Best Movie Editing Software 2020 for All Levels
Movie editing is a creative work, and any rules that exist are there to be broken. There is no one absolute best movie editing software, since the very concept of best is not quantifiable given the different situations, editing needs and the level of film editing skills of the potential user.
• If you are searching for what is the best movie editor in the movie industry, the simple answer is, Avid Media Composer is the software of choice in many film schools and Hollywood elite, while Premiere Pro and Final Cut Pro also gain their popularity with professionals and hobbyists. Another most mentioned program is DaVinci Resolve, with its powerful color grading and editing tool, and a strategy of free licensing that stand out against subscription based licensing of its competitors.
• If you want to find a movie editor to produce movies for fun or for learning NLEs with practicing, reading articles such as top 20 best video editing software is less effective. It would be more efficient to narrow it down with specific situations and needs, by asking yourself the following questions.
1. How serious you want to be in movie editing?
If you are less technical inclined, and prefer a simple video editing software to make movie just for fun, you can choose consumer level applications such as VSDC, HitFilm Express, VideoPad and dozens more completely free video editors for Windows PC and Mac.
But also note that, professional NLEs might not be that daunting with seemly complex layout. It might take some time at the beginning, but when you are familiar with one, the editing knowledge is transferable and you would find other NLEs easy to master as well.
2. Are you planning a mini movie/short video or a complex feature film project?
The level of complexity of your movie largely influences how you find a video editing tool suitable. To illustrate, if you have a 3-minute short movie idea in your head, without complex video effects or graphic animations, you might not even bother to launch Professional NLEs. On the contrary, if you are venturing an hour long feature film, consumer level post- production tools would fail you. You need to make sure that program readily renders large media files, takes various formats shoot by your devices, and can efficiently manage your assets.
3. Are you working on your own or it's a team work?
Effectiveness of Team Collaboration/interoperability is high on the priority list if you are not editing movie on your own. Some entry level NLEs doesn't have team sharing utility at all, and it would be too late when you finish your part of editing and want to pass it on to your partners. For instance, you can use XML in Final Cut Pro to transfer your projects.
Less Choice is Better Choice
There is no quantifiably best movie editing software, but most suitable ones depending on your specific needs.
- If you want to find a job in Hollywood, learn Avid Media composer.
- If you want to find a job in the movie industry (outside Hollywood), learn Premiere or Final Cut Pro (FCP).
- Specialize in color grading? Go DaVinci Resolve.
- If you want to hone your movie editing skills to the professional level, Premiere, FCP and DaVinci Resolve will do.
- If you are trying to make a mini movie for one time, try simple movie editing software designed for beginners.
- Looking for Video editing applications for Mac specifically? Check editor's recommendation of best movie maker for Mac.
You can use our index below to navigate to the best video editor that caters for your needs.
Movie Video Editing Software Index (Windows & Mac)
- Professional NLEs: Avid Media Composer | Final Cut Pro | Premiere Pro
- Professional & Prosumer: DaVinci Resolve | Lightworks
- Prosumer & Hobbyist: Pinnacle Studio | Corel Videostudio
- Free & Cheap: VSDC | HitFilm Express | VideoPad
- Beginner's Choice: iMovie | VideoProc - 4K Specialized
- Bonus Tips: Essential Qualities of Video Editing Software
Best Movie Editing Software in 2020
Meet the Three As: Top Movie Editing Software in the Industry
Back in old days, technicians in movie post production department are literally CUT and Splice together the physical film clips. It is not until the early 90s did they move the work to the computer. Enter Avide Media composer, Apple Final Cut Pro and Adobe Premiere Pro, top movie editing software that take a large share in the film making market.
1 Avid Media Composer
What software do professional movie editors use? Avid Media Composer is among one of the first NLEs adopted in the early 90s when the industry utilizing computers in post production, and still had the Hollywood market cornered today.
If you simply want to edit movie and other video projects out of interests, you don't need to force yourself into Avid. A little history might explain: With mature workflow revolved around Avid in the beginning, and large infrastructures build around Media Composer, it makes sense that companies in Hollywood seldom ventures into other NLEs. If it works, why change? That large user base is hard to change. If you want to work in Hollywood, make Avid the strong tool you master.
Sure it is a stable and industry level movie editing tool, with powerful post production tool and team sharing mechanism. For general consumer and hobbyist, however, Avid is overkill. Final Cut Pro and Premiere Pro (and in recent years, DaVinci Resolve) on the other hand, are professional and hobbyists friendly. The Social Network (2010) is cut by FCP, and Deadpool (2016), Premiere.
