Top 5 Free Video Editing Apps: Pros & Cons – The Editors Connection

Top 5 Free Video Editing Apps: Pros & Cons

Video stars are the new astronauts.

Where kids used to dream of setting foot on alien worlds, now they dream of becoming vloggers. From unfortunate and hilarious viral accidents to lovingly handcrafted indie shorts to overproduced corporate infomercials, video has become the native language of the internet.

Today, you don’t need to take a giant leap for mankind to get people’s attention. All you need is to make a weird face on a rollercoaster or film your toddler kissing your kitten. In the absence of the rockets, your idea is the plucky adventurer that keeps everyone watching, and your video editing app is the team of nerds behind the scenes that make the trip possible.

Video Editing for Time Lords


With the right video editing app, creating content doesn’t have to be a pain in the aspect ratio.

Video editing can be as simple as giving your clip exactly the right start and end point, or it can be a complicated process of mixing multiple camera angles, layering on special effects, and making sure the soundtrack drops together with the action.

Premium video editing programs bring the big guns to the party. They have the resources to develop the best effects, squeeze the fastest rendering out of the highest-end graphics cards, keep the worst bugs at bay, and give you a polished interface chock full of how-tos and help files. But all that ammo can come at a top-shelf price you may not be willing to pay.

Free video editing software generally targets more easy-going users. Free editing programs can still do great things, but rather than turning you loose in an unlimited planet of magical powers, they tend to hold your hand as they walk you through the editing process, making sure you don’t bump into the walls.

If your goal is to be a pro, you know time is money. You don’t mind dishing out dollars to save hours, whether that’s:
Hours of footage rendering
Hours of shouting “WHY ME?” into the void if your app crashes mid-edit
Hours you could spend sipping cocktails and scheming up your next project because you hired us to edit your videos professionally.

If you do have some extra time on your hands, here are some of our favorite video editing programs that make it easy to spin your raw footage into gold.

For Pros

  1. Final Cut Pro
    Here at TEC, we use Apple’s Final Cut Pro to work on your videos. Final Cut is one of the most powerful video editing programs for professionals, but it’s not overly complicated, and the trackless timeline is easy to get the hang of.

If you need special effects, Final Cut has a whole gallery of its own creations as well as the ability to import your favorite third-party plugins. You can stitch together a 360-degree panorama from equirectangular images or automatically organize your raw material into neat categories with the Analyze and Fix panel.

All that value comes with a beefy price tag in a pay upfront model that might not be worth it to the casual video editor.

Free Alternatives

1. Lightworks


Lightworks is a free non-linear editor that supports up to 16 tracks before the app begins to get a bit unstable. Lightworks has some of our favorite high-end features like background video rendering while you work and effects previewing in real time.

On the downside, the interface takes a while to figure out, and you can only export videos as MPEGs. If you’re a casual creator who just wants to light up his face right or make her skateboard trick look cool in slow motion, all the customizable panels and bins can get a bit confusing.

Pros:


Up to 16 stable tracks
Background footage rendering
Real-time effects previews

Cons:


Steep-ish learning curve
MPEG format export only

2. OpenShot


Like the name implies, OpenShot is an open source video editor. It’s based on the popular FFmpeg library, which means it can import from and export to almost any imaginable video format.

OpenShot edits video like a stack of papers. Each track you add is like another paper on the stack: The tracks on top cover the ones below them. You can “cut holes” in the papers with custom masking features to easily layer your watermark over your foreground action over your personalized background.

If you want to add some animation, OpenShot comes with a great curve-based animation framework. You get an unlimited amount of keyframes with automatic in-between interpolation in a number of modes including linear, constant, and a cleverly smooth quadratic Bezier curve mode for easing the motion in and out.

What we didn’t like so much were all the splash screens and notification windows you get when you first open the program. If you don’t like pop-ups, clicking on all the extra X’s at the beginning can get to be quite a chore.

Pros:


Free and simple
Easy to trim, cut, split, crop, and merge clips
Awesome keyframe animation features

Cons:


Crashes more than we’d like when used on a laptop
Too many pop-ups

3. Shotcut


Shotcut got its street cred from its nerdgasm beginnings as a Linux-only program. Its makers have since released Mac and Windows versions, but the user interface still has that old-world look that feels less like an app and more like the cockpit of a plane.

All that complexity means that if you have a lot of time on your hands and your YouTube tutorial game is on point, Shotcut is one of the most powerful free video editors you can find. It’s stuffed full of audio and video filters that you can customize and layer on top of each other to get exactly the cinematic feel you’re going for. What it lacks in slick, it more than makes up for in raw capability.

If you like slick, though, this might not be the editor for you. Shotcut is the kind of app that makes you enter degrees of rotation instead of giving you convenient little handles. There’s no Open Recent option, and you can only drag clips from the source panel, not between tracks.

Pros:


Massive selection of effects and filters
Direct streaming capability
Linux, baby!

Cons:


No real-time filter previewing
A little confusing for new users

4. DaVinci Resolve


DaVinci Resolve is a colorist’s paradise. If you’re obsessed with tone and hue, Resolve has some of the best color correction features you can find in a free video editor. It specializes in faces, using cutting-edge filters that automatically recognize and track specific facial attributes like skin tone, lip color, and eye brightness.

The basic editing and effects features are easy to grasp, especially if you’re already familiar with non-linear video editing apps. More advanced features like compositing software and motion graphics take a bit more time to learn.

Instead of overwhelming you with everything at once, DaVinci gives you individual workspaces for different post-production tasks. There are separate pages for cutting, visual effects, audio editing, color correction, exporting, etc. Each workspace has its own fixed layout, which might bug you if you like undocking and resizing your panels to perfection.

Pros:


Incredibly comprehensive video editor
Color correction utopia
Lots of regular updates to codec and camera formats

Cons:


Workspaces not undockable
No built-in integration with external apps for 3D modeling or image and audio editing

5. Movie Maker Online


If you just want to do some basic editing without completely geeking out, Movie Maker Online is a free and simple video editor that runs in your browser. Just drag and drop your clips to its slightly weird vertical project timeline, and you can crop and filter your little heart out without downloading anything.

This is great editor for people with entry-level hardware. The software runs on the cloud, so you don’t need an awesome graphics processor or mountains of RAM. Movie Maker Online also comes with a giant compilation of royalty-free music and stock pictures you can use to spice up your masterpiece.

Unfortunately, this is an ad-based app, so you’ll need to suffer through a constant billboard background. If you use an ad blocker, you’ll have to disable it to use the program.

Pros:


Works on any machine with an internet connection
Lots of royalty-free content

Cons:


Ads, ads, ads!
Strange vertical timeline

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