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If the thought of using a digital video-editing program has you feeling more Chicken Little than Martin Scorsese, don’t worry. Here’s one program to ease any auteur’s fears.

Having never worked with a digital video-editing program before, I was expecting to feel like I’d been tossed into the deep end when I opened Ulead’s VideoStudio 7. But to my pleasant surprise, the program held my hand every step of the way.

From installation to output, VideoStudio is designed with the knowledge that some of us are still graduating from the analog days when it comes to working with video. The process is step-based (file, capture, edit, effect, overlay, title, audio, share), which is nice at first, but later starts to seem like too much handholding.

The product is a fairly basic single-track video editor, meaning that all it really requires of you is that you tell it what order you want your clips in, and what kind of transitions (113 of them) and effects (35 in all) you want. You can add titles, narration, music, and other extras as you go along. And finding a specific spot in your production is as simple is typing in a timecode location. Another nice improvement in version 7 is the ability to easily break one video-capture file into several discrete scenes if you want to.

All that flexibility comes with a price: Ulead recommends at least a 1.4-GHz Pentium 4 and 512MB of RAM to run VideoStudio 7. Even with those prerequisites in place, it seemed like the instant preview function hiccupped a bit too often. So if your system isn’t robust enough to run such a basic program, maybe you should put off getting into digital video until it is.

But once your latter-day “Citizen Kane” is complete, your output options are plentiful. The program can write DVDs, VCDs, and SVCDs with simple main and chapter menus. (Hint for beginners like me: MPEG files, being much smaller than WMV files, load and save much more quickly.) Before saving to any format, you can dictate the resolution quality and other variables.

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