Edit Like A Pro
It's fair to say that we've been a bit spoiled by the rapidly advancing capabilities of photography, What used to take weeks to accomplish - developing photos and sharing them with friends - is now something everyone from your Aunt Myrtle to your cousin Charlie can do ad nauseam through channels like Shutterfly, Instagram and a bevy of other new photo-based social media outlets.
And while less than a decade ago a digital video camera was seen as a luxury item owned by a few, currently more than half of Americans own a smartphone with some sort of video-capture capability.
But our ability to shoot quick videos doesn't mean that there's no place for editing software. Consumer-grade, "prosumer" and professional editing software can allow you to pursue your passion behind the lens concurrent to your skill level, and help you unleash your creativity, whether that means shooting high-quality dance videos of your boyfriend's cat or something more professional.
Still, before you make an investment in software or begin downloading random Internet programs, you'll want to have a good idea of the mainstay programs on the market, what they bring to the table and how they might fit your needs.
So you don't want to send out a video via Facebook, and you're not an aspiring Steven Spielberg? You want something that will give you quality video, something to impress your friends or bring some attention to your vacation videos, but that won't take too long to master.
If this describes you, you're in the novice category, which means you'll want to review your basic movie programs, one of which could be already on your computer.
iMovie - Like all Apple pre-installed programs, iMovie is made for beginners. You can easily drag and drop selections into the program or import footage from iPhoto and Photo Booth. The newest version of the program has been lauded by magazines like PCWorld for adding more advanced features like image stabilization, overlays and voiceover recording.
Warning to established audio pros or those who have a familiarity with other programs: You may find that iMovie is harder to navigate or ill-equipped for your needs.
For video editing on the go, iMovie for iOS, which works on iPhone or iPad, is just an extra $4.99. It has four stars based on more than 650 ratings at Apple's App Store.
Cost: $14.99 via the Apple App Store
Windows Live Movie Maker - Microsoft's answer to iMovie, Windows Live Movie Maker is the default video program for Windows (given this comparison, it's no surprise that reviewers have accused it of copying that program's signature style).
Windows users accustomed to the visual ribbon interface introduced across Office 2007 will have minimal difficulty getting started with this freeware. Like iMovie, video clips and still images can be dropped into a storyboard. Transitions, trimming and tweaks to projects can be made on the fly or after the first draft of a project is finished.
Warning: While industry experts seem to like this program, it hasn't received the same accolades from users. A look at CNET reviews reveals a gap between the favorable opinions of the pros and reviews of everyday users who find the service frustrating.
Cost: Free, pre-installed with Windows or via download from the apple.com/finalcutpro/|Apple's Final Cut Pro X - Many hardcore, professional video editors were not too thrilled with the latest rollout of this storied video program. Mostly because Apple completely rebuilt the popular program from the bottom up, so it lacked critical features that many professionals found necessary to their jobs. On top of that, there were complaints that the program was slower and unable to handle newer codes like H.264 that are gaining widespread use online.
The good news is that recent versions seem to have addressed these concerns, though the target audience has changed. Professionals may not need to seek solutions elsewhere, but those looking for great quality on a budget will find that Final Cut Pro X meets their needs.
Cost: $299 via the Apple App Store
If third-party plug-ins, multicam editing and chroma keying (green screen) are terms in your lexicon, then you're in the aficionado category, and the seat on your director's chair is probably already showing wear.
You want a movie-editing program with a rich palette of features that allow you to perform to the best of your abilities, and these programs will allow you to do just that - but be prepared for a big price tag, and to reaffirm your commit to getting serious about video.
Adobe Premier Pro - Adobe Premier has spent most of its time on the scene playing catch-up to Final Cut; for a while, it was pretty good, but it wasn't very heavily used. Today, however, Adobe has emerged renewed, having captured Apple's share of the market, mostly due to the less than popular rollout of Final Cut Pro X.
Once restricted to only certain formats, now Adobe can natively accept just about any video file that exists. Fans of the older version of Final Cut Pro can move to Adobe Premier Pro with very little trouble.
Cost: $19.99 to $49.99, available via monthly subscription plan
Avid Media Composer 7 - For a long time, Avid was the only video place in town; that is, until Apple upended its platform dominance with Final Cut Pro. However, the primary reason for this turnover was the low cost of Final Cut Pro, not the quality, and some old-timers continue to swear by their old faithful.
Media Composer 7 boasts accelerated high-res-to-HD workflows, automated media management and it's own support. But be sure about your passion, as the price is steep.
Cost: $999 via the Avid Online Store
This story is part of our special report titled "HomoTech." Want to read more? Here's the full list.