Some people believe when it comes to video editing, there is no such a thing as having GOOD and FREE at the same time, but that's not the case. We got 6 good candidates for you here and put together a 15-minute or so review of best free video editing software for anybody in need. Whether you'd like a quick editing or set your hands on professional film making, you'll find the answer.
Our Picks for Top Free Video Editing Software Are:
- Photos App, iMovie - Best for quick editing without learning curve
- Shotcut - Best for sports videos
- Hitfilm Express - Best for mini film with VFX
- DaVinci Resolve - Best for landscape videos
- Kdenlive - Best for making video tutorials
How We Picked the Following Free Video Editors?
Sifting through numerous applications looking for the very ones is never easy. It took us half a month to finally round up six best free video editors.
The result is where all the following efforts come together: we check the ones recommended by most top-ranked technology sites like TechRadar and Digital Trends, collect the go-to options from forum users of Reddit, Stack Exchange, etc, and then take a deep dive into those free video editing tools and do the test ourselves.
- Operating System: Windows 10 64-bit
- CPU: Intel® Core™ i5-8300H CPU @2.30GHz
- GPU 1: Intel(R) UHD Graphics 630 | GPU 2: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050Ti
- RAM: 8GB | VRAM: 4GB | SSD: 500GB
- Operating System: macOS 10.10.5
- CPU: Intel® Core i5 @2.7GHz
- GPU: AMD Radeon HD 6770M
- RAM: 8GB | VRAM: 512MB | SATA Disk: 1TB
Factors Considered During the Test
- Compatibility - which platforms can the free editor software be used on
- Capability - Does it have wide support of editing features
- Powerfulness - Are the editing features really good to use
- Stability and smoothness
- Ease of use
- Quality of technical support
Actually, we've tested the majority of free video programs on the market. Every one of them has obvious merits and demerits. Why did we do this? One is to help our readers to choose the most appropriate editing tool. But our ultimate goal is to create the best free video editing software. We hope it would inherit the good and discard the bad to meet more video creation and post production demands.
The good news is: our experienced R&D engineers are beavering away on such brand-new product, and it is on the way. You are cordially invited to share this post to social networks, take a quick survey above or leave a comment at the bottom to let us know your most concerned features. And we'll keep you posted. Please stay tuned.
#1. Windows 10 Photos App
Best for: novices seeking a quick editing tool for occasional usage.
Supported OS: Windows 10
Windows Photos app has a hidden video editing feature, and can be utilized to quickly trim videos, change speed, or draw freely directly over the footage. Depending on your Windows 10 version, you might have additional options to create a video with music and add 3D effects. These additional features allow you to do a project-based editing, with storyboards, filters, animated text, camera motion effects and 3D effects such as rain, fire, and thunders, ready to lay over your footage.
Photos app is a good pal when all you need is quick and basic edits. Since all functions are self explanatory, you need zero editing experiences to get going. It works nicely if you want to quickly churn out a 5 minute video of traveling shots and recordings. Plus, you can take advantage of the apps integration with mobile media importing. This app allows you to directly import photos and videos from iPhone, iPad and other USB-enabled camera devices. If you are familiar with those auto-created memories videos on iPhone, you would love the automatic video with music option.
Chances of improvement:
- The lack of true NLE features makes it less productive for a beginner who wants to dive deeper.
- Users on Windows 10 N versions will find most video editing features missing.
- Limited options to save video as a desired format.
- Less filters and effects to choose from.
So, have you ever used the Photos app to cut a video?
You can use photos app as the media library to host and display your videos and photos, and the hidden editing feature might surprise you if you simply want to trim off unwanted parts, add music and text to the footage. Those with a Microsoft Surface can also utilize the touch screen and the pen.
Best for: quick editing with plenty of theme templates and transitions.
Supported OS: macOS, iOS
Mac user? It might be a bit bold but I'll say: No one can come up with an easier alternative to iMovie for Mac. It is accessible on any iOS devices so that you can do part of the editing on the iPhone, finish movie creating on Mac, and then share on social media instantly.
It covers basic (4K) video editing features, for instance, cut, crop, rotate, stabilize, overlay, subtitle, chroma key, speed controls, transition, etc. Thanks to the intuitive and clean interface, iMovie is the epitome of simple. You just plug in the footage and it can do the rest. In addition, there are dozens of themes, animated titles, and credits, creative filters in various genres that you can access to spice up your videos without needing to set a plethora of parameters.
Chances of improvement:
- iMovie does not support plug-in effects. The majority of the handful of built-in effects are over bright.
- The support of GIF file is absent. iMovie displays the animated picture as a still image.
- It doesn't allow you to tweak the intensity of color correction.
- The timeline of iMovie is inflexible and inconvenient for movie creating as you can only add 2 video layers.
- It only permits video outputting in H.264 and ProRes. Most drone clips and H.265 videos won't be read correctly.
- Not support GPU acceleration. This brings up slow and error-ridden playback, effect rendering, and exporting. On my Macbook, the CPU utilization gets pegged to nearly 100% when exporting video.
