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By 19 July 2021
The best free video editing software enables you to make movies without splashing any cash.
The best free video editing software can provide an easy way to test the waters as you consider a career in videography, although they won’t match the range of features offered in the best paid-for software.
While there is nothing wrong with paying for a good video editing application, it is not always feasible to do so, especially when you are not sure about making a commitment. Thankfully, there’s a lot of video editing software to choose from right now. This is because most serve as a promotional campaign for paid software by the same creators. (See all the paid-for options in our best video editing software post).
The ideal free video editor will be easy to get started with and will offer an experience that’s free of ads or watermarks. It should also come with some powerful features like stylised filters and transitions, layer-based editing, and even audio editing. While it’s hard to find one that offers all these features, we come pretty close in this guide to the best free video editing software. You might also want to check out our best video editing apps, many of which are free or low-cost.
1. Premiere Pro: the best video editing software overall
If it's a free trial you're after, then you can try Premiere Pro for nothing for seven days. Adobe's Premiere Pro is industry standard, works on both PC and Mac, and offers everything you need.
3. Adobe Premiere Elements: the best option for beginners
If you're new to video editing, you might want to start with Adobe Premiere Elements, a simplified version of Premiere Pro that's also cheaper, and currently has a 30-day free trial.
Lightworks is a free video editor with a drag-and-drop user interface. It boasts powerful features like multicam and multi-track video editing, which allows you to edit clips from multiple cameras into a single project. It also enables you to share projects with other users and collaborate with them while editing videos in real time.
In addition, Lightworks lets you import and export videos in the background while continuing to work on other stuff in the foreground, a useful feature for users who are fond of multitasking. A pro version of the software comes with even more features, such as direct social media sharing and the ability to export videos in a variety of formats.
One of the software’s strongest features is its highly customisable user interface. However, this is also its biggest shortcoming, because dragging windows across the interface to create endless layout combinations can be very confusing for novice users. Thankfully, there are extensive video tutorials to help you out here. To learn more, read our Lightworks review.
If you think professional video editing on your smartphone or tablet requires paid-for software, think again. KineMaster is available for Android devices, iPhones and iPads, and goes way above and beyond what you’d expect from a free mobile app.
Kinemaster has a smart and easy-to-use interface that’s both intuitive and lag-free. Features includes the ability to edit multiple layers, add handwriting and text annotations, experiment with up to four audio tracks, and precisely edit at frame and sub-frame level.
The catch is that you’ll get watermarks on your videos. If you want to remove them, you’ll need to subscribe to the premium version at (a still reasonable) $4.99/month or $39.99/year. For more information, see our Kinemaster review.
OpenShot is a good basic video editor with some additional features. It employs a minimalistic design, and its drag-and-drop interface is easy to get used to, even for rookies. While the software doesn’t offer much in the way of complex features, its free and open-source nature means that there are no ads, watermarks, or paid upgrades to contend with.
What’s more, OpenShot boasts layer-based video editing capabilities that allow you to stack in an unlimited number of layers to your video, be it soundtracks, overlapping videos, or custom images.
It also offers a range of title-card templates that can be customized as needed. In addition, there are all the usual options to adjust and enhance your video, be it crop, trim, rotate, or resize. You can also adjust elements like brightness, contrast, color grading, and gamma.
Ultimately, Openshot has everything you could expect from a free video editor. However, there are some problems. These include significant lag issues and the fact that features don’t always work like they’re supposed to. Or when they do work, they take a long time to apply, making the editing process frustrating.
DaVinci Resolve is a free video editing tool that combines professional 8K editing, colour correction, visual effects, and audio post-production into one space. It’s regularly used on big-budget film and TV productions, and has particularly powerful colour correction and audio capabilities.
As well as traditional colour features such as curve editors and primary colour wheels, there’s also facial recognition and tracking, so you can adjust skin tones, eye and lip colour. For audio, DaVinci Resolve uses Fairlight, a suite of high-end editing tools that enable you to mix and master up to 1,000 channels.
It’s quite incredible that this software is available with nearly all the features present in the free version. You won’t get watermarks added to your videos, unless you use a non-free effect such as noise reduction. So if you’re looking for the best free video editing software for Windows or Mac, this could well be it. To learn more, read our Da Vinci Resolve review.
VideoPad is a free video editor with ample features for advanced users and a simple interface for novices. Most importantly, however, VideoPad offers users a level of control over sound that’s not normally seen in a video editor, making it a great choice for movie sequences that rely on heavy audio effects.
While not as robust as Lightworks, VideoPad stands out from competitors by offering powerful audio editing features and sound mixing functionalities without the price tag of a professional video editor. It supports an unlimited number of audio tracks and provides an entire library of sound effects to play with. It also enables 3D video editing, a rare feature among free video editing tools in the market.
In addition, VideoPad has great shareability, with a library of social media-friendly effects and transitions and an option to share videos directly with social media. You can post videos to platforms like Facebook or YouTube without ever leaving the software.
If you have a PC running Windows, you’ll have Microsoft’s own built-in video editor, Windows Video Editor. This is latest iteration of what used to be called Windows Movie Maker, rebuilt from the ground up for Windows 10. If you are looking for a quick and convenient way to make a few touch-ups to your clips, it will suit you just fine.
