Meeting: Video Editing

June 2010

Our own Terry Marsh had a look at what is involved in editing videos using Serif MoviePlus X3. Starting with the basics of getting the footage from camera to computer, he went on to talk about cutting the clips down and sequencing them before adding transitions and cross-fades, titles and other effects. The possibilities for adding still images and background music were considered, before we saw how to turn the finished product into a video file or DVD for distribution to others.

Report by Peter Richmond

This month Terry gave us an insight into the world of video editing using standard definition video, shot on a MiniDV camcorder.

The software program demonstrated was Serif Movie Plus X3, which Terry admitted that he really didn’t know the price of, since it was originally bought as a special offer and has been upgraded twice. This program included special effects such as slow motion with audio, and has the facility to create DVDs including menu and chapter points. Similar editing programs can be bought for upwards of £40.

Terry explained a bit about MiniDV camcorders. These use small, one hour tapes and are available for upwards of £200 with a colour viewfinder (as well as an LCD screen), along with an optical zoom of × 10 or greater. They have a FireWire connector, to transfer the footage to the computer for editing and titling and eventually to be burnt to a DVD.

Some of the more useful features of these camcorders include a high speed shutter to help produce clear slow motion footage, an eyepiece viewfinder to help stabilise hand-held footage, and a variable iris for creative exposure (as a glasses user, I find that I can focus more accurately using the viewfinder as opposed to the LCD screen).

Demoing the hardware

Terry was editing using a dual core laptop (apparently a Christmas present), linked to a 19" screen running at 1280 × 1024 so that he could see more windows on screen and still be able to read the menus. Footage would be transferred to the laptop via a laptop CardBus adaptor, which only cost about £30. The laptop had its own DVD writer for making DVDs.

He had two different sets of footage to demonstrate various effects, as well as other footage that he was compiling into a fully chaptered DVD for use on a domestic television. Using this method, transferring footage is done in real time from the camcorder tapes to the computer, and it is automatically cut up into separate files within the project. On this software package, the clips could be run as thumbnails with sound, by just ‘mousing over’ any particular clip image: a very useful feature.

The video is captured at a standard DV resolution of 720 × 576 but when previewing clips within the software, it gave smoothest playback when the preview screen was less than a quarter of the total screen area. Within the computer the native file format is AVI, and to create a DVD these edited files are converted to MPEG2 format.

The passage of time

One of the first things we were shown was a ‘time-line’ on the screen of a number of different clips that Terry had recently shot in Wakefield and just joined together, end-to-end – the idea being to show the different ways of joining clips together.

In this particular software, when the clips are overlapped by dragging the start of one clip across the end of another, the amount of overlap determines the length of the transition (which is measured in frames), and this includes the video as well as the audio. Terry mentioned that it was worth having extra footage before and after the actual bit you want to see, so that you can always trim away some excess footage or use it as an area to fade into the next scene.

The transitions are chosen from a comprehensive list and include some oddities such as heart shaped masks as well as the more useful crossfade. One nice feature of this particular software was that it automatically ‘rippled through’ the rest of the clips, so that no blank space was created.


After showing us a few of these transitions, Terry then demonstrated some of the software’s special features, and how they linked into using the correct settings on the camcorder. We were shown some footage of Terry running under the arc of some fountains and, by using the highest shutter speed along with the one tenth slow motion replay feature via the software, the individual drops making up the spray of the fountain could be seen. Something like this would have cost thousands of pounds to create even less than ten years ago.

We were then shown some video of lightning within a thunderstorm and how, because the camcorder hadn’t been set correctly, that although the lightning bolt could be seen using the frame-by-frame mode of playback it would have been much sharper if the high speed shutter had been used.

Finishing touches

Some other things that we were shown included titling and creating a DVD with chapter points and animated menus – quite impressive.

There were a few questions from the audience about titling size and colours, and also about processor types. Terry explained that a dual core processor was a ‘must have’ for rendering (actually making the movie into a finished format), and significantly reduced the rendering time.

Terry also showed how he had made stills into a slide show with music, and one of the members in the audience said that they had found a program called Photo Story 3 from Microsoft which was also quite good for that sort of thing.

It’s worth noting that prior to computer editing becoming available, nearly all the effects we were shown would have taken lots of video machines and expensive video electronics, and would have taken hours to get right.