RANT: Home Video Editing in the Twenty First Century

Youch.

You would think that with all the wondrous technology available today that creating media should be easy.

Once upon a time, a long time ago, I spent three years in film school.

There was after all a time in my life that I wanted to be a film editor, which is why I spent three years in film school. I was the first in my graduating class to get a job working on a movie, as a trainee editor.

Granted it was an awful movie, but still, it was amazing to work on a real movie. Not the easiest career path in Canada at the time… or any time, really. Being an inveterate credit reader, not too long ago I noticed the assisitant editor I worked with on that back then had gone on to be the senior editor on the A&E Nero Wolfe tv series (wait-a-go Jeremy!)

Of course that was in the bad old days when films were made on film.

film

First your images were photographed on negative film stock, then printed so the editor could physically cut the film print into manageable segments. Next the editors would sort and organize the pieces of film and hang them in bins. Finally, the editor tapes or glues the bits they want together, in the desired sequence, assembling a movie out of these physical bits of film.

film "slate" in closed position

If you were making a “talkie”, the sound would be a separate element you would need to synch up. That’s why they used a “slate” or a “clapper board”. You would write the information about the film “take” on the slate, and then you slam the clapper. In the early days the information was written on the slate in chalk, the same as it was done for school photographs. Which is why it was called a “slate”. Although they use digital slates now the originals were actually bits of blackboard. The first sound on the audio track begins with the frame where the clapper is closed. There is no mistaking the visual point of impact on film, and it can very easily be synched up with the beginning of the sound on the audio track.

Okay, I’m digressing. You don’t need to know that much about film editing. I must still be punchy from my all-nighter. The film I was making was a contest entry, which had to be in today.

Silly me, I thought assembling home movies shouldn’t be too difficult. I have been filming vast quantities of video for years. First on videotape, now in digital formats, so I have heaps of material. Weeks of video. The thing is, though, that simply organizing the footage takes a great deal of time. Which is of course the main reason why professional film editors have assistants… to organize and keep track of the raw material. That can take longer than editing the film. Although now it’s all video.

Home Video Technology

Modern technology has made some parts of movie making inexpensive, and I’ve been online long enough to know that everybody and their brother are posting videos to YouTube these days, right?

At the same time I have had enough unhappy adventures in video editing on my computer. I first bought a software editing program that was easy to see and nice to use with a good intuitive interface. What’s not to love? Well, as it turned out, rather a lot. There is very little in the world as frustrating as spending the hours/days/weeks necessary to create a video, and to finally get everything just so, only to discover that you can’t burn it onto a DVD. The very point of home movies is so that you can share them with family and friends. I went online and discovered in the forums not only was it a problem common to that particular software, but even worse they had not fixed the problem in the next release.

Well, I decided at that point to go out and buy a different software package so at least I’d get different problems. So I bought another software program to put home movies on DVD for all the elderly relatives who can just about handle popping a DVD in.

So I have the film-making background, along with a tiny bit of experience with current video editing tools. Putting together a short film shouldn’t be too difficult. After all I know the theory, right? I know what I want to do, and I understand how it ought to go together. Fine.

Then why was I up at 3am when I should be sleeping? Fortunately it’s March Break so I can at least sleep in tomorrow… er, today. The kids are old enough to fend for themselves, and the spouse is tough, he’s on his own for brekkie in the morning. Although at this point I may well be awake when he gets up when I finally get to go to bed….) Partly, its because video editing takes up a lot of space, and I’ve had to do some housecleaning to be able to finish the project.

When I began this video project, I looked at YouTube to discover what size would be best, and the YouTube recommendation is to submit video in HD 1920×1080 size. So I checked my software and sure enough it’s on the list When I was generating still images for the film, I sized them to fit … every still generated is framed 1920 x 1080 so that it will play optimally with my software. Uh.

Well, even though it was a choice offered in the editing software I’m currently using, it turns out I’m not allowed to use it after all.   It tells me:

Vegas Movie Studio does not support output of Frame Sizes greater than 1440 (width) by 1080 (height). The template you selected has been removed from the template list.”

Ah. So I’ll make do with the next size down… 1280 x 720.

According to the error message, that should be within the size range offered, so I tried it out as well. Same error message. So I spent the bulk of the night attempting to render my project in all of the different possible wide screen formats.

The better quality AVI formats don’t have as much artifacting (is that a word?) as the mpg, but the aspect ratio for the wide screen images is messed up. Had I known the software was going to disallow a widescreen film in the beginning, I could have generated the images accordingly.

What gives? Is this a DRM problem? That’s what I assume the ridiculous difficulties burning DVDs comes down to. I’m using Sony Vegas 8, so maybe it is because it is old. I think they are up to version 11 now.

But no… looking through the Sony forums and googling the error message itself, what I discover is that the economy priced editing package Sony makes will not allow me to produce an HD movie. Even if I went out and bought version 11 today.

In a couple of years this is the fifth short film I’ve made. Not much for the financial investment made in video editing software. But at this point I’m simply playing, so I should not have to spend more than $50 on a piece of editing software. There is a big difference in doing video for personal fun. If I was making commercial movies it would be worth paying big money for the proper tools of the trade.

Even though I’ve gone through the manual, more than any other manual for any other software I’ve ever used, the interface is not intuitive.

Worse, the program is loaded with all kinds of extraneous inessential junk that I have had to fight my way through it, and I still don’t get half of what is there. This is supposed to be for home use. Home use today means HD sized computer screens. (And in fact computer screens have been so far ahead of TV screens for so long it is ridiculous. I have a Commodore 64 screen for the kids’ video game set-up, and the screen quality is still far better than any TV screen in the world.)

So using the Sony Vegas home version is hard work. They have not convinced me to buy the professional version of Sony Vegas. And I am only making use of a small percentage of what they’ve given me because I don’t need to know about it. So as far as I’m concerned, I’m not ready to upgrade. It is not cost effective to spend hundreds of dollars on software you are only going to use once or twice a year.

Maybe that’s not entirely it though. Maybe I would be using it more if it wasn’t so difficult to use.

But it seems the problem is not that the software is old, it is a case of what my computer nerd friends call

“cripple ware”

Sony has deliberately crippled the software in order to force me to buy a more expensive package if I want to produce a better quality film. So that boils down to pure greed on Sony’s part. Guess it’s time to start looking around for yet another video editing software package because I certainly don’t approve of their sales tactics. I know it didn’t say anything like that on the box when I bought it. But I still haven’t had time to learn about OGG Theora files which is why the “Lothlaurien Films” page is *still* “Coming Soon” So I’ll definitely have to check into that.

But in the meantime, for quick flicks, I’m in the market for a piece of decent home video editing software that is easy for older folks like me to use, so that I can share my home movies on DVDs with the less tech literate types in my family (which is most everybody, actually). If I am spending the time to make home movies for my family, I want them to look nice.

Any suggestions?

In the meantime, you can see the contest entry that inspired this rant in it’s very own stand-alone Lothlaurien Lore post: Lothlaurien’s CIRA contest Entry

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1 Response to “RANT: Home Video Editing in the Twenty First Century”



  1. 1 Lothlaurien’s CIRA contest Entry « lothlaurien's lore Trackback on March 15, 2010 at 5:11 pm

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