If you have put off turning those video tapes or reels of film in the closet into the finished film you've long promised your kith and kin, it may be because you suspected you'd be getting into something that was less a simple project and more a full-time hobby.
You were right. Editing software makes movie-making easy in the same way that a word-processing program makes it easy to write a novel. But crafting a film is one of the most gratifying things you can do on a computer, so it will be time well spent. Thus, just in time for the holidays, here's a how-to based on a recent home project of my own.
There is lots of good news here. Home software packages have become powerful and easy to use. Many video products, like camcorders, come with a free editing program.
The major brands -- Adobe's Premiere Elements, Pinnacle Studio 11, Ulead VideoStudio 11 -- let you try their products free for a month; purchase prices usually are well under $100. Apple owners might want to check out the new iMovie, which has an innovative method of helping decide what clips to include in a project.
I downloaded a free trial version of Adobe Premiere Pro, an $800 product intended for professionals. It was hard to learn, but fun hard, at least if you enjoy a deep-end dive into a complex but powerful piece of software. If not, even the simplest programs can now produce striking results.
Depending on who in the industry you talk to, the practice of digitizing 'legacy' images like VHS tapes, 8mm and Super 8mm film reels is either dying out, with everyone who intended to do so having already done it, or else poised to take off, with aging boomers finally finding the time.
A film-transfer service bureau (find them online) can digitize your old reels of film. With video tapes, you can do the job yourself with a small 'capture' device, which connects first to your VCR and then to your computer.
I used the $200 Pyro A/V Link from ADS Tech with excellent results; less-expensive models also work well.
Camcorder owners, of course, can just connect their camera right to their computer and get to work.
Before you make your first splice, carefully look at every clip you have, a tedious but crucial part of movie making. Rely on your emotional reaction the first time you see a clip -- and keep mental notes on what you're viewing -- because you'll become inured to them after the endless viewings required as a part of editing.
Look for anecdotes, scenes and hidden stories. Carving a turkey may not be a scene from 'Casablanca,' but it has a beginning, middle and end, which deft cutting can reveal.
Learning the power you have to make people laugh or cry simply by arranging shots in the right sequence is the great joy and creative core of your project. Don't be afraid to rearrange sequences to get there. And don't feel obliged to include all the material. The best cutting-room floors are usually the most littered.
When moving from clip to clip, stick to simple jump cuts and dissolves, rather than the dozens of tacky special-effect transitions built into editing packages today.
One of hardest parts of a home-movie project involves something you may never have heard of: color correction. No piece of film or video, including those taken by pros, ever looks perfect straight out of the camera. Color correction involves nudging it to get it just right.
Most programs include color-correction features; the problem is you need a trained eye to use them properly. Because color correction done well can dramatically improve the look of your movie, it might be worth getting professional help for a once-in-a-lifetime project.
I used my local Craigslist to hire a local videographer to come to my house and spend a few hours working with the project. You can also look for video collectives online, as well as color-correction services, though you may need to ship them a USB drive containing your project's files.
In a related vein, don't watch your movie only on your computer monitor; view it on the television set on which you intend to actually show it. The differences may be substantial enough to send you back to the computer for adjustments.
Also, know that sound can be changed as magically as pictures can. Remove annoying hisses and buzzes. Some video packages have sound editors built in. If yours doesn't, search for a 'sound editor' or 'noise reduction' product on sites such as download.com. Again, you can test many free of charge.
As you work, take pride in the fact that you're doing the same thing professional filmmakers do, at least those in the documentary business. And just like Hollywood moviemakers with a release date, you must at some point resist the urge to continue to fiddle and pronounce your movie 'done.'
Getting there will have involved many evenings glued to your monitor. But you probably would have spent your time that way, anyway. At least now, you will have something to show for it. It may even end up on YouTube.
奥多比系统公司(Adobe Systems Inc.)的Premiere Elements、Pinnacle Studio 11和Ulead VideoStudio 11等主流影片剪辑软件都可以免费试用一个月，而且一般情况下购买这些软件100美元就绰绰有余了。苹果公司(Apple Inc.)的电脑用户该试试新的iMovie，这款软件以创造性的方式来帮助用户挑选片断。
广告我下载了一套免费试用的Adobe Premiere Pro，售价为800美元，它针对的是专业人士。这款软件学起来很难，但却很有趣，不过前提是你至少要喜欢钻研那些操作复杂而功能强大的软件。如果你不是这种人，那即便是最简单的软件也会让你望而却步。
我用ADS Tech出品的Pyro A/V Link效果相当不错，其售价是200美元，便宜一些的机型也不错。