Video Editing Choices For Tight Budgets – Videoguys Recommendations for under $500

(November 2011 update)
Lets face it, the economy stinks. Our leaders in Washington D.C. can’t seem to agree on anything and no one knows where the stock market is going. That doesn’t mean you can’t find a video editing solution that will fit your budget and deliver outstanding quality and performance for under $500!!

We used this criteria to come up with some affordable editing solutions for $500 or less that we'd be happy to recommend:

1) The software picked has to be able to handle the consumer/ prosumer tapeless HD workflows. That means AVCHD footage from HD camcorders; Mini Cameras like Flip, Zoom Q3HD or GoPro; DSLR footage and of course video captured from your phone.

2) The software must allow you to export great looking videos to YouTube, Blu-ray, DVD and the web. We watch video today on many different devices - small screens on our cell phones, iPads, and even that big, beautiful HD Flatscreen TV in the family room. You'll want to make sure your videos will look great on all of the displays, regardless of size or resolution.

3) This article is for Windows-based software. If you have a Mac you have iMovie. If you have $299 you can download FCPX from the app store. Keep in mind that FCPX is a 1.0 version, and reports from users are mixed. If you have a Quad-core Mac, you'll want to try it out. If you don't already have a powerful Mac, we don't recommend buying one just to run FCPX. Wait for at least the first major update from Apple.
So this article is for folks who still use PCs. You know the other 85% of the world ;-)

4) Finally, the software recommendations listed here must be capable of running on any decent off the shelf computer – desktop or laptop. For this article we’re going to recommend an i7 Quad core processor, 8GB+ of RAM, an NVIDIA based graphics card with at least 1GB RAM on board and 128+ CUDA cores. While a machine like our DIY8 or one of our recommended laptops will give you much more performance, you don’t have to go that far to get the job done.

So now that we know the selection criteria, lets talk about some of the Videoguys Recommendations:

1) Adobe Premiere Pro CS 5.5 Crossgrade at $399

That’s right, Adobe Premiere Pro is now on sale for only $399!! Adobe is running a special SWITCH promotion that allows you to buy Premiere Pro CS 5.5 for 50% off. That’s an incredible deal and one that you do not want to miss – so make sure you order before the promotion expires Sept 30th.

The feature that sets Premiere Pro CS 5.5 apart from all of the other NLEs on the market, is the Mercury Playback engine. This allows you to handle all sorts of HD footage in real-time without any rendering! You can even mix DSLR, AVCHD and HDV footage on the same timeline. Premiere Pro is a professional level application at an incredible price. It includes Adobe Encore CS5.5 to author Blu-ray Discs and DVDs complete with fancy menus and navigation.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Adobe is also offering 50% off their full CS5.5 Production Premium. At $849 it’s clearly over the $500 budget, but when you look at all of the software you get, including Photoshop CS 5.1 Extended, After Effects CS 5.5, Audition and more, it’s a tremendous value.

Note: The Switcher promotion and prices listed above are no longer available. We still recommend Adobe Premeire Pro, but it is $799. The Production Premium package is on sale for $1199.

2) Sony Vegas Pro 10 Upgrade and Crossgrade on sale for $299

You have to own another video editing title to qualify for this price, but the list is pretty extensive, so most folks do qualify. If you don’t own any other video editing software, you can still get the Videoguys' Bundle including Vegas Pro 10 with the Pioneer BDR-206 blu-ray burner for $499 which just makes our budget and gives you the software along with a 12x Blu-ray Disc Burner.

Vegas Pro 10 is a full featured NLE! It can handle your tapeless HD footage with ease. It doesn’t tap into your graphics card, but it will use every ounce of CPU power and cores you can throw at it. Vegas also scales down well. What I mean by this is that if you have a less powerful machine, you can still work effectively in Vegas Pro 10 with AVCHD footage, as an example, but you'll have to work with lower resolution previews. Vegas Pro 10 includes DVD Architect for Blu-ray Disc and DVD authoring and it even has integrated help and tutorials that make learning and using it very easy.

