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Apple computers have long been aimed at the creative professional, with emphasis on photo and video editing. The only problem is that industry-leading packages like Adobe Premiere, After Effects and Apple’s own Final Cut Pro X series aren’t cheap.

Since iMovie is no longer free, decent Mac video editors are hard to come by. Nothing is quite going to match the premium might of Adobe and Apple’s in-house software, but there are a few free video editing applications to sink your teeth into.

Da Vinci Resolve

The Studio version of Da Vinci Resolve costs nearly $1,000 — but the basic version is completely free. Better still it includes the same high quality image processing abilities as the pricier version, a powerful video editor, some of the best color correction capabilities on the planet and even works with external hardware panels for faster editing.

There are limitations of course, the main one is that Resolve can only output in SD, HD and Ultra HD (only!) which is likely going to be more than enough for most users. There are limitations on some of the more advanced grading and tracking tools too of course, but these limitations are mainly in place to convince professional users that they need to upgrade.

There may be quite a learning curve, but Da Vinci Resolve is one of the most powerful video editing suites on the planet and you get a hell of a lot for free.

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Verdict: Powerful, feature-rich, with limitations that are mostly aimed at professional commercial users. Definitely worth a shot for free.

OpenShot

Built with the aim of providing a stable, free, and accessible video editor, OpenShot is a cross-platform open source video editor that’s been around since 2008. The project last received an update in August of 2016, with version 2.1 being released to the public.

The list of features has grown over the years to include great support for a variety of formats, keyframes for animation, unlimited video and audio tracks, transition and compositing support, titles, and a heap of extra features you’d expect from a modern video editor. Past criticisms have cited OpenShot’s reliability, but it’s still worth a shot for free.

Verdict: A great cross-platform open source option, with an impressive list of features. The interface feels a bit old-hat, which may put some users off.

Shotcut

Another free, open source, cross-platform video editor; Shotcut is still very much under active development. The features are just as impressive as OpenShot, but Shotcut also features a great-looking interface that more closely resembles a pro-tier application than a free open source effort.

In addition to supporting a wide range of video files and formats (including 4K video), Shotcut also includes great support for working with audio, an impressive list of video effects including compositing and transitions, and a flexible UI from which to work.

Verdict: Shotcut is definitely worth a look if you want a free and feature-rich video editor but can’t afford to drop hundreds on a premium package.

Blender

Blender is a free 3D modelling and compositing application that’s been used in some pretty high profile productions 10+ Amazing Short Films You'd Not Believe Were Made With Free Software 10+ Amazing Short Films You'd Not Believe Were Made With Free Software Read More . What many don’t realise is that it’s also a capable non-linear video editor, provided you’re willing to take the time to learn.

blender_video

We’ve written about Blender before Blender - A Powerful Free Cross-Platform 3D Content Creation Suite Blender - A Powerful Free Cross-Platform 3D Content Creation Suite Read More 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. It might not be pretty, it’s not exactly easy, and it won’t match the top-tier packages — but it’s not bad at all for free.

Check out Daniel Pocock’s quick guide to editing video in Blender, as well as the official Blender video sequencer manual to learn more.

Verdict: Not purpose built, but powerful if you have the time to learn.

Lightworks

Lightworks is one of the most powerful apps on this list, and I’d happily recommend it above all other packages if it wasn’t so restrictive for the free user. The free version includes video effects, multicam editing, titling, as well as the usual multi layered timeline approach you’d expect from a comprehensive editor.

Unfortunately rendering (exporting your project) is limited to 1080p output on Vimeo, and 720p output to YouTube. You can also render to Lightworks Archives, but there’s no proper H.264, MP4, or even DVD export options.

So while the toolkit is vast, Lightworks isn’t a very appealing free editor unless you’d like to thoroughly try it out for free and upgrade at a later time.

Verdict: A powerful editor with plenty of features, but rendering is restricted to 1080p on Vimeo and 720p on YouTube until you rent for $24.99 per month or buy outright at over $400.

