You are here

Video Tools: 5 Best Buys

Professional Non-linear Editors | Cameras | Entry-level Non-linear Editors
Published May 2010

New to the world of video production and unsure what gear to buy? Our guide to the five best options in three software and hardware categories will get you started.

Professional Non‑linear Editors

These packages are built to handle the latest compression formats (codecs), and many have been used to create programming you will have watched on TV or the Internet. Depending on your budget, you may want to invest in a professional NLE and learn as you go, rather than starting with a simplified version.

  • Video Tools: 5 Best Buys1. Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 (price unavailable at time of going to press, but CS4 was £775$799): Benefits from GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) acceleration with selected Nvidia cards and a native 64‑bit video engine; closely integrated with Adobe visual tools.
  • Video Tools: 5 Best Buys2. Apple Final Cut Studio 3 (£816$999): Exclusive to Apple Macs; works closely with Logic Pro. Studio 3 includes Color for grading and Motion for animation. Benefits from widespread use across many levels of broadcast and film production houses.
  • Video Tools: 5 Best Buys3. Avid Media Composer 4 (from £1522$2295): Cross‑platform editing; optional hardware acceleration; good Pro Tools integration; Avid software commonplace in professional suites.
  • Video Tools: 5 Best Buys4. Grass Valley Edius 5 (£700$799): NLE from producers of professional video and large‑scale broadcast hardware and software; edits a wide variety of formats; comes bundled with iZotope VST plug‑ins.
  • Video Tools: 5 Best Buys5. Sony Vegas Pro 9 (£580$569 download): Friendly interface for DAW users; edits many formats; integrates well with Acid and Sound Forge. A solid editing package.


Each camera has pros and cons depending on what you want to capture, and we'll cover some of the technical aspects of this next month. Prices are list, but some models are well established and can be bought for less, or hired.

  • Video Tools: 5 Best Buys1. Canon EOS 550DRebel T2i (£779$799, body only): Lowest-cost DSLR for capturing 1080p video. Many interchangable lenses are available and shallow depth of field is easily created. Be sure to research useful accessories.
  • Video Tools: 5 Best Buys2. Canon XH A1S (£3995$3999): The XH A1S shoots progressive footage in HDV format using DV tapes. It has a broad zoom range and Canon 'Luxury' lens glass. Easy to use and capable of great results.
  • Video Tools: 5 Best Buys3. JVC GY HM100 (£2299$3995): The diminutive HM100 is a great option for Apple Final Cut users: it records in a .mov file container ready for editing. Outputs to small, inexpensive SD cards.
  • Video Tools: 5 Best Buys4. Sony HVR V1 (£3020$3799): An easy to use HDV tape camcorder that shoots 1080p footage. Has a great logical layout for beginners, and good build quality. Solid and well-priced.
  • Video Tools: 5 Best Buys5. Panasonic AG HMC40 (£2011$3195): Panasonic's little AG HMC40 records 1080p footage directly to SD cards in AVCHD format, sharper than HDV. Lightweight three-sensor cam.

Entry‑level Non‑linear Editors

These NLEs have certain features limited (examples given), but still provide a great solution for the aspiring videographer. They're good for those on a budget or keen to edit quickly, but be sure to check compatibility with your camera's shooting format.

  • Video Tools: 5 Best Buys1. Adobe Premiere Elements 8 (£78$99): Windows only. Easy entry into video editing with simplified, clean workflow. No window for trimming footage; no 24P support; less native codec support than Premiere Pro; no batch capturing.
  • Video Tools: 5 Best Buys2. Apple Final Cut Express 4 (£99$199): Supports DV, HDV and AVCHD; interface similar to Final Cut Pro. No 1080p support (720p and 1080i HD are supported); no timecode or batch capture; shorter Undo list.
  • Video Tools: 5 Best Buys3. Avid Pinnacle Studio 14 HD (from £40$49): Consumer software. Supports HDV, DV and AVCHD editing. Editing layout is simplified when compared to Media Composer, but can create a decent edit.
  • Video Tools: 5 Best Buys4. Edius Neo 2 (from £182$199): Similar to full version; handles many formats including uncompressed footage. Time remapping, the ability to import an EDL (Edit Decision List) from another NLE, and audio mixer have been disabled.
  • Video Tools: 5 Best Buys5. Sony Vegas Movie Studio (from £43$39): A review is in this very issue, so be sure to read it for more detail. Provides an editing environment close to that of a professional NLE, feels very DAW‑like in operation. Limitations include only four video tracks and two audio tracks to work with.