Ready to dive deep?
iMovie is very limited. It enables the editing and export of 4K 60FPS videos if only the initial clip we put to timeline is 4K 60FPS clip. You are not allowed to create any videos with 1:1 aspect ratio. Sadly, Facebook, Instagram, and many social media still love square videos.
Best for: high compatibility and easy stabilization for sports videos.
Supported OS: Windows, macOS, Linux, FreeBSD
Shotcut is cross-platform open-source free video editing software developed by Dan Dennedy based on the MLT multimedia framework. It provides both 32-bit and 64-bit version for Window 7 to 10. macOS needs to be 10.10 or above. Shotcut is popular for numerous input/export options, low hardware requirements, good developer support, vibrant forum community, and surely multiple video editing features for quick editing. As a rule of thumb, it takes a total noob ten tries to get the hang of it.
As to sports video editing, video files recorded by drone/GoPro in 4K HDR and high frame rate like 120fps are well accepted. Necessary filters like lens correction and video stabilization are available. And thanks to FFmpeg, you are allowed to have a good control over the export settings. Based on our testing, Shotcut seems to be comparatively more stable than other free video editing tools. It does crash occasionally, but at the very least, the failure recovery sounds fantastic.
Chances of improvement:
- The interface is unusual and a bit confusing to the beginners.
- Proxy is said to be removed from the plan for the next version.
- Keyframe based animations and transitions are not available.
- Lack of support for RAW camera video formats.
- No stock media and templates.
- The speed function needs much improvement.
Shotcut users are the most loyal ones. Why?
Still remember the developer's name? Dan Dennedy, he is one of the two reasons why a lot of users choose to stay with Shotcut, despite various free options out there, while another is the existence of a school-like forum community. But is Shotcut really qualified for creating amazing outputs besides sports video?
#4. HitFilm Express 14
Best for: visual effects dabblers and YouTubers; create VFX-intensive videos for fun.
Supported OS: Windows 10/8, macOS (High Sierra and later)
Presented by FXhome, HitFilm Express is a decent desktop editor with powerful VFX tools to produce films, gaming videos and other great content for free. It combines editing, VFX and 3D tools in one place, so that you won't need to hoop from one app for editing, to another app for compositing. It has all the basic editing functions you would expect from mainstream NLEs, and relatively large amount of effects and features that you wouldn't expect in other free editors.
HitFilm Express is mostly noted for its VFX capacity that helps to turn your footage into impressive filmic productions. Gunfire and Star War lightsaber effects, bold and flashy animation titles are all at your disposal to spice up the video. HitFilm even helps you to create animate 3D particles based on audio waveforms! Nicely enough, this app adopts a dual-timeline approach, with all the basic editing done in the editing timeline, and VFX done in the composite shot timeline. In this way, it keeps the main editing timeline from getting cluttered up, so that you can easily assemble the clips order. While in the composite shot timeline, you can let your creative juice flow and play around with graphics, effects and visual elements.
Chances of improvement:
- Won't support HEVC/H.265, which might be a hassle if you shoot regularly on iPhone in high efficiency format.
- No XML/AAF/EDL support, meaning you won't be able to share the project to other software to continue editing.
- No multicam editing, and audio editing toolkit is limited, there is no EQ adjustment.
- Exporting errors occur if you choose to render in-and-out instead of content, as the tool mistakenly choose a non-existence point as out point.
Are you a big fan of editing mini-epic with dope VFX?
Thinking about a horror movie? How about the scene of ghost cropping out of your mobile phone? With HitFilm Express, you can utilize the tracking feature. While the character is walking with a mobile phone at his hand, you can use the tracking tool to follow the same trajectory. Then you shall be able to replace the mobile screen, with a clip of ghost popping out. There is more for HitFilm to re-create what's in your mind...
#5. DaVinci Resolve 16
Best for: breathtaking color correction in HD/UHD landscape video editing.
Supported OS: Windows, macOS, Linux
DaVinci Resolve is a non-linear video editing system developed by Blackmagic Design, making a name for itself as a top-notch color corrector originally, and having been awarded for Engineering Excellence by the Hollywood Professional Association. The learning curve would be steep to be familiar closely with such a professional free video editing tool. But to get started quickly, crash courses are everywhere.
Color correction is key to creating awe-inspiring landscape videos and cinematic looks, which happens to be what makes DaVinci Resolve critically acclaimed. In DaVinci Resolve 16, you can have a full control of image in precision with node-based color grading tools. And both the editing and rendering of landscape video in RAW formats like CinemaDNG and ARRIRAW can be fast, even on an old computer, for its proxy mode and optimized media support. Two bonus features for advanced users - Fairlight for audio adjusting and Fusion for VFX. Remember there is only 64-bit version for Windows 10, and Mac should be 10.10 or later.
Chances of improvement:
- Fusion and Fairlight are too complicated to learn, with few tutorials available.
- Audio and video out of sync issue happens a lot, most importantly, with no effective solutions.