If you’re thinking about experimenting with 3D, Vegas is a great choice. It has stereoscopic 3D editing built in so you don’t need any additional software or hardware. We have seen guys mount a couple of inexpensive DSLRs on a tripod or strap a pair of GoPro cams to their helmet and create amazing 3D videos with Vegas!

Note: Witht he introduction of Vegas Pro 11, Sony ended the Vegas Crossgrade program. We are still offering Vegas Pro 11 bundles with a Pioneer Blu-ray burner for $499!

3) Avid Studio for just $125
($85 after $40 Mail in rebate for those who qualify)

I know the name is confusing. Is this just a more expensive version of Pinnacle Studio or is it a stripped down version of Avid’s Media Composer software. The answer is neither, it’s a completely new NLE developed by Avid for the prosumer market. Avid Studio is for folks who need more features and performance then Pinnacle Studio, but who still want an easy to use interface and automated features. Avid Studio hits the mark and it's a great value!!

I was truly amazed at the level of features Avid Studio delivers for the price. They’ve got over $500 worth of plug-ins, sounds, music, graphics, images and special effects that professional editors shell out big bucks for all the time. The folks at Class On Demand created integrated tutorials that guide you along the way and help get you going very quickly. There are so many features packed into Avid Studio that allow you to produce videos as impressive and sophisticated as the more expensive titles in this review. If you really want to get the most out of Avid Studio, I recommend you get the Class on Demand Complete Training for $49, to learn how to unlock all of the amazing features inside.

I love the way Avid Studio organizes and manages all your video, audio and photos so that you can easily and quickly find what you need. Plug in any USB or FireWire device and Avid Studio will recognize it, identify the type of media files on it, and then easily import and organize your media.

4) Grass Valley EDIUS NEO 3 - $199 Ideal for New Video Editors!

Many folks may not have heard of Grass Valley Edius or it's little brother Edius Neo, which is a shame because it's been around for many years! While professional NLE programs like Avid Media Composer and Adobe Premiere are now bragging about their ability to edit all kinds of HD formats, Edius has been doing this for years! In fact, no other video editing program has a longer history of working with any and all HD formats, almost as soon as they get released. The Edius engine leverages the CPU and GPU performance of your computer - delivering outstanding real-time editing, even on an older dual core machine!

Neo is built on the same highly-acclaimed technology as EDIUS application, with the same basic user interface and operations. They've taken out some of the more complex features and support for the higher end professional HD formats. (You can check out the list of non-included features on our Edius Neo 3 product page.) Neo 3 software offers native editing of various formats including AVCHD, DSLR footage, HDV, DV, Windows Media, and QuickTime. You get a powerful, real-time workflow that supports mixing different formats on the same timeline.

Edius Neo 3 is the perfect tool for learning basic video editing operations and getting started in video editing. While it's simple and easy to use, make no mistake about it, you can create very professional looking videos. Best of all you can upgrade to the full-featured version of EDIUS at any time, and you will already be familiar with the interface and basic functions.

Note: Gras Valeey now offers a crossgrade to the full Edius 6 for only $399!! This is a fantastic deal and we recommend it highly for videographers and editors looking for a full featured, powerful NLE.

Academic Discounts Help You Save

Did you know that Students and Teachers qualify for special discounts on a lot of the editing software and hardware we offer so if you, or someone in your household qualifies it creates many more options for you:

If you are a student, teacher or staff member at a university, college, primary or secondary school, you may qualify for special academic versions of our most popular video editing titles! You will have to provide proof that you are eligible which means sending us a copy of your student or staff ID, report card/ class schedule, or for staff - your pay stub. These educational versions are the same great software, at a reduced cost with limited academic licenses that may have restrictions that vary by manufacturer and may not be used to produce commercial films.

Avid Media Composer 5.5 Academic for Students and Teachers - $295

If you plan on pursuing video editing, film making, or post production as a career, then you MUST learn Avid Media Composer! Final Cut may have made some inroads into Hollywood and Broadcast TV over the past few years, but being an Avid editor will open up more doors and opportunities for you than knowing any other NLE. With the launch of FCPX, Apple has abandoned the professional post market and there has never been more opportunities or demand for Avid editors!

