How Video Editing Works

Video-Editing Computers

You can use just about any desktop computer for video editing, as long as it has:

  • A FireWire port to connect the camera to - If your computer does not have a FireWire port, you can buy a FireWire card and install it for less than $100.
  • Enough CPU power, hard disk space and bus bandwidth to handle the data flowing in on the FireWire cable

Video processing in general uses lots of CPU power and moves tons of data on and off the hard disk. There are two different places where you will most feel the benefits of a fast machine and the sluggishness of a slow one:


  • When you render a movie that you have created or write it out to hard disk, you will definitely feel the speed of the machine. On a fast machine, rendering and writing can take minutes. On a slow machine it can take hours. You will learn more about rendering later in this article.
  • A more important issue comes when you are reading data from or writing data to the camera. When the video data stream is coming in from the camera through the FireWire cable, the computer and hard disk must be able to keep up with the camera or the computer will lose frames. When sending a completed movie back to the camera, the processor must be able to stream the data quickly enough or the camera will lose frames.

I have one Pentium 3 machine running at 500 MHz, with 512 MB of RAM and a decent 20-GB hard drive. It is right on the edge of being able to handle the data stream from the FireWire connection. It can not handle it if any other applications (like an e-mail program) are running. A Pentium 4 machine or a late-model Mac with 512 MB or 1 GB of RAM and a big hard disk is a nice machine to have when you are rendering and writing files.

The Software There are many software packages available for editing video on your computer. Windows XP even ships with software that's built into the operating system. Machines from Sony and Apple have software that comes with the machines.

In this article, we will use a software package called Adobe Premiere to demonstrate the video editing process. We are using Adobe Premiere for two reasons:

  • There is a free demo version available on the Web, and it will run on both PCs and Macs. Click here to download a copy.
  • Adobe Premiere is a full-featured and well respected video editing package that can do almost anything you would want to do.

In order to use a package like Adobe Premiere, you need to understand several basic concepts. Once you understand those basic concepts, however, the whole process is remarkably easy. After you are familiar with the fundamentals, it is extremely easy to expand your repertoire to include all sorts of advanced techniques.

Next, we'll look at the four most important concepts you need to understand from the start.