Computers: Chance to frame the neighbours: Cliff Joseph learns how to cover his tracks with an easy-to-use video editing program for the PC

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The Independent Online
Films like Jurassic Park and Terminator 2 are a good example of how traditional film techniques are starting to merge with modern computer technology, but you do not need a Hollywood-sized budget to get started with computer-based video systems.

Adobe Systems has just launched a PC Windows version of Premiere, a video editing program that has already been a great success on Macintosh computers. Premiere allows you to select video and sound clips that are stored on your computer's hard disk and to edit them on screen much more quickly than you could by using a conventional editing system.

You start by placing the unedited clips into Premiere's 'Project window'. This is part of the screen that shows the first frame of each clip in order to remind you of what it contains. To compile the final edited sequence, you select the clip you need with the mouse and 'drag' it - move the mouse pointer over the clip, hold down the mouse button and move the mouse to drag the clip across the screen - into the 'Construction window'.

This window takes up most of the screen and is divided into a number of tracks that run horizontally across the screen. There are two sets of tracks for video and sound and two extra tracks for special effects, such as superimposed titles or transitions between clips. Along the top of the window is a time scale that allows you to position each clip so that the final sequence runs in the right order.

Premiere includes more than 30 built-in transitions to link clips together, such as the effect of one image opening like a door to reveal the second image beneath it. Like other clips, these are displayed in their own window and can be dragged into the Construction window by using the mouse. This ability to move clips and special effects around the screen makes Premiere incredibly easy to use. If you can use a mouse, you can edit video.

Take a simple sequence in which one video clip slowly fades into another. To compile this sequence, you would place the first clip in track A and the second clip in track B. You use the time scale to position the clips so that they overlap by a period of, say, three seconds. Finally, you just drop the 'Cross Fade' transition into the 'Transition track' and Premiere will automatically make sure the cross fade last for exactly three seconds.

The 'Preview' command lets you play the sequence at any time during the editing and if you want to change things around you can use the mouse to move the clips to different points on the time scale. You can do things in seconds using Premiere that might take hours with an ordinary editing system.

However, there are hidden costs. You can edit sound effects and music in the same way, but you will need to buy an additional sound card if your PC does not have one built in. Also if you want to edit clips from your own material, you will need a video digitiser in order to turn ordinary video tapes or or other input, such as a digital camera, into data that can be stored on the PC's hard disk. These can cost anything from pounds 250 to pounds 2,500, depending on the quality you want, but ordinary editing systems can cost just as much and are not nearly as versatile.

The Mac version of Premiere has already been used to edit a number of music videos - just think what it can do for your neighbours' holiday videos.

Adobe Premiere

System: PC-compatible/Windows.

Requirements:

Hardware: 20 megabytes of disk

space.

Software: Windows 3.1.

Availability: Dealers, superstores.

Price:

List: pounds 295.

Street: pounds 200.

(Photograph omitted)

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