Video Editing Software: Formats And Editing Suites
Whatever you do with your GoPro you’ll need a few basic supporting items on top of the mounting systems. Your GoPro is generating a whole lot of data and you are going to need to understand how to handle it and how to process it. Here we discuss video editing software formats and editing suite options. If you need information on products that hold the data such as SD cards, computers, tablets and such like, check out some of our other posts. For now here is a few basics on the data itself and the things that you will need to deal with to get the ball rolling…
Understanding video formats can be a nightmare for many people, but we’ll try to run through a few basic ideas to clear the way and hopefully ease compatibility issues depending on the intended final use.
GoPro stores its data in MP4 format in order to retain a suitably small file size. This means that an SD card can generally outlasts the battery autonomy whilst retaining excellent image quality. You really don’t need to know any more than that, but if you do…here it is. If you don’t, then read the video software reviews instead.
Formats and Software
What is MP4?
MP4 is an abbreviation of MPEG-4, sometimes referred to as MPEG-4 AVC, which stands for Advanced Video Coding. As the name suggests, this is a format for working with video files. The MPEG™ refers to Motion Pictures Expert Group who set the industry standards for digital audio and video. Several versions have been published since 1999 and the present version issued in 2003 seems to be standing the test of time and has now been widely adopted for video streaming in web applications. MP4 works by compressing the files without losing any of the quality, as MP3 technology does for music and audio files.
The MP4 is a container format, which allows a combination of audio, video, subtitles and still images to be held in a unique file. It also allows for advanced content such as 3D graphics, menus and user interactivity. When converting other formats to the MP4 format, any unnecessary information, unseen to the viewer, is stripped out, leaving the files a more manageable size. This gives higher bit rates and better streaming.
As a side note, don’t be confused by the format M4A which is just an audio version of MP4 and will play in most MP4 players; so don’t try to fix it if you see this format and have no video…there isn’t any.
What is AVI and why do we have to convert?
AVI is an acronym for Audio Video Interleave. This is a multimedia container format and was first released by software giant Microsoft in 1992. It is a general purpose container and was adopted early on by many software manufacturers, hence the regular need to make the conversion from MP4 to AVI as compatibility is high for editing suites.
The container file carries data ‘chunks’ in an uncompressed format whilst in the editing software. Before importing and after exporting the files are generally reduced in size using a CODEC (COmpressor-DECompressor), which is often where the end user may see the systems short-comings. Despite high compatibility, a lack of standardization has lead to a plethora of CODECs and if the player/computer you’re using doesn’t possess the one required the playback will be either nonexistent, missing either video or audio, or the video and audio will be out of sync.
That said, in most modern editing software this isn’t the issue it used to be 10 years ago. The output to DVD and the ever increasing popular MP4 for web purposes means that, for now, the need to scratch your head whilst choosing the output format is generally just a distant memory. However, the battle over the best web format isn’t finished, so we’re sure to revisit this subject in the future.
Does MP 4 have a CODEC?
Yes, there are a number of registered CODEC’s but most equipment/software manufacturers seem to have a preference for either:
MPEG-4 Part 10 (more commonly known as H.264 and probably familiar to most people)
The Good News!
More and more editing suite manufacturers are building in direct compatibility with MP4 meaning no conversion on the importing side. This is great news and we’d like to hear from long-term users of products in this category.
Editing Suite Budget
Free Editing Suite: CineForm
The GoPro team supply some ‘free’ software in the shape of the CineForm Software Download. Most people have done little more on the GoPro website than watch the video of the week and check out the goodies. However, a browse through the support tab will enlighten you to software updates, as well as a user-friendly software interface for you to convert, edit, and apply a few post-production clean-ups.
Even if you intend to buy a more complete editing suite, the first thing to do is get this installed on your computer. Having tried several of the freebie converters out there, we can confirm that in order to keep the quality at the level of the original, look no further than this. You also require it as an interface to update your camera. They’ve done a great job, you undoubtedly pay for it in the price of the camera, so it’s a no-brainer; use it!
Consumer and Prosumer Editing Suites
OK, the CineForm does the basics, but you’re more the Steve Spielberg type and the craving to express yourself is becoming ever stronger. What are the options?
That’s down to budget and OS. Don’t over-estimate the power of your system because you’ll get frustrated as it blows a gasket trying to keep up with the heavy rendering processes involved in all those tempting features the editing suites offer. And certainly don’t over-estimate your own ability; you get what you’re paying for in expensive software, and you have to be savvy and know how to use it. Overspend and you’ll probably never use more than half of the products real power.
The most attractive films don’t use dozens of spiraling 3D transitions between clips. They have well-toned colors, direct exchanges between one shot and another, occasional basic fades. Titles can be more fun, and something with a creative titling package is money well spent as your imagination can run riot somewhat. Stabilizers are also a good option, and very often a necessity for ‘rescuing’ sports footage.
The expensive gear will allow you to get incredibly fine, balanced, deep colors and straighten warped edges and bent corners. If you’re posting for your mates on YouTube, no-one’s going to notice; don’t waste the money!
Check out some of the other posts in the Editing or Software Review Categories to see Video Editing Software Reviews.