Ever lived through a presentation where minutes seemed like hours, and staying attentive took superhuman effort? One way to ensure that your presentations don’t numb your audience is by jazzing them up with video.

Digital video editing has gained popularity now that hard drives are large enough and processors are fast enough. Here are some tips to get started with video editing on your workstation.

Practical applications for video
A good, ten-minute video can be as effective as a three-hour slide show. If you’re in IT, you can bet that eventually someone in your marketing and sales department will request access to digital video editing technology. Providing that technology in-house could save a bundle in what you’d otherwise pay to a third-party video editing service.

PC manufacturers like Dell have started shipping setup instructions on VHS tapes with every PC that they ship. In your company, you can produce video installation and usage instructions for your products and distribute the same digital video instructions on CD-ROM.

Your hardware needs
You don’t need an SGI Supercomputer, but a fast processor will help. When you compile the finished product of your editing, the program must render the video frame by frame. For a five-minute video, this process can literally take hours on a small processor. At the very least, you should have a Pentium II 300, but a Pentium III or an AMD Athalon is even better. Additionally, plenty of memory (128 MB+) is essential.

Next, you need a good video card with TV-OUT, and a good capture card with TV-IN. I have been fairly impressed with the results that I have gotten from an ATI All-In-Wonder Pro. It combines both video capture, with the video out that you need. A good video card will run anywhere from around $80 to well over $200. A professional video capture solution can range from several hundred to thousands of dollars, which is way out of my budget at least. If you have a digital video camera with IEEE 1394 (firewire) ports, you simply need a PC that has firewire ports, or a firewire add-on card to support the camera rather than the TV-IN and TV-OUT.

Digital video editing requires a lot of hard drive space. Depending on compression, a 5-minute video can take around 1 GB of space. My 8.4 GB hard drive was barely adequate for editing. I recommend at least 15 GB if you plan to do any major editing.

Your software options
Lastly, you will need a video editing package. There are many to choose from, but for the PC, I think these packages deserve particular attention—MGI Video Wave III, Adobe Premier, and AVIedit.

MGI Video Wave III is great for easy and cheap editing. The manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) for Video Wave III is $99.95. It has an intuitive interface, and the story line makes editing video easy. In addition, it makes it easy to add text and other effects.

For the more professional solution, Adobe Premier is widely used by television professionals and amateurs alike. Unfortunately, it costs a whopping $579. The story line is more difficult to use, and it can be tedious to add simple things like text and other effects. Nevertheless, Premier provides more flexibility and offers hundreds of video clip transition effects. Plus, it has the plug-in architecture that made PhotoShop so popular—allowing third-party developers to create their own add-ons.

A third, cheaper (err … “free”) option that I have found is a little program called AVIedit. It has all the basic tools that you need to edit video, and is available free from ZDNet’s Software Library.

If you are a Mac fan, you haven’t been left behind! Apple makes the iMac DV, the iMac made specifically for digital video editing. The iMac DV costs $1,299. It includes a firewire port for hooking up to a digital camera, as well as its own video editing software. Adobe Premier is available for the Mac as well.

Editing the video:
Once you have the equipment you need, what next? Most of the video editing software is fairly easy to use. All you have to do is capture the video using the built-in capture software, and then piece it together in the timeline. You can also mix in audio from a third source and add digital effects and titles. Because each video editing suite is different, your best bet is to check out the manual or look for online tutorials either within the software or on the manufacturer’s Web site.

Here are some tips for recording and piecing together video:

  • Use short segments. When appropriate, use pieces of video around five to ten seconds long instead of using long stretches of video taped all at once; also, try to provide different angles of the action.
  • Zoom sparingly. Be careful with the zoom. Try to avoid zooming in while recording. If possible, stop the recording, zoom in, and then start the recording again. Also, rather than zooming in close and moving the camera a lot, try using a wider shot. Close zooms can be disorienting.
  • Use a tripod. Nothing’s worse than shaky video. Even if the camera has technology to fix that problem, try to use a camera tripod whenever possible. If you can’t use a tripod, try using the viewfinder rather than an LCD panel. It is easier to hold the camera steady when you are using a viewfinder.
  • Keep it interesting. Don’t try to be Spielberg, but make your points and keep your audience’s interest.

If you’d like to share your experience with digital video editing, please post a comment below or follow this link to write to Kyle .