SciCast – Film School

Gear — Editing

Having shot your raw material, you need to assemble it into a film. The first time you make a video you’ll be surprised how many of the decisions can be left until this final stage. Which also means that you can lose entire days of your life tweaking and honing and getting things just right. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

Mac users

You have it easy, since Apple’s iMovie will have come with your Mac, or is a cheap upgrade via the new Mac App Store. The latest version, iMovie’11, has made significant strides forward in handling audio and is packed with nifty features.

It can take a little while to wrap your head around how iMovie expects you to work. Check the Help menu for a bunch of tutorials that guide you through the process — they’re surprisingly good.

For handling sound and music, your Mac will also have come with GarageBand. You can pass your edited film from iMovie into Garageband to do final audio tweaks, and to compose a musical score — again, check the tutorials to find out how to do this.

There’s a handy list of cameras compatible with iMovie, that’s worth a look.

Windows users

Microsoft’s free Windows Live Movie Maker is a great place to start, though if you’re still running Windows XP you’ll need to try an older version that we found to be frustratingly crashy. If it works, though, Windows Movie Maker gets the job done, and is nicely straightforward to use.

There are lots of other options, of course. The ones we hear most about from other SciCast film-makers are Adobe Premiere Elements, Pinnacle Studio, and Sony Vegas Movie Studio. Don’t be alarmed at the £500 price that greets you at Sony’s page — that’s for the professional version of Vegas. Scroll down and you’ll see Vegas Movie Studio, for rather less money.

Trial versions of all of these are available, though we found it a little tricky to find Pinnacle’s. As we write, it’s here. Playing a hunch, we’d suggest you look at Sony Vegas Movie Studio first — we hear good things about it.

For music, check to see what your editing software already includes — Pinnacle Studio in particular comes with some very usable material. For standalone packages, your options include a the eJay series, Sony’s Acid Music Studio, and Steinberg’s Sequel.

Linux users

Video editing on Linux still isn’t as mature as on Macs or Windows, but there’s some pretty compentent software out there. Ubuntu Studio wraps a bunch of it together in one place, but if you’re already happy with your distribution look for the Kino, Kdenlive, and Cinelerra editing packages.

General advice

It’s easy to get carried away by all the twiddly features of your software. Remember:

  • Your film is telling a story. Does it make sense?
  • The only type of transition between shots that you need is a straightforward cut. All those fancy effects might be fun, but they’re usually ghastly when you look back at them a month later.
  • Out-takes can be funny, but they have to earn their place in your film by being more entertaining than anything else. Are they really worth the time in your two-and-a-half minutes?