You want to be the supreme ruler of your own virtual cutting room? Better break out the checkbook—your film-chopping powers aren't going to come cheaply. Photo by FaceMePLS.
While we normally limit the Hive Five strictly to five options, given that several of the options here cost more than a used car, we've expanded this Hive in order to provide a balanced spread. In this particular Hive Five, we can't promise cheap and open source, but we can promise that the contenders are—price tags and all—worthy of inclusion. A final note regarding pricing: many of the video editors can only be purchased as part of a bundle of software. For example, Adobe Premiere is part of the Adobe Creative Suite Production Premium bundle, and also includes, among other software, Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and After Effects.
Sony Vegas Pro / Windows / $850
Sony Vegas Pro has the distinction of being frequently noted as an overlooked but high-powered underdog by many readers. While it doesn't sport as flashy of a resume as say Final Cut Pro, it is feature-packed. Vegas Pro had the ability to mix multiple video formats and resolutions without recoding, a full seven years before Final Cut Pro added the same feature. Vegas Pro started life as an audio editor and was later bought by Sony, but between its roots and Sony inheritance it brought superior sound editing tools to the table before its competitors, and still boasts impressive audio capabilities. Like Final Cut Pro, Vegas Pro has support for add-ons for Vegas Pro, which are actually user scripts coded in Visual Basic or Java Script, cranked out by communities online. Vegas Pro has no specialised hardware requirements and operates on nearly any Windows based machine, giving it both a price and compatibility edge over more expensive and hardware dependent video editors.
iMovie / Mac / $129
When your Mac-loving friends get that look in their eyes and say things like "It just works!" they're under the influence of gems like iMovie. iMovie is a consumer-level movie editing tool available as part of the iLife bundle of media tools. It features professional touches like frame stabilisation for smoother movie playback, has drag and drop editing, easy to configure transitions, and even easier special effects for headache-free movie editing. You can get down to the dirty business of creating your stop-motion Lego mini figure space opera without needing to get bogged down thanks to the simple time lines and the easy to use interface in iMovie.
Adobe Premiere Pro / Windows/Mac / $1100
A veritable wise old man in the video editing world, Adobe Premier has been around for 18 years. One of the strongest selling points for Premier, aside from the rock-solid editing provided by nearly two decades of improvements, is the tight integration with other software packages in the Adobe Creative Suite, like Adobe After Effects. Premier lays claim to having some of the fastest HD video importing around, and even supports importing video projects from Apple Final Cut Pro. One of Premier's killer features is the built in speech-to-text function, which creates a search ready index of spoken words in your video. No more scrubbing through hours of footage looking for an exact quotel; you can search directly for it.
Final Cut Pro / Mac / $1698
Final Cut Pro has built quite a resume in a very short period of time. Several Hollywood movies have been edited using just Final Cut Pro, including The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, No Country for Old Men, and Cold Mountain. If it's good enough for academy award winners, and assuming your pocket book can handle it, it should be more than good enough for your next epic masterpiece. Final Cut Pro supports non-linear and non-destructive editing of a wide variety of video formats. You can easily mix video files of varying formats and resolutions without having to spend time recoding the files. There are extensive tools for filtering and colour correcting your video built right in with support for third party plugins. Since version 4 you've been able to apply effects in real time thanks to the introduction of DynamicRT.
Windows Movie Maker / Windows / Free
Although Windows Movie Maker has played second fiddle to the robust iMovie in the consumer market—especially since were released around the same time—it's tough to beat free when all you need is basic editing. Windows Movie Maker supports video transfer from most consumer camcorders via FireWire and USB, and sports a time-line-based interface for easy drag and drop shuffling of your video clips. Windows Movie Maker supports over a 100 transitions and movie effects, and the Vista version has Direct3D integration for even higher quality effects. All effects are grabbed from XML, so you can create your own with a little know-how, or look to repositories on the web to find more.
Avid Media Composer / Windows/Mac / $1500
First released in 1989 for the Mac II, Avid Media Composer is the dominant application in professional broadcast and moving editing. Avid Media Composer has extensive support for multiple cameras, making it easy to group and select the best shots. There are a host of effects like inter-frame cloning and removal of imperfections when importing non-digital sources. Avid Media Composer stands out from other high-end video editors by including non-Avid products in its software bundle. Rather that reinventing already excellent products from other companies, Avid bundles software from third parties to fill needed roles like Sonicfire Pro for advanced audio editing and Sorenson Squeeze 5 for DVD compression. The newest version of Avid Media Composer can be used as a stand-alone application, unlike prior versions which were tightly integrated with bundled hardware and network storage tools.
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