Sooner or later you will need to record video of a conference
presentation or training session. And since Windows is the world's most
popular personal computer operating system, the computer you will want
to use to capture and edit your video will probably run Windows.
This article is not a full review of every available video editing
program for Windows. It's a brief rundown of five sub-$100 video editing
programs we have used and found to work competently on most decent
hardware running Windows XP, Vista or Seven, with the caveat that they
will all crash more often and run slower on Vista than on Windows 7
MyMovie-Windows Live Movie Maker
If you have happy memories of Windows MovieMaker in pre-Seven versions
of Windows, you may be shocked to find that this utility is missing from
Windows Seven. Instead, you are supposed to download its replacement,
called MyMovie-Windows Live Movie Maker. Which, sad to say, sucks. If
you are using XP or Vista, do not download this turkey. Stick with
Windows MovieMaker. The latest version is 2.6, and you can download it
free from Microsoft.com. You may get some notice saying this version may
not work with Windows Seven. Ignore it. MovieMaker 2.6 runs just fine on
Now about MovieMaker itself: Think of it as the NotePad of video
editors. If you only expect to make one or two videos, ever, and to do
only the simplest possible edits (i.e. cut off the ends of a couple of
clips, stick them together into a longer video, and maybe add a simple
title or two) MovieMaker is all you need. It will grab and work with
video in almost every popular camcorder format.
If you have an old version of MovieMaker, it may not work with new high
definition video formats such as MPEG 4/H.264, but downloading version
2.6 only takes a minute or two.
If MovieMaker crashes, which it will sooner or later, it will autosave
your work at the crash point. And it will save your finished movie as a
.wmv file. You can use other programs, including annoying-but-versatile
(and free) SUPER to
transmogrify it into other formats if you want.
VideoSpin and Studio by Pinnacle
VideoSpin is supposedly free, but if you need to take in or output
videos in MPG4 or MPG2 formats, which you almost certainly will, you
will need to pony up some cash. So you might as well download a trial
version of Pinnacle Studio, and if you like it, buy a $49.99 copy of
Pinnacle Studio HD.
Consider this a personal thing, but I find the constant Pinnacle barrage
of upsell attempts irritating. Yes, I'm sure my video would look much
better if I upgraded to a fancier Pinnacle or Avid product or bought an
additional content pack or set of transitions, but right now I have a
job to do, okay?
Pinnacle sells millions of copies every year, so many people obviously
like it. One thing it has, even in sort-of free VideoSpin and $49.99
Pinnacle Studio HD, is a great titling utility, up there with the ones
in $1000-plus Avid, Adobe, and Apple (Final Cut) professional video
editing suites. And the latest version (14 at this writing) does not
crash nearly as often as earlier versions we've tried. So Pinnacle is
certainly worth a spin -- or a VideoSpin, anyway.
MAGIX Movie Edit Pro 17
There are two versions currently available: Pro 17 for $59.99 and Pro 17
Plus for $99.99. Pro has a lot of the features you'll find in $1000-plus
video edit suites, and Plus has all kinds of special effects you may
only use once in a blue moon, but are nice to have around.
The main problem with MAGIX is that it's a European company with German
and Russian programmers who tend to make things look and feel more
industrial than is typical in American consumer-grade software. And
usability? Let's just say usability isn't a major MAGIX selling point,
even though the UI is a lot better in v.17 than it was in single-digit
MAGIX is big on fully-functional, freely downloadable trial versions, so
it costs nothing (besides a little time) to give their video editors a
test. You may fall in love with MAGIX -- many do -- or at least keep a
copy around for some of the special effects MAGIX offers as part of
Movie Edit Pro that can cost hundreds of dollars as plugins for other
video edit programs.
And there's another MAGIX program you might want to look at if this
article is making your eyes glaze over: MAGIX Video easy HD. $39.99.
Easy? Totally. As easy as others claim to be, but aren't. Don't expect
Spielberg-level output from a program that claims, among other features,
"Automatic video editing wizard, Clearly laid-out user interface with
large buttons," and a "Beginner's manual with step-by-step
instructions." Chances are, though, you will turn out a better "first"
video, with less work, using this program than with almost any other
video editing software.