The decision of which system to buy is not an easy one. Your main choice will be based on the type of equipment with which you shoot. All systems these days support DV, and most variations of HDV and formats like Sony XDCam and Panasonic P2. New formats are arriving all the time so it is imperative that the software is regularly updated to take account of this.
Your most important problem may even be how to mix various formats on the timeline and produce a unified result - and some programs are better than others. Or do you think that making the DVD at the same time as making the video would save more time than doing them as two separate processes? Then you may consider Grass Valley EDIUS to be the better choice.
So the best solution does depend on your own needs. Here are some typical questions:
Are you filming on HD or 4K?
HD editing is here and already well established. There are many variations - HDV being the cheapest, although formats like Sony XDCam and Panasonic P2 are also becoming popular. We even have new camcorders like the Sony HDRSR1. which records in a new format - AVCHD - onto either a hard drive or disc built into the camera (rather than tape). Support for these different formats varies from program to program.
Support for 4K, the newest format to arrive is more variable than support for HD. Most programs will now import 4K footage but how well it plays and how many effects you can add before you need to render depends on the program as well as the computer. Grass Valley EDIUS and Adobe Premiere Pro CC are the best in this regard.
Realtime effects are very useful and can make your editing much easier because they give you freedom to experiment and see the changes without wasting time rendering. They are not the be-all and end-all, as there are many cool effects you may want to achieve that can only be done by rendering.Adobe Premiere Pro, Grass Valley EDIUS, Sony Vegas and Avid Media Composer can all output DV realtime effects through FireWire without special hardware.
Integration with other programs
More and more software companies have developed interesting ways of making programs talk to each other - like, for example, adding chapter markers to your timeline in the editing program and carrying these over to your DVD writing application. Adobe is the king of integration with their Adobe Creative Cloud.
DVD & Blu-ray Writing
Most programs come with a way fo making DVD or Blu-ray discs. The exception would be Avid Media Composer 8 which does not come with a program for making decent DVD or Blu-ray discs and you will need to find another option.
All the programs do a good job of encoding video for DVD, although you can achieve better quality still using a standalone application like Canopus ProCoder.Grass Valley EDIUS probably has the best DVD writing built into the program, however, this does not offer the same flexibility as making DVDs with Adobe Encore or Sony DVD Architect. If you decide to use Encore for DVD writing then it makes sense to use Premiere Pro for editing as you can add chapter markers in Premiere which then appear in Encore when you load the video (and in any case, the two programs are currently packaged together).
Mac or PC?
At DVC we have been specialising in PCs for years. We have been asked on many occasions which system is better, a Mac or a PC. The truth is both are good in their own ways. There is a lot of rubbish talked over this subject from both camps which really does not help at all. Talk to a dedicated Mac user and he won't have a good word to say about a PC, and vice versa. All this does not help when you want to make an unbiased choice as to which system to buy.Avid Media Composer, Adobe Premiere (along with the whole Production Studio) and many of our available plug-ins work on both systems. Grass Valley EDIUS and Sony Vegas are PC only and Apple Final Pro X is Mac only.
So there is no one better choice - if you really like Sony Vegas, for example, you need a PC. If you really like Final Pro X then an Apple computer is your choice. If you are tempted by Macs but would be quite content with a PC, don’t buy a Mac. We have had several customers who have thought that if they buy a Mac and hate it then they can always install Windows and use it as a PC. Well, this is true but if something goes wrong with a PC it is easily fixed by us at DVC.
PCs are designed to be taken apart and rebuilt. This also means they are easy to upgrade. Macs are designed to be solid and work well, but don’t be tempted to upgrade core components (the processor, for example). The only easy way to upgrade a Mac is to buy a new one. If you use PCs a lot then stick with them. If you like Macs then stick with them - you will probably hate a PC, even if it has Windows 7 installed which has an interface which is just as pretty as the Mac OS.
Laptop or desktop?
These days the right kind of laptop can be just as powerful as a desktop system. You can also plug in external drive systems via the a UBS3 interface (which will run as fast as hard drives on a desktop). So which should you choose? A laptop is obviously more portable - you can even take it on location with you. A desktop will be a pain to carry around! However, a desktop will be more configurable and can have extra cards added which will give you full HD output. They are also simpler and generally cheaper to fix when they go wrong. Damage a FireWire port on a laptop and it will cost £200 - £300 to repair. Damage one on a PC and you can replace if for about £30. So our advice is get a desktop system unless you need one that you can move around - or just get a laptop because you like editing on a comfy chair in the living room rather than in the office!
How do you pay for the software?
This has become a consideration recently as Adobe introduced a subscription service, followed by Avid. Adobe software is now only available by subscription to the Creative Cloud, Avid can be bought as a permanent licence or via subscrition. The advantage of subscription is a lower cost initially as you only pay £20-£50 per month rather than spending £600 or £2000 for the software. However if you stop paying the subscription the software stops working so yuo are committed to paying for as long as you need to edit. Over all the subscription will cost more, but will include all software updates. If you hate the idea of subscription then you will not choose Adobe software and go elsewhere.
How much money have you got?
Unfortunately in the real world very few people have unlimited resources, so your system will always be defined by your budget. We have built editing computers costing from £1,000 - £15,000, but as computer prices change so quickly, call us with your requirements on 01273 205700 and we will attempt to fit those requirements to your budget. At DVC we find out what you need and then advise you on the best system to suit you, we don’t try to sell you the most expensive box unless you actually need the features it offers.