Video editing - what you need

Teenage girl (15-17) using video camera, smiling, close-up

With just about every device apart from your fridge able to record high definition video these days, it's worth spending a bit of time working out how to do something with all that footage. Whether you want to make family videos, edit clips for your mates or begin your career as the next Steven Spielberg, we've got some suggestions on how to get started...

The computer
You can do some basic video editing on your tablet or even your smartphone, but you'll be much more comfortable with the process on a desktop or a decent-sized laptop computer. Whether you choose to do it on a PC or Mac doesn't particularly matter, but the experience will be so much more pleasant if you make sure you have a high-enough specification for the job. This means ensuring that you have a fast processor and plenty of RAM – along with enough hard drive space to store all of your work.

Mac Pro desktop computers are popular in the world of professional video editing, but may be overkill for many amateurs – especially since they start at around £3,000. If you're on a tighter budget, it's a good idea to look for a Mac or PC which utilises an Intel i5 or preferably an i7 processor. Opting for 16gb of RAM is a very good idea, to help the processor when it comes to juggling those pixels. When it comes to storage, 1TB should be plenty. Contrary to some advice, graphics cards are not so important – unless you also wish to play games on the machine.

The monitor
This is a bit of a complicated subject, but it's also quite straightforward in that – to be honest – it doesn't matter that much for most of us. Professional video editors like to go with the most accurate p-IPS models, which promise a wider colour palette than lesser-grade machines. IPS stands for "in-plane switching" and used to only feature on real high-end monitors.

The main benefit over TN (twisted nematic) monitors is that they offer much better visibility from a range of angles. However the technology has now trickled down and IPS monitors can be found for reasonable money if you shop around. These may be the cheaper e-IPS or H-IPS versions – but the differences will be difficult to detect for most of us.

Use online reviews and user feedback to inform your decision. The size and shape of monitor you choose will depend on your general needs and the space available – but do bear in mind that the new breed of "widescreen" monitors will not be as tall as more traditional 4:3 ration screens for their quoted width – so don't skimp on size.

The software
Both Mac and PC have free video-editing options in the form of iMovie and Windows Movie Maker (WMM) respectively. Both are intuitive in use, making it easy to cut, edit and sequence your video clips. They are also capable of creating a range of effects, including fades, captions and importing a soundtrack. WMM can be downloaded as part of Windows Essentials – a package of free software from Microsoft.

If you're looking for something more sophisticated but still don't want to put your hand in your pocket, check out Lightworks or VSDC Free. These may have a steeper learning curve but in turn offer a bit more to the demanding user. Paid-for video-editing packages offer more again, but it's important to first establish what you actually need and be realistic about your ability and willingness to learn a complicated software package.

There are many online reviews to help you make your choice, but popular packages include Adobe Premiere (Elements or Pro), Final Cut Pro (for Mac), CyberLink Power Director, Sony Movie Studio and Corel VideoStudio Pro.

Have you had a go at video editing? Was it easier than you thought? Leave a comment below...

Online Video Editing Site: Animoto