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How to Edit Video Using Free Software

Getting started

With nearly every camera and smartphone coming equipped with video capabilities, almost everyone has become an amateur videographer. But editing footage into a watchable video requires an entirely different skill set. However, editing video is not nearly as arcane as it may seem, especially if you just want to know the basics.

This guide will look at a real-world situation that teaches a few simple skills, without requiring split-second precision or multiple layers ofvideo and sound. Keep in mind that more advanced projects — like a Web show or a movie review — will require techniques not covered here.

Here's the scenario: You and your spouse attend Little Sally's elementary school play. (For this guide, assume that you have a spouse and a Little Sally.) The whole production ran 45 minutes, but all you want is the teacher's introduction, Little Sally's solo song and the big choral finale.

Shooting your video

Suppose that, in order to keep from tiring, you film the first half of the show and your spouse films the second half.

MORE: Shoot Like a Pro: Getting Great Results from a Pocket Camera

After the requisite celebratory ice cream, hook your cameras up to a computer (or insert your memory cards) and copy the video files from your devices. (They'll probably be in a folder labeled "Video" or something equally straightforward.) For a basic project like this one, don't worry about fancy software. You can use what already comes with your computer: Windows Live Movie Maker on PCs, or iMovie on Macs.

Drag and drop the video clips into your program, which will import them as a file format the program can use; this may take a few minutes. (In iMovie, you'll need to drag and drop your clip into the upper-left Project corner.)

Adding titles to your video

The first thing you'll want to do — especially if you're sharing the video with grandparents, aunts and uncles — is add a brief opening title:

In Movie Maker: Click the Home tab and select Title at the top of the screen.

In iMovie: Click on the Title Browser on the middle-right edge.

Simply type in the title of the production (e.g., "Little Sally's Play"), set the duration (no longer than needed to comfortably read the title), and drag and drop the title in front of the first video clip.