Friday, January 11, 2008

Video Editing Made Easy. Really, Really Easy.

Last night my kids wound up getting me involved in a "last minute" assignment... a historical report about the Romans and the Greeks. Rather than do this as a traditional report, they decided to produce a video using a technique called "machinima" (using video game characters as their actors). The game they chose was Runescape, and they used CamStudio (open source) to capture bits of the game. (There's more about their project on my Ruminations blog.) Then they came to me for help in cutting, splicing, and editing this pile of video clips.

One problem: I've never edited a video in my life. The only cutting and splicing I've done is with audio tape and with real, physical film (I used to work in a cinema). Plus I didn't really have a lot of time to learn anything... I've got my own projects. Nevertheless, I've got Windows XP Media Center edition, and Windows Movie Maker is included. How hard can it be?

As it turns out, it's not so easy as to just dive in and do it. And I didn't have time to go through some tutorial. So I figured there has to be a better way, and as usual I was right. A quick Google for open source video editing gave me a number of options. Something like Jahshaka looked a bit to complicated for what I wanted, but VirtualDub looked to be just the ticket. And it was. Here's what it looks like:

This is dead simple. You import your video (AVI file). If you want to add more footage, then select File > Append AVI segment. You can scrub that slider at the bottom to navigate your video, use the usual Delete, Cut, Copy, and Paste commands to reorder it and trim away the dead time. Record sound to a WAV file and synch it with the video. When you're done you pick a codec for compression and save the result to a new AVI file.

That's it. I didn't look at the help file AT ALL. The caveat is that there are no transitional effects (fades, wipes... that sort of thing) so all of your scene changes are pretty abrupt. So what? The ease of editing and ZERO ramp-up time are what counted here. You can always edit a video in this and then move it into something more complicate to do the transitions. For a lot of folks, doing so would save a lot of time.

In any case, I wasn't jazzed about Windows Movie Maker at all. Having seen what's out there as Open Source, I won't bother trying it again. But I did get a little experience that will help me produce a few help videos I've been intending to make.


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