How to ensure you’re well set up for recorded footage, including computer needs, video software options, and using 4K and 6k for stills.
Few people find watching raw video footage satisfying, so editing is essential. Although many cameras come with built-in editing capabilities, these are usually limited to trimming and combining clips, which won’t necessarily produce enjoyable movies.
Camera manufacturers also ‘bundle’ software, normally making it available as a free download in the same way as they provide raw file converters. But, like raw file converters, the supplied software can vary between useful and best avoided. The software you choose will depend on the operating system your computer uses, your graphics card and the editing functions you require.
Both home and professional video editing suites require powerful computers with plenty of RAM and fast graphic cards. Dual monitors and graphics tablets (as shown in the illustration above) can make working with video clips easier. (Image source: EIZO.)
Your computer needs to be powerful enough (and have enough RAM) to handle the large amount of data that needs to be processed. Recording formats can vary from camera to camera and will determine which editors you can use and the specifications of your editing hardware.
If you’re editing footage from smartphones and 4K action cameras, the demands on your computer should be relatively low as the bit rates are often similar to low compression HD. Cameras that support high bit-rate (10- or 12-bit) recording require much more computing power to handle files.
When choosing a computer, we suggest the following minimum specifications:
CPU: Multi-core (at least four-core) Intel i5/i7 models (i7 is best).
Graphics card: Most editing software supports GPU (graphics processing unit) rendering, which uses the processing power of the graphics/video card. Make sure your graphics card is compatible with your editing software and ensure both GPU rendering and multiple processors are supported. The GPU needs enough reserve power to drive your display monitors in addition to rendering the video.
RAM is relatively cheap so don’t skimp here. Most video editors are RAM hungry. An absolute minimum is 8GB, but 16GB is better, and be prepared to go to 32GB or more when working with UHD or high frame rate video.
Storage: Your storage needs depend on how much source footage you expect to be working with. Generally, you should allow for three to four times the size of the source footage of a project. The minimum capacity is for a computer with 120GB SSD or 256GB hard drive running at 7200 RPM onboard plus at least 1TB of external storage.
Monitor: A calibrated 4K screen will display your footage accurately, although most people can initially manage with slightly lower resolution. The ability to reproduce 100 percent of the sRGB colour space is essential for colour grading. Pro users should look for screens that support the DCI P3 colour space.
An uninterrupted power supply with voltage monitoring and filtering will prevent the loss of your work in the event of a power failure.
Photographers who want to make movies will find there are plenty of third-party video editors, most of which are available as trial downloads that provide up to 30 days of free usage.
We recommend checking out Adobe Premiere Elements, the various versions of Corel VideoStudio and Nero Video for starters as these programs are designed for consumer use. The Adobe software is available for Windows and Mac but the cheaper Corel applications are for Windows only. Apple’s bundled iMovie software is ideal for Mac OS users.
Adobe continues to refine its popular Premiere Elements software, adding a simplified Sceneline interface that leads users through the steps of trimming a video and combining clips, photos, titles, music and more into a finished production.
Purpose-designed editors normally include features like animated transitions, filters that enhance colours or apply creative effects, distortions and picture-in-picture (PiP) displays. They may also support chroma-keying (or green screening), the technique that lets you layer a subject over any background by filming it in front of a green backdrop.
Many video editors include functions like stabilisation, slow-motion, speed-up and reverse time effects. Other relatively standard inclusions include corrections for fish-eye lenses and colour correction for underwater footage. More sophisticated editors will support colour grading and time coding.
Corel VideoStudio Ultimate includes professional standard colour grading capabilities for ensuring continuity of colour reproduction when clips are joined.
Many on-board audio chipsets pick up noise from the computer’s motherboard so we recommend using an external sound card. All video editors should be able to separate audio and video tracks so you can clean up background noise and add commentary, environmental audio effects, pre-recorded audio or background music.
Most editors will provide ‘canned’ background music to use for soundtracks. Some include an auto-ducking feature, which lowers background music during dialogue to create a more professional impression.
Title insertion and editing are offered in even basic applications and many provide a wide range of title effects, including 3D title creation, transparency, gradient colour, border, blur level and reflection effects. Multi-camera editing, which lets you switch between different angles of the same scene shot with several cameras, used to be exclusive to pro-level software but is now being supported by some consumer-level programs. Split screens are supported in many video editors.
More sophisticated video editors like Corel VideoStudio Ultimate 2019 include split screen layouts with keyframe-based controls.
At the end of the editing process, the footage has to be ‘rendered’ into a movie that will play on devices ranging from HDTV sets to laptops to portable ‘smart’ devices. Most recently-released editors can speed up the editing process by creating a proxy file at lower resolution, to prevent editing and previewing from being slowed down by huge full-resolution files.
Using 4K for stills
One of the best features of 4K video is that each frame recorded can be printed at A3 (420 x 297 mm) size, something that simply isn’t possible with a FHD frame. The 3840 x 2160 pixel resolution of consumer 4K has the same resolution an 8.3-megapixel still picture, while each DCI 4K frame is 4096 x 2160 pixels, which equates to a little over 8.8 megapixels.
A single frame from a consumer 4K video clip can produce an 8.3-megapixel still picture, which is printable at A3 size.
You can do a lot with such high resolution as Panasonic – the pioneer in this area – has demonstrated in its 4K Photo and 6K Photo modes, which make use of the camera’s fast frame rates (up to 30 frames/second in most cases but as fast as 60 fps in some high-end models) to provide some useful shooting functions. The 6K Photo mode records with a frame size of approximately 6000 x 3000 pixels, which is equivalent to 18 megapixels and allows more of the data from the camera’s 20-megapixel sensor to be used without downsampling.
Still frames are easy to extract from bursts in playback mode and each JPEG image complies with the naming and EXIF data management requirements for still images. Frames grabbed from other video recordings seldom meet these requirements.
Many cameras include a Post Focus mode, which records roughly one second of MP4 video while the camera’s Depth from Defocus (DFD) scans the subject, moving from the foreground to the background to cover the entire scene. A Focus Stacking function lets you stack some or all of the images together and obtain a picture that is sharp from the closest point at which the lens can focus to the background.
An example of using the Post Focus mode to obtain maximum sharpness from the closest focus to the background. The five frames above the merged image have been selected from a 6K sequence recorded in the Post Focus mode to show how the point of focus changes as the shots are recorded.
Users can also select individual frames in the sequence and save them as JPEGs or use automated detection to pick out a human face or a motion and set a marker to make it easy to find in subsequent playbacks. Multiple frames can be sequenced to produce a so-called ‘stromotion’ effect for recordings of moving subjects.
Article by Margaret Brown – see Margaret’s photography pocket guides