David Ruether

(Last modified 8/11/10)


Due to a bit of misfortune, the particular 60 minute Mini-DV tape that I first put through my new Canon HD HV20 camcorder (see review HERE) was defective, causing many dropouts. This tape brand and quality level (Sony EX) had presented no problems with well over 300 Mini-DV tapes I had shot, but HDV (MPEG-2) is more sensitive to footage problems, as are some editing programs. Further, I later discovered with a thorough check of the computer's RAM that one of the original two 1-gig sticks was defective. I found it difficult to successfully export a video free from defects, and here is the story of  my experiences with various editing programs (and what I learned), given the conditions above (which were later corrected). 

My editing background was several years of using Adobe Premiere 4, 5.1, 6, and 6.5 to edit Mini-DV footage (and the URLs for the streaming versions of some of my non-commercial SD and HD videos are HERE) --

--I edited a nine minute HDV video using Ulead's inexpensive and basic VideoStudio 11+ 
("VS-11+"), since updated a few times to become
Corel VideoStudio Pro X3 - see below for the changes. After finishing the edit, I was unable to export the finished edit back to tape in the HV20 unless the first clip on the timeline was a "real" HDV clip (with audio and video levels turned to zero to make a silent black leader of the right format), and not just black of an unspecified format. This was necessary even with the export format specified as HDV. After export, I noticed that following many points of changed footage (just after transitions, etc.), there were some quite noticeable two frame image motion freezes followed by jumps forward to the correct timing locations in the motion streams. I now think that this was likely caused by a defective RAM problem that I later discovered. This happened when "Smart Rendering" was selected (the "SR" feature permits export of the video with the recompression of only the footage that has been changed, speeding up the export process and potentially improving image quality by simply copying and not recompressing most of the source footage on the timeline). By deselecting "SR", the "freeze and jump" glitches disappeared, but then VS 11+  recompressed all of the footage. Unfortunately, VS-11+ noticeably softened the footage exported by it when I did this, some parts more than others (and some parts quite badly) - and the recompressed image quality was poor compared with that of Premiere Elements 4, which in turn was noticeably worse compared with that recompressed by Sony Vegas (when used with the same computer and source footage). VS-11+ appears to have no track on/off switching, which makes multi-track editing VERY difficult. If the editor's needs are very simple and nothing much more complicated than single-track editing is required, and if there are no hardware issues (
BTW, Memtest86 is an excellent RAM checker, and other good programs and utilities can be used for other hardware tests), and if the source footage is captured with a good program like HDVSplit and/or the captured HDV .m2t files are checked and repaired, if necessary, with Mpeg2repair (which can find and also correct file problems that HDVSplit misses), then VS-11+ can be a good choice, especially considering its low price, its "SR" feature (and therefore its relatively fast export speed), and its ability to use proxy files (lower resolution video files) for editing HDV with older, slower computers. VS-11+ also has a couple of nice transitions that are not in Premiere or Vegas. And, I still use it for authoring red-laser HD DVDs with a standard DVD writer using AVCHD files converted in Sony Vegas from HDV files (although the resulting disks require a compatible Blu-ray player for playback).
I did grow to strongly dislike this program's poor user interface (it seemed to fight me at just about every editing step). Also, its mpeg file conversions for writing SD DVD disks were inferior to those produced using Premiere Elements 4 or Vegas, as were its HDV-to-AVCHD file conversions for writing HD video to cheap standard DVD blanks using inexpensive standard DVD writers compared with Sony Vegas Pro 8c or Platinum 9.
Corel VideoStudio Pro X3 has succeeded Ulead VS-11+, described above. VS-PX3 has added simple overlapping of clips for cross fades, the ability to resize the interface windows, support for quad-core CPUs, the ability to handle 24 Mbps AVCHD files (although not very well, but it does offer the possibility of using low quality proxy files to smooth preview playback), the ability to write .flv Flash files in higher quality, and the ability to directly upload videos from the timeline to YouTube.
   (See program screen grabs here.)

