For professionals, investing in video editing software might be necessary. But for casual users—or those weighing their options—trying out free versions is the way to go. The best free video editing tools have full features and excellent quality, without exceeding your production budget.
While Lightworks is our top choice, other free software for video editing appeals to a range of audiences. Whatever your skill level or professional (or academic) capacity, the free video editing app you need is here.
Most of the software programs in our roundup can’t boast Hollywood credentials like Lightworks can. EditShare’s non-linear editing system has been used to help produce everything from LA Confidential and Pulp Fiction, to Hugo and The Wolf of Wall Street, offering a solid set of both free and premium tools that we simply can’t ignore.
Notable features include professional-level color correction, GPU-accelerated real-time effects, video capture, and nearly all-encompassing format support. Lightworks also offers traditional tools for importing, trimming, and seamlessly weaving audio and video together with a few effortless mouse clicks. However, the free version is only capable of exporting MPEG-4 files with a resolution of up to 720p.
Other great inclusions are the program’s instant auto-save functionality, which works flawlessly in the background, and the ability to select Avid and Final Cut Pro keyboard layouts if you refuse to adopt Lightworks’ default design. Despite its brawny capabilities, it’s quick and on-point, and the full-screen interface is polished and well organized as well. Also, given the open-source nature of the software and steep learning curve associated with the freemium product, the program’s forums are more bustling than most.
Lightworks is by far the most fully-featured video editor on our list; however, it’s also the one that requires the user to be the most tech-savvy to truly tap into its powerful framework and flagship feature set.
Apple’s iMovie has long been one of the most consumer-oriented video editors out there. It’s bundled with all new Macs and touts some serious practicality for the everyday user. The latest version of the software allows you to import and edit 4K video clips from a variety of external devices, such as smartphones and GoPro cameras, and sports a clean interface that is attractive and easy to navigate. The ability to start editing on iPhone or iPad and finish on a Mac renders it even more convenient.
Aside from video, images, and audio can also be incorporated into your project by simply dragging your desired multimedia into the project area and arranging them in timeline-like fashion. The resulting video can always be previewed in real-time, as well as any effects — themes, text, music, voice-overs — before exporting the file directly to YouTube, Facebook, or a wealth of other platforms.
Other recent features include a basic audio editor, the option to make previews for apps you’ve developed, and even the ability to make your own movie trailers complete with transitions and end credits. It’s not a tour de force in terms of video editing, but it’s perfectly suitable for home videos and minor projects. Consider combining it with free audio recording software!
Blender is more commonly used as a tool for animation, rendering, and 3D sculpting — and even as a benchmark for new PC hardware — but it’s a great, free editing tool too. Alongside its more advanced 3D features, Blender lets you perform cuts and splices in your video, along a detailed and intuitive timeline. You can also perform tasks like video masking and color grading to make your output video look just how you want it.
Other features include audio mixing, a live preview, speed controls, and a number of fancy transitions and filters you can use to enhance the look and feel of your video.
Shotcut is a great video editor for at-home hobbyists who want as much compatibility as possible and a simple, highly customizable interface. It supports most (literally hundreds) of formats via the FFmpeg project, and makes it easy to capture and use video right from your computer with support for up to 4K resolution.
We also like the modular style of the interface, which is simple except for the ability to “dock” as many panels as you want to customize a particular editing job with just the right tools. This makes Shotcut ideal for the experienced editor working on their own projects.
HitFilm Express makes much of its trendy approach to video editing, promising tools to create the latest in Star Wars or Westworld effects. However, the software beneath the flashy visuals is effective at a range of 2D/3D compositing projects and includes 180 pre-made visual effects (with the option to purchase additional packages).
There are also tutorials and training videos showing you how to use them. It’s a good setup for new editors who are mostly interested in making their videos look cooler, and who may want to search for particular effects with the HitFilm community.
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