that it's not for beginners, but if you are looking to go to the next level, WOW is this program amazing.
Once you've made your movie, using Apple's iDVD allows you to burn your video onto a DVD (playable in most home DVD players.) iDVD software is available on most new high-end iMac and Power Mac computers. Blank recordable DVDs cost as little as $5 each and can play up to 90 minutes of DVD Video. (You don't get the 3-4 hours of material as you do on a commercial DVD because of the different way the DVD recorders work.) With iDVD software (also included free on the Macs with the DVD-Burning "Super Drive") you can create play menus so viewers can select which video on the DVD they wanto see.
SONY'S VAIO MX Desktop Series - PCV-MXS10
I haven't found the kitchen sink yet, but Sony has thrown in pretty much of everything else into this bad boy. Sony's VAIO MX desktop computer features a Pentium 4 1.7 gigahertz processor and a hefty 80 gigabyte hard drive. But it is also a home entertainment system, video editing system, DVD-burner, and television video recorder all wrapped into one elegant machine. Price tag is steep (about $2,800) but when you want the "ultimate" in home systems, expect to pay for it. Sony expects this all-in-one box will replace a rack-load of equipment: You got your FM stereo; TV tuner and video recorder; CD, DVD, and mini-disc recorder; even Karaoke capabilities in this powerhouse machine. To control all of this stuff, the MX features an LCD push button control panel… and we found that operating this panel in conjunction with the installed software caused hits in the audio and the operating system to "hang" once in a while.
For video, the VAIO we tested came with three great editing software packages: Adobe Premiere LE; Microsoft's MovieMaker software; and Sony's Movie Shaker. Like iMovie in the new Mac OS, XP Home Edition is bundled with Microsoft's MovieMaker software. It's so simple and intuitive that anyone can figure out how to assemble a couple of scenes together. On the other hand, if you wanted sophistication, you get what you pay for here (it's free!) My video-editing auteur friend John Griffin thought Sony's MovieShaker was really cool. Designed for kids and non-power users, MovieShaker lets you put together basic timelines with a whole batch of (quoting John, here) "sick transition effects, and employs a fun, colorful graphical interface. It has a very neat randomizer effect called "shake" which can be used for unique results." The software converts videos to a variety of useful formats including .AVI, MPEG, and MPG2.
Adobe Premiere 6.0
But if you are a power user, or even a professional video producer, Adobe Premiere is the software you'll choose. You'll need to curl up with the manual for a while before you'll be knocking out your major theatrical release. Once you figure out how to use the many layers of audio and the endless assortment of transitions and titles, you'll be making and sharing your video masterpieces with the world. Easily export videos to pretty much every meaningful web or digital format. Although the limited edition of Adobe Premiere is free, if you want to buy the full version, count on spending $500.
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