Price: Free, $239.00/year.
• Task oriented workspace to enhance your editing, coloring, effect controlling and more.
• Manage huge load of media data without freezing.
• Seamless team sharing and collaboration on movie projects at high stability.
• Option to using tabs to stack palette and guarantee the optimal performance in movie editing.
2 Final Cut Pro
Let's first get things clear. Final Cut Pro 7 or earlier versions – referred to as Final Cut Pro Classic by many professional editors – are different from Final Cut Pro X in terms of media management, interface and the process of editing. Unlike FCP which has a mainstay in Hollywood, FCPX has enjoyed the success outside the Hollywood market, partly due to Apple's strategy to appeal a wider crowd of prosumers, instead of professionals-only. There are more editors and hobbyists adopt this Apple video editing app. When Final Cut Pro 7 was discontinued, many editors had flocked to Premiere or other NLEs that have similar workflow or conceptual design. This might not do justice to Final Cut Pro X, which has been updating and evolving with a modern architecture to take advantage of multi-core CPUs, utilizing all the RAM (FCP7 only access 4GB of RAM regardless of how many RAM you have), and background processing.
Price: 30-day free trial, $299.99 for full package. Available at Mac App store.
• Codec support REDCODE RAW, H265/HEVC, AVCHD, H.264, AVC, Sony XAVC, MXF etc.
• Ability to fully utilize multi-core of your CPU for background rendering.
• Optimizing media and adopting proxy work and take advantage of hardware acceleration.
• Multi-cam editing supported with intuitive interface.
• Clear support of timeline index makes it handy to jump to desired frame based on keywords, makers and self-defined to-do items.
3 Premiere Pro
Adobe Premiere is gaining momentum in recent years, especially when Apple put a fork in Final Cut Pro 7. Unlike Mac-exclusive Final Cut Pro, Premiere Pro works on both Mac and Windows computer. Though less stable to handle hundreds of Gigabytes large project than Avid Media Composer, for small studios and enthusiasts, Premiere Pro works fine, and it is popular outside the Hollywood industry. Don't forget that Deadpool was cut solemnly on Premiere.
Programmed with powerful tools you need in post-production, Premiere helps you to do serious editing from mini movies to long feature film. It might looks daunting for beginners, but once you understand the logic behind video editing, it is analogical for other movie editing software.
Price: Free trial, $239.88/year subscription.
• Seamless integration with Photoshop and After Effects to enhance your video.
• Powerful multi-cam editing utility to shift between different angles.
• Move-insert editing without leaving any gaps on the timeline.
• Effective motion tracking to apply mask over an object in motion.
• Lumetri color grading panel for color design.
4 DaVinci Resolve
The name of DaVinci Resolve often comes along with color grading, and now, it is changing the scene together with fusion (composition software, Black Magic's version of After Effects) and fair light (professional audio editing software). DaVinci Resolve enables you to build your color-correction node tree for both basic tasks and complex color-grading jobs. Working with RAW files is a breeze, and you can use color management for the entire project, such as setting colors to YRGB, ACEScc, so that you have a very flat image to start with. Besides, you can do all the editings in DaVinci as other NLEs, including timeline based cutting, post editing, audio correction and graphic design.
• Powerfully programmed to utilize hardware acceleration.
• Apply your own color grading settings to other clips in 1-click.
• Extremely powerful color tracker palette to bring focus to an element of a particular color without messing up with similar color element.
• Select an individual hue for fine tune with qualification tool, for example, you can adjust the color of a man's cloth without affect the color of his face.
• Manage color grading and correction with nodes for you to be more productive and the seesions more disciplined.
You might not heard this software as often as Adobe Premiere, but the fact is, Lightworks has been around in the early 90s, as long as Avid and Premiere. Pulp Fiction and The Kings Speech were cut with Lightworks. If you have a powerfully built computer, you can enjoy the realtime-effects and color correction tool offered by lightworks. Note that there are Limited export settings and no 4K editing in free version.
Lightworks has a video routing utility that displays the flow of your effects. You can freely add, remove, reattach connections to create different kinds of effects flow, and it is fun to play with the sequence and effects type to surprise you yourself. If you are editing a movie with complex effects, video routing helps you to make things clearer.
Price: Free Trial. License starting from $240. Available on Windows/Mac/Linux.
• Powerful team sharing utility to task managing large project.
• Numerous FX plugins (.prm) are supported.