--I used the same source material for editing the same video using the slightly more expensive Adobe Premiere Elements 4 ("PE-4", now replaced with the very similar 
Adobe Premiere Elements 7), a somewhat simplified version of the very expensive Adobe Premiere CS3 (now CS4), but with a very different interface. This program (which was used to capture the same HDV footage again) is easier to use than U-11+ for me, and it has better help files and greater versatility, including the ability to use Photoshop image filters on video footage. It also has a wonderful and "pretty" interface with clear continuous frame images of footage on the timeline which make it easy to locate material (the others here have that feature also, but in VS-11+, it must be found in a menu and turned on, and the images are harder to "read"), a better preview window than that of VS-11+, and menu on/off track switching (which makes multitrack editing fairly easy, although single button track switching would have been better, as it is in CS3/4 and Vegas). PE-4 has a far greater tolerance for HDV source material and computer imperfections than U-11+ (and also somewhat more for these than Vegas). Unfortunately neither PE-4/7 nor CS3/4 offers "Smart Rendering", a VERY IMPORTANT SHORTCOMING with HDV rendering - and the resulting recompression of the whole timeline can make for very long render times and also sometimes noticeably damaged image quality with HDV. Most of my recompressed output looked fine (even with difficult material), but it failed to recompress cleanly a few of the most detailed parts with motion, spoiling my exported video. (If I were ever to consider using PE-4 again with HDV, I would try applying a slight amount of blur to potentially troublesome footage to try to minimize this problem.) One would hope that Adobe would add the "SR" feature to their future editing programs. That would make Elements a really fine general-use inexpensive editing program. But another (related) VERY MAJOR FLAW with Elements (and CS3/4) is that it does not export a streaming file of the edited HDV video for easily making additional copies of the video later (the original project file and source material must be saved to do that, and then it must all be recompressed before export). This is a major disadvantage for using this program for editing HDV.
Oddly, if HDV footage is captured in PE-4 and then imported into Sony Vegas and exported from that program (as .m2t files - with no recompression required anywhere), it shows more saturated colors, especially reds and purples, although the raw PE-4 .mpeg and the Sony .m2t (processed or not) files look the same on the Sony timeline.
PE-4 includes the ability to write Blu-ray disks directly from the program, using appropriate hardware and blanks, for playback using appropriate playback facilities. PE-4 also has the ability to write .flv Flash files in high quality and to directly upload videos from the timeline to YouTube. PE-4 has recently been updated to version "7", adding many amateur features (but  not yet the essential "Smart Render" feature that is needed for editing HDV efficiently).
   (See program screen grabs here.)

