NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, March 2010
Edit Your Videos for Free
By Ira Wilsker, APCUG Director;
Columnist, The Examiner, Beaumont, TX; Radio & TV Show Host

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Since the advent of digital film, it seems that almost all of us now have a digital movie camera of some sort. My two year old cell phone, which is not a technical marvel when compared to what is available today, has a simple video camera. Every section of every class that I am teaching this semester is video recorded, allowing my students to review precisely what we covered in class. There are now decent digital video cameras that are not much larger than a deck of cards, and are often advertised for less than $100. It seems that almost nothing happens now that someone is not video recording. Once recorded, we often have hours of digital video that are in sore need of editing in order to make the video more appealing to viewers. Our videos may be used for strictly private home use or show up on YouTube where there may be countless viewers. The big box stores have several, often expensive, utilities that can be used for video editing, but as is common in the software industry, there are also some very functional free video editors available.

One of the most widely used free video editors is Microsoft’s Movie Maker, a part of the Windows Live service, available for download from download.live.com/moviemaker. Movie Maker will run on Vista or Windows 7. While most Windows Live utilities will run on XP, Microsoft says, “Windows Live Movie Maker is not available for Windows XP or earlier versions of Windows.” Movie Maker incorporates a tool-box of intuitive and easy to use tools that can edit video, incorporate music, add titles, and incorporate special effects. Using the integral AutoMovie feature, the software will invoke a wizard to add a title, display credits, and add transitions and special effects, resulting in a file that is ready to show or upload to services such as YouTube. Movie Maker can also utilize still images to create animated slide shows complete with music, transitions, and effects, with the output looking much like a video. The output of Movie Maker can be saved to the hard drive or other digital media, or burned to a CD or DVD disc. Since it is free and widely used, Microsoft’s Movie Maker may be a worthwhile video editing utility to try first.

Recently, I wrote about one of my favorite websites, Gizmo’s Freeware Reviews (http://www.techsupportalert.com), which reviews and rates free software. On its recently updated ratings of the best free video editing software (http://www.techsupportalert.com/best-free-video-editor.htm), Gizmo gave his highest rating to the French freeware video editor Avidemux, version 2.5.2, available for direct download from fixounet.free.fr/avidemux. Gizmo summarized Avidemux with the statement that it is, “Powerful, Easy to use (and has) Well documented tutorials. As with any other video editing program, it can be confusing.” While originally written for Linux based computers, Avidemux has been rewritten to also run on BSD, Mac OS X and Microsoft Windows under the GNU GPL license. The Windows version will run on both 32 and 64 bit versions of Windows.

According to its home page at fixounet.free.fr/avidemux, “Avidemux is a free video editor designed for simple cutting, filtering and encoding tasks. It supports many file types, including AVI, DVD compatible MPEG files, MP4 and ASF, using a variety of codecs. Tasks can be automated using projects, job queue and powerful scripting capabilities.” I downloaded Avidemux (Windows version, 12.5 mb), and it installed smoothly and quickly. I tried some of the simple editing tasks in its “Video Filter Manager”, and they appeared to work smoothly.

While I am no expert at video editing, I was able to perform the listed tasks including cropping and color corrections, and Avidemux worked very well. For someone with some sense of graphics and artistic talent, Avidemux would be an excellent choice.

Since I lack a lot of artistic skills, I like simplicity when it comes to graphics software, and that is why I have been a long time user of the free VideoSpin video editor published by Pinnacle Software. Available from http://www.videospin.com, the software is a large 162mb download. VideoSpin is one of the simplest video editors to use, based on my own experiences. While lacking some of the more advanced features of more sophisticated (and expensive) video editing software, VideoSpin is reasonably feature rich with a very simple front end interface that makes video editing a simple process. For those who try this free version of VideoSpin and like it, but want additional features, there is a commercial version available. The newly released version 2.01, in addition to the traditional video formats, now also supports QuickTime and 3GP video formats. One interesting feature of the new version of VideoSpin is the ability to save videos in a higher quality and widescreen format, compatible with YouTube’s newest standards. Users can also directly upload their output directly to YouTube. VideoSpin has an enormous and loyal following that have created countless videos for a multitude of purposes. One reason for its wide use and popularity are the tutorial videos, some made by users, that clearly demonstrates how to create, edit, and distribute videos using VideoSpin. These tutorials can be viewed by clicking on the “How To” link on the menu bar at the top of the VideoSpin webpage. For those who need additional help, VideoSpin has a very active “Community” which includes a number of forums where users can post questions or request help, with a response likely in a short period of time. VideoSpin will run on almost any contemporary PC with a Pentium or AMD processor with a speed of at least 1.4 GHz, but faster chips are recommended. XP users should have at least 512 mb of RAM, and Vista users need at least 1 gb in order for VideoSpin to run. Since editing video files is graphically intensive, a video card that is DirectX 9 (or higher) compatible, and has at least 64 mb of video RAM is required; almost all video cards manufactured in the past several years would meet that standard. Being a large program, 150 mb of available hard drive space is required to install the software, and much more space may be necessary to store video files. VideoSpin was the very first video editing software I ever used, and still use it. For the user who wants an easy to use free video editor, VideoSpin would be an excellent choice.

Any of the above free video editors will serve the typical home user well, and each would be worthwhile to download and try. With any of these three free utilities, there is no reason not to have well edited and interesting videos.

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