Video Prosumer

Since we first attended Dead by Dawn four years ago my friends and I have been kicking around the idea of creating a short horror genre movie for submission to their short movie competition. Last year I wrote a script for us to test out, a simple to shoot, one location screenplay.

Shooting the movie should be relatively simple, the guys have a few HD camera, the script calls for the use of a microphone so recording audio should also be easy, and we have the perfect location in a friends garage. The part of the project most challenging (both bad and good) will be editing the footage.

Editing software seems to come in at three levels, we’ll call the low, mid, and high (in relation to skill levels). Windows Movie Maker and iMovie would be low, mostly for home users. Avid Studio and Vegas Movie Studio would seem to be mid level, people I’d say like myself who want to put something unique together, but without the technical knowledge of a real professional. Vegas Pro, Avid Media Composer, and Final Cut Pro are high level, for the real people who work in the field.

It’s been quite some time since I last had to perform full composing from footage, my own wedding video from 2004 in fact. Back then I used Sonic Foundry Vegas 4 / Sony Vegas 5, the best windows based mid level software I culd find (and actually use). Prior to this I used iMovie on the Mac G4’s for producing promotional video within a clients multiple store locations, found this very easy to use, and with a few plug-ins this did all that I needed at the time.

So now we’re back to talking about our movie, and co-incidently i’ve just gotten a very powerful macbook for work. I can finally give Final Cut Pro a try after hearing so much about it. Trying it, instantly I’m overwhelmed.

So this put me on the hunt for the best software for us to potentally use for our little movie.

Final Cut Pro 7
Perhaps my biggest problem here is simply screen layout. A lot of things like effects share the same panel as the preview window, so when changing settings you find yourself flipping back and forwards. I know this is just a niggle, but I want something that I can just use. Maybe its just a feel thing, but I’m instantly put off.

Final Cut Pro X
Initally I didn’t even think of this since it’s taken quite a hammering on the web. After investigation though, it might seem that what people now don’t like about it might actually be the things that I like the most. People are calling this iMovie Pro since it “dumbs down” so many of the options, but this might just bring it to a level where I can use it. Having tried it I can say that yes, this is the case. While I do completely understand the professionals concerns at the way this software has gone, it is to my benefit that this has moved from pro to prosumer.

Apple iMove (whatever the lion version is)
Yuck, this looks nothing like the iMovie that I knew. Timelines seem to have vanished. I spent all of ten minutes playing with this to know it wasn’t for me. 

Avid Media Composer 5 (mac)
Downloaded the trial, would constanly hang just starting up. Gave up on it. 

Sony Vegas Movie Studio 11
Downloaded the trial, installed, and was able to use immediately. It must be the time spent doing my wedding video, but this was instantly familiar and usable for me. A real contender.

Avid Studio
This is a very strong software package for the mid-range editor such as myself. I’d go so far as to say on the windows platform, simply look no further. Again this might be accused of the same dumbing down that FCP-X has gotten recently, but honestly, give it a spin and I challenge you not to be impressed.

So what’s the final answer, trial and error I suppose will show me the way. Off hand, I’d pick FCP-X for the mac, or Avid Studio for windows. Either way, get the best hardware that you can.