The power of great editing goes a long way in the filmmaking process, but a craftsman is only as good as their tools.
As a general rule, the best free video editing software is:
- Blender Video Editor
- HitFilm Express
- or most pre-installed video editors on Windows or MAC
When it comes to video editing software, there are typically a few “top-of-the-line” brands used by Hollywood and other video editing professionals which cost thousands of dollars, but what can you do if you have a zero budget?
Here are is a deeper dive into the best free video editors out there which I really like.
Diving headfirst into the deep end we have Blender.
Blender is an open-source software, renowned for being one of the most in-depth video editing programmes out there; the sheer amount of control and variety of options it gives you are almost unmatched by any other software.
A downside of this is that it takes some time to get used to. I have struggled for many hours learning this package as it can be a little intimidating at first.
The learning curve is pretty steep, but if you put some hours in, practising and perfecting your editing, it’s incredibly rewarding. And if you already know how to navigate video editing software, then you’ll be able to get even more out of Blender and won’t be so much out of your depth.
Some of its features include:
- Audio mixing/syncing/scrubbing and waveform visualization.
- 32 slots for adding video/images/audio.
- Special effects including speed control, transitions, keyframes and filters.
There is so much more in Blender and as a first step, it is worth checking out.
Just like Blender, Shotcut is an open-source programme that allows for a large range of editing options.
One of the biggest advantages of Shotcut over blender is that it supports 4K UHD video editing, which is incredibly rare. Very few programmes support this, even fewer at no extra cost.
Another brilliant feature you get with Shotcut is the lack of video imports. Shotcut doesn’t require imports and clips can simply move straight into the software.
This saves a lot of time downloading footage, which can be particularly painstaking with larger files.
On top of this, it also offers three lossless export formats, allowing you to transfer videos with no loss in audio or visuals, but this does result in large, exported file sizes.
If you’re looking for software that’s less intimidating to first-time editors, then Avidemux is the answer to all your prayers.
It’s by far the most approachable software for beginner editors; although this comes with the disadvantage of it not being the best software for the longevity of your editing career.
Avidemux should be used as more as a way to learn the basics of editing, almost like having stabilisers on a bike; then once you’ve got the ropes, then you can upgrade to a more complicated software like Blender.
But for what it’s worth, Avidemux has everything you might need as an amateur!
This is one of my personal favourites as Openshot is the perfect amalgamation of every video editing software we’ve mentioned so far:
Openshot is open-source, it has a friendly UI (user interface) which is perfect for beginners, it has a wide range of features that can also keep professionals happy, and it has also the same features as software such as iMovie + so much more!
The only thing it doesn’t have that’s been mentioned so far is 4k support, but considering the rarity of that feature, it’s not like you’re the only one missing out.
It’s by far the best all-round video editor for all skill levels, but some pros may still prefer the slightly more advanced software because it caters more to them than Openshot does.
Although tutorials for Openshot are few are far between on the internet, the learning curve isn’t nearly as steep as other software, so seize the opportunity to become self-taught. This will make you feel more confident going forward if you decide to upgrade to more professionally aimed software’s.
If you’re in the market for “professionally aimed” video editing programmes, then look no further than HitFilm Express.
HitFilm Express is targeted mainly towards those who are proficient in editing and want that little bit more from their software. The free package alone includes more than 180 different special effects as well as an array of editing tools all for your enjoyment.
Special features include:
- Advanced cutting tools.
- Keying for green screen effects.
- Audio and video filters.
- Compositing tools.
- Layers and masking.
- 3D video support (which, like 4K support) is rare among free video editors.
Now “free” video editing software is not quite a correct way of describing HitFilm Express, as there is a small charge that comes with the software, but oddly it’s not for the software itself, and it’s not even a financial charge.
Instead, HitFilm Express permits you to download itself on your PC as long as you promote it on social media in some way;
This is a great way for the company to get free promotion and it is awesome to be able to help them out.
Pre-Installed Video Editors that Come with Your Device
If you have any Windows PC, there will be basic free video editing software installed.
If you have any Apple product, whether that be an iPad, iPhone, MacBook, etc, iMovie will already come pre-installed as standard.
iMovie is actually a pretty incredible editing software!
iMovie includes some amazing features such as:
- the ability to crop and rotate video clips
- pre-built themes & backdrops
- HD & 4K video support
- video effects & transitions
- automated video editing
- real-time titling
- audio and music editing
- an organised timeline
iMovie is just one example, but if your device has pre-downloaded software, it is worth checking it out.
Key take aways…
In terms of drawing a singular conclusion on which is the definitive best free video editor, that’s just not possible as they are all so different with different user level ability required.
Different programmes will appeal to the needs of different people. It’s really down to the user and what they need out of their software.
Personally, I recommend trying a few different options to get a feel for which free software suits you best, and which you can be the most productive and creative with.