Corel VideoStudio Pro X3
It costs $69.99 and does an okay job, although the main selling point of
this program is that you can use its Express Edit mode for quick and
dirty, beginner-level editing, and later progress to fancier, more
advanced techniques. VideoStudio also has about as easy a DVD-burning
utility as you'll find in any video editing package, even expensive
professional ones. Well worth a look -- and yes, there's a trial version
available for free download.
Adobe Premiere Elements 9
It's pretty good for visual work, including great titling. But sound
editing? I've never liked Premiere's sound editor. But this new version
of Premiere Elements has some very cool built-in, automated audio tools,
namely Audio Polish, Auto Mute, Cleaner, Hum Remover, Noise Fader, and
Noise Reducer. I did a fast test of Noise Reducer, and it's at least as
good as the equivalent utility in the free Audacity audio editor, but
not as good as Virtos Noise Wizard -- which costs $59.50 or more, while
all of Elements only costs $99.99. Hmm. An interesting value
proposition. An even better one is a Premiere Elements and Photoshop
Elements bundle for $149.99.
One note: several friends have called Premiere Elements the crashiest
video program they've ever used. I had it crash once while doing a
simple AVCHD video test edit. This is not good. But then again, most
32-bit Windows video editing programs tend to crash, while 64 bit ones
are more stable. And none of them are stable in Windows Vista. Windows
Vista is simply not a usable operating system for video editing.
A second note: Adobe Premiere Elements isn't the world's easiest program
to learn. It's up there with MAGIX and some of the other pro-level
programs -- which shouldn't surprise anyone, seeing as it's a cut-down
version of Adobe Premiere, which costs well over $1000 these days.
Sony Vegas Platinum
Sony Vegas Platinum is the hardest to learn of all the editing programs
listed here, but becoming proficient with it will put you 90% of the way
to professional-level video production -- and once you're familiar with
the sub-$100 "consumer" version of Vegas, you will have 90% of the
skills needed to make full use of the $600 "pro" version, which is used
by many top-end video and movie producers because it is fast, not too
hardware-hungry, and handles virtually any kind of standard definition
or high definition video file there is.
Another Vegas advantage is that it crashes less frequently than any
consumer-priced or even pro-priced video editing software running on
typical home or small-office computer hardware -- with the caveat that,
like any complex software package, it less stable on Vista than on other
For best results, use multiple hard drives
One trick that saves me grief in Vegas (and can save grief in almost any
video editing program) is to use one hard drive for the program and
another for video data. The video data hard drive can be an external USB
2.0 or Firewire drive. Either IO protocol is fast enough to deal with
even the most data-intensive AVCCAM or AVCHD video formats, and it's
these formats where you're most likely to see frames drop if your data
and program are on the same hard drive.
But whatever editing software you use, and no matter how many hard
drives you have, knowing how to turn out decent-looking (and
decent-sounding) video is both fun and potential career-enhancing, so
it's knowledge well worth acquiring.