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Too Many Choices: Paralysis by Analysis

We?ll help you snap out of it! By Charlie White
Theres an intriguing notion floating around intellectual circles these days, asserting that there are too many choices in our society. Think of all the decisions you must make every day, and youll quickly see why some people are reaching a state of cognitive overload. Thats getting more evident here at Digital Media Net, where the most frequent question we get here at Digital Video Editing is, ?What kind of nonlinear editing system should I buy? Well, there are a lot of choices, and the best one for you wont be the best one for me. Lets look at the issue of the ?too many choices that we constantly face both in and out of the edit suite, and figure out some ways to avoid the dreaded ?paralysis by analysis.

Sure, its hard to make up your mind sometimes. Paper or plastic? Are you in the right job? Driving the right car, hanging out with the right people, eating at the right restaurants, walking the right dog? How about that computer? Mac or PC? SCSI or ATA-100? Optical mouse, or trackball, or stylus? Wired or wireless? Ouch. Too many choices. I needed to get some batteries the other day, and I faced a wall of batteries on display that included about 150 different types from which to choose. All these choices, and the necessity to navigate them all is driving us all crazy. I think part of the problem is that were all looking for perfection, and thats an enemy of choice. Oftentimes, what we really need to find is something thats going to be good enough, because perfection doesnt really exist in the world, and especially in the subset of nonlinear editing products.

But is good enough going to cut it? The worrisome part is that your choice of editing equipment is a crucial decision. Its so enormously important because it could make or break our careers. It could decide for us if were effective editors or bumbling buffoons, fumbling around and unable to execute a simple cut. Beyond that, our choices in computers, operating systems and editing systems define who we are. Many users internalize their particular tools so much that they practically become their machines. For example, some Mac users are so melded into their machines that if you criticize their Mac, youre personally attacking them. Your choices define who you are, and thats no less true with editing systems than it is with your choice of car, house or even pillow. You must, must make the right one. The pressures on. But Im here to tell you, even taking all that pressure-packed talk into account, good enough is going to be, well, good enough.

And Im here to help. Thats probably why you came to this Web site, to help you make a choice or two. Ill help you figure out just what is good enough. Stick with me, because first Im going to generally steer you toward making good edit-system choices, and then at the end of this editorial, Im going to regale you with a barrage of ready-made, neato-keen choices that will be sure to please, no matter what your situation. Thats a tall order, but then, Im a tall guy about six-and-a-quarter feet so Im not too worried.

But wait. Why should we get into psycho-lockup mode just because there is a variety of edit software and hardware available? ?I thought it was good to have lots of choices, you might be saying. Not necessarily. Studies have shown that the more choices that are presented to you, the less likely you are to make one, and the less likely you are to buy anything. Maybe that happened to you when you set out to buy a shiny new nonlinear editing system. Suddenly, you saw fifty choices sitting there, and you just flung up your hands and said, ?I give up! It was not always like this, I can assure you. It used to be a lot easier than this in the nonlinear editing world. Ten years ago, if you didnt have $100,000 lying around, you pretty much had one choice: The $2500 Radius VideoVision Studio, a capture card with breakout box that you put into your Mac, which was about the only choice of computer in those days, too. Its not so easy any more, though. There are hundreds of combinations from which to choose. Where to start?

I have some helpful suggestions that will get you on your way. First, there are lots of software-only packages available today that make the decision process easier. Thats because some of them you can actually try out, albeit in various degrees of crippledom, and see for yourself if you like them or not. Packages in this category would include stellar editors like Sony Vegas, Final Cut Pro, Adobe Premiere Pro, Pinnacle Liquid Edition, Avid Xpress DV, and Ulead Media Studio Pro. Even though most of these packages can be teamed up with hardware to make them go faster, if you have a pretty fast computer, each can give you a fairly good playback of your edits as long as theyre not too heavily-layered. Another way to ease the pain of choice is to rely on your friends and colleagues who have already gone down this road. Ask them if theyre happy with the editing system theyre using and why. Perhaps the best suggestion for choosing your system is to go with what you may already know. Did you start out on Premiere? Then go with that youll save time and effort in learning, and itll all seem comfortable and familiar to you.

Another suggestion: Narrow your choices to two or three systems that seem right to you. Ive noticed that many of our readers have already done that when they come to us for suggestions, and these readers are the ones who seem most relaxed about their impending decisions. Narrow down your choices by reading reviews on this site. Dont read any other sites reviews theyre all misguided, boring, uninformed, and just plain wrong (just kidding). Go to a trade show or users group in your area and get a hands-on demo from someone who knows what hes talking about. But most importantly, take stock in what you really need to do with an editing system, not what you think you might need to do. Pay heed to that last sentence, convoluted as it is, and it could save you thousands of dollars and hours.

Now for my flippant barrage of ready-made choices for those who are truly at the end of their ropes. These may not be perfect choices, but hey, theyre better than a coin-flip and will generally suit you unless youre really an unusual person with needs that are absolutely unconventional. No, thats not you, dear reader, Im talking about somebody else here. And by the way, these arent beginner, low-end choices, either. Thats not really what we cover here, but if youre just starting out, it wouldnt hurt to have a better editing package than the lowest of the low end anyway. That said, here goes:

  • Want real time 3D effects in hardware with lots of configurability, use Premiere Pro, and want to output to DV in real time?
    Matrox RT.X100 Xtreme Pro.

  • Want the best value for the money and already have a fast computer?
    Sony Vegas 4.

  • Want to be professionally portable?
    Anything Avid. Learn the interface.

  • Only a Mac will do?
    Final Cut Pro 4.

  • Have plenty of money, are smart and talented, and will only settle for the absolute best?
    Discreet Fire on SGI Onyx.

  • Want to edit HD in real time and in full resolution without spending too much?
    Wait for this years NAB.

  • Just want to do cuts and a few dissolves?
    Use iMovie or Windows MovieMaker, included with the operating system. They can already do lots more than the first Avids, circa 1990, that cost $100K.

  • Want to do compositing, and have plenty of time but not much money?
    After Effects on Mac or PC.

  • Want a good DV camcorder?
    Anything by Canon is good enough for casual use. Look into the JVC HDV camcorder if youre more serious. If youre going to do full-blown HD, get your boss to buy you a Sony HDCam SR.

    There. I made your choices for you. That was easy, wasnt it? Now you can take these choices and run with them. Heck, theyre better than flipping a coin! The best news is, theyll help you overcome your paralysis-by-analysis. Not good enough for you? Then use the suggestions I made earlier and think about it for a while. Youll soon discover an editing system thats just right for you, if youll just look at what you want to do, examine your finances, talk to some people who have been where you are now, and try out a few systems. You can do it! Good luck.

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