Sunday, September 7, 2008


Like most computer-based activities, nonlinear editing delivers a rich set of opportunities, frustrations, and peculiarities, all of which generate a gaggle of ad-lib tactics for dealing with them. A complete collection of nonlinear tricks would include obscure secrets and arcane workarounds, but the fundamental strategies are based on simple common sense.

So without further ado, here's a look at 10 basic tips for success in nonlinear editing.

1: Invest in the Best
Or if you can't afford the best, invest in the pretty darn good. Mortgage the dog if you have to, but scrape up enough green to buy a competent editing system.

This isn't the place to talk hardware specifics, but in general, you should pay as much as you possibly can (plus maybe 20% more that you can't) for:

 a brawny chip, board, and power supply--like a Pentium II 450 setup;
 cavernous storage with lightning throughput (which means an entirely separate SCSI or Ultra-SCSI drive to be used solely for video capture);
 beaucoup RAM, like 64-128 MB at least;
 a premium display card for the computer monitor.
Most importantly, invest in the best video capture card you can afford. Under-$1000 cards are available, and will work well if you don't mind the occasional frustration that comes with a crashed system; however, if you have the funds, consider purchasing a product one step up from this level. The increase in reliability will be well worth the investment.

2: Dedicate the System to Video
Why not just upgrade the system you probably own already? Because you can't run your dental group accounting package on the same machine without creating internal conflicts that will drive your computer into myocardial infarctions and similarly lethal stuff.

So if you don't want to hang your system every 20 minutes, set it up from scratch as a dedicated editing tool and play Quake II on your daughter's machine.

3: Match Software to System
Most video capture cards come bundled with editing software like Adobe Premiere or an Avid package or Ulead's MediaStudio, and these programs all let you specify the technical characteristics of your programs.

In general, the higher the quality of each and every setting (such as compression, frame rate and image size), the more demands it makes on your system. Push your computer too hard and you'll see everything from jagged lines to dropped frames to fuzzy images to picture snow. So it's worth a lot of patient experimentation to determine which combination of settings works best for you.

And while you're tweaking software, don't forget all the other packages that mysteriously appear when you install operating systems (like Windows 98) and editing packages and audio cards. Which ones you use with which other ones can become a complicated question, as you'll discover when you digitize incoming audio with your video card, but audition it through speakers attached to your computer's sound card.

4: Do Your Housekeeping

Disk operating systems strew data like a teenager dropping clothes in his room, and a hard drive can quickly resemble, well, a teenager's room. Why should you care? Because the more fragmented and dispersed the data stored on a hard drive, the longer it takes to find and assemble it for use.

Fragmented data quickly reduces hard drive speed, and the three most important aspects of a video editing system are speed, speed, and speed. To keep data throughput as fast as possible, defragment your drive even if the system says you don't yet need to. To remind myself to perform hard disk housekeeping, I've placed a shortcut to the defragmenter utility right on my desktop, where it stares at me accusingly.

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