What video editing software (and platform) is best for you?

I received this question via email this morning:

Our football team is going to start doing some digital video editing and I have been put in charge of gathering some information in order to make a good decision on the purchase of equipment. We currently tape on mini dv. My main question is should we go with a PC or a Mac? Our school uses PC but I have heard lots of good things about video editing and Macs. What has your experience been with and any suggestions you may have I would certainly appreciate it.

So I thought I’d share my (rudimentary) response here:

Your question comes at a good time… I use Macs for most of my daily work, and for most media editing needs. However, I recently had to learn Adobe Premier Elements to teach it on Windows. I am certainly not a “video guy”, but here are my initial thoughts on a few options, from less to more sophisticated.

Windows Movie Maker (Win XP) – This is about as easy as iMovie and comes free with Windows XP. However, it is severely limited in features. This is good for the classroom teacher doing the occasional video with his or her students.

iMovie (Mac OS X) – This is the standard in powerful but easy movie making. New features are added with each release, and it is now easy to produce video podcasts with just iMovie and your iSight. However, for high end production, you’ll find iMovie lacking features. Again, this is good for the classroom teacher doing the occasional – or regular – video with his or her students.

Adobe Premier Elements (Win XP) – It is easy to learn the iMovie like features, but there is also some real depth to the program in terms of fine tuning effects. This is approaching professional grade editing, as it is a watered down version of a professional program.

Pinnacle Studio (Win XP) – This is similar to Premier Elements. They have a great teacher deal, though… $79 for the program, a tutorial DVD, and a green screen! This allows picture in picture and some other higher-end effects.

Final Cut Pro (Mac OS X) – This is professional grade editing software (like Adobe Premier on Windows). I haven’t used it, but understand it is a steep learning curve. Still, there are students using this for video yearbooks and other projects all across the country. (This is also true of Premier.) These programs are a tad on the expensive side. Final Cut Studio is $1299 from Apple.

Hardware-wise, don’t skimp on RAM with whatever platform you use! Any of these will work with Mini-DV, but make sure you have firewire ports on the computer (and a camera with firewire or DV outputs).

A couple of other things to consider in terms of the platform… do you want students to have to learn Mac OS X in order to edit video? On the other hand, do you want to give your students the opportunity to learn something other than Windows and develop their meta-computing skills?

Like I said, I’m not a video guy, but I hope this helps. Let me know what you decide and how it goes.

If any of you have anything to add to my comments, please leave them below, and I’ll be sure to pass them on. Thanks.