Video editing Old School (courtesy Yogma on Flickr CC)It’s been a painful few weeks for me as a relatively new online video enthusiast.

My trusty Flip Ultra pocket video camera made it pretty simple to learn how to create basic little movies for my family travel blog, the Perceptive Travel Blog and to shoot interviews for Tourism Currents.

(If you haven’t started shooting video for your organization, stop right now and read tourism marketing expert Todd Lucier’s first post in a 3-part series….How to Invest in Video: Shooting Video. Why? Because your visitors like to watch videos to learn more about your destination, and search engines return videos pretty high in results if they’re titled/tagged/described fully.)

When I began shooting for the Round Rock CVB recently, I used their FlipMino HD camera.  HD = High Definition.  It’s got to be better to go with higher quality stuff, right?

Yes, but….

First, HD video is very unforgiving of the shakes and jiggles, so I’m using my tripod a lot more and I’m very conscious of image stabilization.  HD files also take up a lot of storage room on your computer’s hard drive.  Those issues are no big deal, but I’ve run into challenges with editing.

My Dell Latitude is a few years old and runs Windows XP, thanks to my local PC Doctors service shop who advised against “upgrading” to Vista.  The Latitude has never had any difficulty handling editing using the included Windows Movie Maker software. HD, however, is a different story, as this excellent PC Magazine article will attest – Video Editing for the Masses.

If you’re thinking of shooting HD, be aware of the following issues:

  1. The file extension is different and may not be recognized by your video editing software.  My installed version of Movie Maker can’t “see” the new .MP4 files from the Flip HD, and the latest version of Movie Maker (that can work with MP4) won’t work with my XP. Technology awesomeness!
  2. Technology crises always happen at 9 pm on a Saturday night when you’re alone – at least, they do with me.  When I saw I had a mess, I put a call out to my video-savvy Twitter followers, who quickly gave me software suggestions.  Hurray for helpful networks.  No, I can’t “call the IT people” because that’s me.  Freelancer awesomeness!
  3. Adobe Premiere Elements was recommended by several (thanks, Dwight Silverman at the Houston Chronicle‘s TechBlog) but I found it crash-prone (corroborated in several user forums.) I never could even launch the 30 day free trial and finally had to uninstall it.  The real problem became clearer when….
  4. ….I then bought (for about $100 at Best Buy) and installed Pinnacle Studio Ultimate HD (thanks for the tip, Omar Gallaga – he’s the Austin American-Statesman Digital Savant.)  Pinnacle didn’t crash and nicely corrected several problems in a few of my video files – harsh sunlight, funky audio – but playbacks kept stuttering and everything just seemed “gummy.” Turns out that when I actually read the Pinnacle system requirements (d’oh!) my laptop has insufficient RAM and the processor is too slow.
  5. To handle the two videos (plus lots of B-roll) that I’ve shot in HD, I’ve now installed the Pinnacle software on my family desktop PC, which has a more powerful processor (but the same amount of RAM as the laptop, so cross your fingers for me.)  I’m copying all the HD files on my laptop onto a 500G-capacity Seagate external hard drive, then dumping them from the Seagate onto the desktop so I can try to make everything work properly on a better platform. You can’t transfer such big files by email or sticking them on a thumb drive (without losing your mind) so I went with the big digital shovel.  Tech logistics awesomeness!

Bottom line? If you want to roll with HD, it’s not enough to shoot it. That part is deceptively easy. You need a high-powered, pretty recent computer with capable software to edit it unless you’re always going to be content to upload directly online (i.e., can shoot without error and never want to change it much.)

If you’re like most tourism organizations, your budget probably doesn’t allow you to run out and buy more powerful computers – including Macs, with the excellent iMovie editing software, unless you already have them. The answer, then, is to stick with lower-resolution video until you can get the editing horsepower you need.

The trusty lower-resolution Flip Ultra and I will hit the road tomorrow to shoot the next Round Rock video, and my laptop is breathing a sigh of relief.  Something tells me its days are numbered, though….