Editing high definition (HD) video can be challenging at first. There are so many different file formats and editors that it can become very confusing. If you have a basic understanding of the entire HD video editing workflow, you are more likely to produce an interesting video that people may actually watch.
The following diagram illustrates the basic workflow. Some steps may be skipped, but following this flow may make life a little less painful, especially if you don’t have a super powerful computer.
Capturing your video source material with your HD camera is perhaps the most important step – and the step where most people fail. If you record in the wrong format, your video may not produce good results. Personally, I like to record all of my source at 60 fps in progressive format. Even though my final production will not be in the this format, I like to have clean source material so I can do slow motion or pan/zoom techniques in the editor without nasty interlace artifacts.
But more important, is the actual content. What is the purpose of your video? If you have a well defined story in mind, you are more likely to record clips that will be useful.
There are many good on-line tutorials that can help you develop good video capturing habits. Vimeo.com has an excellent collection of tutorials that I have found useful.
Books can also be of value. I enjoyed the book “How to Shoot Video that doesn’t Suck”. I still have a long way to go, but I am gradually learning what works and what does not work.
Because HD images contain so many pixels, it is generally necessary to compress the image in order to reduce the image size and the bandwidth required to move images around. Many modern camcorders compress to a format known as AVCHD. This is a complex compression algorithm, and it takes a lot of compute horsepower to decompress. Another common format is H.264 MP4. This is not as complex as AVCHD, but it still takes significant horsepower to decompress.
In order to edit compressed HD movies, each frame must be decompressed to its full resolution. It therefore takes a very powerful computer to directly edit these highly compressed forms of video. Computer response time may be slow and the preview scene may stutter. This frustrates most beginning HD video editors.
To get around this problem, simply ‘transcode’ the camera’s source material to a format that is easier to edit. A variety of transcoder tools are available to do just that – and many of them are free. For example, you may transcode to a non-compressed (or lightly compressed) AVI file. These files will be huge, but they are much easier to edit. Once you have completed your video editing project, simply delete these large AVI files.
If you shoot your video with a handheld camera without the use of a tripod or monopod, you may want to stabilize the video. Helmet camera footage can almost always benefit from stabilization. Most people don’t bother with this step, but it does make the videos much more pleasant to watch.
Many video editors now include a stabilization filter. I have found that they work fairly well for handheld shots, but not ideal for helmet camera footage. For helmet camera footage, I prefer to use some free PC software called VirualDub with a Deshaker plugin. It takes a while to learn to use it, but it does a pretty good job. Here is a sample video showing why I bother with this step:
Notice that in the stabilized video the helmet visor is bouncing but the scene is much more stable. The bouncing helmet gives you a feel for how much stabilization was required.
Look here for step-by-step instructions on how I do this.
Now use your favorite video editor to put your project together.
Most modern editors have lots of fancy bells and whistles. In general, try not to use them. Fancy transitions seem glitzy at first, but they grow old quickly. Only use them if they help tell your story.
The same goes for music. Don’t just insert your favorite song – someone is bound to hate it. Think about music in good movies. The music helps set the mood, but it seldom dominates the story. Try and do the same – use music that helps with your story and does not distract.
Finally, you produce your video and distribute to your intended audience. How will you distribute your video? Via the Internet (YouTube, Vimeo, etc.)? Or on DVD or BluRay disk? Answers will help you identify what format to use for your production.
Now you are ready to share your video with your intended audience. Pay attention to your audience’s reaction to your video. Do they like it? If not, what can you do better next time? If you post your video on-line, check the statistics. How many people are watching your video? And even more important, how many people watch it all the way through? If your video isn’t great, you may loose your audience within a few seconds.
There are many video production applications to choose from. Some are free, some are relatively cheap and aimed at the average consumer, while others are professional tools that cost a small fortune. Use what works for you.
In case you are interested in my workflow, here are the tools that I use:
Capture: I record video with a Panasonic HDC-TM700 handheld camcorder and a GoPro HD Hero2. I chose the TM700 because it was one of the first semi-afforable camcorders that recorded 1920×1080 at 60fps. I hope to upgrade to the new Hero3 which will record that same resolution.
Transcode: I use Cineform NeoScene to transcode video from both of my cameras. I may eventually switch to GoPro Cineform Studio for work with the helmet camera footage when I get the Hero3. I intend to experiment with the GoPro “Protune” options to try and get higher quality video.
Stabilize: If I only need to stabilize a short clip, I will use the stabilization tool built into my editor, but for most of my work, I stabilize all of my helmet camera footage using VirtualDub and the DeShaker plugin. I generally don’t stabilize my river videos, but I almost always stabilize my dirt biking and mountain biking videos.
Edit: I currently use Sony Vegas Movie Studio, Platinum version 11 for video editing. I selected Vegas because it would support my 60p source material and it would allow me to use a variety of resolution source in the same project. Some editors will convert your 60p source to either 60i or 30p without you knowing it.
Produce: I produce my video projects with Sony Vegas Movie Studio. I also use ProShow Gold for making slide shows.
Distribute: For distribution on the Internet, I output my videos from Vegas at 1280×720 30p in an MP4 format which can directly be uploaded to YouTube or Vimeo. For distribution on BluRay disk, I render as an AVCHD file at 1920×1080 60i. I then build the disk menu and burn the disk using Roxio Creator.
Good luck, and have fun!