Video Editing Special Effects and Filters

If there is any area of video editing where you can go hog wild and create all sorts of crazy visuals it is here in the special effects area of the video editing software you choose.

Having said that it is also important to understand that in most cases the “less is more” approach is oft times far more advisable!

Remember, someone else is supposed to be the audience for your masterpiece and the creation of an effect is the artist’s desired outcome. Going overboard with video filters and effects may result in an effect you didn’t intend.

Although each type of video editing software will offer a number of unusual and even extreme video effects that you can apply to your video projects you should check to see that at least the ones I have listed here are present.

Anti-shake Filter

One of the main problems the home video editor will encounter is the fact that a majority of the shots available for editing come from a hand held video camcorder situation.

This invariably means shots that shake.

The real answer to this is to use a tripod or at least a mono-pod to keep the cam steady but this is not always possible.

You can also try propping yourself against the nearest wall, tree, fence post or rock formation to prevent this from happening.

As a last resort the video editing software you choose should have some kind of anti-shake filter available for emergency situations.

Over the past few years most of the major video editing software makers have managed to make some pretty good inroads into this area but it is far from an exact science yet!

The results you will achieve will vary wildly depending on the amount of shake in the original and the format of the original video files.

There will invariably be a degradation of the video file quality by using an anti-shake filter but at least if it is present you get to decide whether you can save the shot or not. (See final notes below.)

Auto Exposure Filter

Most home use camcorders are going to be running on automatic exposure, focus and white balance settings.

Obviously if you can set these manually with speed and accuracy you will be far better off but the reality is that home video recording is often done “on the fly.”

All sorts of environmental variables can throw the auto settings off a little or a lot!

One of the surprising aspects of many consumer level video editing software programs is the effectiveness of the auto correction filters.

If you do have some footage that looks a bit wrong it is a godsend if the auto correct filter gets it straightened up instantly.

Look for this feature as it is a real time saver and in many (not all!) cases will prove to be of value.

It can be of additional use when your video files from whatever source have “issues.”

Auto Levels

Again another auto correction filter for when your auto settings on the cam have not gone according to plan or your original files are in need of a little help.

Handy if the auto exposure filter doesn’t get you to where you want to be.

This next group of video filters are essentially the functions of the auto levels and auto exposure only this time you can manually manipulate the files.

The key here is to use them sparingly and test the results. Make only small adjustments and if you find you are beginning to lose perspective on where you started and where you want to be….i.e. everything looks bad…take a break and come back to it.

Pretty self explanatory.

Color Balance.
Allows you to control the degree of red/green/blue in the video to achieve a… balance!

Hue and Saturation.
Another filter that allows control over basically brightness and color.

Using this and the other two of the group can be time consuming, frustrating and often pointless… but when you get it right it can be well worth the effort.

This allows you to resize the video frame being displayed and most often is used when you are trying to achieve a “picture-in-picture” effect by placing a second video in one of the overlay tracks. You can also use it to cut out anything that got into the periphery of the shot that you weren’t intending.

Sometimes comes in handy for cleaning up noise especially from low-light situations. Results may vary.

Pan and Zoom.
Can be used to add motion to a motionless shot as well as on still images in the projects.

Sometimes called the Ken Burns effect it is a way of using still shots in a video and keeping motion continuing to maintain interest.

Ken Burns used the techniques in his documentary on the U.S Civil War to incredible effect.

So there you have it.

Those are the main features in video effects you would be looking for that you would actually use.

All other stuff is extra and if the video editing software you choose has some then that’s good but make sure you get the basics.

A Final Note on Using Filters and Special Effects

In this entry on video file types I go into detail about the various file types currently applicable in the world of video editing software.

The amount of compression applied and the file format plays an important role in your selection of video editing software.

Additionally from a video filter point of view, these break down into three groups not necessarily by type or definition (standard or high) but by compression.

This will determine the degree of success you can expect from any video filters applied regardless of the video software you use.

This was a format specifically designed for standard definition tape based camcorders and its compression method is very close to lossless, meaning although there is some compression it is not achieved by discarding data.

DV.avi lends itself very well to the application of video filters with generally very consistent results.

In both standard definition and high definition (HDV) MPEG2 is a “lossy” compression method and although not designed for editing has been around the longest of the “lossy” compression types so is the easiest to edit after DV.avi.

Because the compression is achieved by throwing some data away results achieved by using video filters will be mixed and degradation will occur to some degree.

It’s a little like flying blind because you never know what the final product will look like until you have rendered it to a new file.

Always be very conservative in your application of filters in this format.

MPEG4, .MOV, .H264(3), .FLV, DivX, Xvid, AVCHD…and on and on…
This latest breed of very, very highly compressed video files throw an enormous amount of the original data away in order to achieve very small file sizes whilst retaining remarkable quality.

The manner in which they do this was designed purely for playback purposes and no consideration was given to editing these highly compressed files.

The result is they are not only problematic to edit but the application of video filters is an entirely hit or miss affair.

Be VERY conservative in the application of video filters.

For more on why they are difficult you can read this entry on MPEG2, AVCHD, MPEG4 problems explained, but it also applies to any highly compressed video file.

Video filters in video editing software can be useful tools or needless distractions, stay focused on the basics.