Recently, a friend whose fig tree was particularly productive this year, asked me what all my mother would do with such a bounty (they are both wonderful cooks). Rather than giving her just the recipe, I decided to film my mom preparing and talking about her own grandmother’s fig cookie recipe. Not only do I get to share my mom with the world, I also get to preserve one of my favorite memories:
Recording her also provided me the opportunity afterwards to play around with video editing software, something about which I keep wanting to learn more but have had few projects to do so. It also served as a reminder of what my folklorist friends like to say about fieldwork: be sure to check the batteries before leaving the night before and make sure to bring spares. Well, I forgot and less than halfway through filming, ended up needing to switch to recording from my smartphone.
I was a little anxious about splicing the clips together because I also did not pay attention to the video format in which I was recording. One camera used the .mov format while the other used .mp4. But I assumed that a video editor should be able handle multiple formats.
The least expensive software usually is an online version. However, I’ve played a little with Google’s online editor via YouTube, and found it slow (at least my connection made it slow) and its interface limited. This time, I wanted to try a desktop package instead.
A while back, I familiarized myself with Microsoft Movie Maker in case students from my Early American Literature course needed technical help for a video essay assignment that was to serve as their Final for the semester. I remember thinking it was adequate (and free), so I went to find an updated version. Unfortunately, only the same 2012 version was available for Windows 7. Regardless, I installed it. Like YouTube, it has a fairly simple interface, including a Timeline in which you can rearrange or cut unwanted footage. However, my footage contained a number of uncontrolled moments (background noises and other conversations) that needed finer control in order to lower the volume or edit those out.
Frustrated, I decided to try a different product. I’m already a big fan of TechSmith’s screen capture program, SnagIt. I’ve used it for a couple of years, and love it for jobs requiring more than Windows’ basic screen capturing ability. So I decided to try their Camtasia Studio program. (The availability of a fully functional 30 day trial was also a big carrot).
I must admit up front that I am almost a complete novice with video editing. And like any novice, I jumped into the program manuals be damned. I discovered that the interface isn’t as intuitive as it seems–again, this is a novice’s perspective. However, after much “suggesting” by TechSmith to watch their tutorial videos before getting started, I finally gave in and watched some of the intro tutorial videos. I’m happy I did; they quickly oriented me. Even so, their videos didn’t always give the depth I needed. For example, adding a Title or Credits is not as straightforward (in version 8) as one might expect. It’s part of their Callouts object but even after watching their tutorials on the subject, I still needed help from the community with adding them before the actual start of the video.
Even so, after spending only a few hours of adding, splitting, deleting, and stitching clips, as well as integrating transitions and finally adding credits, I felt quite relaxed with the interface. I do realize there is still much I need to learn and experiment with, but my 30 day trial is almost over, and unfortunately, the cost, even for educators, is currently prohibitive. Having said that, though, I do realize other similar packages also cost quite a bit. For future class projects, I still would like to find a free solution, even an online one, that is just as powerful and easy to use. Although I have never tried it, I hear great things about Apple’s iMovie, which is included free with iOS.