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Video has become a common part of everyday life. People take videos on smartphones, upload them via YouTube, and share them on Facebook.
You’d think, then, that free video editors would be common. Free video editors have become serious rivals to the alternative, paid programs in both capacity and scope of editing. However, the selection remains somewhat limited.
We present the absolute best free video editors available for Windows.
Keep in mind: The following software is only as effective as your know-how, and none of them are instantly intuitive. They do, however, provide as close to paid software functionality as you’ll be able to find online. We’ve also highlighted video quality enhancers if yours needs a touch-up.
If you’re looking for a more serious editor, give Lightworks a look. This tool has been around since 1989 and has been used to edit many professional movies you’ve probably watched and enjoyed, like Pulp Fiction and Braveheart.
As you might expect, this professional-grade editor comes with a professional-grade learning curve. This is a non-linear editor, which means it is not based on a simple A-to-B video timeline. That makes advanced edits easier, but thoroughly confuses newbies. Add tons of effects and multi-cam editing and you’ve got one heck of a nut to crack. If you manage it, though, you’ll be able to create videos of higher quality than most other free editors.
Now with the release of Lightworks v14.0 we have created the complete video creative package so everyone can make video that stands out from the crowd. Whether you need to make video for social media, YouTube or for a 4K film project, Lightworks makes it all possible! — Lightwork
Along with providing users with all the basics they would desire from video editing software, Lightworks also provides a few extras like basic effects, titles, transitions, and color correction. Whether you’re a bare bones amateur or a bit more experienced, Lightworks will definitely meet your video editing needs.
The free version, unfortunately, comes with a few caveats, the most problematic being a lack of 1080p output. Free users can only output at 720p, which could be a major turn-off. If that doesn’t bother you, though, Lightworks is a solid choice.The free version of Lightworks will allow you access for seven days, at which time you’ll have to register officially through the Lightworks website in order to use. You can do all this early on by registering today.
HitFilm is a doozy. Touting on its main page that it’s the “most powerful, FREE editing and VFX software to date”, it sure doesn’t disappoint. For one, the software has plenty of beautiful examples for you to choose from directly on their web page.
Aside from providing a fantastic interface for laying out your clips and workflow, it also provides countless free video tutorials and visual effect possibilities by default.
Its UI is also largely reminiscent of more mainstream, paid video editing software, so you aren’t limited in what you can do and create within the window. The same applies feature-wise: color correction, clip cutting, VFX, and mask tracking are all within grasp with HitFilm Express 2017.
It also goes without saying that HitFilm Express is continually updated to provide users with new features and updates.
When you’re ready to make the leap to paid software, HitFilm Pro 2017 is also available for users at a one-time payment, meaning it carries no subscription cost, unlike many other paid video editors. You will have to register and share the software via social media before being able to download, but given how fantastic this software is that’s a small favor to ask!
DaVinci Resolve is as close to a free, professional video editor as possible. Keep in mind, this means it takes about as much practice, time, and dedication to learn as it would any other professional video editor. Once you can find your way around the software, however, you’ll never need another video editor.
There’s hardly a thing DaVinci Resolve isn’t able to do for you. But one thing it does fantastically is color grading. In fact, it’s renounced for being a standalone color correction software along with doing, well, everything else.
Revolutionary new tools for editing, color correction and professional audio post production, all in a single application! — Black Magic Design
It also allows SD, HD, and Ultra HD output, meaning you can start, edit, and create pseudo-studio productions — polished and finalized — all in one software. While the Studio versions will, of course, be designed for actual professional production settings, the alternative lite version will provide more than enough functionality to keep any beginner satisfied.
Similar to HitFilm Express, you’ll have to register with the website in order to download. For more on them, see our comparison of DaVinci Resolve and HitFilm Express.
Comparatively speaking, Shotcut is designed for the amateur video editor or someone who needs to tie together or edit short clips to create a sensible final product. It’s as easy as dragging and dropping clips and editing them by cutting and adding transitions.
If you don’t require a large, professional grade video editor, but instead want to put together short clips with transitions, this program is exactly for you. Better yet, its slim data size allows users of all PC specs to use the software. You won’t need an ultra souped up PC in order to use Shotcut, and sometimes that can make all the difference.
Plenty of bells and whistles are great, but for specific purposes, they can border on clutter. With Shotcut, everything you’d need is laid out in front of you. If you require a simple video editor for simple purposes, look no further.
Avidemux is a free, open source video editor also available for Linux and Mac OS X.
The software was originally released several years ago and has been updated consistently, with the latest coming in the month before this article’s publication.
This program represents a half-step between very serious software, like Lightworks, and a basic video editor like the infamous Windows Movie Maker. It supports nonlinear editing, you can add subtitles, and the software’s file format lets users save all the settings associated with a project, which you can then re-applied to another project. Scripting is available through the GUI or directly through a command line. Virtually all major video and audio formats are supported for input and most are supported for output, though WMV and QuickTime are absent.
You can grab Avidemux from the developer’s website, which includes a link to a wiki and forums that will help you become familiar with the software.
This appropriately titled editor is another solid choice for people who want a semi-professional option without having to pay a professional price tag. A nonlinear editor, VSDC allows for advanced editing techniques. The software also supports a very broad range of video and audio effects like color correction, blur reduction, and volume correction.
Though still confusing for the novice, the basic interface of VSDC is a bit easier to grasp than that of Lightworks, thanks to a front-end that mimics the Microsoft ribbon interface and has a more conventional workflow.
One nice extra that may elevate VSDC above the free version of Lightworks is video output support for 1080p at 30 FPS, which is much better than its competitor’s 720p limitation. The installer is also a rather compact 37MB, about half the size of Lightworks.
Blender is, I admit, a different breed of video editor. It’s for 3D, rather than 2D, editing. Despite that being the case, not mentioning Blender would be a serious error because of just how much 3D video editing functionality is packed into this free software. For one, check out what Blender has to offer.
It’s a complete education in a single program. From the first time you enter Blender, you’ll be given a somewhat complex UI. Blender isn’t your typical video editing software: aside from the possibility of creating a mixed reality short film like the one above, you can create, edit, animate, and light 3D animations.
Learning your way through Blender can take a lot of time. After all, you’re not starting with a few clips you can trim and edit. You’re given very little when you first open the program and are expected to learn as you go.
Luckily, you’re not alone with Blender. The Blender community is huge, talented, and more than willing to create hours upon hours of tutorials, entirely in their spare time, in order to teach newcomers how to start the journey to master this fantastic piece of software.
That includes the official Blender Youtube channel, mind you, which not only provides tutorials for users but hours upon hours of talks and presentations as well. That’s on top of their official animations, which definitely give you something to strive for if 3D animation is your forthcoming forte.
I know, I cheated a little adding a 3D animation software to the list. There’s no doubt, however, that Blender ranks head and shoulder above the competition for its 3D video editing capabilities.
Craft Your Masterpiece
Maybe you want to create a short film of jumbled video clips for family members, or you’re an up and coming film student seeking to craft your first magnum opus. Whatever the want, the software presented should more than meet your needs. Best of all, you won’t have to deal with sub-par video editing software.
If you need to upgrade your computer for this, check out the best laptops for video editing. You should make sure you have a good camcorder for hobbyist use too. And don’t miss out on these free apps to split and merge video files in a crunch!
Orignially written by Matt Smith on 28 May 2014.