Whether you are a professional or amateur video maker, it can be difficult to decipher between video editing software to buy. You wonder if the free options are good enough for what you want to do or if only the high-end options will suit your needs. Ask yourself these questions before making your investment and you’re more likely to be happy with your purchase.

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Questions to Ask Yourself When Choosing Your Video Editing Software

How will I use the software?

Think about what kind of end product you are planning to make. If you want to edit family movies or upload videos to YouTube, simple, intuitive software may suit you just fine. If you plan to have a business making wedding videos or something similar, you’ll need something with more capabilities. Professional video editors need a high-end program with numerous features that will give you full control.

How much video editing experience do I have?

Are you new to video editing, a seasoned professional or somewhere in the middle? For beginners, the intuitive and easy drag-and-drop software will suffice. If you have a little more experience in video editing or have enough computer skills that you can generally learn new software easily, try something a step up that can give you more control and has more features, but is still somewhat intuitive. The seasoned professionals out there will want the high-end software that will let you create anything your mind conjures up.

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Which operating system do I use?

Not all video editing software runs on all systems, so check carefully. Many options run on both Windows and Mac OS, but there are also numerous software packages that only run on Windows or only on Apple's Mac OS. Make sure your current operating system will run the software you choose.

What are my personal preferences?

Especially if you’re new to video editing software, you’re going to want to “test drive” several options so that you can determine your personal preferences. Check them out at software stores or download free trials. As you test drive, pay attention to screen layout, ease of use, editor style (storyboard or timeline), video overlays, and editing tasks (audio, video, and photo). When looking at editing tasks, keep in mind that you can buy complete software packages that include both audio and photo editing software.

What is my price range?

If you’re just beginning and you’re not sure that you’ll even enjoy video editing, you may want to start with a free download option just to get your hands wet. There are actually quite a few decent free options out there. Also, whether you use Windows or Mac OS, your operating system came with free video editing software, so try that first. If you try the free options and get frustrated because they won’t allow you to do everything that you want to do, but you still only want to spend a couple hundred dollars, there are many less-expensive programs that might fit your needs.

The most popular types with average consumers are less-expensive (and less feature-rich) versions of high-end software. High-end software will definitely cost you more, but it will be feature-rich and put the power in your hands.

What are my computer’s hardware capabilities?

Hardware is easily updated in some computers, but not in others, so first figure out if you are able to upgrade your computer. If you can and are willing to upgrade your computer to run the software of your choice, then go ahead and do so. If not, make sure that you have a DV or Firewire capture card, Quad Core or larger processor, sufficient RAM, high-end video card, and lots of storage space (preferably separate from your system storage).

To give you an idea of how much storage you will need, five minutes of digital video is typically about one gigabyte. Your camera also needs to be compatible with your software. The software you buy should connect with DV, AVCHD, and miniDV camcorders, analog camcorders, VCRs, DVDs, and TVs. You’re going to want to output your video in various ways, so make sure the software can do all of them: DVD, Blu-Ray, flash video, MPEG, AVI, WMV, MOV, YouTube, or AVCHD.

How much technical support will I need and how much do they offer?

If you’re an expert, the amount and quality of technical support a company provides for your software may not be an issue, but for those just getting started, it could be a deciding factor. Of course, even pros need a little help now and then. If you anticipate needing technical support, make sure the software development company provides help documentation, support forums, tutorials and FAQs.

As you ask yourself these questions and do the proper research, you will be able to find video editing software that will fit your skill level, preferences and budget.