Earlier this week we gave you our choices of the best hardware for 2018. Here now are our software choices. We’d love to hear your opinion(s), so please feel free to comment at the bottom!
Best Editing Software (Professional)
This was an extremely tough category to choose a winner, in fact probably the toughest. There were many candidates as you can imagine, and each had its strengths and weaknesses.
The runner up was Blackmagic Design’s Resolve 15 which has just about every feature you would ever want, has been around a long time and is therefore very robust (you rarely hear of issues from users with Resolve unlike other programs) and has the major advantage of being free for the general version as well as being available across platforms. Additionally, and to us this is very important, there is an honest-to-goodness book you can buy to teach you all about DaVinci Resolve 15.
So why didn’t Resolve win?
In truth, it was ease of use and flexibility that brought Vegas Pro 16 over the line. If it had been version 15 of Vegas, then Resolve may have scraped in, but the additions placed in the latest version of Vegas including Motion Tracking, support for HDR, High DPI scaling, LUT support, Dynamic Storyboarding with Timeline Interaction, the new Stabilization and 360˚ video plugins, a revamped and customisable backup system, brand new subtitling, and extensive new editing tools have allowed Vegas Pro 16 to leap frog other products.
Add to this the compositing capabilities meaning no third-party apps need to be brought into play, Bezier masking, audio mastering and the inclusion of BorisFX Continuum Lights, ProDAD Vitascene and DVD Architect make Vegas Pro 16 the all-round package for the serious editor.
On the support side there is a healthy number of Facebook groups run by knowledgeable people, and for those really in the know, the Creative Cow forum for Vegas has been around since day one of the product and there is no better place to go for help, tutorials and the like.
Vegas Pro 16 comes in a variety of flavours; the basic “Edit” version is A$299
Best Editing Software Consumer
Where else can you get, for a miserable $79, a video editing package that supports motion paths and tracking, seriously good green screen and chroma keying, stop motion animation, track transparency, multi camera editing, great audio tools and 360° video support all in an easy to learn package?
Oh, and it does a pretty damn good job of basic cutting and dicing of video too!
Well Corel has managed to do just that with Corel VideoStudio 2018.
You can also directly load to YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook and Flickr, burn to CD or DVD and record your screen for tutorial creation.
It comes with hundreds and hundreds of freebies including royalty free music, templates, transitions and so on, is compatible with Corel’s PaintShop Pro (a worthy competitor for Photoshop just quietly), and well… it just works.
Highly commended: Adobe Premiere Elements
Best Motion Graphics
Ha. No brainer you say. And you’ll be wrong. No, we did not pick Adobe After Effects, as good as it is, we agree, and easily the most supported package out there, with a million plug ins available.
No, we decided that Blackmagic Design’s Fusion was the way to go for a number of reasons. One, it is free. And that alone considering the power it offers should be good enough. But two, we also liked the “new” approach employed in Fusion of node-based programming as it gives a better overall picture of just what is going on as against wading through multitudes of layers.
It also now supports VR.
Sure, there is not the “apparent” user level After Effects has, but a troll around the webs suggests that this is growing rapidly, and Fusion has some serious notches on its bedhead with projects it has been used on, and people are starting to take note. And there is a heap of YouTube and similar based tutorials out there (although we would like to see a book such as that Blackmagic has for DaVinci Resolve).
If nothing else, you should give it a look; as I say, it is free and so you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Highly Commended: BORIS Red.
Best 360 / VR program / plugin
This was easy as the field is still a little sparse. Regular readers will know we have been playing with Vegas VR Studio for a while now, and despite the slightly quirky interface, love it.
It has huge potential in the real world for real people to use, as against many of the other VR applications out there that need a degree in computer science to understand.
It works happily with all of the consumer based 360° degree camera available in Australia (Samsung, GoPro, Ricoh and 360Fly plus the upcoming Vuze), is not expensive, supports any web browser and can be used (and controlled) with a proper connection and a VR headset and is easy to use and setup.
Highly Commended: Mettle
This was among the hardest category to choose for as there are multitudes out there and really, the value of a plugin is what you actually want to use it for. For example, Mettle (mentioned above) is excellent as a VR plugin, but no use at all if you after something that say, cleans up messy footage (where Boris Continuum Complete comes into play).
But for overall across-the-board usefulness, it came down to a battle between the Sapphire and Universe compilations. In fact, so good are they both, it was almost impossible to pick, and we chose Sapphire due to a recent updated to a 2019 version giving it the edge.
In truth, they are both worthy apps, and worth a look.
