“Before I upgraded to Windows 7, I used Windows Movie Maker as my camcorder software. Windows 7 doesn’t have Windows Movie Maker, so I’m left wondering what the best camcorder software for Windows 7 might be?”
I find it highly disappointing Microsoft basically abandoned Movie Maker. There is a version available as part of the Windows Live Essentials pack, but it stripped out most of the features from the Windows XP and Windows Vista versions. While the best anything is relative, I’m left with one of three strong choices for best camcorder video editing software.
Not long ago, knowing which software worked best with your camcorder was much harder to answer because it depended greatly on the camcorder model and video format. We’ve reached a point where Windows 7 camcorder software supports most models and video formats equally, which makes it easier to narrow down to a few choices.
Pinnacle Studio HD
Pinnacle Studio HD will probably seem the most familiar if you were previously used to Movie Maker. For just making simple cuts to eliminate the parts of the video you don’t want, Studio HD is definitely the easiest of the three choices I’m providing here. Splitting tracks to edit is extremely intuitive. Multiple tracks is supported for including video, text overlays, titles, music, voice recordings and just about anything else you might want to include. Pinnacle Studio HD has the most intuitive title editor of any consumer camcorder software. Many special features require upgrading to Studio Ultimate, but that’s consistent with many editing packages. Pinnacle makes it easy to upgrade if you start with the basic features and realize you need some additional features later. One bonus feature I like about Studio HD is support for live video capture. You can connect a camcorder to your computer and capture directly to your hard drive as you record. Of the three choices I provide here, I like the look of the h.264 video output by Pinnacle Studio HD better than either of the other options.
Vegas Movie Studio HD
Vegas Movie Studio HD is not particularly intuitive, but it is probably more powerful than either of the other two software packages I’m listing here. In terms of adding multiple video tracks, Vegas Movie Studio HD goes much further than Pinnacle Studio HD. Editing audio independent of your video project, or splitting tracks to edit a small subset of your project to apply special features is far more versatile in Vegas Movie Studio HD. Like Pinnacle Studio HD, you may need to upgrade to Platinum for additional features. The bundled DVD authoring software is the best solution I have used for creating fully customized menus. All the customization comes at the price of a steep learning curve, but once you get the hang of it, Vegas Movie Studio HD will make you look like a pro at an affordable price.
Adobe Premiere Elements
Premiere Elements is a blend of features found in Pinnacle Studio HD and Vegas Movie Studio HD. The editing interface is more intuitive than Vegas Movie Studio HD, but not as straight forward as Pinnacle Studio HD. The available special effects are more plentiful, with fewer upgrade costs along the way. If you use both Mac and Windows hardware, Premiere Elements works on both platforms, so you could get the benefit of having a consistent video editing experience no matter which computer you are using. Audio editing is a strong component of Premiere Elements. If you want to use motion effects that follow an object, Premiere Elements is likely your best choice of the three because it is by far the strongest of the three.
For many of the videos I edit, Pinnacle Studio HD is my first choice, because I can go from imported camcorder footage to final video quickly, by simply making a few cuts, adding titles and exporting. For more complex projects, I rely on versions of Sony Vegas. Adobe Premiere Elements inclusion of special effects make it an appealing choice for creative projects. In other words, there are compelling reasons to own all three. If what you want is no nonsense camcorder software for basic edits, some minor special effects, and the ability to mix a few sources together, Pinnacle Studio HD is the best camcorder software for Windows 7.