A big challenge for still photographers wanting to work with video is how to edit it. Video is a lot of fun to shoot, and can be even more fun to show off as an edited piece, but how do you easily get from video shots to edited video?
You will hear a lot about Apple’s Final Cut Pro. This is a superb program, but let’s be real. It has a steeper learning curve than Photoshop (I know that from experience) and costs approximately $1000, plus if you use Windows, you are out of luck. This is not for the average photographer trying to explore video. Adobe has Premiere Pro, a very slick and powerful video editing program equal to Final Cut Pro, but it also has a steep learning curve (though it follows the design of Photoshop, so if you are familiar with Photoshop, you will feel more comfortable with Premiere Pro) and high price (over $600), though it is available for both Macs and PCs.
Final Cut Express is another possibility, but it is relatively expensive for what you get, and is not as up-to-date as other programs in dealing with today’s video. iMovie does work, but if you want to do anything remotely creative with visuals and sound, the program is a joke.
So it might seem that editing video is a real sticking point for someone who wants to take advantage of DSLRs and their new video capabilities. Enter Adobe’s Premiere Elements 9. This version of the program was just announced last month and is available for $99 or less. It is a fully functioning video editing program available for both PCs and Macs, doing more for a lot less than Final Cut Express, for example, and far superior to anything in iMovie. It has also been designed to work well with all modern video formats coming from everything from DSLRs to cell phones. And it will output videos to many formats as well.
There is, of course, still a learning curve, but I am finding as I do workshops with photographers that Premiere Elements is a lot less intimidating. It can be used in several ways, from a scene line mode that is like putting together a slide show to a timeline mode that gives you a lot of flexibility for working with both video and audio. In addition, you have full controls for affecting transitions between video and audio, plus quite a range of titling possibilities.
It is important in video to shoot consistently, and that means being careful with exposure and never using auto white balance (the problem with the latter is inconsistency that causes real problems when you are editing clips together). However, no matter how careful we are, we will need to make corrections. Premiere Elements makes it very easy to adjust the visual aspects of video, from brightness to contrast to saturation and more, and new to version 9, you can even adjust audio. Video pros often talk about how good audio can make video look better (there is even research that supports that idea), so being able to tweak audio can be extremely helpful.
Right now, I think that Premiere Elements 9 is a missing link for photographers who want to shoot video. It is a relatively inexpensive program, yet fully capable for total video editing. It is easier to deal with than the high-end programs, yet it has many of their core features that are perfect for photographers. I will warn you, though, that this program (and most video programs) may struggle when used on an average Windows laptop. You really do need some processing power and RAM to keep up with HD video, especially 1080 HD.