Highly Commended: Red Giant Universe
Best Image Editing
Due to the sheer volume of plugins and add-ons, an enormous user base, more tutorials, help forums and support than you can poke a mouse at and integration with other apps in the Adobe Creative Cloud family, it is hard to go past Photoshop.
There are other image editing apps out there for sure – Corel PaintShop Pro and Xara spring to mind – and these all do what Photoshop can – well mostly – but Photoshop has become like Hoover or Xerox, the default “name” for any sort of image editing.
This is not to denigrate the program at all. Just because something becomes the default it doesn’t mean it is the best. Except in the case of Adobe Photoshop, it is.
Highly Commended: Corel PaintShop Pro
Best audio editor
The granddaddy of all audio editing packages would be a battle between Sound Forge and ProTools. I could stand corrected, but in my travels, ProTools seems to be used more at the studio level and Sound Forge at a more consumer one as well as studio. Either way they are both very powerful tools in the correcting, manipulation and “sweetening” of audio, and it is hard to pick between them.
Throw Audition from Adobe, the freebie Audacity and the newest one, Spectral Layers into the mix, and it becomes a very hard choice indeed.
We choose Sound Forge over ProTools – but only just and mainly because of the excellent value for money (at $299) and you also get the fun ACID app thrown in for good measure.
By the way, if you are wondering why on earth we would worry too much about sound, remember, if you didn’t know already, it IS as important, if not more so, than the visuals. Turn the sound off on your favourite movie then try and disagree!
Highly Commended: AVID ProTools
Most of the really good video editors of the NLE variety have some sort of titling app built in. Some are good, some are – well, meh – and others are downright horrible. So, we reckon everyone needs a really GOOD titling package.
The two standouts are NewBlue Titler Pro 6 and Bluff Titler.
They are both excellent programs, make no mistake, and if you are contemplating purchasing a titling package, a quick play with the trial version of both is a must in our opinion.
NewBlue Titler Pro 6 wins by a whisker due to its integration as a plugin with the majority of the NLEs out there.
The learning curve is a bit tough, but once you get “it” there is not much it can’t do. Another advantage is that NewBlue also has experience in industrial real time titling for live sports events etc, so a step up if you are in the “pro” ranks is not that hard to do.
Highly Commended: Bluff Titler
This was a two-horse race between the free Celtix and the well established Final Draft. And Final Draft gets it.
This was hard as this category is like Holden versus Ford, or Mac versus Windows. Both apps have major devotees who will probably never be swayed by the fact the other is actually a very good application for the job at hand.
So, I have to admit in this case, it is a personal preference to large degree. With Final Draft, I like the interface, ease of use and workflow it offers.
It is a little expensive if the wallet is tight and there the free Celtix summons like a siren, but the fact that so much script writing royalty use and endorse Final Draft strengthened my feeling that it is the better app.
Suffice to say that as in all our categories, some will agree, and some will not. The simple solution is to try before you buy, which you can in most cases, and see which suits your workflow best. We just happen to think it will be Final Draft in this case.
Highly Commended: Celtix
Best Music Generation
I’d like to be very biased here and say for my purposes, the best music I obtain from my partner, Jacqui. And by all means, if you need some bespoke music, get in touch with her!
But failing that, I like SonicFire Smartsound 6. If you don’t know a treble clef from an alto sax, then this is the one for you. By purchasing base tracks that are very cleverly embedded with moods and other fancy musical things, you can tailor it so suit just the style and length you want.
Have a play with the download and sample tracks and you’ll see what I mean. Smartsound is sheer genius in my opinion.
Highly Commended: MAGIX ACID
Best 3D Graphics
This is another of those tricky ones where the proponents of each app in the running are adamant theirs is the one. In this case these are Lightwave, Houdini, ZBrush, Maya and Cinema 4D among others.
We have been involved with Cinema 4D since its inception sometime last century and we like it. A lot. It has matured over time, stayed affordable for the serious graphics artist, modeller and up-market hobbyist alike and is intuitive to use.
Cinema 4D is available on Mac and Windows platforms, and as the name suggests, allows modelling in all 4 dimensions – x , y , z and time. It has some very good tutorials available (we like the ones from Greyscale Gorilla) and the results are outstanding.
Highly Commended: ZBrush
Best accessory software
If there is one piece of software we simply cannot do without it is Techsmith SNAGIT. We were first introduced way back in 1998, and I have upgraded to every version since.
Our major use is getting screen shots for the magazine, website and lately, creating tutorials as it also captures video (although its sister app Camtasia is the king – or queen – for this if you want as really serious package).
There are many screen grabbers around, but over the years, having tried just about all of them at some stage, they are a bit like WinZip wannabe’s – they do the job, sort of, but you always go back to the Real Thing.
Highly Commended: Camtasia