The Top 6 Free Video Editors For Mac OS X

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free video editing softwareApple’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.

free video editing software

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.

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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.

free video editor

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.

free video editor

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.

free video editor

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.

free video editing software

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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34 Comments - Write a Comment

Reply

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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

Reply

joker159-France

OOOps ! …for mac , sorry :)

Rex56

its okay

Nudeamanda

Don’t worry it’s all good.

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Gian Singh

Didnt know you could edit video in blender

Coopernator341

I edit my wrist in a blender

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Wade Crawford

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

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Steven Kim

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

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Victor Cesto

iMovie for me is the best.

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danielooi

iMovie should serve most of mac user well

Anonymous

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

Xara

Daniel do you love me?

Reply

Connor

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

Anonymous

iMovie isn’t free

Reply

exo

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 :)

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a Nickname

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

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.

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immotus

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

Great news, Lightworks looks very promising indeed.

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Warren

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….

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Hanjixghoul

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

Tim Brookes

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.

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