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Looking for advice re: video essays

Peter T Chattaway

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Hi all,

Lately I've been thinking it would be fun to make some video essays, whether they be five-minute commentaries on single films like the ones Richard Brody does for the New Yorker or ten-minute multi-film theme pieces like the ones you see at Press Play (or even, heavens, the hour-long critiques produced by Red Letter Media-- but let's save that for another day).

The thing is, I haven't done any serious video editing since the VHS days. So I'm wondering what people would recommend for this, software-wise?

Note: I use a Windows 7 laptop. I have no Apple products in my house whatsoever, apart from an iPad that we acquired to help our autistic sons communicate. (We literally don't use it for anything else. It's the boys' iPad, not ours.)

I have software for ripping my own DVDs; what I'm looking for here is software that would allow me to take isolated clips from various films and edit them together into some sort of montage, with voice-over commentary recorded by me (or whoever). The ability to put scenes side-by-side, split-screen style, would also be fun.

(I have a number of topics that I'd like to explore via video essay, but I'm actually thinking of experimenting first with a video that looks at the evolution of a *musical* theme across several films. I suppose I could just try doing that as an audio-only podcast, but...)

Anyway, if anyone has any tips, I'd be much obliged.


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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My best advice would be to by a MAC. smile.png

Then download Hawkeye. That's what I've used for similar projects. I just throw in the DVD and tell the program what segment of the film to grab.

I'm not sure what PC program could be used for grabbing clips from films, but there ought to be one out there I suppose.

Outside the MAC and AVID world Adobe Premiere is largely considered the best by professionals and easily competes with Final Cut Pro and AVID (some prefer it). The skimmed down and thus cheaper Adobe Elements is supposedly pretty good.

Of course there's lots of other lower end programs out there. Pinnacle Systems being one of the better known.

Another way to think of editing is to edit the films online, in the Cloud as it were. To my understanding there are various website that have this functionality.

I'd also note that I've used MAC's IMovie to edit lots of stuff. But I've discovered that it isn't capable of outputing to the highest quality that I'd like. They of course want us to upgrade to Final Cut Pro in order to have those "professional" capabilities. I say this because programs such as Adobe Premiere Elements might possibly do the same thing.

Another thing you could do is join a local independent film group whereby you have access to their editing suites. Then you can work on your projects and afterwards sit around and chat people up about film.

Hope that helps some.

Edited by Attica
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Ah, the old MACist attitude rears its silvery head ;) ;)

Personally, I don't care if you are a MAC or Windows user. That being said, a good, solid windows machine will cost the same amount of money as the Appple products and will usually come with a better graphics card. Anyway, in this conversation the only reason this matters is based on the recommendations that it will solicit. It seems to me that you are primarily a Windows user and you aren't looking to upgrade even your windows machine.

If you are not looking to spend several hundred dollars on software then I would higly recommend Sony Movie Studio Platinum for an editing software. Sony is often overlooked but is a powerhouse contender with Premiere and FCP, although FCP is falling down the ranks moving into an intermediate platform. I have edited on all three and prefer Sony's flagship editing software over the others. I still use Premiere a lot but I could make a list regarding why Sony Vegas Pro is better (minus the stupid name).

It also sounds like you could do everything you need to with Windows Movie Maker and that comes free with windows.

As for ripping clips from the movie DVDs, that is another story but I seem to remember you having that end covered.

...the kind of film criticism we do. We are talking about life, and more than that the possibility of abundant life." -M.Leary

"Dad, how does she move in mysterious ways?"" -- Jude (my 5-year-old, after listening to Mysterious Ways)

[once upon a time known here as asher]

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