Top 12 Best Paid & Free Video Editing Software
The world of paid and free video editing software can be confusing and intimidating, especially when on a time constraint. Brand loyalty, previous experiences and level of complexity required are all factors that can influence your decision. Committing to a purchase of software shouldn’t be done lightly, so it’s reassuring to know there’s plenty of paid and free video editing software options out there.
If you’re new to post-production, we’ve put together a rundown of some programs commonly used by video editors worldwide, and compare how they suit varying levels of experience and cost. Depending on your current skills and ambitions, some of the video editing programs below will be suitable for complete beginners, while others offer a gateway to industry standard practices.
Your choice of computer hardware is another immediate consideration. When you are starting out, it is likely you will use whichever device you already own. However, if you want to continue to professional editing, it is worth keeping in mind that your initial choice between PC and Mac could affect the path of your editing journey for years to come.
★Our Favourite Free Video Editing Software ★
Windows Movie Maker (PC)
WMM is one of the easiest to use free video editing software available for the PC. The software will allow you to cut together clips with rudimentary transitions, add music, and add simple titles. If you’ve ever watched a music lyric video on YouTube, you’ll be familiar with WMM’s default title style.
WMM is excellent for beginners looking to learn general editing skills, such slideshows or vlogs. The program is limited, and it won’t take long for you to want to do things beyond the limitations of the software.
Outputting from WMM can also cause issues when working between PC and Mac, so it is crucial you understand video codec formats so you can ensure the finished video is viewable on all devices. For the classic .wmv file, the days are not yet numbered, so watch out if you want to share your videos with Apple-orientated users.
The argument between PC and Mac has always been competitively fierce. Professional video editors will spend hours researching their systems before purchasing, and once you learn a methodology, it is unlikely you will change.
Having been around now for many years and undergone numerous facelifts, one version of iMovie can differ significantly from another, just a couple of years apart. Anyone who has used iMovie will argue that it peaked with a particular release and probably regret updating to a later incarnation. One thing that is for sure, however, is that iMovie is still a go-to solution for many first-time editors.
Everything from short narrative films, to home movies via commercials are creatable with the tools and features available. Always intuitive, sometimes frustrating, iMovie can be considered a rite of passage – a program every editor goes through and likely why they bought a Macintosh in the first place.
The danger, however, is with Apple’s constant tinkering. An innocent update might change the interface, move features or get rid of them all together. In their grand scheme, iMovie became a testing ground for Apple to trial advancements for their flagship professional editing software, Final Cut Pro X.
There is also a free version of iMovie for iPhone and iPad. If you shoot a lot of video on your iOS device, iMovie is a fast and simple way to add some neat touches wherever you are. You can even use built-in themes for trailers to get audiences excited about your next film creation.
iMovie allows you access to the photos and videos in your device’s gallery, but also direct to the camera and microphone themselves. The ability to record directly into your timeline is an attractive option for quickly sharing videos from live events and special occasions.
While iMovie for iOS is capable of some pretty complex video editing, remember that the more assets you add to a project, the more the chance of a mobile app struggling to keep pace with your creativity. It will also be a significant drain on your battery, so always be prepared if you want to start a project away from a power supply.
Lightworks (PC & Mac)
Used to edit award-winning films such as The Wolf Of Wall Street and The King’s Speech, industry standard software doesn’t often come cheap, let alone for free – this is precisely what is on offer with Lightworks free video editing software.
The free version offers a host of advanced features, including real-time video effects and comprehensive format import support. The interface might be intimidating to start, with its offering of technical tools and multiple track options, but its principle is the same as more basic programs and is customisable to your preferred window arrangement.
The depth of what’s on offer in the free version makes Lightworks ideal if you’re looking to go beyond simple home editing, up to a more professional level. Indeed, it’s not alone in offering an insight into what goes on during post-production in Hollywood.
DaVinci Resolve (PC & Mac)
Blackmagic Design’s DaVinci Resolve is used by many professional video editors, primarily for its powerful colour grading applications, but the software also offers essential editing functions.
Resolve is a more complex piece of free video editing software than programs like Windows movie maker or iMovie but is a great place to start before looking at paying for pro software such as Final Cut Pro or Premiere.
Resolve is capable of most professional editing requirements; however, if you want multi-cam editing, 3D capabilities and motion blur effects, you will need to upgrade to Davinci Resolve Studio at $299. While DaVinci Resolve allows you to edit with professional tools, before purchasing the expensive upgrade, we strongly suggest you research other pro video editing software.
Blender (PC & Mac)
Blender is a fascinating piece of open source animation software for both the PC and Mac. It is a powerful and rich piece of free video editing software but not for your everyday tasks.
The software supports the entire 3D animation workflow – modelling, rigging, animation, simulation, rendering, compositing and motion tracking – and can be used to create 3D animations or games.
It is unlikely you will stumble across the program and just pick it up, however, if your ultimate aim is to animate in 3D, this software is a great place to start. There is also an online community of Blender users who offer assistance and tutorials to get you started.
FilmoraGo (iOS and Android)
Wondershare is a Chinese software developer that produce a range of desktop and mobile applications. It’s more likely, however, that the name is familiar from their popular Video Converter product, which has saved many an editor from format change nightmares. Their paid-for desktop Filmora program is an attempt to simplify the process of editing, but it does have a pretty good mobile app option.
The free mobile version, FilmoraGo, provides numerous templates and thematic designs to add creative touches to videos while out and about quickly. Regular updates keep the style of titles and graphics up-to-date with current design trends and visual effects. Also, filmora.io is a community platform that allows members to connect and share their creations with each other, with potential for networking and collaboration.