Kdenlive

Better known for its compatibility with Linux (of which it’s one of the better video editors 7 Free Open Source Video Editors For Linux 7 Free Open Source Video Editors For Linux Read More ), Kdenlive Kdenlive – A Stable & Versatile Free Cross-Platform Video Editor [Linux, Mac & Live CD] Kdenlive – A Stable & Versatile Free Cross-Platform Video Editor [Linux, Mac & Live CD] Kdenlive is a free and cross-platform video editor that will probably mean more to your average Linux user than Windows or Mac types. If you're searching for a decent, all-in-one solution for editing video on... Read More  can be compiled to run on macOS from source, with packages available via MacPorts. While developed has moved full-steam-ahead on Linux, the Mac packages available are currently over a year out of date.

kdenlive

Kdenlive has developed quite a bit over the years, and now looks more like a professional editing suite than the it used to. The latest version features multi-track video editing, support for a large number of video formats, effects and transitions, the ability to add titles, support for keyframes and a customizable interface.

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.

Verdict: Great range of features for free, but Mac packages are outdated so some features won’t be available.

Jahshaka (CineFX)

Jahshaka, previously known as CineFX, combines video editing, 2D and 3D animation, compositing, color correction, and video effects into across-platform over Mac, Linux and Windows package. It is probably best compared to Adobe After Effects in terms of what it delivers, but for free it might be worth a punt.

The community doesn’t seem that active, but it’s still nice to see a truly open source cross-platform stab at a market dominated by Adobe. Developers have recently set their sights on the VR market with the launch of a new toolkit called Jahshaka VR.

Many of the tutorials on the website date back to 2013, so you might want to spend some time experimenting on your own to get the most out of the latest version.

Verdict: More of a video processor than an editor, Jahshaka focuses on effects rather than providing a non-linear workspace. It’s also a bit outdated, but appears to be under active development.

Avidemux

Another oft-listed Linux variant is Avidemux, and though it’s basic in nature it works well for simple editing tasks and supports a wide variety of input and output formats. The project undergoes several updates a year, with development continuing at a steady pace. Parity is maintained between all three major versions, so you won’t miss out on any features if you opt for the Mac package.

screenshot1

The last time I used Avidemux for any kind of project it was capable, fiddly, and crashed on a semi regular basis. Six years have passed since then, and things are considerably better, though it’s still lacking in features you might expect from a modern video editor.

Verdict: A capable freebie, but lacking in polish and features.

One to watch: VideoLan Movie Creator

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. The project still isn’t available for general release, it’s not even reached beta stage at the moment.

vlmc_alpha

You can compile VLMC from source yourself if you really want to, but there are no binaries available at present to simply download and try out. 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.

Verdict: A promising-looking open source free application that’s not quite ready yet.

The Rest

There were a few video editors that caught our eye but either don’t qualify as free, or don’t seem to be actively under development any more. You might want to check them out though:

  • Filmora — free to try, simple to use, cheap enough at $70 for a lifetime license.
  • ZS4 — free to use, unclear as to whether it’s still under development. Emphasises “chaos over order” and compositing.
  • iMovie — Apple’s own entry-level video editor, used to be free but now costs $22.99. Mixed reviews but simple enough to use.

Conclusion

Judging by the available software, 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 commercial software available. With all the money, time and development resources the respective companies have to throw at their video products, it’s no wonder.

Da Vinci Resolve is surprisingly feature rich, Blender is open source and powerful but complex, and the rest provide some free and open source alternatives that will never quite match the might of Adobe and other creative powerhouses.

Which video editor do you recommend for Mac?

Article updated by Tim Brookes on November 21, 2016

Image credit: Gustavo Devito (Flickr)

  1. James
    March 31, 2016 at 9:40 pm

    You can download the free

    IMOVE

    from:

    https://support.apple.com/kb/dl1574?locale=en_US

    then updated it to the latest version automatically it will update and you will have
    the latest version of iMove free without having to pay the $14.99 usd

    • Alejandro Garcia Puente
      May 8, 2016 at 4:06 pm

      You just earned yourself a place in heaven

    • joann
      June 13, 2016 at 7:06 am

      aww thanks

  2. josie
    March 17, 2016 at 11:05 pm

    this article was written in 2012 ! So don't be a smart ass Dima when posting your remarks at the end of 2015

  3. Niek
    March 6, 2016 at 7:42 pm

    I own a mac but iMovie costs money to download, how can I get this for free?

    • James
      March 31, 2016 at 9:39 pm

      Sure its free...

      you can download it at:

      https://support.apple.com/kb/dl1574?locale=en_US

      And the updated it to the latest version...
      Works like a charm...

