by Martin French

Last week we featured a comprehensive suggestion list for what video gear you might like to purchase if you're planning a 2013 video production strategy of some sort.

This week we bring you less of a list, more of a series of recommendations for the gear you need to actually edit what you shoot on your expensive, or not so expensive, new video equipment.

The Box

If you don't have a computer then you can't edit, simple as that. So, if you're in the market for a new computer for the new year then look no further than Apple's iMac (late 2012 model).

Although the aesthetics of a particular machine are not really a priority, Apple's all in one machine really is a design marvel. The leading edge of the computer is incredibly thin with the main bulk of the internals placed to the centre rear of the machine.

The 21.5 inch model is also incredibly lightweight, so light in fact we have a hard time cleaning ours because it will not sit still on the desk.

Aesthetics aside the power for the computer's brain is provided by Intel's Core i5 or i7 processors (you can specify which before you purchase). But even the slightly slower i5 is more than enough for even the most arduous HD editing tasks.

Another crucial part of computing is how much memory your computer has, this should not be confused with hard drive storage space.

As standard, all the new iMacs come with 8GB of RAM. Again, this is more than enough for general use but if you love running a couple of dozen applications at the same time then you can boost the memory up to 16GB for the 21.5 inch models and 32GB for the, as yet unavailable, 27 inch models.

It's important to note that the 21.5 inch models are completely sealed units and cannot be upgraded in any way (at least internally) after purchase. Not unless you have some serious technical skills. The 27 inch model does have user accessible memory for upgrading.

As for the monitor itself? Well you get a 1920x1080 display which is incredibly bright and crisp and renders text and images extremely well. In general use the computer is very pleasant to operate for long periods of time.

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Apple iMac 21.5" Late 2012 Model
£1,249
Processor: Intel Core i5 2.9GHZ
-
Graphics: NVIDIA GT 650M 512MB
-
Memory: 8GB
-
Storage: 1TB (mechanical)
-
Resolution: 1920 x 1080 (Full HD)
-
Lacie D2 3TB USB 3.0 7,200rpm
£176
Adobe Premiere CS6 (purchased outright)
£804
Total
£2,229

Description

If you want to spend more money you can boost the amount of memory in the computer to at least 16GB but this must be done when you order the machine from Apple. The same goes for the "Fusion Drive" option that will speed up application loading and general computer operations.

For the external hard drive any external USB3.0 will do, just make sure it's spinning at 7,200rpm. If the drives case is made from platic then it might not dissipate heat well enough to be used for video editing.

As for the software. You can always "rent" Premiere CS6 for as long as you need it or pony up for the entire CS6 suite of applications for about £47 per month.

If you are not keen on the Apple platform then any Windows 7/8 based system running an Intel Core i5/i7 processor with at least 8GB of Ram and a modern 512Mb graphics card (or better) will work just as well. The editing software on both operating systems is exactly the same.

Drive

The hard drive, not to be confused with the memory, is where all your applications go and lots more besides. The 21.5 inch model has two options; a standard 1TB (terabyte or 1000 gigabytes) of storage as standard. For £200 you can upgrade to a so-called "Fusion Drive" that mixes the regular "mechanical" hard drive with a 128GB Solid State Drive (SSD).

Essentially this makes booting the computer and loading applications faster than with the standard "mechanical" drive. Having used a machine with SSD technology we can vouch for the speed increase but Apple is overcharging for the tech so unless you are a real speed freak, don't bother, the mechanical drive works just fine and is plenty fast enough.

Speaking of disc drives the iMac doesn't come with an "optical" drive fitted at all. No DVD discs or CDs in this machine. You can get an external one however, avoid Apple's own over priced "super drive", if you really need one though so all is not lost.

There are also no "Firewire" connectors on this machine, a staple of Apple computers in the past and essential for video work. Those ports have been replaced with the much faster "Thunderbolt" connector and four USB 3.0 ports (more of which later).

The Externals

When editing video, or sound and music for that matter, it is essential that all of your media (video files, images, music, etc) is stored on a fast, external hard drive.

We're not going to bore you with the technical details as to why you need to do this but safe to say it keeps everything running far more smoothly when you work that way.

External drives also make it very easy to move complex projects around from one machine to another. All you do is take the drive with you and, if the host computer is running the same editing software, just plug it in and off you go.

There are two choices for drive connections on the new iMac; Thunderbolt and USB3.0. Of the two, Thunderbolt is the fastest but the big problem is the external hard drives that use Thunderbolt connections are almost three times more expensive than their USB3.0 counterparts.

USB2.0 was not fast enough to edit video material effectively, trust us, we tried it once, but USB3.0 is a different matter.

We have extensively tested a Lacie D2 3TB USB 3.0 7,200rpm external drive with Full HD video and can report no problems at all . For just £176 it's a bargain and it's also a lot quieter than its Firewire counterparts.

The drive can store about 150 hours of HD video material although that's dependant on the type of video you shoot, the type of camera you use and the file format it uses for storing video on the memory cards.

The Cutting

For the actual editing there are only three realistic choices for most people. Adobe Premiere CS6, Avid Media Composer 6 or Final Cut Pro X.

Media Composer is hugely expensive (over £2,000) so let's forget that one and Final Cut Pro X (just £199) is little more than an amped up version of iMovie.

FCPX is a nagging, nannying pain in the ass that's always trying to interfere with what you are editing by doing things "automatically" and the editing interface itself is a none standard, confusing mess. Avoid it!

This leaves us with Adobe Premiere CS6 which is far from perfect but as an editor it does exactly what you want it to do when you tell it to do it and does it very quickly.

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Premiere Pro CS6 - Click The Image for Larger Version

As you can see from the image above the software itself is not for the faint hearted when it comes to working with computers. The nature of video editing however requires a certain level of complexity from the software you use so there will be a learning curve.

Premiere CS6 includes a wide range of tools for you to work on your footage from colour correction all the way down to too many goofy filters you will never use.

A big advantage with the software is its ability to edit digital video files from a huge range of cameras with no long drawn out process of converting video clips from one format to another. A massive time saver in the all digital world of editing.

You can just take your shots from the camera's memory card, drop them into Premiere and off you go!

The best approach to something this complex (if you have never edited before) is to not try and learn how to use every single feature, there is simply no need to do that. Grasp the basics first and then progress as you need to, learning how to use new features as you come to need them.

Article19 will have a feature on editing and shooting in a couple of weeks but there are also dozens of online tutorials on YouTube and Adobe's own website that will walk you through the software if you're an absolute beginner.

Creative Clouds

Cost wise there are a number of options when purchasing Premiere CS6. Adobe has a new service called "Creative Cloud" where you don't actually buy the software at all, you rent it. For about £17 per month you can rent a single application for as long as you might need it.

Alternatively you can pay about £47 a month (with a minimum one year subscription) and have complete access to all of Adobe's applications (including Photoshop and After Effects among others).

You can also buy the applications outright which for Premiere CS6 on its own will be an eye watering £804. You can also save money if you purchase the so called CS6 "Master Collection", that includes 16 different applications not all of which are for video production, for a credit card melting £2,644.

I should note that these prices are for individual licences. If you want to install on more than one machine in an office then it will cost more.

Complexity

If you are going to get yourself or your organisation into the world of creating and editing video then there is no easy or cheap way to get it done.

For less than £2,000 though you can get a very capable editing system with software that will be good to go for several years, if you treat it nicely.

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