• Video routing feature to record your action and better managing video effects.
6 Pinnacle Studio
Designed mainly for movie editing enthusiasts and layman, Pinnacle helps you to transform your footage and photos into stunning movies. If you want to trim movies, cut out some unwanted part, and add some text and effects before uploading to YouTube, Pinnacle will get the job done efficiently. Plus, you can grab powerful add-ons for your Pinnacle studio, such as VHS to DVD converter and screen recorder. Note that basic color grading is only available in Studio Plus version, and 4K editing in Studio Ultimate version.
Price: Starting from $54.95.
• Batch processing multiple projects simultaneously.
• 360-degree VR content editing enabled.
• Multi-camera screen recorder built-in.
• Apply color grading for a selected range, for instance, changing face tone only.
7 Corel VideoStudio
4K, 3D or 360 immersive videos are not the privileges for professional film editing industry, with Corel Videostudio, every video editing hobbyist can leverage the feature rich packages offered along with the software. For enthusiast, manually configuring complex settings in NLEs meant for pros is a waste of time and might have counterproductive effects that curb their passion for movie editing. Corel has powerful yet easy-to-use tools for cinematic transitions, text masking, split screen effects, and multipoint motion tracking. For color grading, you are use HSL controls, white balancing tool and color adjusting curves. Note that it could be hard to manage project with large video resources as there is no keyword tagging for imported media.
Price: 30 day free trial. $79.99 for full version.
• Multicam editing supported.
• Intuitive stop motion tool to create funny animation.
• HTML5 video page creation.
VSDC is a free movie editing software capable of routine tasks. If you simply want to DIY a short movie for fun, there are basic utilities such as cutting, assembling clips, adding transitions, applying video effects and music, VDSC is suffice to use. Despite the fact that the layout of this free tool is somewhat outdated, it does offer a variety of sophisticated transitions that are stylish and creative. As vapor steam is in trendy again, it's nice to discover that VSDC has video effects that simulate old-style TVs. Experienced editors might find themselves getting accustom to some VSDC specific operations and terms that are not common practice in NLEs. For instance, you cannot arrange clips together on a same track, as they are layered from bottom to top unless you use the sprite container to hold them together. User-ready templates makes VSDC even nicer: Less experienced users can choose these profiles to export movies for DVD players, Xbox, PSP for a fantastic movie night with friends and families.
• Powerful DVD authorization: ability to burn DVDs with your movies and video clips.
• Worry-free reconfigured profiles for different platforms.
• Powerful Chroma key, masking tool and visible audio wave form (pro version).
9 HitFilm Express
HitFilm are among one of the most fully featured movie editing software in the pool of free pieces. Besides basic editing tools to splicing and assembling clips, there are a plethora of professional visual effects packed into this free movie editor. And even better news is, there are active communities and supporting tutorials that help beginners to create awesome effects and scenes that are cinematic – all for free. From detailed video tutorial that walk you through basic operations of HitFilm Express, there are also movie editing technique and color grading tutorials. You can even learn by theme, such as sci-fi fantasy or gaming, so that you can start to edit and produce you own movies with a theme.
Price: free with full features, expansion pack starting from $9.99.
• Support 8K with RAM preview to speed up your movie editing.
• Batch dealing with multiple sequence on timeline, thus enabling you to edit in one tab and composite in another tab flexibly.
• Better assets management: labeling media resources to easily differentiate shots, music and other elements.
• Enhanced mask editing that allows you to rotoscope characters in the movie, add matte to create video effects.
VideoPad might be too basic for pro users, but definitely easy to begin with for zero experience users. Developed by NCH software, VideoPad as a video editing tool is part of the NCH suite for media solution. This suite includes sound-editing program WavePad, sound-mixing app MixPad, and image tool PhotoPad. You can see the naming pattern here. If you are already a user of one of the Pad, you might want to give VideoPad a try for better integration, after all, there is no harm since it's free.
Price: Free to use with basic version, $20 to upgrade to pro version that is more capable.
• Built-in voiceover feature, handy for narration in mini movies.
• support a wide multitude of input and output formation.
Making movie trailers with iMovie is a no brainer. Even if you have zero experience with video editing, you can pick up iMovie and cut a ready-to-share with all the elements needed for a trailer: clips, text, background music, animations and transitions. It is more like a movie trailer maker, which has guided storyboards so that you don't need to write your own. Just follow the instruction and cut clips accordingly. For instance, it might instruct you to add a scene of the character running, and next is a wide portrait of the character, and then followed by a closed up. Or you can trust your creative mind, and freely edit your short film and movie trailers without a template. Nicely enough, iMovie adopts a library management mechanism that is typical of Apple system, similar as how you use photo library or iTunes music library. You can create multiple libraries to keep separate resources such as one for family and another for work.
