“I have recently purchased my first video camcorder, a Sony DCR-SR55E. Are you able to offer me some advice on what video editing software would be good for a complete beginner?”
Normally I’d recommend starting with Windows Movie Maker, which comes with every Windows XP and Windows Vista install. While Movie Maker isn’t a perfect solution for every video editing need, it’s simple to use and will quickly get you from video on your camera to an edited file you can output for playback elsewhere. I particularly like the fact that Movie Maker gets you started without spending any additional money. Because your camera is a hard disk camera, Movie Maker is simply not an viable option, so you’ll need to try something else.
The only free solution I might suggest trying is Avidemux. The software supports MPEG-2 files like the ones created by your sony camcorder and is easy enough for doing some basic cuts only editing. You’ll likely outgrow Avidemux fairly quickly, so if you plan to shoot video for awhile, you may want to look at a couple of options that cost some money.
My top choice in the simple to use video editing apps right now is Pinnacle Studio. For your camcorder, one of the versions that cost in the $70 range will get you started and likely keep you going for quite awhile. If you find the features limiting, you can upgrade right inside the application. It should handle your camcorder’s video like a champ and allow you to add special effects, create custom titles, and output DVDs or virtually any file type you might need.
My second choice would be Roxio Easy Media Creator, which includes the video editing and DVD authoring combo VideoWave and MyDVD. VideoWave offers an extremely simple to navigate set of features for editing your movies, although I don’t find it to be nearly as feature rich for the same money you’d spend on Pinnacle’s software. MyDVD offers a more robust set of DVD authoring tools than what’s found in the Pinnacle Studio suite, so you’re really making a decision about how much flexibility you want in video editing vs. DVD authoring when choosing between the two applications. Easy Media Creator also includes a photo editing app, music management tool, and several other useful apps.