Lightworks Review - Best Free Video Editing Software for Oscar-grade Films

By Cecilia Hwung | Last Update:

Summary: Professional editing software is generally pretty expensive, such as the Final Cut Pro, Adobe Premiere Pro, etc. If you are looking for some free ones to lower your budget, the free version of Lightworks must be a perfect choice, although it has a few restrictions on some features, compared to its paid version.

Although we say Lightworks is not as powerful as its paid version, for most normal users, it is certainly qualified for your work. And the official said that a bunch of Hollywood movies such as The Wolf of Wall Street, LA Confidential, Pulp Fiction, Heat, Road to Perdition, Hugo, The King's Speech and many more, use this software for post-production, which shows that its functions have reached a professional level.

But, it is not perfect. There are some features and services that it can do better. And in the following content, we are going to show you everything related to its good and bad, help you have full knowledge of it.


Is Lightworks Free

Lightworks provides four versions, Lightworks Free, Lightworks Pro: Month, Lightworks Pro: Year, and Lightworks Pro: Outright. Obviously, the Lightworks Free version, mostly briefly naming Lightworks, is definitely free, which is also the version reviewed in this article. But compared to the other three paid versions, there would be some limits on features. For the specific difference between the free one and the other three versions, you can refer to this official page for more details.

Good and Bad of Lightworks in Brief


  • Loads of video and audio editing features, basic to advanced ones;
  • Good at managing large scale and long files;


  • User guides are not quite detailed, and quite unfriendly to new users;
  • The working platform is quite different from some common ones from other similar applications;
  • Long learning curve;
  • The export format only includes MPEG4/H.264 and maximum resolution with 1280x720p pixels;

Interface and Features of Lightworks

Installation of Lightworks

Step 1. Download the installation package from the Lightworks official page.

download Lightworks
download Lightworks

Step 2. Run the downloaded file, and choose the language.

choose the language in Lightworks installation
choose the language in Lightworks installation

Step 3. Choose Next.

choose Next in Lightworks installation
choose Next in Lightworks installation

Step 4. Check I accept the terms of the License Agreement, and click Next.

choose I accept the terms of the license Agreement in Lightworks installation
choose I accept the terms of the license Agreement in Lightworks installation

Step 5. In the Choose Components page, hit Next.

choose components in Lightworks installation
choose components in Lightworks installation

Step 6. Choose install location, and click Next.

choose install location in Lightworks installation
choose install location in Lightworks installation

Step 7. Click the Next button and it will automatically start installing Lightworks on your computer.

Lightworks Interface

After we install Lightworks on the computer, we can run it now. When we go into it, the first page displayed is the project library. Just click the Create a new project menu. Then you can choose some details about the new project, like its name, frame rate, and notes.

Lightworks project library
Lightworks project library

Have all these things done and click the Create button to the editing window. Lightworks divides its screen into four parts, LOG, EDIT, VFX, and AUDIO. And in the following, we will show you what we can do in each of these sections.

Lightworks layout
Lightworks layout

Lightworks Features

1. Import files

Before the real editing starts, users need to import various materials they intend to use, including pictures, sound, and videos. From the LOG column, we can browse the folders on the computer through Local Files. After selecting the files, click the Import button in the lower-left corner, to put them in.
import files in Lightworks
import files in Lightworks

Lightworks supported import formats

  • DVCPRO 50
  • Uncompressed SD 8 bit and 10 bit
  • Uncompressed HD 8 bit and 10 bit
  • MPEG-2 I-Frame SD
  • MPEG-2 I-Frame HD
  • MPEG-2 Long GOP
  • IMX 30, 40, 50
  • AVCHD (M2T, M2TS, MPEG4, H.264)
  • Avid DNxHD – all variants, including Thin Raster
  • AVC-Intra 50
  • AVC-Intra 100
  • XDCAM EX (native MP4 support)
  • XDCAM HD 50 422
  • Apple ProRes
  • RED R3D
  • DPX 8 bit, 10 bit, 16 bit
  • Image Sequence (BMP, DPX, JPEG, PNG, TGA, Compressed TGA, TIFF)
  • Broadcast Wave Format with drop and non-drop frame timecode options
  • Cinema DNG
  • Sony XAVC

Compatibility checking

After we import these files into Lightworks, we need to check if Lightworks is compatible with these files, by simply playing each of them.

play imported files in Lightworks
play imported files in Lightworks

2. Edit files

Now we can go to the EDIT column to start editing the clips. Just simply drag the file into the timeline, the video and audio files would be displayed there.

drag files into the timeline in Lightworks
drag files into the timeline in Lightworks

Then adjust the position of the timeline clips to edit the sequence of the video playback. Click on the end or front end of the clip to make yellow brackets appear on the end or front end, and then drag and drop the brackets to trim the clip.