• Seamless integration with iMovie for iOS and Final Cut Pro.
• Pre-installed on Mac, free to use.
• Handling 4k HEVC without bogging down.
• Multi-track editing with ease.
VideoProc is a piece of easy to use video processing software with basic tools to cut, merge, crop videos, splice footage together. Specializing at 4K video editing, it fully utilize GPU on your computer to acceleration the processing speed, boost up the process to 47x real time faster. If your device is too old to run Premiere and other CPU intensive video editing tool, VideoProc could be the life saver.
VideoProc can also be utilized as a powerful pre-cut tool. With advanced transcoding algorithm, it takes care of 370+ codec and rare formats, and can quickly convert to desired format before you import the footage into other editing software, for smooth editing.
Availability: Free Download for Windows PC and Mac
• Zero learning curve for beginners and essential tools for video processing.
• Pre-cut large movie footage at high speed without freezing.
• Convert large files into intermediate format for NLEs workflow.
• 4K processing with full hardware acceleration.
Bonus Tips: How to Choose the Best Movie Editing Software?
Plan ahead and write out what kind of effects or features you might want to include in your movie. In this way, you can check what editing tools and utilities are must-haves in a piece of editing software. Here is a cheat list of things you might want to consider:
With mobile manufactures race to churn out high end camera phone, even midrange gadgets now shoot 4K HEVC videos, not to mention enthusiasts and prosumer DLSR, drones, and action cameras. With ever updating higher resolution and demanding codecs – DJI's notorious Long-GOP videos for instance – some video editing software and movie makers are left behind, struggling to process a certain format.
Besides making sure the software supports whatever format you have at hand, it is imperative to scrubbing your clips to check: 1. Can you do real time editing? Any frame dropping occurrence? Can you scrubbing back and forward without program freezing or crashing down? 2. How fast is the rendering? What are the available export settings? 3. Does the software support hardware acceleration to utilize your graphic card?
Will you be using a single camera or multiple cameras are choices to make before you start filming. In some cases, you might want to venture a 1917 style one continuous shot; in other cases, shooting with multiple cameras guarantees that you won't miss an angle of the same scene.
Multi-camera editing ability varies in different video editing software. That is, the ability to sync all the cameras and the level of flexibility to switch angles to suite your storytelling. If your movies involve more than one camera, you'd better pick your movie editing software with this utility in mind.
Color Correction and Color Grading
Even if it is a mini movie, such as student short film project, color correction and grading still matters. Let's say you have several scene settings, you cannot guarantee a consistency of color due to light conditions varies at different daytime and at night, let alone camera exposure time. You need the post product software to do white balance correction and the alike.
For color grading, it greatly changes the mood of a film. For instance, if you plan to cut a homemade horror movie, you might want a hue of red and blue, and flickering of the color to add a sense of tension and suspension.
Plus, powerful movie editing software enables you to import LUTs – you can think of it as a preset with all the parameters adjust to the effect you want – and even analyze the LUTs of a movie you like, and match your movie project to that cinematic look.
VFX (Visual Effects)
Do you simply want to cut and arrange your clips, add text and music to wrap the project? Or you prefer movie editing software with stock VFX templates ready to use? Or a step further, you prefer highly customizable options to create your own VFX?
For instance, you might want to put your character into a magic world or blend computer generated graphics with real world scene, besides setting up your own green screen at home, you need to make sure that editing tool of choice can key out that green color at high precision. Lame tools might leave an unsightly trace of green or other artifacts failed to be removed.
Background music, voice over, conversations between your characters, audio effects could all be part of your sound management. You will want a movie editing software with multiple tracks to place different audio resources, and powerful tool to adjust sound volume. For instance, at some point the sound might be too loud or fluctuate unstably. Adjust sound with keyframes could address the issue more effectively instead of turning down the volume of a whole track. And don't forget to test the noise removal ability of a movie editor tool, which is essential to make your film more professional.
Movie editing as well as any other video making is a creative process. Don't be the slave of countless software and tools. Play with it! Many inspirational moments flashes in the middle of movie editing, when you experimenting with even the simplest cutting tools. Download the editor and let your creative juice flow right now.