There’s no doubt about it: video is on the rise. Thanks to ever-speedier broadband connections, it’s flourishing online, where the quality of video it’s possible to stream gets better all the time. New waves of sophisticated cameras and camcorders have put HD filming into the hands of the masses and creatives of every budget. Meanwhile, at the upper end of the scale, technological innovations are driving resolutions and image quality off the scale.

All of this means that the potential for video has exploded at every price point – but so have people’s expectations. Better quality of video online means that people now expect better craftsmanship, too, with more creative editing, effects, and so on.

As video becomes more widespread, more and more clients also expect it as a routine part of design services, meaning that mastering video-editing software is now a key skill for creatives.

That’s not to say that everything’s peachy in videoland, however. In a stormy media climate, the post-production industry in particular has undergone rapid upheaval as the impact of online distribution makes itself felt.

In this environment, flexibility is key. Whether you’re working in broadcast, feature film, corporate video, or producing video as part of wider design services, content must be produced with a wide range of output formats in mind, from mobile devices and the Internet, all the way up to big-screen film projection.

The same production system might now be called on to edit footage shot in 4K, HDV, or even with a consumer-grade camcorder, and then output in a similarly broad range of resolutions and formats.

As a result of this need for wide-ranging format support and workflows, video-editing software can no longer be seen as a standalone tool. Instead, most professional applications are now delivered as the centrepiece of a bundle of software, intended to provide the full range of input, production, and output capabilities. The ability of the main editing app to handle multiple formats natively, preferably on the same timeline, is increasingly important. This has been a feature of most of the leading apps for a while now, and Avid has recently improved this aspect in the latest version of Media Composer.

Even restricting ourselves to the key professional formats, there’s already a long list of possibilities. Every application on test this month has offered native HDV support for some years. But solid-state recording formats, such as Panasonic’s P2 or Sony’s XDCAM, are gaining popularity, and the software we’ve looked at here offers varying levels of support.

AVCHD began as a consumer format, but Panasonic in particular now uses it in some professional camcorders, too, such as the AG-HMC151E. These formats can potentially speed up production by an order of magnitude compared to tape, as no logging or ingesting is required.