Whilst the obvious difference between the free versions and paid video editing programs is the price, it is a common question that many people ask, in all seriousness, to really understand the significant differences. I would like to assure you, in the first instance, that some things that are free, can still be quite good, and I will say that for many of the free video editor software packages at the moment. I would like to include the caveat that I have come across some disaster programs too, but no, I am not interested in bad-mouthing any company or product in particular.
However, for the purposes of clarity here, the two most popular computer operating systems, namely Windows and Mac, each come with their default video editing programs, namely Windows Movie Maker, as well as Macs, iMovie. Each program will allow you to import videos and as I say, edit each one basically.
The real difference between the free, and paid versions is in the degree of control, or individual settings ability that you have. Each program’s defaults are basic, yet functional, but will lack the finer detail that the more creative producer will want to include in their work. An example of this would be the type of text fonts and styles of text overlay that may be permitted. Another example is that you may only have basic features, and not the more advanced type, like the chroma key effect.
This is an important function for someone wanting to create effects where an image is superimposed over a green or blue background, such as a weather presentation. In all cases when you see a weather presentation on the news, the moving map of the country or region is actually a graphical video over a green or blue screen, such that the reader can be seen in front of the map. This feature is typically only available on some of the paid programs, like Sony’s Vegas Movie Studio. It is not available in the free Windows Movie Maker program. However, if you are just starting out and learning, the free program is a great way to get your feet wet, as it were, and learn the basics.
Each one of the programs will have a basic set of features that are common, and it is like this in all the programs. Hence, you may as well learn and practice these features first.
It should be noted that there are numerous price bands with paid programs, varying from the few hundred dollars mark to around a thousand or so. The main difference at this point becomes the style and type of video formats that will be supported or the CODECs, known as the encoding and decoding standards. At this point, it becomes quite technical, and for simplicity, and compatibility with most systems, it is best to stick with the basics like the wmv and avi or flv flash styles, or mov styles as used in the Mac environment. These are all available with the free and cheaper versions. This will allow the greatest compatibility with other viewers of your videos. After all, the object is for your videos to be seen by others.