Apple’s computing infrastructure has long been aimed at the creative professional, with emphasis on photo and video editing featuring prominently in marketing material past and present. The only problem with this is that industry-leading software like Adobe Premier, After Effects and Apple’s own Final Cut series isn’t cheap.
In fact, it’s very expensive. If you’re already out of pocket from purchasing a rather expensive Mac then you’ll likely want some financial relief in the form of free software. While nothing is going to match the premium might of Adobe and Apple’s in-house software, there are a few free video editing applications to sink your teeth into.
If you’ve just bought your first Mac then you might not have realised that it already comes with a basic video editor called iMovie. This is Apple’s own software and comes as part of the iLife suite. While you won’t necessarily be cutting up the next Hollywood blockbuster using iMovie, it’s a capable video editor for small projects.
For personal use, iMovie offers an easy introduction to video editing with support for face recognition, themes, easy to use effects, a simplistic timeline view and built in sounds and animations. It will leave you hungry for more if you’re after a powerful video editing solution, but then again you’ll be hard pressed to find an easier way to bring your moving images together into one professional looking production.
We’ve written about Blender before at MakeUseOf, though with a focus on the 3D modelling aspect with only a brief mention of Blender’s potential as a non-linear video editor. The open source powerhouse might take some getting used to but with a few tutorials and some practice you’ll be surprised at what you can achieve. Here is an excellent site with a heap of tutorials for those getting started with Blender.
Better known for its compatibility with Linux (of which it’s one of the better video editors), Kdenlive plays nicely on OS X thanks to the help of MacPorts. The project is very much alive, with a March 2012 donation drive exceeding expectations allowing the developer to work on the project for two solid months.
The community managed to raise over $7,000 and that’s bound to help Kdenlive reach version 1.0 in the near future (as of writing the most recent release is 0.9.2 released in May 2012). While there are a lack of features found in the big commercial suites, Kdenlive is a straightforward and functional non-linear editor with plenty of friendly folks on the forum to help you out if you get stuck.
Jahshaka was previously known as CineFX and is aimed at being an editor, effects and compositing engine that runs cross-platform over Mac, Linux and Windows. It is probably best compared to Adobe After Effects in its aspirations, though there has been a long time between version 2.0 and the long-awaited version 3.0 leading some to question the project’s future.
There is clearly still a lot of work to be done but it’s nice to see a truly open source cross-platform stab at a market dominated by Adobe. There seem to be quite a few users hungry for a new version judging by the comments left on news items, which hopefully will spur developers to deliver the update sometime this year.
Still in the early stages of development, VideoLan Movie Creator (VLMC) is a non-linear editor based on the daddy of all media players, VLC. I’m not entirely sure whether the project is still actually alive, though according to the minus project page the last unstable release was nearly a year ago and the latest version is nearly 2 years late according to the roadmap.
Not to worry, because it’s free and potentially very promising indeed. If you’re scratching your head at the mention of VLC then you might want to familiarise yourself with the world’s best media player.
Finally another oft-listed Linux variant is Avidemux, though it’s basic in nature and not that up to date it works well for simple editing tasks and supports a wide variety of input and output formats. The interface could do with an update, but as a simple editing tool Avidemux does the job.
Personally I’d rather use iMovie, though I’m not going to even consider comparing the two as they’re entirely different beasts right down to the licensing.
One To Watch: Lightworks
Lightworks is a professional video editing suite that went open source in 2010, offering a free version alongside a paid Pro version for those who need a little bit more. So far only a Windows version of Lightworks has surfaced, though the software has a rich heritage spanning more than 20 years.
With the Windows version of Lightworks moving along at a steady pace, Linux support won’t be far off. Once this is done the developers will begin working on the Mac version, though don’t expect too much in terms of stability for a while yet. Lightworks isn’t Mac compatible just yet though you might want to check out the website to see what’s in store for the future.
Judging by this list, the reputation that Apple’s desktop and laptop computers have earned as all-in-one video editing stations has a lot to do with the extra commercial software required to achieve results. With all the money, time and development resources the respective companies have to throw at their video products, it’s no wonder.
That said, iMovie is free (though proprietary), Blender is open source, powerful (though complex) and the rest provide some free and open source alternatives that will never quite match the might of Adobe or Apple. Hopefully once Lightworks for Mac drops there will be a free solution that’s accessible, powerful, and fairly cheap for those wanting extra professional features.