While I still wouldn't call it my day job, the amount of video production that I perform for pay, profit, or trade has picked up steadily over the last few years, and the range is diverse. Somewhere on the various computers in my office are a bluegrass concert rendered to DVD and CD-Audio, a DVD of my wife's recent ballet performance, a mixed-content file produced to test streaming media codecs, a DVD compiling test results from EventDV's "Battle of the Software NLE" series (which concludes this month), and the start of two training DVDs.
What's interesting is how the type of project often dictates the tools I use to complete it. Often, I'll start a project on one program and then jump to another because I realize that it will save me time or allow me to produce a superior result, or both. The obvious lesson is that one editor or authoring program does not fit all projects. If your projects vary in terms of artistic and design complexity, you may find it worth investing in additional programs to improve efficiency or product quality. Here are the products that I use, and why—and when—I use them.
My default video editor is Premiere Pro 1.5, particularly for organizationally complex projects, like creating the test tape for the "Battle of the Software NLEs" series and compiling the results. I love Premiere's ability to organize bins and present multiple sequences in nested timelines. It also has wonderful precision tools and clear-cut layering paradigms.
Titling is both accessible and straightforward, more so than any other video editor in its class. Finally, the Adobe Media Encoder makes it easy to produce a video file in any and all required formats, which sounds simple enough but is a function that escapes most other NLEs.
What Premiere Pro doesn't have yet, though rumors abound, is multi-camera editing, and HDV support has been literally fuzzy. I also find Premiere's interface a touch antiseptic, which is wonderful for organization but doesn't get the creative juices flowing. For these reasons, when I'm doing longer or more artistic projects—especially those involving multiple cameras—I've defaulted to Pinnacle Liquid Edition.
Edition has a dark, icon-driven interface and a feeling of throbbing power that can handle anything you throw at it. When I'm producing side-by-side or 4x4 comparison videos from different sources, Edition 6 remains rock-steady and speedy, and it also handles color correction very well and does a great job with slow motion. On the first multicam project alone, it probably saved me more than ten hours of editing time, which more than justifies the $499 list price.
Edition has some gaps, however, particularly in titling, where Title Deko is one or two generations behind the titling tool in consumer sibling Studio. Edition's authoring capabilities are also very limited, which leaves the door open for other multicam-capable editors, and lately I've been editing with Final Cut Pro 5, which on a Dual G5 PowerMac with a 22" Cinema display is near editing heaven. I'm not totally sold on Final Cut; I find its interface almost deliberately obscure at times, and its titling utility, LiveType is overkill and inconvenient to access and use. Final Cut also can't edit HDV and DV video in the same timeline, which takes it out of contention for mixed-format projects.
But it's nice to know that when it's time to author, I'll be working on my absolute favorite authoring platform, DVD Studio Pro. While the advantages of Final Cut Pro by itself probably don't justify the cost of new Mac hardware, when combined with DVD Studio Pro, the bundle gets pretty compelling. One key reason is that DVD Studio Pro has the best-looking templates this side of iDVD.
Menus account for the second impression customers have of my DVDs (first is packaging and labels), and DVD Studio Pro helps make that impression very favorable. DVD Studio Pro is the only prosumer authoring program with transitions, and its playlist feature is the most functional.
Interestingly, the PowerMac can easily log into any Windows computer on my LAN, and I can send files between my Mac and Windows computers all the time,. So if you're concerned about Mac/Windows workflow when adding DVD Studio Pro to your toolset, you shouldn't be. If you're in a position where you can purchase an additional computer and software, check out DVD Studio Pro before making your decision.
As with editing, I find that different authoring tools function better depending upon project complexity and nature. For example, when projects are administratively complex, like training or compilation DVDs, as opposed to artistic, like concert or wedding discs, I find DVD Studio Pro too complicated, with too many hidden nooks and crannies and functions. I used to default to Ulead's DVD Workshop for these types of projects, but migrated to Adobe Encore with version 1.5.
Most recently, I've become a convert to DVDit 6, primarily because of its straightforward operating paradigm and, through eDVD, the ability to enhance the playback experience on computers with high-definition video, PDF files, Web links, and other content. If you're not looking at eDVD yet, you definitely should be, either as an adjunct to your current authoring program or as part of DVDit. The $399 purchase price of DVDit Pro 6, which includes eDVD, makes it a no-brainer.
Jan Ozer (firstname.lastname@example.org, www.doceo.com) is a frequent contributor to industry magazines and Web sites on digital video-related topics and the author of DV 101: A Hands-On Guide for Business, Government & Educators, published by Peachpit Press.