- RED and BMPCC 4K footages have rendering errors frequently.
- Occasional 4K video stuttering, slow rendering, or media import problems.
- DaVinci Resolve is still light on third-party plug-ins, not enough for using.
- Once you load your videos/audios, the project frame rate value can't be changed anymore.
Ready for some filmic look with enchanting color?
For your information, DaVinci Resolve was used for the color grading in famous movies and TV shows like Avatar, Deadpool 2, La La Land, The Walking Dead and Westworld, to name a few. You won't want to miss the chance to embrace such a great tool for free. To check how mighty the color grading could be:
Best for: tutorial videos with 2D titles, screen/sound capture.
Supported OS: Windows, Mac, FreeBSD, Linux, Ubuntu
Kdenlive is one of the most involved and complex open-source video editors. It offers all you need to create simple videos. It's wide range of advanced functionalities like multiple tracks, transitions, keyframe, rotoscoping, video/audio scope, and chroma key, just to name a few, even rival some commercial video editing software. However, those nifty features come with the sacrifice of a nitty interface. The major update it received recently, somehow, further separates it away from beginners.
One essential feature for making easy-approached tutorials is the screen capture tool. Kdenlive is well designed on this facility. It can record your computer screen or webcam with sound coming from the microphone. The latest version allows you to add audio track on the timeline. This is a useful capability for instruction video creators as it lets them record sound while previewing the video simultaneously. Subtitle is another terrific feature of Kdenlive, with which you are on your own to create plain or animated text and decide when and where the subtitles showed up, for how long, and in what kind of format.
Chances of improvement:
- It can't create video in some of the most prevalent formats like MKV and AVI, and offers no ready-made output format.
- Some effect options seem to be absent from the drop-down menu, as like, you can only found the curves effect by entering its name on the effect search bar.
- Buggy & Laggy. It is buggy as hell on Windows, and voracious with its CPU and RAM requirements. Sometimes it even becomes laggy when you just try to preview the file without any editing.
- Unstable. For example, it worked fine yesterday on my Windows 10 64 bit i5-3470 with SSD and 8GB RAM but keeps crashing this time, with nothing different from the previous process.
- GPU acceleration is absent. This is not likely to change for the foreseeable future as it's a sad flaw of the underlying MLT framework.
Worth updating to 19.x version?
Kdenlive now combines audio and video in one track, and you aren't enabled to opt "auto separate audio and video" anymore. This controversial update is in fact another sacrifices made by Kdenlive to gain a buggy free performance.
Under the render tab, there are only WebM, Mpeg-2 and few other codecs. Beginners have to learn FFmpeg command to understand those video jargons.
Overwhelmed? Here is Your Takeaway
Best Free Video Editing Software FAQs
One person's meat is another's poison. There is no absolute one best video editor that caters for all, given your budget, hardware, operating system, and the comfort level. Casual hobbyists may be adequately served by no-brainer tools, while professionals and serious learners go for highly customizable NLEs.
1. What is the best video editing software for beginners?
If you have zero experience in video editing, and are merely seeking tools for quick trimming, add text and background music, use Windows Photos app or iMovie on Mac.
If you are a serious beginner, and are willing to invest in time and effort to become a master, use popular editors. You can quickly hone your skills with YouTube tutorials, and seek help in active forums. In this regard, Shotcut, Kdenlive and DaVinci Resolve may fit the bill.
2. What is the best professional video editing software?
Hollywood mainly uses Avid Media Composer, and those outside Hollywood use Adobe Premiere, Final Cut Pro, Edius etc. These NLEs only offer trial versions, and are thus out of the scope of this article.
4. Which software is best for slow motion video?
Shotcut and Kdenlive allow you to cut up a section and slow it down, say 1/4 speed of the real time. If you prefer speed ramping to harsh cuts, you can use HitFilm or DaVinci Resolve for gradual speed control, and there is a learning curve.
General System Requirements for Video Editing
- More than half of the free video editors we tested (on this list or not) provide 64-bit version only.
- Most can run on Windows 7 and later. But when it comes to Mac, everyone seems to have its own standard.
- Minimum requirement of RAM varies, but normally 4GB is needed, while 16GB/32GB for 4K and VFX. Theoretically, the larger, the better.
- Only part of the free video editing tools we used gives a clear indication of what kind of GPU or how much VRAM is required. Generally, 2GB would be OK.
What is the best video editing software for low spec computers?
Timeline-based video editing is a computing intensive process that occupies enormous resources on your machine. Want to edit high res files, hard-to-decode format, or add lots of visual effects and animations? It's more about upgrading hardware than picking an editor, though you do have the choice to optimize video clips for smooth editing, in iMovie, Shotcut, and DaVinci Resolve.
Unleash Your Video Editing Power Today
What is your take? Free video editing software offers us a chance to play around with videos and pictures that matters, and the emphasis here is to PLAY and ENJOY. Astonishing results are delivered in the right hands with a creative mind, and a love for life, while editing software are merely tools for us to weave our thread of life into an enchanting mini epic.
Let's get started today.