Video Editing Hardware: What You’ll Need To Get Started

Which Video Editing Software Is Right For You?

Video Editing Software Buyer's Guide:

  1. Video Editing Hardware: What You’ll Need To Get Started
  2. A Guide To Free Video Editing Software
  3. A Guide To Inexpensive Video Editing Software
  4. A Guide To Professional Video Editing Software

Topics of conversation not appropriate for polite society or the office include sex, politics, religion and the best video editing software. They're all passion points, not amenable to logic alone.

I am a biased reviewer. When it comes to non-linear video editing packages (NLEs), I have my favorites, prejudices, neuroses and pet peeves. What follows is, therefore, an admittedly opinionated rant. I will be happy to entertain your reactions, contributions, support, derision, flame or outright invective in the comments section below. I may even respond. Bring it on.

The best news is that video editing software is part of a mature ecosystem. We find several quality competing titles at each level of capability, most of them at not-unreasonable (nor unreachable) price points. Each flagship in this color-war tows a flotilla of companion programs, add-ons, plug-ins, peripheral hardware and third-party hacks in its wake. The very existence of clusters of competing digital carving tools accelerates the democratization of video production, a truly rising-tide lifting all boats but slowly sinking the price of entry.

It is now technically possible—although just barely—for a solo filmmaker to shoot, cut, score, title and mix a feature film capable of theatrical projection. Or spawn her own network of social media-subscribed feeds.

From now on, it’s all about your talent…

There Is No Best

Humans like to keep score. But we’re not going to rank video editors here. Instead, I want to help you pick the perfect tool to fit your hand. And your hand is likely unlike my hand.

Are you shooting with a camcorder? DSLR? Mirror-less? Selfie-cam? GoPro? Tablet/Phone? Will you be making short films for YouTube? Documentaries for TV? Animations? Events (OK, yeah, wedding videos) for DVD or Blu-ray? Music videos? Let’s get you the right implement for your specific task.

The culinary analogy: a master chef may find a barebones Wolf industrial stove ($3000) far more practical than an expensive La Cornue Grand Palais kitchen range ($47,000). But sometimes, only the right melon baller will do.

A comprehensive review of each video editing software product would take a flurry of dedicated articles, each perhaps as long as this one. But I’ll highlight the key differentiators that might draw you toward one choice or another. And I’ll try to give you the flavor of each.

One sour note before we get going: customer service seems to be universally poor across the product population. There is only bad and worse, which is unfortunate but not hard to understand. Within a corporate business structure, spending resources on a commodity after it ships is a difficult case to make in front of the CFO.

  • qubits
    software responds to more cores.. ok the i5 can be comparable with the high ipc to a fx 8-core but what the i5 lacks in comparison is in prime numbers and floating-point math.. no?
  • qubits
    i decided to compare synthetics
    i5-4950 and fx-8350 score close in floating-point math and prime numbers but the i5 falls short with a overclock
    fx-8350 destroys i5-4950 in integer math, sse, compression, encryption, physics, and sorting
    i think the fx-8350 may get the job done a little better than the i5-4950 as a pure editing build but the i5-4950 would win to double as gaming and editing plus you got a i7 to upgrade to so after some thought on it i could back you on the suggestion but i dont think a fx-8350 is something to just cast aside as a option.
  • CaedenV
    I came here to tear this apart, but am pleasantly surprised to find that this article is very well done and practical. About the only two nit-picky things I would point out is; that to do the actual editing you can do just fine (at least for 1080p editing) on the entry level with an i3 processor and onboard Intel graphics. Yes, you are not going to get much in-software acceleration for effects, and your export may take a little time, but it is more than enough power to import your clips, set your cuts and transitions, and export overnight effectively on the low end for those starting out. Certainly you would want to move up to an i5 with whatever GPU acceleration is supported by your software of choice ASAP (especially as your income comes to depend on it and rendering time begins to cap your income), but to say that it is required for an 'entry level' system is really underestimating what a modern i3 can do.

    The other little point is that I would never be able to suggest a single HDD even on the entry level. Your storage drive should at least have a RAID1, or you should have a nice fat USB3 external HDD or NAS of some sort to off-load video. Drives fail, it is just a fact of life. But drives are also cheap, and just about every board under the sun comes with a basic RAID controller. I would much rather spend $75 on a 2nd 2TB drive for the worry-free uptime that it brings to the table than $150 on a GPU that is going to have minimal impact on the editing process, and merely accelerate exports which are likely going to be done at the end of the day and are much less time sensitive (at least when starting out). Faster exports are a nice perk, but catastrophic drive failure is catastrophic.

    Still, great article, and full of great information that is sorely lacking in the forums.
  • edwd2
    The Xeon E3-1231 V3 is priced at around $240 tray is the equivalent of an i7-4770 without the iGPU and is compatible with any LGA1150 motherboard. It games and renders better than both the non-k i5s and the FX-8350. It's really the best choice if you're looking for a balanced and reliable multipurpose work and gaming rig.
  • Duckhunt
    You can get a phone now that is 4k.
  • Duckhunt
    I have a 4k smart tv.

    It is much better on my eyes.

    I am trying to say that 4k video on a phone has been done and you can upload it to the pc. Then we have folks talking about 1080p video editing? Are you kidding me?
  • TheFluffyDog
    You dont need a 4k monitor to produce 4k content. When you zoom in on a 1/4 section of a frame on a 1080p monitor you will be seeing a 1/1 pixel ratio. Meaning, when you view the whole frame or the whole clip, you just won't see it how it will look, however you can still edit and render full 4k content.
  • silverblue
    "Most editing software responds well to additional CPU cores, and as a result more cores are preferable to higher clock rates. A caveat: most of the calculations for video rendering are floating-point math. And in most cases, the audio is calculated in floating-point as well. Sorry AMD fans. Those extra integer cores won't help much here."

    The following results may not serve to prove your statement wrong, but will show that it's not a universal truth:

    There may be a question over the amount of power used for the work done, however.
  • harley2ride
    It would have been nice to see a little more information. IE: Capture device recommendations, and a list of softwares would have been nice. Doing mostly my own videos and doing some for friends and family, I use an ADS PYRO AV/Link, and my softwares of choice are Pinnacle Studio Ultimate for simple stuff, and Sony Vegas Pro for stuff I want to look more professional.
  • Demianra
    You can make a review for video editing of Windows vs OSX covering quality, performance and price?