Common Video Editors Lack of Control is Painfully Evident: PiP case

By jayvol09 on Friday 2 November 2012 02:10 - Comments (4)
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Maybe it's not a good idea for a first post to be a rant, so I'll add my findings after the problem description. Lately I've been working with video in several contexts: video editing, capturing images from video, making video from photos and converting my videos to types that work with other programs. I noticed, every task I set out to do took longer than I intended. Partially because of a learning curve and I get sidetracked easily, but mainly because it is so hard to find the right (and preferably free) software!

Real world example: Picture in picture (PiP)
As part of my research presentation I wanted a movie showing my videoresults side by side at the same time; so people can visually compare the measurements. I had 4 video files of equal specs, just differing in content. I wanted to add these into 1 video showing each subvideo in a quarter of the screen. I also wanted to make sure I didn't resize the individual videos (=lose resolution) or let them start out of synch.

My list of attempts in chronological order:
  • windows movie maker (vista)
  • Pinnacle Studio 16
  • Powerdirector (some semi-full version)
  • Womble MPEG editor
  • GIMP(I couldnt get this to work with video at all!)
  • videopad
  • Sony studio
For someone who takes pride in not letting his system get cluttered all this installing left a bad aftertaste. My system is an old Acer laptop with windows vista, 4gig memory and dualcore intel cpu @ 1.86Ghz and crappy intel gpu (965 express chipset).

To my surprise adding 4 'overlay' tracks is not a very well supported feature, 2 is the max in half of the software suites. To get around this people resort to recursively using PiP, however every iteration requires encoding again, harming the video quality and costing alot of time. Although exporting in uncompressed may have been a solution, the export options are often also limited :(

My experiences of the various software:
Windows movie maker is basic, kinda expected that, but seems you can download a PiP effect for splitscreening 2 videos. Didn't know that then so moved on to next.
AVS got me excited, but gave me too little control over the PiP elements since needed to move and crop them a bit so they'd fit on my 1600x1200 black background image. In short I couldn't fit them nicely 2x2 due to lack of tools. So moved on again.
Pinnacle surpised me with only allowing 2 video tracks. It did have a transition like preset that worked like splitscreen PiP, effectively allowing 4 images on 1 screen. This preset however had black bars between the images and I think it resized my videos. Another 'fail' was the timecutting feature; a basic feature for a video editor yet so buggy to control I couldnt timesynch all 4 of the videos, even if I could place them nicely. Goodbye Pinnacle, if I ever need a million different transitions ill come back. Moving on for now.
Powerdirector , I needed to pay for (yet another) upgrade to use more video tracks, so I quit it.
Womble was a refreshing surprise, it felt really lightweight yet seemed to have many filters and allowed great timeline control. Parameters like start time, end time and duration are nice instead of always relying on mouse dragging or proper 'snapping'. Sometimes you might want to apply a filter to several segments, in womble just ctrl + click to select them and apply the filter. Many other suites force the user to micromanage every clip on the timeline. Womble let me create 4 PiP with the recursive method; the reason I bothered with recursive here is because it does not encode video in between. I could save the "project" and then load it as an abstraction of the video, using it as a normal video, pretty smart.
Alas the PiP was a transition that didn't allow me to start at t = 0, this slight delay made it hard to synch all video files so in the end I had to abandon Womble. Im keeping it installed though, also worth mentioning is it only exports MPEG-1 & MPEG-2 video; it does have smart encoding, so it won't encode parts if not necessary.
GIMP had been reported to allow video editing in some form (not a very popular google hit if you ask me) but the gui looked too basic, and after only playing around with the timeslider it crashed. Next.
Videopad looked sleek, somewhat basic, but free. Alas the PiP didn't cut it so moved on, though I might play around with it later because it looked sturdy.
Sony movie studio let me add all the videos in one session and gave good control of the size and location of each video, so this was the winner after 2 days of searching, installing, crashing, frustration, uninstalling and more searching. No spectacular difference from AVS or Pinnacle, just more contol for what I needed to do.

In general the export options of all these programs feel limited. In all fairness all the programs didn't give me much info or control over the exact final resolution; leaving me with the fear that my videos had been resized in some unknown way.
Most of the programs are 50-100 euro yet they can't support formats that those numerous free converter suites do? Also options regarding framerate and resolution are the most important to basic users who want a good video for a presentation. Yet these seem to be hidden, or must be employed indirectly, or are absent altogether; as if all users are casual family videomakers (no offense dad). If I wanted professional control I'd get professional aimed software, yet a simple compilation for a presentation should be doable with software under 100 euros, imo.

Next post another video related example with software experience, no more videoeditors, but converter headaches!

Volgende: Automatic sampling of video files: easier said than done! 11-'12 Automatic sampling of video files: easier said than done!


By Tweakers user Jogai, Friday 2 November 2012 08:21

Did you try lightworks? Even the pro version is 50 euros, but may be the free version will suffice. Its used for a lot of common feature films.

By Tweakers user jayvol09, Friday 2 November 2012 09:41

I did try lightworks too! forgot to mention it because I used it after Sony just for testing. Minor problem: to work with h264 you need to pay - so most people will need that pro version (also thats 50eur per year, dont like that).
But nice that students get 50% discount. So a 3 year license would cost 75 euros.
Also it has a very high learning curve compared to other timeline editors, not a problem per se for me.

By Tweakers user dipje2, Friday 2 November 2012 10:24

avisynth with a little script that uses stackvertical() / stackhorizontal() ?

I know it's not for everybody but if you're into scripting stuff it's so powerful to get a lof of stuff done in a single pass!

By Tweakers user jayvol09, Friday 2 November 2012 11:31

Yes I find myself considering trying avisynth a lot lately. After a few tutorials on youtube I think I understand the concept. But with directshow being "phased out" in windows, is it still worth investing time into?

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