3. Add transition

After the mouse clicks on the junction between the two materials on the timeline, and the two materials have yellow icons, right-click > Transition > Add > Choose one effect from Dissolve, Luma Wipe, Push, Squeeze, and Wipe.

add a transition in Lightworks
add a transition in Lightworks

4. Add text

To make this job done, we need to move to the next column, VFX.

Switch to the VFX page. In addition to using the Colour Correction panel to adjust the color, brightness, and contrast of the movie, you can also use the + button to add titles or subtitles to the movie.

add text in Lightworks
add text in Lightworks

5. Color grading

Still in the VFX windows. Open the Settings options on the left and all the color correction option settings appear. There are five dialog boxes of Balance, Main, RGB, HSV, and Curve.

Further reading:

Color Grading is not a daunting task :

Not sure what decisions to make in color correction? When should you push up the RGB value? When you need to drag down the slider to decrease some parameters? If there is too much red tone in the highlighted area, what is the next move? Read our in-depth article on Color Grading to acquaint yourself with systematic knowledge and practices in color grading.


Mainly for white balance correction, which has three tools: black, white and gray for color correction.

Lightworks color correction: Balance
Lightworks color correction: Balance


There are three color rings in the Main option, which are Shadows, Midtones, and Highlights. Below them are five adjustment gadgets: Saturation, Gamma, Contrast, Brightness, and gain. When adjusting, you can put keyframes on the timeline, making the color transition more natural.

Lightworks color correction: Main
Lightworks color correction: Main


In the RGB option, there are four adjustment tools, Gamma, Contrast, Brightness, and Gain. When performing a color adjustment, you can put keyframes on the adjusted timeline according to actual needs.

Lightworks color correction: RGB
Lightworks color correction: RGB


In HSV, adjust the value of HUE and Saturation individually according to special circumstances.

Lightworks color correction: HSV
Lightworks color correction: HSV


Curve mainly adjusts the colors of the three single channels of red, green, and blue, and the color of the composite channel. The brightness channel can adjust the brightness of the picture. During the adjustment process, in order to make the color transition more natural and harmonious, the keyframe switch can be turned on.

Lightworks color correction: Curves
Lightworks color correction: Curves

6. Set sound effects

Now we are in the AUDIO column. In the Audio page, we can apply different equalizer effects in the clip to achieve effects such as strengthening treble, strengthening bass, reducing wind noise, etc. and fine-tune the sound performance of the movie.

Lightworks audio effects
Lightworks audio effects

7. Export file

All these operations above are basically all we need to make our videos great, and now it is time to show you how to export the edited file from Lightworks. Just right click on the preview window, and choose Export. There you can transfer it directly to Vimeo, YouTube, or in h.264/mp4 format (but with the resolution of 720p).

Lightworks Alternatives

Adobe Premiere Pro

What Premiere Pro has gone over Lightworks is its interactivity with other Adobe products. But that won't mean a hill of beans until you can learn the other Adobe products. And that means you may spend more energy learning all the products. Besides, Adobe Premiere Pro is not free.

Lightworks is a bit more Avid-like in how you control it, which is different enough from Premiere and you'll keep asking why does it work this way if you are pretty familiar with Premiere.

Lightworks is much more of a film editor's application. You can tackle different lengths of media in several Rooms and then piece parts together as needed. You have to be alert and track things well. Nonetheless, I prefer it because it feels like a cutting environment. You can have 20 takes of one line of script and organize them side by side for best performance.

On the other hand, if you're shooting video and your end product is more symmetrical and even similar in structure, Adobe Premiere Pro might be a better choice. In it, you have everything in front of you on your screen. You can jump between scenes easily and things are rarely lost unless you are totally incompetent of keeping track of your clips.

DaVinci Resolve

In the earlier days, Lightworks was more focusing on editing, or we can call it an editing suite, while DaVinci Resolve was much more powerful in color grading, a color grading system. But even now, the grading ability of DaVinci Resolve is far superior to anything possible in Final Cut Pro, Adobe Premiere Pro, Avid Media Composer, Lightworks, etc.

And recently the things are becoming murky: the conception of both products keep undergoing some renewals. They have expanded beyond their original design. Lightworks has been rescued from oblivion and gained much more functionality making it more like its mainstream edit suite competitors. And DaVinci Resolve has also been heavily developed by Blackmagic. Since it added a timeline tool, which helps it evolve into a very capable sequencer. DaVinci Resolve is really a full finishing suite now.

DaVinci Resolve is most definitely a well-established and highly regarded tool, for all stages of editing, not just grading and online editing. There may not be as much work available for jobbing editors to use DaVinci Resolve as an offline edit suite in a broadcast production environment, but that does not mean that it is fully capable of filling this role.

For more details about Davinci Resolve, you can refer to this full-review guide on Davinci Resolve >>

About The Author

Cecilia Hwung is the marketing manager of Digiarty Software and the editor-in-chief of VideoProc team. She pursues common progress with her team and expects to share more creative content and useful information to readers. She has strong interest in copywriting and rich experience in video editing tips.

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