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I should say straight up, I'm not a video professional, although I've used simple tools such as VirtualDub and ffmpeg a lot over the years. I have probably used incorrect terminology here, if so please let me know.

I have a very simple video in mind, but I'm not sure what software would be appropriate. The video is purely to document the issues on a project - there were so many of them (like 100 - 200!) that if I ever need to give a strong overview on what went on with it, I'd rather put someone in front of a self-evident video for 3 minutes where they can see the photos and the region concerned, instead of asking them to read a dry 30 page list and hundreds of photos. I've been told that's by far the best thing to do, to convey this aspect.

I'm hoping for a helping hand with shortcutting whatever I can, and with getting going.

As I've described, the video I have in mind is pretty functional, it's not for "niceness" so much as to convey a complex message about a complex 3D region and what was discovered where, and to provide the viewer with a good insight into the 3D layout of the region and what was noteworthy where, quicker and better than diagrams and a written document could do.

Intended style/content

As a video concept, I'm thinking of something that's almost a slideshow with annotations and overlays. The basic "scenes" will simply be a background track made up of stills, giving the viewer a "virtual tour" of the whole region. Overlaid on these "scenes", I want to fade in and out, bubble-like "frames" that contain photos (and the occasional video snippet), and sometimes text or markings, that show the viewer what was discovered and where, with key textual comments if needed, or shapes such as arrows to point to where the items in the overlay frames were found, on the background image. There's likely to be several overlaid objects at any given time, and each will have its own fade in/out timing.

In terms of transitions, all I plan to use is fade in/fade out/crossfade. The objects and backgrounds won't be moving at all, unless their content happens to be a video and not a photo/diagram/shape (there are maybe 4-5 videos I want to include within "frames" in a "scene").

The video will probably use something like 500 - 700 photos and diagrams overall. There's no need for audio although I might add background music.

Workflow

In terms of my own competence and comfort level, I'd like something that supports a workflow in which this project will be as simple as possible. Ideally something like this:

  • Create a track for each object (an object might be a image/video/shape/text frame, and it could be a background still, or a "bubble" or "shape" within a "frame" that overlays it);

    For each object:

    1. Mark on its track, when the object exists (between starting to be visible and vanishing) + transitions;
    2. Drag it on the storyboard/video layout frame, to set its start and end positions (I don't plan to have movement so the path is a bit redundant for me)
    3. Drag the track in front/behind other tracks, or groups of tracks, to indicate which other objects it's in front of/behind.
  • Repeat for all objects and render.

Hardware

I'm using Windows 8.1 which runs most things that work on Windows 10, and the PC is a fairly heavy duty hexacore workstation with 64GB and plenty of large SSDs, so it'll make short work of rendering.

Software

Something that "just works". I don't mind if it's a professional package or much more capable than my needs, as long as it supports a smooth workflow and it's very dependable, and can make this easy and hassle-free for me. The price isn't a worry - I'm happy with Open Source if it does what I need, I'm happy to pay if it does what I need. As examples of programs that are powerful and capable, but also pretty intuitive and "just work", I might think of Microsoft's Excel/Access, where whatever you need, is probably there and reliable; or maybe Photoshop which I like a lot.

I don't have any specific video editor experience so I'm completely open between pretty much anything from Microsoft Movie Maker to Premiere Pro to Vegas - I simply have no idea what to go for. If someone tells me to use Powerpoint and convert it to a video afterwards, I even might listen to them (joking, honest!) - the reality is I'm completely unfamiliar with what's best for doing this.

As it's time sensitive I'd like to prioritise the kinds of things that will help minimise time - it "just works", it's a pretty intuitive program, the kinds of things I will need to do, to make this video, are nicely accessible within the UI, and if I need more capabilities it's probably got them too. Those matter much more.

I don't mind a professional quality editor if it'll be a good choice, and I have a good technical learning curve - but the more I have to figure out to get the basics working, the more time gets lost, so capable, reliable, but also fairly intuitive and easy/straightforward for a technically-competent newcomer to get going and be productive with simple editing like this. I can play with advanced features another time.

If this can get me a good shortcut in getting going, it will be very helpful and worth it.

Thank you!

