Thursday, November 12, 2009

Family Documentation Camcorder Video Editing Software

There is no such thing as a typical consumer using a camcorder. I'm sure there are marketing people who are willing to educate me about demographics of users. Those of us who pick up cameras and camcorders have our own individual reasons that don't always fit into categories.

Family Documentation/History Video Recording.

That said, you can make a case for a certain type of user. So it is not that hard to imagine that there are people who are taking videos of family events and family members who would like to make their videos better but who are time pressed and not that tech savvy.

Those of you that are hip enough to record great-grandma, grandpop and Uncle Billy I salute you. Special shout out to the parents of performers and athletes. These are the people that need a good solid camcorder that is easy to use but and has true optical zoom 10x or more.


Camcorders for family documentation start decently at $299 up to about $699. Most everything is automatic but the more you pay the more options you get. You want to look for optical zoom 10x or more. Not digital, optical. If you are in the 15th row of your child's recital you want to see a face, not an outline.

Recording Formats

At this level camcorders record in MPEG-2 (or a proprietary variant format like .MOD) MPEG 4 (.mp4), .MOV or maybe a version of AVCHD. If your camcorder records in AVCHD format you have to pay attention to the video editing software to make sure that it can handle that video format.

Video Editing Needs and Options

You want to put a title and cut out the bad parts. Maybe adding some music. Mixing video and photos would be good. Perhaps create a DVD for the relatives. But you don't want it to take up a lot of time and you are not a high tech cadet.

You don't want to pay more than $50 to $100 for software. And it should be easy to figure out right? Still you want something that has the ability to create something nice.

Lemme think. OK, at this price point you do have options and trade-offs. There are a number of editing programs specifically designed for novice or no experience users.

Corel Ulead Video Studio Express 2010 Windows 7, Windows XP SP3 Home Edition/Professional, Windows XP Media Center Edition or Windows Vista $49.99

This product is designed for novice users who want to edit videos, upload to sharing sites and create DVDs. Check out the demo video from Corel:

The software is very visual. You have the ability to drag and drop videos and make edits quickly. In the features section it does state that it has the ability to handle AVCHD videos so that is good news. Not all editors can import that video format.

Magix Video Easy Microsoft Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7 $39.99
Another plug and play software with a simple interface.

This is as simple as it gets, one video and audio track to drag and drop or the program help you do it for you.

In order to edit video in the MPEG-2, MPEG-4 format you will need to activate those features before using the software.

That seems silly to me but that is what is on the specification page. This means that you will have to download the software patches needed if your camcorder records in the above mentioned formats in order to bring them into the software.

Sony Vegas Studio HD Microsoft Windows XP SP 2, Windows Vista, or Windows 7 $39.95

This is another editing program for entry level users. It has the ability to add special effects, narration, has built in music tracks and wizards to guide you through the program.

It can handle most video formats, has help embedded into the program to assist you in editing.

There is another version of the Sony software that does not handle high definition video but has a similar name.

It cost $69.95 and it has a few more gizmos. If your camcorder is a high definition camcorder make sure you obtain that version of the software. There is a requirement that you register the program within 30 days of purchase/installation.

Simple Is Not Always Easy

There are some things you should know. These and other video editing programs require a modern computer. If you have an old faithful that you bought four years ago there is is gonna be trouble. If you purchased your computer 2 years ago, you should be OK if it is a dual core or quad core system.
  • You should consider downloading the trial version before purchase to see if the software and your computer get along. Only download directly from the vendor's web site.
  • Before you download software your should back up your system.
  • Do not listen to your helpful teenager who knows how to find a cracked version.
  • If the word torrent comes up politely decline. And run a spy/malware check on your computer. Which you should do anyway once a week.
These entry level video editing programs are specifically targeted to entry level users. There will be cuts, transitions and wizards to help you work with your video. There are going to be limitations in how many elements you can add to a video, the size of the video or other restrictions.

On the other hand, it does not get easier than this to make a video. If you can live with those limitations, these are good options from known vendors.

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