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Three AVCHD Video Editing Packages Under $100

Plus 100 minutes of video tutorials

Video editing is the process of taking "raw" (as shot) video footage and making it more interesting by trimming the length, adding titles, transitions, music and/or narration, and even re-organizing the footage so that there is a start, middle, and end. While you may have captured 45 minutes of your child's track meet, you won't have find too many friends or relatives willing to watch it. However, edit the video to show just the highlights, replace the sound of wind noise with a cool music track, add some special effects, and trim the clip to about 5 minutes - and you'll find a wide audience willing to watch the video and who may even come over again the next time they're invited.

The same holds true for online video. YouTube imposes a 10 minute length to uploaded video's and other sites also have their restrictions - either to file size or to length. Consider this! a compressed video file recorded in AVCHD format is 40x larger than a music file of similar length. Look at chart below to see how much more memory a video clips takes up compared to an MP3 (256kbps) music file. Knowing this will help you realize how important it is to edit your video before posting it online. Video files will upload more quickly and the shorter video length will make it more enjoyable to watch.

File Type Length File Size
MP3 Music (256kbps) 4 Minutes, 21 Seconds 8.1 Megabytes
HD Video (AVCHD, 1440x1080i) 4 Minutes, 21 Seconds 396.74 Megabytes

Testing for this article has been in process for over three months. In this comparison review I take a look at three different video editing software packages and will give you my thoughts and experiences with each. My goal is to help you find the best software for editing high-definition AVCHD video files. The three software packages I tested all run on the PC platform - Pinnacle Studio Version 12 Plus, Sony Vegas Movie Studio 9 Platinum Edition, and Corel's VideoStudio Pro X2) . Each of the software packages retail for less than $100 and with discounts can be found for even less.

Before jumping into the review I wanted to explain what AVCHD is and why the industry is moving this way.

What is AVCHD?

AVCHD video is a format that flash memory and hard drive based HD camcorders use to store video. Video is captured using MPEG-4 AVC (H.264) video compression and is quickly becoming popular due to the smaller files sizes. Until this year, the video quality of AVCHD camcorders were considered to be a notch below that of HDV camcorders as HDV camcorders record video to Mini DV tapes using a higher date rate (25 Mbps vs 17 Mbps). This year Canon and others have introduced new AVCHD camcorder models that can record video at up to 24Mbps, basically matching the quality of the HDV format.

With both formats now offering equally stunning quality what are the advantages / disadvantages of the AVCHD format?

  • Advantages of the AVCHD format
    AVCHD allows the recording of high-definition video onto tapeless media such as flash memory or hard-drives (HDD). Each start/stop of the camcorder creates a new AVCHD video clip and all clips can quickly be transferred to your PC using a standard USB 2.0 cable. Unlike tape, which needs to be transferred to your PC in real time (1 hour of video takes 1 hour to transfer), AVCHD can be dragged and dropped very quickly - where 1 hour of video takes just minutes to transfer to the PC.

  • Disadvantages of the AVCHD format
    Until this year any speed advantage that you gained using AVCHD to transfer data to your PC was lost in editing, since most video editing packages either lacked support for AVCHD editing or had to down-convert first during the render process. While AVCHD support in editing software has improved, there are still inconveniences that can make it a challenge if you don't use the right software or know the right output (render) settings.

Of course not everyone desires to ever edit their video and for those that don't, the convenience of an HDV camcorder cannot be stressed enough. Capturing your video memories directly to inexpensive Mini DV tapes make it easy to view, share and archive.

In this review I look at three software packages under $100 that allow you to edit your RAW AVCHD video clips. The goal is to help you find video editing software that will allow you to create professional results with the least amount of effort and frustration. I have broken this review into three sections: Capture, Edit, and Render (output). In each section I provide a video demonstration using each of the three software packages in order to demonstrate what might normally take pages for me to write and for you to read.

Okay, let's get the ball rolling by comparing the process of getting video from your camcorder into your PC using each of the three software packages.

Page Two - Transferring from Camcorder to PC

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