I’m vexed. Vexed, I say. I’ve been evaluating budget Video Editing software and it’s all just a total muddle. Here are my early thoughts after a few days of using each manufacturer’s trial software.
The Top-3 Contenders
Sony Vegas Movie Studio Platinum 9.0b (build 92)
This is hands down the best of the software I’ve evaluated. It’s powerful, reasonably intuitive (for me), and does the best chroma key of the top three.
The annoying bit is that video from a Flip camera needs to be converted. Without the conversion, the video doesn’t render (the audio does, though). It’s odd because it shows clearly in the editing preview. It just won’t render. To get it to render I’ve had to save the original video to another format.
I’ve tried installing a few new codecs, but for now I haven’t found the one that solves this problem for me.
As for the UI. I’ve noticed that if you dock and undock the effects generator (all too easy to do accidentally), you lose your keyframe editor. After a fashion I figured a way around it that involved docking it, undocking the explorer, and then undocking the effects generator. Needless to say, I’m now careful not to let it dock in the first place.
It didn’t take long at all to feel comfortable with this as I’d used an early-ish version of Premier Pro over a decade ago. The UI was somewhat improved from what it had been before, but still retained the flavor of the software I was familiar with.
APE isn’t bad from what I’ve seen in the tests, but it can get bogged down, which gets a bit annoying. Reading reviews–apparently there are major crashing issues, though I haven’t experienced that yet. I wouldn’t be surprised since my previous experience with Premier was also riddled with crashes.
The major problem I have is that I’m not confident that this isn’t going to be aggravating before too much time passes. Stability is definitely an issue as is the obvious problem with memory management. You’d think that after all these years Adobe would have figured that out.
A minor problem is the amazingly slow help system.
CyberLink Power Director 8.00.1930
At first blush, this software was “good enough”. Further testing has exposed a few warts.
First, the manipulation of overlays can be annoying as key-frames can inexplicably be inserted into even simple effects. These have to be dealt with individually. It doesn’t affect the final result, but you have to be attentive to what you think is happening is actually what is happening.
The chroma key is the worst of the lot. While Vegas is great and Premier is usable, CPD’s outing was at best a first step in my view as it was easily overwhelmed by hair and movement.
This program did crash on me a few times, but usually after I was done with what I was doing. It wasn’t anything that got in my way, but it is a cause of concern.
Where I’m At
Even with the extra translation step, and attendant loss of one generation of video quality, I’ve leaning toward Sony Vegas. Even with the trial version, it’s amazingly complete. Maybe it’s because of my past experience working with video, but I found it the easiest to use of all the software. I’m still annoyed with the missing video, though.
The other two are still in the running, but they aren’t my first picks at this moment mostly due to (possible) stability problems.
I’m going to have to think on this a bit more.
(Note: This is just commentary based on my personal experience on my current computer setup and my previous experience with video software. YMMV)