Today I am teaching students to edit at the Guardian Media Academy in London. We run the academy in partnership with the Guardian newspaper and it's always very satisying when you see how quickly people learn editing skills; by the end of their very first day they will have created a short video including narration which is quite an achievement especially if you consider yourself a techno-phobe.
Helping us with the training this week is Mark Egan (he's the one who's not blonde or wearing glasses in the photo above). Mark is a colleague of mine from my BBC days who, like me, remembers when editing software was not so user friendly. We both learned Avid more than 10 years ago and it took me much more than a day to make a short video. In fact, I seem to remember learning very little on my first day of editing as my trainer took over and finished the piece while I looked over his sholuder feeling slightly bewildered. I was very happy with the finished product but it was not really my work and that was frustrating.
After that experience I decided I would teach myself Final Cut Pro. Everyone told me how intuitive the software was and I had heard our staff teaching it to students a thousand times so how hard could it be? In fact it turned out to be quite easy to learn and that's why we choose this software for all the face to face training courses we run. We want it to be easy because editing should not be portrayed as something difficult and mysterious. Of course, as with all things in life, there are those who edit to an incredibly high standard and those who just dabble but the point is these days you can produce a very professional looking video with relatively little edit training.
So what should you look for when choosing an edit software? Well obviously your choice will be driven to a great extent by your budget and whether you're using a Mac or a PC but beyond that you want to choose a software that fits with what you want to create. For example if you want to make a feature film then Final Cut Pro is a great choice because it comes with a package of additional prorgammes which enable you to create sophisticated sound mixes and animations etc. If however you want to create short videos for your website then Final Cut Express is probably going to give you all the flexibility you need at a considerably less expensive price.
When you choose an editing software it's like beginning a relationship; you're going invest time and effort getting to know it and the more time you spend editing the more committed you're likely to become. Of course you can "dump" a software you don't like but that can be messy, especially if you have projects you've created in one edit programme that you then want to go back to. Whenever possible it's a good idea to take advantage of a free trial to see whether you like a particular software; Sony Vegas for example can be downloaded free for 14 days.
One of our students at The Guardian this week is a travel writer for Lonely Planet. She had never edited before and was nervous about how difficult it would be. She's just finished editing her second story and is all ready to go out and buy a MacBook Pro with Final Cut Express. It's been very satifying to help her translate her creativity from writing into making video and I have a feeling she's going to be very good at it.