Video grammar for journalists, “I shot video, now what?”

film_clapper-NetworkedBack with more video grammar for journalists!

Today’s topic: “I shot video, now what?” We’re talking video editing on the computer.

Armed with all of the correctly framed, exposed and in-focus shots you’ve acquired using your BYOC – and using the single camera shooting technique we talked about previously – you should now have 20-30 video shots recorded on your device… Now what?

Time to feed the beast – the computer beast. Next stop: visual storytelling!


**BUT WAIT!** To quote my man, Meatloaf, “STOP RIGHT THERE!” Before I go any further a technical warning is in order about the type of computer needed to accomplish what editing video requires – especially in today’s world of file-based, high bandwidth, high definition video.

Before we sink our teeth into the process, find the right software and export the correct output files required for video, here’s a question to ask: do I have the right computer for the job?

What are the right computer specs for editing video? Depends on whom you ask: Videomaker, the Video Guys or DIY and the type of videos you want to produce. To produce glorified Powerpoints disguised as videos for Grandma you can probably get by with “minimum specs.” To import and edit full 1080i or 720p HD video files from a DSLR, a video camera, even an iPhone you need to feed the beast I tell ya!

There’s nothing more taxing on the processor, RAM and graphics card than manipulating very large files. Just how big are the video files you’ll be manipulating? A wise old photo editor told me once that to efficiently edit and manipulate a still image in Photoshop, the computer needs ten times the size of the image in RAM. According to Adobe, by default Photoshop uses 70% of your available RAM. And that’s just for still images!


To give you an idea of the file sizes in video:

  • One minute of standard definition digital video (DV) = 187.5 megabytes, one hour = 10.99 gigabytes.
  • One minute of H.264 1080p HD (from a Canon 5D Mark II) = 355.89 megabytes, one hour = 20.85 gigabytes.

*Source: Digital Rebellion

DON’T SKIMP THE SPECS! (Don’t take my word for it…)

  • For Avid’s Media Composer, specs are here for Mac/PC.
  • Apple’s Final Cut Pro, here.
  • Apple’s Final Cut X, here.
  • Apple’s iMovie, here.
  • Adobe’s Premiere,  here.
  • Sony’s Vegas,  here.

Edit Software LogosWhile these six pieces of software are by no means the only video editing software out there, they all have one thing in common, they feed the beast. In our digital media department all of the 27″ iMac video editors sport i7 processors, 16GB of RAM, an HD capable graphics card with 2GB memory on the card and separate networked drives for media files. And yet, despite all that power, there’s many an evening I set up a machine to render a large video file and leave it to cook overnight!

Bottom line? Video editing is red meat for your computer, don’t send wimpy minimum specs to feed a hungry beast!

NEXT TIME: A look under the hood at video editing software!

Tim McCarty is a consultant, educator and Emmy award-winning Video Pro. A Professional Instructor and TV Advisor in the Journalism & Digital Media department at Ashland University, his department blogs at:

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