The Top 6 Free Video Editors For Mac OS X

wYSh   The Top 6 Free Video Editors For Mac OS XApple’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.

iMovie

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.

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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.

Blender

At the opposite end of the spectrum in terms of user friendliness and raw power is Blender, an application usually associated with 3D modelling and compositing that’s been used in some pretty high profile productions.

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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.

Kdenlive

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.

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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 (CineFX)

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.

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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.

VideoLan Movie Creator (VLC Project Page)

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.

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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.

Avidemux

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.

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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.

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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.

Conclusion

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.

Image Credit: Blender, Jahshaka, Lightworks

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20 Comments -

Lee

I have Lightworks on my desktop and it really is nice, but my computer just isn’t powerful enough to run it very well. I guess a lot of it has to do with only having 3gb of RAM, but the video card and processor aren’t all that great either. Hopefully my new computer (which hasn’t arrived yet) will be able to run it (and everything else) better.

Tim Brookes

I personally can’t wait for the Mac release. I played around with it briefly on Windows but nowhere near long enough to know what I was doing. It has an entirely different workflow to the rest of the editors I’ve ever used, but I’d be happy to adapt for those features at that (free/cheap) price!

Lee

Definitely check out the official forums. There are lots of tips/tricks on how to use it.

Diego Arriagada

Mmm… maybe I should try Jahshaka looks really cool.

Tim Brookes

Yeah it does, I’m looking forward to version 3.0 if it ever sees the light of day!

Diego Arriagada

I hope so! It looks promising!

Luke Brannon

I don’t have a mac but my uncle does and I remember us trying out loads of different video editors to compare them to the full priced equivalents (premiere pro, final cut pro, sony vegas) and I remember us trying out the first three. The limitations of iMovie may be a downfall for enthusiastic video buffs but for the novice it’s great and also it’s pre-installed, even better! Blender was also a pretty good one, as I recall you could import your 3D modelling into the video suite for some nifty animation. CineFX I think was probably our favourite, pretty easy to use and was like an advanced iMovie, loved every second of using it! hope this helps anyone :)

Tim Brookes

Sums it up great, thanks! I hope Jahshaka (CineFX) keeps up pace, I’d love to play around with the next version.

guest

KDEmlive on Mac is a pain in the ***.

Tim Brookes

Unfortunately it’s a bit of a pain in the ass on Linux too, but then again it’s head and shoulders above most other editors on the platform.

Elaheh Sadegh

I can’t believe all these software are free! They look so professional , I’m starting to move from win to Mac so this kind of article are attractive and useful for me.

joker159-France

You forget Novacut , it’s in dev ; kickstarter funded
The cutting workflow is very good,
works with ubuntu 12.04q

in works : the multitrack sound and multicam,

so it’s a project to follow :D

Tim Brookes

That looks like a promising project but as far as I can tell it’s a Linux venture? Though I imagine the open source nature will hopefully spawn Windows and Mac variants.

Either way thanks for drawing my attention to it, it’s one to remember in future!

joker159-France

OOOps ! …for mac , sorry :)

Gian Singh

Didnt know you could edit video in blender

Wade Crawford

Can’t wait for Lightworks. The Windows version is nice.

Steven Kim

A pal was trying to get info related to this editors a couple weeks ago..will def forward him this link!!

Victor Cesto

iMovie for me is the best.

danielooi

iMovie should serve most of mac user well

Connor

Great article! Saw the amount of work you put into this and thought I’d just say thanks man! Very helpful.