Easy & Cheap vidding for PCs
Two popular video applications that vidders use are Corel VideoStudio and Sony Vegas. These both basically do the same thing, but have a different approach to doing it. I'm going to give you a little tutorial on using both these apps, plus give some vidding-specific advice.
It's recommended that before you commit to buying either of these programs, that you test out the demo. If you want to take a chance and buy before you try, that can also work if you get an older version of the software for a cheap price (eBay and Amazon are often good sources for crazy-good deals on this software). I'll be giving you advice on that too.
What Sony Vegas and VideoStudio can do (that Windows Movie Maker can't) . . .
If you have been using Microsoft Windows Movie Maker, you will be pleasantly surprised by how much more you can do with Vegas or VideoStudio. Here's a list of a few things, hopefully explained clearly:
One thing that my copy of VideoStudio and Vegas doesn't do that Windows Movie Maker does . . . crash. Crash crash crash cra . . . you get the idea. Sure, these programs will crash once in a while, but once you learn the proper techniques to use (most importantly, what types of files NOT to edit with) you shouldn't experience too much crashing. (Even when I edit with stable video codecs, Movie Maker will crash. I want to scream.)
Other vidding programs you'll need for these tutorials:
On the Windows side, there is an abundance of free (or inexpensive) software available for vidders. Alas, some of this software isn't very good. But enough of it is, so here's a partial list of recommended applications:
Software crashing and instability claims about Vegas and VideoStudio:
You'll see reviews on Amazon and elsewhere about crashing and freezing. You'll also hear vidders talk about how their software "hates" them and they think they might have a virus, or that something is terribly wrong with the program.
Often (but certainly not always) the crashing is due to the user trying to edit video files containing "bad codecs" (read my lengthy explanation and rant about it here). Or, the user was editing with a file type that was "officially" supported by the software, but which has a history of being troublesome. So, take some of the claims of crashing and instability with a grain of salt. Sure, plenty of software is buggy right from the start. But often, crashing and freezing problems with vidders are due to them trying to use "bad" codecs. I will only instruct you to use stable and "tried and true" codecs in these tutorials.
HD, oh how I love thee:
All the current versions of VideoStudio and Vegas support HD. And HD is becoming easier than ever to do for vidders. (And I mean "real" HD here, not the "blow it up to HD size for YouTube" HD.) Even the cheapo version of Vegas Movie Studio supports HD. Squee! Read more about HD and vidding in this tutorial and see the difference between "regular" resolution and "real" HD.
Buying older versions of the software:
Do not be hesitant to buy an older version of either of these apps, if you can find them for a good price or if your current PC doesn't have sufficient system requirements to run the current version. For Corel (or Ulead) VideoStudio, I recommend version 9 or above. Be aware that version 9 will not run well in Vista and I'm not sure about version 10. (Do a little research first.) For Vegas Movie Studio, try version 6 or above. I had good luck getting version 6 to run in Vista but I am not sure about Windows 7.
The instructions and tips you'll get through these tutorials are just a tip of the iceberg—there are tons of Windows-centric vidding sites with all sorts of great advice. Many of these tutorials have authors who are far more advanced vidders than me. Many will suggest different techniques that are probably superior to what I show here. But also, many of these tutorials will also be overwhelming to a relative newbie. It is my hope to give you enough information to help you get you started, and also to show you a few sound vidding techniques. (My main goals are instruction on how to attain good picture quality and proper aspect ratio, since these seem to be weak areas with many fan videos.)
ABOUT THE INDIVIDUAL SOFTWARE
Vegas Movie Studio offers three different flavors for the consumer: Vegas Movie Studio HD (which is really just version 9—one version back—with HD capabilities), Vegas Movie Studio 10 Platinum, and Vegas Movie Studio 10 Platinum Suite. Each are progressively more expensive, but the great thing about Vegas Movie Studio is that even the most expensive version is still pretty cheap comparatively.
As of this writing, you can get a copy of Vegas Movie Studio HD (the cheapest) for less than $30 on Amazon.com. That is insanely cheap, and for that you get an amazing app which has tons of features! True, there are things that are limited, but let me remind you: THIRTY U.S. DOLLARS! (The full retail price for Vegas Movie Studio HD is $50, which is still insanely cheap.) For about $100 on up (cheaper on Amazon) you can select one of the "Platinum" versions of Vegas, with more goodies (some which you won't use for vidding, but some which you will). If you're unsure about investing a lot of money in vidding, I recommend getting the cheapest version. It'll still give you a ton of options, plus the ability to HD.
The Learning Curve: Sony Vegas is regarded by many to be "easy to learn" but others find its interface confusing. There is no way to predict how you'll react to it; you just need to try it out for yourself! Hopefully the tutorial I have here will make the learning process a little easier.
Bottom Line: If you are looking to make fan videos on a budget, you cannot beat Sony Vegas Movie Studio. It's used by many vidders so you'll be in good company.
GO TO THE SONY VEGAS MOVIE STUDIO TUTORIAL (link goes to new window). *Blush* I have to explain this tutorial a bit—I think what is already up is fairly decent, but I still need to add more "lessons" to it. What is already completed should get you to a point where you can make a You-Tube-ready video, and I tried to make it a pretty newbie-friendly tutorial. I hope to add more to it eventually, including more on editing in HD. (In the meantime, there is some Vegas-specific HD info on my vanity site. Look for the HD tutorials.)
I've been using VideoStudio since version 9, and find it one of the most intuitive video apps around. I often recommend it to newbies. Its layout is in some ways similar to iMovie or Windows Movie Maker, which to me is very intuitive. However, it has some powerful features which (once you know where they are) can allow you to make some sophisticated-looking videos.
I originally wrote a tutorial for VideoStudio version 9 (this was back when it was owned by Ulead) and I'll be keeping that tutorial up, but it's time to finally make an updated version.
Looking at the reviews for VideoStudio on Amazon.com tell me that a lot of people have had problems with it. I have not had problems with x2 of VideoStudio. (I attribute this to using "tried and true" video codecs to edit with.) I cannot predict how VideoStudio work with your system, so I recommend that you try out a demo first. Or, you can take a chance and snatch a copy of Version x2 on Amazon. (As of this writing, you can get it for a little over $50 on Amazon, but that deal probably won't last.)
The Learning Curve: I love VideoStudio and think it's extremely easy to learn and very intuitive. LOVE LOVE LOVE. I cannot emphasize that enough. However, try it out for yourself because everyone reacts differently to software. Many vidders also use VideoStudio so you won't be alone if you use this software.
Bottom Line: VideoStudio is still a good vidding tool (though testing out a demo is a good idea before committing to it). It's especially suitable for newbies.
GO TO THE COREL X2/X3 TUTORIAL (link opens to new window): I like the new changes that Corel has made in VideoStudio X2 and X3. I've included info on how to edit in HD, and even have provided you with some sample HD clips (real HD, like Blu-Ray) to play around with!
The "retired" Ulead VideoStudio tutorial (from version 9, which is quite old): This tutorial is long in the tooth but I'm keeping it around becase there's no reason why a Windows XP user can't pick up an older version of VideoStudio and make great videos!