      Cheers ........ :)

      • Philip
        June 16, 2016 at 12:25 pm

        I'm having problems. After I download it and run it, it says "Imovie 9.0 or later is required."

        • Laura
          June 17, 2016 at 9:09 am

          Me too! Have you figured out a way to get it to run or update?

      • Josephine
        July 3, 2016 at 5:52 pm

        I'm having this problem too! Have you figured out a way for it to work or update?

  4. GabbaJabba
    March 2, 2016 at 10:35 am

    None of these apps are actually on the app store except for iMovie
    ???

    • Tim Brookes
      March 3, 2016 at 12:27 am

      Nope, you'll have to download them via the provided links. These are for Mac, not iOS or anything :)

  5. Lody Sonneveld
    February 24, 2016 at 5:34 pm

    I HAD iMovie on my iMac, but after a hd crash, I reinstalled the latest version of the OS (OS X El Capitan) and if I want to reinstall iMovie I have to pay 15 euro :(

    • Tim Brookes
      February 26, 2016 at 12:49 am

      That doesn't sound right? When did you buy your Mac? And what version of OS X were you running before you reinstalled your HDD? Are you using the same Apple ID?

      • Lody Sonneveld
        February 26, 2016 at 12:58 pm

        Around 2012 I bought my iMac and it was delivered with the latest OS version at that time (Snow Leopard). Someone else replaced the hard disc for me and reinstalled the OS from the original system disc, but I don't know if he used the same ID.
        But even then (before I installed El Capitane), IMovie and Garageband were not anymore on my Mac.
        I have had many more serious problems with my 24' iMac and for me it is my worst computer choice since 1983, when I bought my first computer

  6. Mac expert
    January 8, 2016 at 5:40 pm

    From where did you downloaded iMovie and what version of OS X you have (name or numeric version or both[better])?

  7. Dima
    December 7, 2015 at 7:51 am

    iMovie is not free anymore and doesn't come with iLife. Hasn't been in 2 years. Wtf you are talking about.

  8. RinnyRue
    December 6, 2015 at 12:32 am

    Honestly, I've still yet to figure out how to get iMovie to do anything, but I haven't tested it in the past few months. I find that, for a VERY basic editor, QuickTime actually fulfills my needs, which is literally just syncing audio and footage. Just something to keep in mind for beginners looking for baby steps.

  9. Chimezie Nwatarali
    October 22, 2015 at 4:47 pm

    I didn't even realize that I had iMovie on my Mac. Thanks

  10. Marie louise Drew
    June 24, 2015 at 3:37 pm

    my iMovie keeps on crashing....

  11. Emdabomb
    May 14, 2015 at 1:22 am

    iMovie is TERRRIBLLE. Do not get Apple made programs for your computer. Apple is making all their money from iPhones, so they've pretty much stopped making things. Adobe is pretty much taking over, so get their stuff. I updated my laptop and iMovie doesn't even exist anymore...

    • St M
      June 6, 2015 at 2:51 pm

      iMovie Agreed IT IS TERRIBLLE!!!

      • Rishoo
        August 17, 2015 at 11:21 am

        I bet you just don't know how to use it because its great!!

        • david
          December 31, 2015 at 10:06 pm

          it's hard to get to know this program as the stupid, frigging thing crashes every time you open it. iMovie = FAIL

    • James Bruce
      August 17, 2015 at 11:35 am

      You're comparing iMovie, a free video editor designed for your mom, to Adobe Premiere? How about you compare (Apple) Final Cut Pro X to Adobe Premiere instead?

  12. Hanjixghoul
    January 28, 2015 at 8:29 pm

    How come we have to pay for iMovie now? (just a random question) Just sometime ago I downloaded a free version?

    • Tim Brookes
      January 29, 2015 at 1:33 am

      I'm not sure quite what happened, but I know that users who buy a new Mac get a free copy of iWork and iMovie. How old is your Mac? I think those with iMovie 2011 or later are eligible to download new versions for free, but if your Mac predates this then that might be why you're now being asked to pay.

  13. Warren
    January 27, 2015 at 3:56 pm

    I'm having problems uploading videos to iMovie . Any video I have on file is not an option, I was going to try loading the file to the iMovie selections but not sure that will resolve it….