--I used the same material for editing the same video with Sony Vegas Pro 8 ("VP-8"). Sony offers various versions of their editing software, described at links that can be found at My VP-8 has been updated to version 8c (Sony updates for their programs are offered free as downloads from their web site), which has now been replaced by the mostly similar Vegas Pro 9d with some added features like five new effects, a new transition, the ability to work in 32 bit or 64 bit with the same program, and some other things of interest to both high end users (like the ability to edit with 4096x4096 pixel stills and with up to 4096x4096 pixel "RED" video material and to add closed captioning) and to casual, low-end users (like automatic YouTube exporting). VP-9 and Platinum 10 can now also handle 24 Mbps AVCHD files, important now that some newer camcorders can use that higher data rate which is more comparable in quality with 25 Mbps HDV (but, unfortunately, the hardware requirements for working efficiently with 24 Mbps AVCHD material are considerably greater than for working with HDV - although both of these newer Vegas editing programs appear to reduce past AVCHD editing problems with smooth previewing). The new features of VP-9 are described at
Pro-9, and the new features of Platinum 10 are described at P-10. The interfaces of all the versions are nearly identical, as are the basic features, making Vegas Platinum 10 a bargain at well under $100 (and this program has also significantly increased the number of available audio and video tracks available compared with P-9). A comparison of the features of the various Vegas versions is shown in a chart at Had it not been for the 30 day free trial (also offered by most other editing program makers) and a special deal that brought its price under $200 from about $550+, I would have been discouraged by VP-8's reputation for learning difficulty and by its high price - but I soon found that I liked this program enough to buy it. It seems complex at first, but it is VERY VERSATILE (and it can be used in a "stripped down" mode - although even then, some timeline operations, especially audio level key-framing, are less intuitive than they are with most other programs). The many effects and transitions can be key-framed and adjusted in many ways, using identical and logically arranged pop-up windows that change to their optimum sizes when one double clicks on their header bars. One quickly becomes impressed with how logically and consistently designed all the many options, adjustments, and controls are in this program, unlike some others. The only exception for me was that knowing how to key-frame audio levels was not so obvious as it is in other programs (mainly as a result of there being so many ways to do it, unlike in other programs). There are excellent searchable help files and online instructional tutorials, accessed by double clicking on icons on the header bar. For anyone who thinks this program is not versatile or aimed at professional users, I suggest dropping the word "titles" into the help search of the "Pro" versions - or under "Options", selecting "Preferences". The results and their many possible variations can be overwhelming! The Vegas Pro versions also include unusual options like the ability to edit in 32 bit color and to record and edit in 24 bit 192 KHz sound - and they even have four 'scopes built in for checking various video characteristics. Vegas has some fine transitions not present in the other editing programs I've seen (and they can be key-framed - so something like a soft edged wipe can rotate and change its softness and the color of its edge with time, for example). Vegas Pro is set up for professional level work in both video and audio, with unlimited tracks - and its interface is excellent (and that can be customized to your liking - but, oddly, if the "candy-color" Windows XP graphic scheme is replaced with an older-type custom scheme, as I prefer to do, the bottom control bar in my timeline turns black). The preview window can be enlarged and adjusted to be as large, sharp, and smooth-playing as PE-4's - and a second monitor or TV can also be used for monitoring. With VP-8c, I easily and successfully cut my footage and exported a (technically, at least...8^) good file to tape. The export process  preserves the .m2t file, which can be used at any time in the future to export the edited video with Vegas without needing to preserve the original project and source material, or to recompress the file (unlike with Premiere), a nice feature. Scary at one point with the editing of the first video in VP-8 (before the updates) was the appearance of red frames on the timeline (indicating defective frames) after I had already edited out defective areas I had seen while looking at the original (defective) tape footage and while checking captured footage in VS-11+ and PE-4. These red frames would come and go mysteriously, but they did not appear as black frames in the export of the first video (whew!) - but a black and a green frame did appear in the second of three videos I made, as the program help files (and a Google search) indicated they would, and they did portend future problems that I had with VP-8 and HDV until I updated to version 8c. Vegas can be used to convert HDV files to AVCHD files for authoring excellent and cheap red-laser HD DVDs using a standard DVD writer (although these disks must be played on compatible Blu-ray players). I prefer using VS-11+ for authoring the disks after converting the files using Vegas (VS-11+ is inferior for making these file conversions, but its disk authoring is good, and easier to use).
My basic instruction guide for using Sony editing software is at Editing HDV Video With Sony Software
During the editing of my second video, I discovered an unfortunate characteristic of VP-8. When capturing HDV, the automatic splitting of clips did not work very well (VP-8 generally left three bad frames to the left of the split and two to the right, which needed to be manually removed). The automatic clip splitting in VP-8 can be disabled by selecting that option in the capture window preferences, but then one is left with having to split clips manually. Using PE-4 for capturing and splitting clips doesn't work, since the split clips are not "real" unless recompressed individually and exported (with damage to the image quality, so one may as well edit in PE-4 if one is going to do this...). Also, as noted earlier, capturing HDV with PE-4, exporting the whole file into VP-8, splitting it there manually, and exporting the edited video from VP-8 introduces the problem of increased color saturation at export. A program called
HDVSplit, a free, versatile, well-written, efficient, and easy to use utility for the capturing and scene-splitting of HDV footage that WORKS, is available at (I did not need to get a separate driver for the HV20 to use HDVSplit, and I did not bother with the MPEG-2 viewer add-on, but used the camcorder's viewing screen instead...) If you don't use HDVSplit for capturing and splitting HDV and have bad frames at the ends of clips, get and use Trim_Captured_Clips_v1.0 (posted by "jonask" on the Sony Vegas forum) which automatically removes bad clip ends on clips split by Vegas. Sony occasionally offers free updates for their programs to correct various bugs, and it is worth checking their site to see if you have the latest version of your Sony software. 
Owners of Vegas can now download a free upgrade of DVD Architect to version 5 (which enables authoring Blu-ray disks with a Blu-ray writer for playback using a Blu-ray player). 
   (See program screen grabs here.)