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This question gets asked quite frequently, and normally the answer is to pick one from this list. But since you very clearly defined what you are looking for in the editing software, I think I can give you a better recommendation.

Premiere Elements

Personally, I use Creative Cloud software, which means Premiere Pro for video editing and After Effects for special effects. However, there are two problems with this:

  • Steep pricing, only subscription models available. A single app licence is still 20$/month, which is pretty pricy for most prosumer-level customers.
  • Steep learning curve. Normally I'd say the time investment needed to learn the basics and figure out a fast workflow with Premiere Pro is totally worth it, but since you mentioned you won't be doing any other video projects anytime soon, that's a moot point. Specifically, it's easy to work very inefficiently with Premiere Pro, which becomes very apparent when you have to do repetitive tasks such as add a couple hundred still images to a track and overlay them with text. This will become a huge time sink and you will be annoyed that it doesn't 'simply work'.

There's a good alternative though, namely Premiere Elements. It's basically a stripped down version of Premiere Pro with non-essential functionality removed and a streamlined interface that's optimized around the most common video editing tasks. I wouldn't normally recommend Elements, as it will pretty quickly reach it's limits for live action video and larger editing projects, however I believe it's fitting for your project. You might have to build any graphical elements in Photoshop or another image editing software, but apart from that, you should be got to go. You can get a full Premiere Elements 2018 licence for <100$ (I'm seeing 70$ right now, though the price in your region might differ). As far as I can tell, this won't include major version updates (i.e. a potential 2019 version), but by that time you presumably won't need it any more anyway.

Elements has enough functionality to finish a project of your scope. Of course, only you can tell if you like the software's feel/workflow or if it's missing some niche functionality that you require. Check out the link above, they have some video previews and introductory pages. There's also a free trial available. It's pretty easy to get started (as opposed to Premiere Pro), so you can just install the trial version, import some of your images/video clips and try it out.

Alternatives

A couple of notes regarding some of the programs you mentioned as well as some other options.

Windows Movie Maker. I find this one so dumbed down that it's lacking even the most basic features that you will require even for simple videos. Really can't recommend it.

Vegas. It's an option, though a pricy one as well. What I don't like about Vegas is that it's trying to be both an editing and an SFX software, which makes for a somewhat awkward and not very beginner-friendly interface (as opposed to the Adobe suite, where you have Premiere Pro and After Effects for those jobs respectively). One of the simpler, cheaper version of Vegas might be an option though (they come in tiers, look through their website for a comparison).

Premiere Pro. The best video editing software I know, but not beginner friendly enough for your requirements, see the paragraphs above.

Powerpoint. I see nothing wrong with this plan.

Open Source software / VirtualDub. Most open source software in this space shares the common problem of many open source projects, which is the lack of a streamlined design philosophy, the result being a confusing and at times unintuitive interface. This makes most of those not a good choice for your use case. If you want to put some time into learning one of those, you can get pretty far with Blender for example. But if you want something that just works, it's probably easier to pay a couple of bucks for a software that's not necessarily more powerful than the open source alternatives, but definitely more user-friendly. VirtualDub has been discontinued by the way.

Other commercial options. Pinnacle is pretty affordable and should have all the features you need. Lightworks is another options, though it is more expensive. You have the choice between an outright one-time payment or monthly/yearly payments, which is nice. You will probably have a bit more room to grow in regards to features as compared to Premiere Elements, though I doubt you will need the extra features for the project you outlined.
There are more options still, if you want you can look through the list I linked in the first paragraph to compare those in-depth. Corel Video Studio or Magix are also somewhat viable options, though I personally don't like them.

In conclusion

If you need ALL the features, my recommendation will always be Premiere Pro. But for your project's scope, a simpler software will do just fine. With those programs (such as Premiere Elements), you will always find you're lacking some functionality or setting that you would like to have. However, more often than not there's a workaround for those, and those lacking features are the cost you pay for the beginner-friendly interface and lower price tag. Just make sure the software you choose has all the essential functionality you need by looking through the features lists and tutorials on their websites and installing the trial versions, if available. Make sure to test the export as well, since it's a common trap to only allow low-quality exports in the trial/free versions of the programs (looking at you, Lightworks).

