How do I edit my video?

First, it takes a lot of time and patience and sometimes money. If you have these, here is where you begin….

You need a fairly up to date computer. Your 5 or 6 year old computer is only going to give you frustration as it crashes at the most important point in your project. Like when you forgot to save 4 hours of work. The newer the computer, the better.

Of course, you don’t have to get your computer to do the editing. There are a number of manufacturers of stand alone editing machines which are dedicated to editing your video. These tend to be a little on the expensive side, but take a look at companies like AVID.

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How do I edit video?
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What does my computer need?If you are going to use your computer, here are the minimum requirements. You will need more RAM memory, at least 1GB or more to do the job right. I have 4GB Dual Channel RAM in my Dell 720 XPS which has a Quad-Core 2.4GHz CPU with Windows XP. Not many computer companies offer Windows XP, but if you can get it, it works better with your editing programs than Windows Vista.

A second internal hard drive is mandatory. Get the largest fastest internal one you can afford. It needs to be at least 7200 rpm. You can get a lot of capacity for very little money these days.

Why do I need a second hard drive? The reason you need a second hard drive or the very least a partitioned main hard drive (lap tops have only one hard drive internally) is because of the way data is stored on the hard drive. As video is stored it fills in any empty spots on your hard drive. If you are using your main drive with all its other software programs on it, it will fill in between the programs. Why is this a problem? When you edit your video, the editing program has to search for the data. It becomes very abusive to the hard drive and you will see a hard drive failure sooner than later. Since I had this experience early in my editing career, I can attest to this. It can be VERY disrupting to have your hard drive crash with all your data on it. Save all your captured video to the second hard drive.

Why do I need a large capacity hard drive? When you capture video, an hour of Standard Digital video takes 14 GB of space or more. Plan on High Density video taking double that. Your hard drive will become full very fast. If you have more than one project going at the same time, you will want the space to keep it on your computer. You will find that after finishing one project, you will be deleting the captured video to make room for the next project. I have a main hard drive for my software which is 350GB. In addition, I have three internal 500GB hard drives for editing and storage. I also have three external 500 GB hard drives for extra storage. I have many projects going at the same time and have captured video that I want to keep for future projects without having to recapture it.

What software and capture card should I use? Now, you need a software program to edit the video. Some are easier to use than others. I recommend Pinnacle Systems for your home editing software. Depending on whether you have an analog camcorder or digital camcorder decides which software to get. Analog refers to non-digital like the super 8mm, Hi8 camcorders. Digital refers to the Digital 8 and miniDV camcorders. Analog camcorders use RCI cables to connect to the computer. Digital camcorders can use the UBS or firewire connection.

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Pinnacle Systems has a nice beginning software package which can come with the capture card (this is the card you put in your computer to plug the camcorder into and capture video) and the software. Check their website for more information and look at the Studio DV software. I started here a number of years ago, but now use Adobe Premiere software. This is great software but expensive ($800) and takes a lot time to learn to use.

Many of the newer computers have a Firewire or USB port for you to plug in your camcorder to capture video.

Once you have your computer set up with the extra RAM, a second hard drive, a capture card, and the editing software. You are ready to start.

First, you capture the scenes you want to put in your project to the second hard drive. There will be a certain learning curve to using the editing software. But once you get the video clips laid out on your timeline or story board, you can add titles, transitions, music, and narration. Now you need to render the video before exporting it to your camcorder and VCR or burn it to a DVD.

What is rendering? Rendering is what you needed all that RAM capacity and CPU speed for. Rendering is when the computer goes over the timeline and converts all the titles and transitions so when you export, you actually see them. Depending on the speed of your computer this can take a few minutes or several hours.

Now you are ready to send the finished video to your camcorder. It is best to save the finished video to a tape made by your camcorder or store on a hard drive as a master. You can also save it to a DVD, but the editing software has to do another step and convert it to MPEG-2 compressed video first. Once you have the master, you can copy to VHS tape too.

How long does it take to edit? Editing is very time consuming. First, you must capture the video to the computer. If you are not saving each scene or segment as a file, but just capturing—a ½ hour tape takes ½ hour. Breaking up that ½ hour into different files takes even longer. Than you need to arrange the scenes into the order you want them appear with the length you want for each scene. As you do this, you will add titles and transitions. Now you add narration and music. Once you have the video to this point, you render it (which can take from a few minutes to several hours—depending on speed of computer). You are now ready to copy it to your camcorder or if you want a DVD you need to encode the edited project to MPEG-2 which can take from 20-30 minutes for a ½ hour story. The DVD video if your editing program allows it, can burn directly to DVD. If not, you need to open the DVD video in a software program like MyDVD or DVDit to get it ready for burning on DVD. This will require menus and “play” buttons.

The bottom line, if you have all the above equipment and time, that ½ hour video will take several hours to edit, especially if you are new at it but your family and friends will love it.

This article gives you a general idea of what you need to edit video and where to start. There are a number of manufacturers with editing equipment and software available. If you have more questions on where to start with editing your own video or have a problem with editing that I may be able to answer, send your emails to

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