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I have been building up a library of recorded video for years because every time I try to settle on video editing software (NLE), I can't find one with the features and quality that I like. It's mostly home video and gameplay recording from a few sources. Is this a common problem? Do you have any suggestions?
  1. Like many of you, the final quality of the rendered video at a reasonable file size is most important to me.
  2. I want something fast and smooth while editing and rendering. I have a powerful computer and I won't want all this hardware wasted. The application should make use of multi-threading and GPU acceleration where possible.
  3. I need to be able to edit things quickly with as few steps as possible.
  4. The software should be compatible with many file formats (containers). I would prefer to export in mkv but I haven't seen any mainstream software that supports that. I can make due with mp4.
  5. Must work on Windows or Linux (no Mac)

I have auditioned several applications including Final Cut Pro, Adobe Premiere, Sony Movie Studio (aka. Vegas), PowerDirector, Kdenlive, Openshot, and more. Premiere and Vegas have workable interfaces. I like that Vegas has GPU acceleration in even their consumer version. Unfortunately, only Premiere Pro makes good use of available hardware, and even then only with a hack. Kdenlive and Openshot are too buggy and Kdenlive has been discontinued. PowerDirector only has the most basic of render settings and seems geared to novices. Any other packages I should consider?

Process of elimination seems to leave Sony Vegas. However, the render quality of both the Sony AVC and MainConcept AVC are far worse than using a dedicated encoder such as x264 (ie. through Handbrake) - even at a much higher bitrate. The result is much larger files with artifacts and blocking everywhere (though it encodes faster by using the GPU). Vegas does have the capability of using the external x264 encoder, but it is restricted to an AVI container and the quality is still less than Handbrake. Not all of the x264 settings are exposed to the user in Vegas. Also, Vegas will not encode audio to a modern format like AAC in the AVI container.

I prefer to encode by "constant rate factor" (aka. constant quality). This is an x264 convention where the quality of the video is kept constant while the bitrate fluctuates. None of the above-mentioned applications offer this option. Instead, the best they can do is 2-pass average bitrate (ABR). This is both slower and lower quality. It does have its uses (ie. streaming), but that is not always my intended use.

One solution is to edit video in one application like Vegas. Then render uncompressed or lossless. Render the final video using Handbrake. This nearly triples render time and adds more unnecessary steps to my workflow. In addition, it uses much more intermediate storage space.

All I'm looking to do is perform cuts and transitions, correct color balance/contrast, and render to a small file with high quality quickly. What software and workflow do you video experts use? Am I the only one with this problem? or the only one where the quality and filesize difference between the build-in encoders and x264 (or Handbrake) is unacceptable? I have been searching for a solution for a long time. Your help is greatly appreciated!