In summation --

If you know that your HDV footage is perfect and that you are not going to do anything fancy, Ulead/Corel VideoStudio can be OK (and it has some advantages), but it can cause nasty results you can't easily recover from if the source footage or your computer has problems - and in some ways its interface is very unpleasant to work with if you are used to editing with other programs with better user interfaces. Adobe Premiere Elements is more reliable, more versatile, much more tolerant of source footage and equipment problems, and its interface is wonderful - but it does recompress all HDV footage on the timeline, with the very serious disadvantages that that would indicate (but it is a great program for editing Mini-DV). Premiere Elements 7 appears to offer little additional of value compared with Elements 4. Premiere CS3/4 is more complex, with an interface that is not as nice as that of Elements or Vegas, and it is FAR more expensive - and it also handles HDV poorly. Sony Vegas Platinum and Pro combine most of the advantages of the other programs, have a very logical interface, and they are more versatile than most other editing programs - but they are somewhat more difficult to learn, even for basic editing (but there are the useful extensive help files, tutorials, Sony online teaching videos, and my Sony editing guide to aid the learner). With the arrival of Sony Vegas Movie Studio HD Platinum 10 Production Suite (whew, what a mouthful! ;-) at its give-away price, if the editor is willing to spend the time learning this program (which is for PCs only), I see little advantage in looking elsewhere for a good editing program unless there are some few special needs that this program cannot satisfy. BTW, all of the programs (that are still current) that are covered here have free downloadable 30-day trial versions available.

The comments above are in reference to editing MPEG-2 HDV, with the latest program updates as of July 2009 installed, using Windows XP, a Biostar MB with an Intel chipset, a 2.4gHz Intel Core-2-Duo CPU (since replaced with a 2.83gHz Core-2-Quad, which has quite noticeably improved preview playback smoothness and render speed [2.17X], and with the newer Sony editing software, video previewing has improved considerably with AVCHD), 3 gigs of 667mHz RAM, two 80 gig HDs plus one newer 250 gig drive split into three partitions (with no RAID, but I use three different physical drives when editing), an SB sound card, an ATI Radeon X1600 Pro video card with 256 megs of RAM (since replaced with a GeForce 9500GT video card with 1 gig of RAM - with no real improvement in preview performance over the earlier card...), and an inexpensive 24" 1600x1200 LCD monitor on which all of these editing programs lay out very well (the screen grabs included here are at 50% of the original size). Nothing used here is "bleeding edge" or very expensive, but this gear should be more than adequate for use with any of these programs with HDV. Frame grabs and URLs for my ExposureRoom videos (in HD and SD in good quality), and my YouTube videos (in SD in good quality and in low quality), are here.

It is now possible to write very high quality HD Blu-ray disks using all of these programs using HDV files with Blu-ray writers and (still-expensive) Blu-ray blanks - and to write very high quality HD AVCHD disks using AVCHD files with standard DVD writers using standard (cheap) DVD blanks with the right software used for transcoding files, if needed. Unfortunately, much recent software and hardware cannot handle very well the maximum AVCHD data rate now available with some camcorders (24 Mbps rather than the more common 17 Mbps, which is noticeably inferior to 25 Mbps HDV all else being equal - see a comparison here, with two camcorders using the same sensors, lenses, and processors, but one is HDV and the other 17 Mbps AVCHD, at AVCHD files transcoded from HDV at 16 Mbps using Vegas and authored to red-laser DVDs looks quite good compared with the original HDV, unlike HDV transcoded to AVCHD using Ulead's software). I have had excellent results editing HDV in Vegas, transcoding it to AVCHD in Vegas, then using Ulead VideoStudio for authoring red-laser HD disks - but these unfortunately do not play in all Blu-ray players (but they do appear to play well using recent ones made by Panasonic and Sony).

For an excellent brief comparison of the many HD formats, go to this Videoguys web page, here.

So, there you have it...!








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