  14. immotus
    January 25, 2015 at 11:06 am

    Lightworks is just out for Mac users yay my windows is too slow for the program finally my mac can be put to good use.

    • Tim Brookes
      January 29, 2015 at 1:35 am

      Great news, Lightworks looks very promising indeed.

  15. a Nickname
    January 23, 2015 at 1:19 pm

    I tried most of this software and I have to say that
    - iMovie isn't free
    - Blender is 3D modeling software so use it for video editing is a little bit hard
    - Kdenlive requires all KDE packages installed, and I prefer something other
    - Jahshaka is something from another reality, it's hard to learn
    - VLMC looks good and simple but it's PRE-ALPHA now, so it's buggy
    - I haven't try Avidemux because I can't find any working dmg
    My choise is VideoPad, it's simple and can do anything I want.
    Shame on you cause I spent whole day to test all this things

    • Tim Brookes
      January 29, 2015 at 1:40 am

      I'm afraid the reality of the situation is that if you want to edit video on a Mac, you're going to have to open your wallet. iMovie is free if you have bought a Mac in the last few years, and while Blender is certainly difficult to use it's by far the most powerful and capable editor on the list.

      Unfortunately we at MakeUseOf can't do anything about the lack of quality free software for the Mac platform. It's not a platform where free and open source software thrives, but instead an area where top-tier creative suites dominate.

      If you have a pressing need for a highly capable non-linear video editor, you should consider Adobe Premier as part of their Creative Cloud suite. You can rent it for $20/month (I believe) or the entire suite for $50/month. This is quite expensive, but if you have a job to do then you can't go wrong. Failing that, Apple's own Final Cut X is another mid-tier app that you can buy for a one-off fee (around $99 from memory).

      VideoPad doesn't qualify to be included in this list, because it's not free.

  16. exo
    December 15, 2014 at 3:31 am

    at first I was shocked thet you put imovie on number 1 . Then I realized this article was written in 2012 . Imovie 13 wasn't born yet :)

  17. Connor
    October 11, 2012 at 1:32 am

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

    • Anonymous
      December 10, 2014 at 4:18 pm

      iMovie isn't free

  18. danielooi
    August 1, 2012 at 1:34 am

    iMovie should serve most of mac user well

    • Anonymous
      March 15, 2015 at 11:33 am

      Imovie ha sa lot of bugs. Impossible to share your movie on your pc.

    • Xara
      March 30, 2015 at 12:37 pm

      Daniel do you love me?

  19. Victor Cesto
    July 31, 2012 at 12:53 pm

    iMovie for me is the best.

  20. Steven Kim
    July 30, 2012 at 2:18 pm

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

  21. Wade Crawford
    July 27, 2012 at 4:41 pm

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

  22. Gian Singh
    July 26, 2012 at 7:22 pm

    Didnt know you could edit video in blender

    • Coopernator341
      March 30, 2015 at 12:39 pm

      I edit my wrist in a blender

  23. joker159-France
    July 26, 2012 at 5:45 pm

    OOOps ! ...for mac , sorry :)

    • Rex56
      March 30, 2015 at 12:33 pm

      its okay

    • Nudeamanda
      March 30, 2015 at 12:35 pm

      Don't worry it's all good.

  24. joker159-France
    July 26, 2012 at 5:44 pm

    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
      July 27, 2012 at 12:32 am

      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!

  25. Elaheh Sadegh
    July 26, 2012 at 9:32 am

    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.

  26. guest
    July 26, 2012 at 8:50 am

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

    • Tim Brookes
      July 27, 2012 at 12:16 am

      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.

  27. Luke Brannon
    July 26, 2012 at 8:21 am

    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
      July 27, 2012 at 12:15 am

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

  28. Diego Arriagada
    July 26, 2012 at 4:06 am

    Mmm... maybe I should try Jahshaka looks really cool.

    • Tim Brookes
      July 27, 2012 at 12:11 am

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

      • Diego Arriagada
        July 27, 2012 at 12:20 am

        I hope so! It looks promising!

  29. Lee
    July 26, 2012 at 2:33 am

    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
      July 27, 2012 at 12:11 am

      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
        July 27, 2012 at 2:05 am

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

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