Online video editing is now possible in a similar way to how sites like Picknik offer online photo editing. You don’t need any software, all the work can be done through your web browser.
Today’s announcement about MySpaceTV and it’s editing features courtesy of Flektor raise the question of whether online video editors actually make sense.
For the more technically inclined, online video editing seems at first like a bad idea. Editing video is one of the most processor intensive applications you can do on a computer, and trying to replicate that experience through a web browser seems like it would be an exercise in futility.
Nonetheless, several online video editor websites already exist, MySpaceTV notwithstanding, and with YouTube recently rolling out the YouTube remixer, this article takes a closer look at what’s out there in this space, and whether you should give these online video editor sites a closer look.
First however some cold hard facts about video editing in general…
Editing video is quite frankly a pain in the @^$£ no matter how you approach it. As someone who worked for many years in television I can tell you that even at a professional level, editing is the least fun part of TV. It takes a long time, you have to watch the same footage over and over again, and to produce even a 5 minute story can mean days of notetaking and transcribing (of interviews) before you even get into the edit suite. Often that same 5 minute story can mean hours of raw footage to deal with!
There are different levels of course – I’ve seen news editors (the fastest cutters in the west) put together decent 90 second news stories in as little as 15 minutes. At the other end of the scale a feature film or documentary editor might spend weeks or months to do their thing. But in most cases it’s a fair rule of thumb that for every minute of finished output, you should figure on at least an hour of editing.
So if that hasn’t put you off completely, and you’re still reading, what do online video editors have to offer?
Well surprisingly a fair bit…
Online video editors won’t put the likes of Adobe Premiere, Avid, Final Cut Pro or Sony Vegas out of business any time soon, but they do offer serviceable features for editing lower quality video destined for the web.
Online video editors all work basically the same way. You upload video, or in some cases import the video from another site via a URL, and then work to edit the video within your browser. At the end you download the finished product to your computer, or place it into a webpage, which usually means a page on the site you are using. Most sites have video sharing communities that they encourage you to participate in.
Sites such as Jumpcut, OneTrueMedia, Eyespot and Cuts offer surprisingly full feature sets that include transitions, special effects, audio dubbing and more, basically approaching what you would expect to find in low cost consumer video editing software such as Ulead Video Studio, Pinnacle Studio or Adobe Premiere Elements.
But herein lies the problem. All online video editing sites require you to upload video from your computer before you can edit it. This is a simple inescapable practicality of the proposition. There’s a double whammy because most broadband connections are far slower when it comes to uploading than they are for downloading. And remember that editing in general means uploading a much greater amount of raw footage than will be in the finished product.
There’s not much these sites can do about this (although Adobe AIR, formerly Apollo, presents interesting options for the future) so fundamentally I seriously question their actual usefulness. It is simply far more efficient to edit footage on your computer ‘locally’ using traditional editing software, and then upload the (much smaller) finished file to a video sharing site. You’re using much better software, it’s faster, and you also have the benefit of having a much higher quality version (your master copy) that you can burn to DVD or watch on a high-def screen.
There is one exception to all of this, and that is if the source of your video is already on the web. This is an area that we’re heavily involved in here at WorldTV and I have to say I think that it really is the future of online video editing. Forget complicated, Hollywood style featuresets and multi-layer timelines, the next generation mainstream video sharing audience will simply want the ability to find, aggregate, perhaps trim and add a soundtrack. Anything else is is overkill.
That might just be my admittedly biased opinion, but the numbers below bear this theory out. All the pure play online video editing sites are hurting at the moment, despite decent publicity. Sixty thousand visitors per month is simply not enough to keep a company in Skype credits and lava lamps.
If you are wondering where this leaves you, and are reading this from the perspective of someone who is looking for a video editing solution for your web destined video, my advice is to stick with a low cost software based video editor such as the always friendly Ulead VideoStudio, or a free editor such as Avid Free DV, iMovie for the Mac or Windows Movie Maker. Chances are you have one of these last two on your machine already and they are at least as good as the best of the online editors.
If you really do want to try out the online video editors, I would be remiss not to suggest signing up for WorldTV Beta (it won’t be a full featured editor but it will be very cool) and if you would like a well written review of the main options out there, this article is very good.
In summary, the simple physics of the proposition make online video editing a poor choice in comparison to software based editors. Online editors are fun from a ‘wow I didn’t think that could be possible’ perspective, but ultimately they are a poor replacement for the existing methods and as such a solution for a problem that doesn’t exist.
Comments as always are most welcome…