Other measures of performance include startup time and simple stability. Again, video editing is a taxing activity for any computer, involving many components. In the past, video editing programs took longer than most other apps to start up, and unexpected shutdowns were unfortunately common, even in top apps from top developers such as Adobe and Apple. The stability situation has greatly improved, but the complexity of the process, which increases as more powerful effects are added, means crashes will likely never be fully eliminated, and they often raise their ugly heads after a feature update.
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We still live in the days of talkies, so you want to be able to edit the audio in your digital moves as well as the images. Most of the products included here offer canned background music, and many, such as Pinnacle Studio, can even tailor the soundtrack to the exact length of your movie. All of these programs can separate audio and video tracks, and most can clean up background noise and add environmental audio effects such as concert hall reverb. A couple of the products have an auto-ducking feature, which lowers background music during dialog—a definite pro-level plus.
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Of course, none of the extras matter if an app can't do the most basic editing tasks. At this point, however, all of the products included here do a good job of letting you join, trim, and split video clips. They also let you make use of special effects such as animated transitions, picture-in-picture (PiP), chroma-key (the technique that lets you place a subject against any background, often known as green screening), and filters that enhance colors or apply creative effects and distortions. With most of them you can add a multitude of timeline tracks that can accommodate video clips, effects, audio, and text overlays.
Another impressive effect that has made its way into consumer-level video editing software is motion tracking, which lets you attach an object or effect to something moving in your video. You might use it to place a blur over the face of someone you don't want revealed in your video, or to display a text box next to a moving object. You mark the object you want to track, specify the effect or text, and the app takes care of the rest, following the marked object. This used to be the sole province of special-effects software such as Adobe After Effects. Corel VideoStudio was the first of the consumer products to include motion tracking, and it still leads the pack in the depth and usability of its motion-tracking tool, though several others now include the capability.
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Several of the products here (Adobe Premiere Elements is a notable exception) still support 3D video editing if that's your thing, though the this has been replaced by 360-degree VR footage like that shot by the Samsung Gear 360($349.99 at Amazon) as a current home-theater fad, and to be honest, it's light is starting to fade. As is often the case, our Editors' Choice, CyberLink PowerDirector was the first product in this group to offer support for this new kind of video media.
There are more video editing software applications than we can fit into this roundup of the best options, which includes only software rated three stars and higher. The best known among them is probably Vegas Movie Studio, which was acquired by Magix from Sony. Sony's product used a very cluttered interface that more resembled high-end professional video editing software from the early days of the craft. Magix has made some progress in simplifying it and bringing it up to par with the competition, but more work is needed for it to be included here.
One of the capabilities that has been making its way into consumer-level video editing software is more-detailed color grading. Color wheels, curves, and histograms give editors control over the intensity of every shade. Related to this is support for LUTs (lookup tables), also known as CLUTs (color lookup tables). This staple of pro-level software lets you quickly change the look of a video to give it a specific mood. For example, think of the dark blue look of thriller movies like The Revenant. You can download LUTs for free from several sites or use those included with video software to give your video a specific look. One well-known LUT type is the kind that can make a daytime scene look like it was shot at night.
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