Focus on Video Editing

As technology allows us to teachand assess students in new and exciting ways, we are beginning to see moreopportunities for creative projects. One such outlet that is gaining popularityin all levels of learning is video projects. With camcorders and digital videocameras becoming more commonplace in schools, more teachers are engaging theirstudents in multimedia video projects.

Just a fewyears ago, video editing in most schools essentially meant two VCRs cabledtogether to create a rudimentary edit bay. Now, however, a number of effective,easy-to-use editing solutions exist to provide near professional-level videoediting functions at a price accessible for most schools. Following are a fewsuch editing solutions that will get your students practicing their Oscaracceptance speeches.


Apple’s iMovie 2 is a desktop video editingprogram that we ran on a standard iMac DV. While not as robust as some of itsprofessional-level older brothers like Final Cut, iMovie 2 is a very accessibletool for those unfamiliar with video editing. Running in a regular desktopenvironment, it is very approachable and surprisingly easy to use. Thefunctions are easy to learn, and will allow students and teachers alike to makeimpressive-looking videos in a relatively short period of time.

Of all the systems we’ve used, this one has by far thesimplest video capture function, assuming that you are capturing from a digitalvideo camera via the FireWire connection. You simply plug your digital videocamcorder into the iMac via a FireWire cable, and from there, video capture iscartoonishly easy. iMovie even puts control of the camcorder (play, rewind,fast-forward, etc.) on the capture screen. Another handy bonus is that iMoviesenses any change in camera shot and automatically creates a new video clip. Ofcourse, users do have manual control over these clips, allowing them to makethe segments as short or long as they please. Capturing audio is equally easy.If music from a CD is required, simply put a CD in the CD-ROM drive of the iMacand select the tracks you need. Voice-over can be recorded from the iMac’sbuilt-in microphone, and MP3s and AIFF sound files can also be imported for usein the project.

Once the audio and video are captured, editing is a snap.All the clips are arranged in a standard bin setting, where they can be labeledand moved around at will. To arrange the clips, simply drag them down to thetimeline. A simple trim function lets you cut unnecessary footage from any clipbefore or after laying it on the timeline. Once the visuals are arrangedproperly, a number of options allow fledgling editors to enhance their finishedproduct. A number of transitions, such as dissolves, wipes and fade-outs, canbe added with ease. Also available are a number of video effects, includingsoft focus, black and white, and sephia tone. A simple titling function alsomakes it easy to add credits and titles.

Sound editing is a bit trickier, but the multiple audiotracks provided allow plenty of options. It is easy to lay down voice-over or amusical track. Simply drag and drop as you would with a video clip. Audio canalso be separated from its video clip, letting the editor manipulate clips,create overlapping dialogue, add insert shots and more. Volume levels, fade-insand fade-outs can be set as well.

When finished, the project can be played back full-screen onthe iMac, transferred back to tape, or saved in QuickTime format so that it canbe placed on CD-ROM, be e-mailed, or be placed on the Web. Still images of theproject can also be created and saved as a PICT or JPEG image.

Overall, our use of iMovie went very smoothly. The interfaceis straightforward and easy to use. For making simple video and multimediaprojects, it is a great tool. We did encounter some problems with the programlocking up occassionally (as it chews on enormous video files), and the videotrim/select function can be a little difficult at times. Small glitches aside,iMovie is a very effective editing tool.


Draco Systems’ Casablanca Avio is the lower-cost follow-up to its popular Casablanca line of videoediting systems. It is designed to offer a complete video editing solution inone box. The software is pre-installed in the VCR-sized unit, so all that isrequired for setup is to hook up the Avio to a TV or computer monitor, thenconnect a source VCR or camcorder from which to capture video. The functions ofthe Avio are controlled with the supplied trackball.

Video capture is a simple matter of playing back the tapeand recording the required footage to the Avio’s hard drive. Clips can be namedand arranged in the scene palette. In the edit mode, users split their videofootage into scenes by selecting in and out points, then attaching them to thestoryboard in the selected order. It is also easy to add effects, like slowmotion and reverse motion, or transitions ranging from 3-D mosaics to 2-Ddissolves. These transitions can be previewed in real time. From the imageprocessing screen, editors can add color adjustments, zooms and more. It isalso possible to add picture-in-picture, and to solarize and soften clips.

Additional audio can be recorded from any source, be it aconnected CD player, tape deck, or a microphone for voice-overs. Audio can thenbe trimmed, adjusted and set into the storyboard. A range function lets theuser define where each piece of audio should begin and end. Volume can beadjusted individually on each of the three stereo audio tracks.

Avio’s titler makes it easy to include colorful text in avideo. There is a complete set of scalable fonts in numerous colors. Editors can choose variable scrolland crawl speeds and directions, using a variety of styles. When finishedediting, it is necessary to render any complex effects before simply exportingto tape. Avio is another solid entry in Casablanca’s line of editing solutions.While not quite as powerful as the standard Casablanca, Avio is perfectly suitablefor any school’s video editing needs, and with prices starting at $1,495, itcarries a much lower price tag.


AnotherPC-free editing appliance in a box is Applied Magic’s ScreenPlay. Like Casablanca, it is roughly the size of a standardVCR and is very easy to set up. Its interface is very intuitive, allowing theaverage user to get the hang of the system’s basic functions in no time at all.Video can be captured to the built-in hard drive from a source VCR, camcorderor FireWire connection. Footage can be arranged in any number of bins.ScreenPlay also offers multiple timelines, allowing for numerous projects to bein progress at the same time.

The system has all the standard editing features that allowusers to assemble their video. In and out points can be set in the availableclips, which can then be dragged and arranged on the timeline. Transitions,color effects and motion effects are also easily added or removed with a simpledrag and drop option. Like the rest of system, the titling program is easy tooperate and includes things like outline, drop shadow and character extrusion.Audio can be laid down on any of four available audio tracks, allowingflexibility with sound effects, voice over and music.

Many of the transitions and effects are applied in realtime, with rendering only necessary for more complicated effects. Witheverything in place, it is a very simple matter to export to video. Simply playthe video full screen and record on a connected VCR or camcorder.

ScreenPlay has a number of handy extras outside of the usualoffering of editing functions. A built-in CD-ROM drive makes capturing audiofrom CD very easy. It is also possible to install software updates and add-ons.A keyboard is also included, which allows editors to use hotkey commands inplace of, or along with, mouse control. Overall, we found ScreenPlay to beeffective and easy to use. The interface is easy to pick up on, creating a veryunintimidating editing experience. We did encounter some occasional glitches inplayback, and the audio editing functions are somewhat limited, but thesystem’s ease of use makes it a good tool for students and teachers.


—Jim Schneider

[email protected]

Contact Information








Draco Systems, Inc.





Applied Magic



This article originally appeared in the 11/01/2000 issue of THE Journal.