Choosing a video editor for the home amateur

Now updated to include Corel VideoStudio Pro X3.

It was my youngest daughters 1st birthday recently and I took the opportunity to record various videos during the day. What I now need to do is to splice them together and make some basic enhancements (one of the videos, for instance, was recorded in low light so I’d like to improve that). Oh, and it’s in MOV format. That latter fact rules out my usual video editor of choice – Windows Movie Maker.

Like, I suspect, most people I don’t need anything too fancy when editing videos. Yet, that’s precisely what most provide – they’re either incredibly basic (Windows Movie Maker) or incredibly overly complex for the average home user.

So, I needed something that would perform this task but not be so basic that as soon as I want to create another video, with slightly different requirements, that I’m looking for another editor again. What I wanted was something with the capabilities but simple enough for basic, home use.

After much searching, I downloaded and tested 4 trials – Adobe Premiere Elements 8, Pinnacle Studio 14, CyberLink PowerDirector 8 and Corel VideoStudio Pro X3.

Now, this isn’t an exhaustive review – like many of my reviews, I’m going to cut to the chase and give you the conclusions

Adobe Premiere Elements 8

A huge download which also runs extremely sluggishly on my PC. I own a copy of Photoshop Elements and I must be the only person who doesn’t like it – I find it over complex (swapping between different applications for browsing, editing, etc) and confusing. Premiere Elements is exactly the same.

I quickly found the option to improve the low-light video but I was given so many options that I was overwhelmed and upon trying to modify them later became very confused as to exactly how to do it. Just importing the videos in the first place was a chore.

Now, most of these trials restrict use for so many days and add watermarks to the videos. Which is fair enough – it lets you try out the editor without affecting its use. Except Adobe feel the need to splash a band across the video display in the editor, showing the fact that this is a trial, so watching your created video is made rather difficult.

Pinnacle Studio 14

An even bigger download and, well, I failed to be able to work out how to do even basic changes, such as the low light enhancements. The help file only refers to “brightness” in relation to editing it when capturing and what the word actually means.

After deciding against this product I tried to uninstall it, but the plugins refuse to.

CyberLink Power Director 8

A much more reasonable download size and, I think, the easiest to use. I was able to make the changes I wanted quickly and easily. The power appears to be there – indeed, one review of this product states it to be more for the professional than the other two (I’d disagree!). On top of all this, it’s the cheapest product to buy – just £32.99 (non-oem). That’s not to say all was roses – upon first run the updater program crashed and I never saw it run again.

Uninstalling it later was simple – just a single program to uninstall (it had installed something else at the time, and asked me if I wanted to remove that as well) with no files (that I could see) left behind.

Corel VideoStudio Pro X3

Again, a reasonable download size but it took an age to install (and uninstall) and was generally sluggish in use. I was able to do what I needed reasonable easily but struggled, once I’d applied a brightness filter, to work out how to change the settings. Also, I had no audio – it appears you have to import the audio seperately to the video (each come from the same file though but its a seperate process).

More worryingly, my video appeared to run a little quickly, even though VideoStudio insisted I was running it at normal speed – my camera takes picture in the NTSC format, rather than PAL, and I wonder if this had something to do with it.


CyberLink won out and I’ve purchased a copy – I’ll let you know how I get on.

However, I was disappointed at just how difficult these popular products are to get started with. There’s a definitely a gap in the market here – we seem to go straight from basic to professional video editors, with nothing in-between. Ok, some of these try with “wizards”, but most people don’t want some automated process creating a video for them – they want to drag and drop, trim, and make enhancements themselves. But they want this to be simple and don’t want it hidden behind an array of buttons and more advanced options.

Or have I missed a product on the market?

I’d just like to add one thing – getting hold of these trials. The Pinnacle one wasn’t easy to find and I had to do a trawl through Google to get there.  Both Pinnacle and Abobe, possibly due to the size of their downloads (both over 1GB – Pinnacle was near 2GB), use a Java downloader. Adobe insist you have an account with them – I do, but before proceeding needed to know my home address. Not sure why, but why not? Except the country was down as the US and I wasn’t able to change it. So I just told them I live in Beverly Hills 90210. That worked.


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