Note: If you are not a student or teacher, but you are a Final Cut Editor, you can take advantage of Avid's $1495 crossgrade to Media Composer. It's almost $1,000 but worth every penny if you are a professional video editor.

Avid Media Composer with AMA and Mixed Format timelines gives you the industry's most powerful tapeless HD workflows. Media Composer 5's AMA gives you the ability to edit HD formats natively including XD Cam, P2, DSLR footage, DNxHD and even ProRes. Even better, you can Mix & Match various HD formats, CODECs and even frame rates on the same timeline!

Avid Media Composer 5.5 Academic Version at $295 for Students and Teachers does not include the Avid Production Suite which is all of the third-party software included in the retail version of the software. Videoguys does offer a bundle that includes this for $575. While it's over the $500 "budget" of this article, it's well worth the extra investment since you'll get more than $3,800 in software including Sorenson Squeeze, Boris Continuum Complete and more.

In addition to the incredibly low price Avid is proving to Students that they are investing in your future by including 4-years of free upgrades with every academic license. That's right, as a student, not only can you buy Media Composer 5.5 Academic for just $295, Avid gives you free upgrades to every new version released for four years after purchasing. You’ll stay at the very cutting edge of editing technology throughout your studies.

Note: Avid is now shipping Media Composer 6. They are still offering the same great student pricing, with 4 years worth of free upgrades! Even better, the Student version now includes all of the 3rd party software found int he full retail package!!

Grass Valley EDIUS Academic - $159 PROMOTIONAL OFFER!

One of the things that separates EDIUS from other video editing titles is that it is designed for speedy editing. This is why EDIUS has gained a lot of traction in local, cable and even network newsrooms. EDIUS is also the king of the Same-Day-Edit in the event videography space. It always amazes me how the majority of award winning Same Day Edits and Editors use EDIUS. It just gets the job done so quickly and efficiently. For years the tagline for EDIUS was Just Edit. Now it has become Edit Anything. I think what it really should be is this: Just Edit - Anything - Anywhere - Anytime!

If you're looking for a professional level video editing application that has a wide range of native HD format support with a streamlined interface that's built for productivity, EDIUS is worth looking at while they are running this promotion. Its a very powerful NLE, and it's very easy to learn and use. The features you use the most are always just a couple of mouse clicks away.

Adobe CS5.5 Production Premium Students & Teacher Edition - $449

We've already covered the benefits of Adobe Premiere Pro in this article. The full CS5.5 Production Premium also includes Photoshop, After Effects, Audition, Illustrator and Flash Professional. What separates Production Premium form other suites in the industry is how the different applications integrate and work together. You can open up a graphic in Photoshop and make changes and the graphic automatically updates in your Premiere timeline. If you have a scene with shaky footage, send it from Premiere to the new Warp Stabilizer in After Effects and back with just a few simply mouse clicks. Adobe has really stepped up their game and products and if you qualify for the Student & Teacher Editions, it is a tremendous value that you simply do not want to miss out on!

The Adobe Student and Teacher Editions do not qualify for discounted upgrade prices in the future but are still a great value if you want to learn some of the leading tools in the industry including Photoshop and After Effects.

Conclusion:

Not everyone can afford a professional suite of video editing software, and with those suites comes a learning curve. Right now you have some outstanding choices for under $500 that will handle your HD footage; allow you to export for YouTube, Vimeo or the web; burn Blu-ray Disc and DVD; or create videos for your iPods/iPads,iPhones and other mobile devices. All of these products will run best on a current computer, but that doesn't mean you have to go out and get one. If you've got a quad core processor and at least 6GB of RAM, these products will great the job done for you.

Now is the time to start editing your HD footage and delivering videos that are edited down with some filters, effects and graphics. So that your productions can look and sound as good as the original HD footage.

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