I have spent quite a bit of time trying various free video editors and by far the best I have found is one called Video Pad. The other video editors I tried felt like they were made for kids, had lots of useless gimmicks, lacked essential features, and were confusing to use. Video Pad is a gimmick-free tool that does everything I need and learning it’s basic method of operation took a few minutes. I find Video Pad pretty intuitive to use: it looks like it’s modelled on Adobe Final Cut and that’s a good thing. The most complex editing job I have done with it is a two hour record of a funeral.
Some of the features found in Video Pad:
- video capture facility (I haven’t tested this)
- you can record a narration (voice over) and add music. Video Pad is ideal for adding a narration to a screen recording
- the camera’s sound track can be separated from the video and/or removed completely
- basic manipulation of the audio tracks is possible, e.g. levels, fades, and cropping. For complex manipulation you can extract the camera’s audio using Any Video Converter and edit it with Wave Pad
- you can have multiple audio tracks
- it’s possible to turn a series of still images into a video/slide show* and add narration and/or music
- plug ins are available
- you can save your project part way through the editing process and come back to it later
- multi-level undo (if you make a mistake you can backtrack through a number of steps)
The free version of Video Pad allows you to save your movies in the avi, wmv and DVD formats (the paid version allows you more formats and as far as I can tell that’s the only difference). If these don’t suit your purposes you can convert the format using Any Video Converter, although conversion normally involves a loss of quality. I find that avi is a good general purpose format.
Basic instructions to get you started
The numbers in the instructions refer to the screen shot below, and having a print out will make understanding the instructions easier. To print the screen shot click on it: after it opens in a new window right click to print. In the print options box choose the ‘fit to page’ option (it may be called something like ‘shrink to fit’).
Click on Add Media (1) and choose the videos, still pictures and audio files that you wish to appear in your final product. Then click on a file in the bin (2) and it will appear in the viewer pane (3). A still picture will appear for a period of time in your final product and you control the length of that appearance (13). When adding a video adjust the in and out points if you don’t want to use the whole thing. Click on the green arrow (4) and the item will be added to your time line (5).
In this example I’ve added two still images to the time line and the dark one (the monkey) is the active one that’s currently being worked on. Clicking on the kitten would make that clip active. What you’re seeing on the time line is the equivalent of an old reel of film stretched out in front of you and that reel of film will be your final product: you can join together lots of small films and/or still pictures to make one big film (and add sound if you wish). You can zoom in for precise editing (6).
The red line (7) marks the point in your time line which is currently being shown in the preview pane (8), and the preview pane lets you click Play and do a dummy run of your final product before saving it. What you see in the preview pane is less sharp (blurrier) than the final product will be.
Clicking on Split Clip (9) will slice your ‘reel of film’ where the red line is (7). This is very useful, e.g. if there’s a boring bit in your video split/slice at the beginning and end of the boring bit, click on the boring bit to make it dark/active, then press Delete. You don’t want to have a sudden and violent burp in your video so add a transition, which gives a smooth move from one scene to another. You add a transition to the clip before the burp (in this case the monkey) by clicking on the blue box (10). My favourite is a cross fade of two seconds, which is indicated by a gold bar that appears above the blue box. Drag the triangle on the red line (11) so it’s to the left of the gold bar and see how your transition plays in the preview pane (8).
In this video of a child playing you can see several transitions from one scene to another where I cut out boring bits.
Ending your movie
Movies look much nicer when they don’t just suddenly cease, and there are two ways of adding nice finales with Video Pad:
- Make the final segment of your time line active and click on the blue box (10) to add a fade.
- My preferred method is called ‘fade to black': click here for an example. Add a blank pane (12) at the end of your video, then add a cross fade transition from your part of the time line to the blank pane. I usually add a one or two second cross fade, and in the example movie the fade to black is quicker than I’d like because it was the best option in that case.
If you want to have “this movie was made by…” at the end of your final product I recommend fading to black, then adding another blank pane with text (see below).
Adding titles and captions to your video
To make a title at the start of a video add a blank pane (12) at the beginning of your video: when setting the duration of the pane (13) consider how long your title will be and how long it will take people to read it. In the time line click on the blank pane to make it active, then click on Effect (14) to add text (a black pane with yellow text looks nice). I then add a cross fade transition between the title and the video, normally one second. Click here for a cute example.
Adding a caption (words superimposed on your final product) is easy: this video has a couple of examples in the first few minutes. Drag the red line (11) to where you want your caption to start and click on Split Clip (9). Do the same where you want your caption to end. Click on the part between the splits to make it active, then clip on Effect (14). Ticking the Background Colour option will make it easier for people to read the caption. I add a one second cross fade at the beginning and end of the caption, because it looks so much better and doesn’t startle viewers.
Adding captions in this way causes the level (loudness) of your audio track to fluctuate and that is distracting for viewers. To avoid this my work flow is thus:
- Add everything to the time line, add transitions between scenes and so forth. Remembering that your time line will become your final product, when you are happy with it
- Add the blank frames at the beginning and end of the time line
- Right click on the sound tracks and unlink them (be careful not to move them after unlinking, doing so will mean that the sound and picture aren’t synchronised. You can fix this but it’s a pain)
- Finally, add captions. Another option: in this video of a sermon the speaker referred to some still images, so I removed several portions of video and replaced them with still images (first example at 4:40). This needs to be done at this point in the work flow
If I’m doing a complex job I will save the project often (File>Save Project As). Using Save Project As creates a new project file each time (the file size is tiny) and if I mess things up I can go back to a point where everything was alright: it also protects me from power cuts and computer crashes. I give each project file a name that contains the time and something descriptive, e.g. “prior to adding the Yeti clip”. Basically this is backing up as I go.
Through lots of experimentation I have found that this work flow and project-saving makes editing a smooth process.
Video Pad is excellent software and I highly recommend it.
Update: some people are reporting that they have to pay for this software, or there are other limitations. I have never had any limitations or requests for payment and I have been unable to get to the bottom of this mystery.
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* image quality will suffer greatly if you don’t resize your still images before adding them to Video Pad. E.g., if your final product is going to be 640×480 pixels make your images 640×480 pixels before adding them to Video Pad. I use Fast Stone Image Viewer (portable version) for batch resizing.