  • 1
    Wow. If I could have imagined a perfect answer, this would be it. You understood exactly what I'mafter - which a list never gives - and picked out what looks like a very suitable suggestion based on what I need rather than what someone else might do. I already use Photoshop Elements (never got round to moving to Lightroom; I should do so), so I understand what this prog is likely to be like - quite a lot more than the basic functionality, but designed for newcomers, and probably stable, well featured as its based on the pro product. The analysis and info on others is ideal too. Thank you!!! – Stilez Feb 15 '18 at 20:26
  • Its things like workflow efficiency with Premier Pro, your comments on that and other software - that kind of thing and the balance between softwares and approaches, you just can't get from a list. Its either someone else with experience willing to share, or hard work and time of ones own. Your analysis of each is a complete gem. Thank you again! – Stilez Feb 15 '18 at 20:29
  • Quick update/followup. I tried premiere elements, but within a day or so moved to premiere pro. The reason being mainly, fine control over clip adjustment, output file formats, frame sizes, and effects. (For example: I couldn't make 3/4 of the clips work together easily as they each needed frame rates/adjustments as they came from different sources). Unlike Photoshop elements, premiere elements really lacked enough on the detailed controls+depth, for me to end up moving up. Premiere worked nicely! Thank you for the invaluable help with the question. – Stilez Apr 12 '18 at 17:45
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Honestly, any of them will do the job you want. For what you're doing you can pick any at random and have your video edited before the answers stop rolling in on SE.

I found Vegas more intuitive at first, but I feel (with no objective justification) that Premiere Pro has a better balance of price and feature set.

Renting PP at the monthly rate month, you can't really go wrong.

  • I agree that Premier Pro is a great program with a very affordable pricing structure. AFAIK, it's $20 a month for the months that you use it. You can use the wonderful software for a whole month, and then cancel, and you'll be out only 20 bucks. – BrettFromLA Feb 16 '18 at 0:58
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I'm probably too late to the party at this stage, but I'll offer a suggestion. Unless I've missed some detail, to me the slam-dunk answer is Camtasia. It is in itself a very capable video editor, but it is targeted at non-video-pro types, especially in business, teaching, and the like. There are three aspects about it that I think make it the best choice here. Compared with Adobe, for example, Camtasia:

  1. Has a much shorter, more gentle learning curve than Premiere Pro. You'll get to produce useful stuff much more quickly with it.
  2. Has additional not-strictly-video features, useful to the business person, teacher etc, that Premiere Elements (nor Pro for that matter) even pretends to have. For example, it lets you create stopping points at which the viewer gets to answer review questions. It can also modify a viewer's path through a complex video according to their answers. So it's useful for training, or for video-based documentation.
  3. Is much cheaper than Pro. Roughly the same amount gets you a fully-owned copy of Camtasia versus only one year of Premiere Pro.

On that learning curve, part of that is the way the basic use model has been conceived. It is aimed at the content producer, not the video expert. It is nothing more than that content producer sitting at their computer running a PowerPoint presentation, or working live on some Excel, etc and than recording one or more of: that screen activity; their own video headshot from their computer's webcam; their own dialog from their computer's mic; and any "system" sounds from the computer itself. That recording can be triggered by a couple of mouse clicks, and then when it's done the program drops the whole lot -- channels for each of the sources chosen -- automatically into the editor for subsequent post processing. And you can do that once only, or many times, accumulating a range of takes for subsequent combining. But in addition to that basic workflow, you can also import still images, video from other sources, sound from additional and/or better mics, and so on. Then using the editor itself, you have access to a wide range of the usual types of activities, including cuts, joins, video and audio effects and so on. It is a fully capable NLE in every way.

Now all that said, Camtasia definitely is focused on those for whom high degrees of visual precision and artistry take second place to content delivery. I've argued the learning curve is easier with Camtasia, one reason being the basic use model. But another reason is the sheer power and size of Premiere Pro. My experience, having used Camtasia first, but then working with Premiere Pro (and associated CC) was much the same as my experience of watching the Avengers. At first encounter, Loki (Camtasia), is pretty awesome. But inevitably you have to see him go face to face with The Hulk (Premiere Pro) and you kinda have to re-calibrate what awesome means :-)

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