Science & Technology



Helpware: An auteur who doesn't go by the book

Harold Glicken, Tribune News Service on

Published in Science & Technology News

Why is it so difficult to edit a five-minute home movie? Why aren't movie-editing programs more intuitive? Why do they keep crashing? How thick do windows have to be to prevent neighbors from hearing full-throated cussing? Lots of questions; no good answers.

Movie-editing programs have basic moves in common. First, organize the film clips and photos for the project. Next, import those clips and photos into a holding bin, and then drag the items onto a timeline. Edit the timeline's scenes for length. Add a soundtrack or narration track. Burn it to a DVD and bore your friends and relatives for five minutes.

I tried three movie-editing programs for a recap of my grandson's third birthday: iMovie for Macs, Pinnacle Studio 21 Ultimate for Windows (on sale for $80), and Adobe Premiere Element for Macs and Windows ($100). All are the latest versions, and all had one thing in common: You'll need to read instructions to make even the most basic movies. This may be a deal-breaker for those who would rather read "Crime and Punishment" in Russian than open a manual -- if manuals are offered. All offer extensive online help, and you'll need it.

I had a terrible time with iMovie, which comes free with Macs. Unfortunately, I'd get only about halfway through importing photos and film clips before the program crashed. I'd start over, drag and drop titles, a soundtrack and transitions, and then it all would disappear. One plus: Apple offers support for iMovie, and it has classes at Apple stores. In the past I've had fairly good luck with iMovie, but not this time. Time to move on.

Pinnacle Studio is the most powerful of the three. It also needs the most hand-holding. While all three programs have similar interfaces -- since they all do the same tasks -- Pinnacle's was the most complex. The icons in the program are fairly intuitive, only if you're familiar with movie-editing software. You'll need at least 10 hours of its excellent online tutoring to start using the program. Even then, putting a movie together takes time and patience. I'd start a movie and realize that I had scenes out of order. Moving scenes and photos made a mess of things. So, you have to be very organized -- put clips in order before you move them onto the Pinnacle timelines. I was only able to edit about a minute of my five-minute project before I threw in the towel. Still, if I were a pro, I'd want to learn how to use Pinnacle. Manual-phobes, take note.

Then there is Adobe Premiere Elements, which offers users three levels of difficulty. I tried editing my movie in "quick" "guided" and "expert" modes. The "quick" mode is about as user-friendly as it gets, but I was able to accomplish what I set out to do in the "expert" mode. I made little use of the contextual help.


It was unrealistic to think I could assemble and edit a movie without heavy-duty help. All three programs have similar tools for the tasks -- I'll give iMovie the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps the program had gotten corrupted. In the past, it's served me well. I like -- and ultimately used -- Adobe Premiere Elements for my movie, which turned out to be a cross between Disney and Fellini. It was, after all, a birthday party for my newly turned 3-year-old grandson. In short, a film only a granddad can appreciate.

About The Writer

Harold Glicken is a retired newspaper editor. He can be reached at and a collection of his columns can be found at

(c)2018 Tribune Content Agency, LLC

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.



blog comments powered by Disqus