Editing videos can be surprisingly complex — so much so that it may take days or weeks before you can comfortably cut one video into smaller clips or join several bits into one larger video.
So what are you to do when you don’t have that kind of time or energy? What if it’s a one-time thing and you don’t want to scale the learning curve of a full-blown editor like Adobe Premiere Pro or HitFilm?
Don’t worry, you have options! You’ll find all kinds of free tools for splitting and merging video files on the web. The tricky part is sifting through them to find the ones worth using. In this article, we’ve done the work for you. Here are the best and easiest apps that anyone can use.
MP4Tools is an open source project that consists of two utilities: MP4Splitter, for splitting an MP4 file into multiple pieces…
…and MP4Joiner, for merging MP4 files together.
No other video types are supported, but seeing as how MP4 is the most popular video format, that’s no problem.
The main benefit of supporting one format is that there’s no need to re-encode. Re-encoding takes time and often results in a loss of quality, which is why MP4Tools can do instant cutting and joining at source quality. However, you can force re-encoding if you’d like.
Splitting is as easy as loading a video file, adding “split points,” then clicking Start splitting. Merging is even easier: add the individual video files, then click Join.
Download: MP4Tools (Free)
While Avidemux is technically a video editor, it has nowhere near the same complexity as a professional video workstation. It’s simple enough that you only have to click a few buttons to do what you want, especially if you only need to split and merge videos.
Avidemux supports AVI, FLV, MP4, MPG, and MKV formats, which covers about 99 percent of all modern videos. Furthermore, Avidemux won’t re-encode if your output settings are the exact same as the input, thus saving time and preserving video quality.
To split a video, load it and click Time at the bottom, set the starting timestamp of the split, then click the Set start marker button. Next, navigate to the ending timestamp of the split, then click Set end marker. Lastly, click File > Save to save everything between markers as a clip.
To join videos, load the first clip with File > Open, then load subsequent clips with File > Append. You must do it in the order you want them merged! Save the combined video with File > Save.
Download: Avidemux (Free)
3. Machete Video Editor Lite
Machete Video Editor is similar to Avidemux in functionality but easier to learn and use. As far as lightweight video editors go, it’s one of the best. And as long as you output with the same settings as input, it will not re-encode your videos.
The downside to the Lite version of Machete is that it only works with AVI and WMV formats. By purchasing the full version, you can unlock FLV, MP4, MKV, MOV video formats and several additional audio formats. This is the only limitation of the Lite version.
To split a video, click Play > Jump to time… and navigate to a starting timestamp, then click the Set the beginning of a selection button. Navigate to an ending timestamp and click Set the end of a selection. Then click Save the selection as… to export the clip.
To merge videos, load the first clip (it can be any, doesn’t have to be the first in order). Use Play > Jump to time… to navigate to where you want to insert the next clip, then click Edit > Insert a file at the current position… Repeat for all clips, then File > Save As… to finish.
4. Format Factory
K9 Web Protection flags Format Factory’s site under the Spyware/Malware category, but as long as you uncheck the bundled installation of Picosmos Picture Tools, it’s fine. Use at your own risk!
I hesitate to recommend Format Factory only because it requires over 150 MB to install — a hefty amount of space if all you want to do is split and merge videos. But if you also need to convert between formats and/or rip from CDs and DVDs, then it may be worth your while.
To split a video, click the output format you want in the sidebar, then click Add File and load the video. Click Option, set the Start Time and End Time to wherever you want the split, then click OK. Lastly, click Start to begin the splitting task.
To merge videos, go to Utilities > Video Joiner in the sidebar. Set the proper Output Setting, then click Add File to load all of the individual clips. Lastly, once everything is ordered properly, click OK and then Start to begin the merging task.
Download: Format Factory (Free)
5. Freemake Video Converter
K9 Web Protection flags Freemake Video Converter’s site under the Spyware/Malware category, but you only need to decline the bundled offer for Ad-Aware Web Companion. Use at your own risk!
Freemake Video Converter supports over 500 formats and is easy to use, but the free version adds a watermark. For $9 per year (or $19 lifetime payment), the watermarking is removed and video conversions are even faster. Unfortunately, splitting and merging always re-encodes.
To split a video, load it with the +Video button, then click to edit. Use the playback timeline and the Start Selection and Selection End buttons (under the Cutting section) to select a timeframe. When finished, click OK and then one of the output buttons at the bottom to export.
To merge videos, add as many clips as you want with +Video, and then enable the Join files toggle at the top right. Drag and drop to sequence the clips, then click one of the output buttons at the bottom to export.
Download: Freemake Video Converter (Free)
What’s Your Favorite Video Tool?
Going forward, you should also learn how to reduce video file sizes without sacrificing quality, which comes in handy when doing all kinds of video editing. Also, don’t miss out on the nuances of video codecs, containers, and compression!
If you own an iOS device, be sure to take a look at these free video editing apps for iPhone and iPad.