The biggest advantage to Windows Video Editor is how easy it is to use, although it doesn’t have much in the way of features. In fact, it isn’t even a traditional video editor, but a photo editor with some video editing capabilities built in. However, with the constant updates being made to Windows 10, Video Editor has enough going on to help you complete basic tasks like trimming, cropping, and adding text or audio.
Another interesting addition is the 3D Effects section, which lets you add pre-designed animations to your video to make them appear slightly more attractive. You can also adjust a video’s speed, making playback faster or slower than the original recording speed. While these features don’t offer a lot of customizability, Windows Video Editor is still a good application for basic video enhancement, especially for novice users looking who enjoy working within the atmosphere of Windows 10.
If you’re making a presentation and want to add text, lines, charts and other special effects to it (and use Windows), VSDC is the free video editing software for you. It includes Instagram-style filters, lots of special effects including colour correction and blurring, plus a mask tool for applying effects to part of a video (for obscuring faces, for example). There’s also a video stabiliser to help remove camera shake from footage taken with GoPros or drones, and a powerful chart tool for adding graphs to presentations.
The free version can export to a range of formats including AVI and MPG. If you’re unsure about formats, you can even tailor the output so it works well on particular devices for playback. It supports most video formats, so you shouldn’t have any trouble importing your clips, and there’s a built-in DVD burner. There’s also a paid-for, pro version including features such as motion tracking, masking, and hardware acceleration. To learn more, read our VSDC review.
Hitfilm Express is the Swiss Army knife of free video editing software. It’s capable of producing feature films or music videos with 3D effects, but it’s also good for making videos for YouTube (direct uploading is built in). It features many of the features you’d expect only to find in expensive paid-for software, including 4K video support, 360-degree editing, and hundreds of special effects.
The main downside is that it uses a lot of system resources, so won’t work well on a low-powered laptop, for example. But when it’s completely free, you can’t really hold that against it.
The basic version contains everything you need to make a professional-quality production, but if you want something specific, such as 360-degree text or extra color grading tools, there are lots of add-on features packs, starting from around $7/£6. For more information, check out our Hitfilm Express review.
Shotcut is the tool for you if you’ve outgrown the most basic video editing software, but don’t need the complexity of Premiere Pro or Final Cut Pro X. It boasts an easy-to-use interface that you can customise, if you want, via dockable and undockable panels. We love the surprisingly sophisticated timeline. Plus it can handle up to 4K, supports a huge range of formats, and includes a rich assortment of filters, and some advanced special effects. A recent update in January 2021 added support for AV1 decoding and encoding.
On the downside, the process of adding transitions is a little odd, and you can only add filters to one clip at a time, which can be a bit time-consuming. However, for a free and open source video editing tool, it’s impressive indeed. To learn more, read our Shotcut review.
If you’re a Mac owner, you already have iMovie, which is pre-loaded on to your machine. And while it’s not by any means a professional tool, the finish and sheen you get from it are quite sophisticated.
For starters, iMovie supports editing and rendering in 4K. Another benefit is its cloud-based work environment, which allows you to sync projects to iCloud, Apple’s native cloud storage service, as they are being worked on. iMovie is also constantly updated, meaning you can always expect quality support and new features from its developers.
While its video editing capabilities may not be as extensive as Lightworks’, the few filters and effects it does offer are studio grade and very professional.
The software contains the usual options to insert titles, backgrounds, and audio to your clips, but lacks more advanced tweaking options. Importing and rendering take some time, making it slightly annoying to work with. On the plus side, it’s available on pretty much every device from Apple, with no special system requirements to worry about.
iMovie eally does make it easy to knock together a polished-looking (and sounding) edit that will make your home-movie footage sing. It’s also worth mentioning that if you have a recent MacBook Pro, iMovie comes with fully functioning Touch Bar support. To learn more, read our iMovie review.
If you’re just looking to shoot and edit a casual video, most of the video editing software on this list will be overkill. Right at the opposite extreme to Premiere Pro, if you’re looking for pure simplicity (and you’re an iOS user), we’d recommend Apple Clips.
Apple Clips lets you add stickers, titles, captions, audio and filters to video that you import from your Camera Roll, or just record using your device. And that’s about it: but if that’s all you want to do, this is all you need.
Tried Clips before and didn’t like it? Then note that in October 2020, the app got a major update (3.0), including a refreshed interface, support for vertical and horizontal video, and HDR recording with iPhone 12. For more information, check out our Apple Clips review.
Want to edit video right in your browser? Then MovieMaker Online will allow you to do just that, on any computer wherever you are. It’s completely free to use, you don’t have to register your details and no watermarks are applied to your videos. This is proper timeline-based editing, and you even get free music and stock photos to include in your video.
It takes a little bit of time to get used to, because the layout of the web pages is a bit odd, the timeline is vertical rather than horizontal, and there are lots of ads everywhere that distract your focus. And on the whole, features are very limited compared to most of the tools on this list. But if you just want to do some basic video editing (or discover what video editing is all about), this is a great option that’s 100 per cent free.
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