★Our Favourite Paid Video Editing Software★
Adobe Premiere Pro (Mac & PC)
Price: $19.99 per month
Perhaps the most significant winner in the FCP X fallout was Adobe. For years, Premiere was a rival that was possibly limited to those who relied on other Creative Suite products. In recent years, however, the opportunity has been ceased upon to expand its user-base to serious, professional editors.
Premiere Pro has garnered a reputation for staying ahead of the curve in responding to emerging trends and technology in filmmaking, to which the industry responses positively. With a workflow similar to how Final Cut used to be, many prefer the traditional non-linear approach still on offer in Premiere. The most prominent draw, however, is the integration with After Effects.
As the industry-standard in visual effects, motion graphics and even 2D animation, the direct compatibility between After Effects places Premiere as the default in many post-production processes. Any familiarity with Photoshop or Illustrator will benefit usage of Premiere, but like its siblings, the language and interface can be somewhat esoteric at first.
As always, however, Adobe’s biggest downside is pricing. Subscriptions to Creative Cloud vary with the number of programs you want to use on your desired number of machines. Investing in the suite should, of course, be balanced against the potential for financial gain from your creations. Many recruiters now require experience in Premiere in the film and video industry, including broadcast media. If you’re looking to expand your employable skill set, there’s little wrong in becoming more familiar with Premiere Pro.
Wondershare Filmora (Mac & PC)
Price: $40 Annual Licence
Primarily, Filmora is aimed at personal users, creating video content for private use and social media content. With an emphasis on filters, visual effects and on-trend title design, it’s positioned itself as a fun, easy to use video editing software.
The pricing works on a subscription model, starting at $40 for a 1-year licence for one computer, whereas a full lifetime purchase is $60. If you want to access on more than one machine or want to use the built-in library of music, audio effects and visual content for commercial purposes, you’ll require a lifetime business license, starting at $120. Volume options are also available for educational licenses.
If you’re new to video editing software, you’ll appreciate the clean, bright interface of Filmora, that is in stark contrast to the muted tones at the professional end of the scale. With immediate access to the most useful tools and logical placing of more advanced features, you can scale the complexity of your projects as your confidence grows. If you are used to more sophisticated programs, however, you’ll find specific aspects frustrating, but workarounds are possible with a little patience.
Telestream ScreenFlow (Mac)
Price: $129 Annual Licence
The killer feature of ScreenFlow is undoubtedly the screen recording functionality. Whether you need to capture video and audio from your Mac or a connected iOS device, the simplicity of the process is an absolute joy. On that basis alone, ScreenFlow is a worthy addition to any editors arsenal, but it is also a pretty decent cutting room as well.
The features may appear limited, but for particular projects, the simplicity of ScreenFlow will mean very little – if any – round-tripping is needed to complete edits. Adding voiceover, music, transitions, images, titles and such is intuitive and forgiving, as is the general workflow. The ability to ‘nest’ elements together in grouped clips allows for both ease of use if the timeline gets crowded and exploration of advanced solutions to enhance your videos.
ScreenFlow is also worth considering if you’re new to video editing software, and suits educators, vloggers and online marketers. Ultimately, if you need to create videos to demonstrate online platforms, computer software or mobile content, ScreenFlow is essential.
Final Cut Pro X (Mac)
Price: $299 Annual Licence
Never before had the post-production community polarised itself, then the launch of Final Cut Pro X in 2011. For competitors, it was a land grab for disaffected editors, but for those who have stuck with FCP X, the rewards have been plentiful.
If you lean towards editing for broadcast media, the chances are you’ll understand why so many left the once universally adored program for other suitors. For those of us creating film and video for online audiences, the sheer speed at which you can work is what makes FCP X compelling. Once you buy into the reasoned workflow and magnetic timeline, working efficiently and fast becomes second nature.
The surrounding ecosystem of users creating content and plugins is another welcome feature. There’s a world of free and paid-for resources to expand your content libraries and capabilities, allowing you to try different things for different projects.
All professional-grade video editing software has advanced features which are potential decisions drivers. In particular, the ease of multicam work makes FCP X a must for projects combining footage from multiple sources. Syncing them via timecode, recording points or even audio is a process worth learning that soon becomes indispensable.
The price is also an attractive proposition, considering how much power and potential you get for the money. Professional filmmakers working on creative, commercial and corporate projects can likely justify the outlay, even just as an offline editor.
Avid Media Composer (Mac & PC)
Price: $49.99 per month
Previously confined the realms of broadcast news and television, Avid have recently started to use their experience and solid foundations to push their flagship video editing software to the mass market. You may even be surprised at the number of films and TV shows created with Media Composer, testimony to how their reputation is evolving.
At first glance, it’s possible to mistake the interface for the original Final Cut Pro, but therein lies its attraction to many editors. Familiarity and ease of access to essential functions are paramount in an industry of deadlines, and once entrusted, Avid rarely lets users down. The vast array of asset management solutions are too advanced for most people’s needs but are nevertheless impressive to behold in scale and power. Integration with Pro Tools is another reason many choose Media Composure. As an industry standard in sound design, working seamlessly with your audio landscape and visuals becomes invaluable.
Getting the most out of Media Composer will require more hardware spend than any other of the programs in this article. For editors looking to learn a real industry stalwart, though, Avid is an investment to consider, if you believe it can re-pay itself.
So which Video Editing Software is the best?
Well that depends on your requirements! However whether you are a Mac or a PC user, there are plenty of options for you to explore. One main advantage of the free video editing software is that you can try as many as you need until you find the one that works for you. There is a vast online community for video editing, and plenty of support to be found at all stages of your journey.