Adobe Photoshop is considered the industry standard for image editing software, and it’s been that way for many years. But hobby photographers and amateur designers often complain that the program is simply too complex (thanks to its enormous range of functions), or too expensive to warrant purchasing. For this reason, there are numerous Photoshop alternatives, many of which are considerably...
Professional video editing software must offer more and more functions in order to meet different requirements and keep up with the competition: whether it’s 4K resolution, depth impression for 3D films, or 360-degree recordings for VR (virtual reality) videos. Since the corresponding hardware is becoming more and more available (like high-resolution smartphone cameras or video cameras like GoPro, for example), even amateurs need video editing programs which they can use to easily edit video material.
- Video editing: a brief overview for beginners
- Comparing the best video editing programs in 2018
The good news is that even affordable video editing software now offers many of the features used in professional film editing. We will show the best video editing software of 2018 for post-production professionals, aspiring YouTubers, and amateur filmmakers.
Video editing: a brief overview for beginners
Regardless of whether you want to enhance a short video with small effects or start a comprehensive film project, you will always need to create a detailed script. This way, if you change your plans in between, the script will help you not forget your basic idea.
Before buying expensive video editing software with a wide range of functions, be sure to check your hardware first. To create an interesting video, you will need audio visual material. In most cases, you will at least need a camera with a microphone that captures sharp, HD-quality images and clear sound (except for animation and cartoons, which don’t necessarily require a camera).
Adobe Premiere Pro CC 12
Adobe Premiere Elements 2018
Apple Final Cut Pro X 10
Wondershare Filmora 8
EditShare Lightworks 14 Free Version
Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve 15 Beta
Cyberlink PowerDirector 16
Subscription costs $20.99/month for the full video package, $52.99/month for all apps including Creative Cloud
Freemium, Lifetime version is approx. $60
Free of charge (full version $337.99 for full license, $134.99 per year)
Free Beta version
From approx. $99.99
Professionals, semi-professional users
Beginners and advanced
Semi-professional users, advanced
Semi-professional users, advanced
Professionals, semi-professional users, advanced users
Windows, macOS, Android, iOS
Windows, Linux, macOS
Windows, Linux, macOS
Supports 360° virtual-reality
Titles, transitions, After Effects plugin: effects and animations
Yes, but additional costs (effects store)
Title, compositing, sound distribution, particles
✔ (8K in the full version)
AVI, MOV, MXF, 3GPP/3GPP2, BWF, ASF, AVC-Intra, AVCHD, H.264 AVC, M1V, M2T/ M2TS, M2V, MPEG-1, -2 & -4, VOB, WAV, WMV
AVCHD, H.264, HDV, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, QuickTime, DV-AVI, WMV, WMA
AVI, AVCHD, AVC-Ultra, DVCPRO HD, DV, ProRes, ProRes RAW, H.264, HDV, QuickTime, MOV, MPEG IMX, MP4, MTS/M2TS, MXF, iFrame, Motion JPEG, XAVC, XDCAM, RAW (with plug-in)
Import: AVI, DV-DIF, H.264, NSV, FLV, MKV, MP4, M4V, 3GPP, MOV, MPG, MPEG, DAT, TRP, WMV, ASF, DVR-MS
Export: MP4, MOV, FLV, WEBM, 3GP, AVI, MKV
AVI, QuickTime, MP2, MP4, WMV (only Export), MXF Op-1A and MXF Op-Atom, AVCHD
Import: TS, ASF, M2V, VOB
AVI, MOV, MP4, TIFF, AVCHD, AVC-Intra, MXF Op-Atom and Op-1A, MPEG-2, easyDCP, RAW, ArriRaw, Cin in 10/12/14bit, DPX, RMF, MPEG-2/4, DNG, OpenEXR, R3D, VRW
AVI, MPEG-Formats, H.264, MOV, AVCHD, XAVC-S, TOD, VOB, WMV, MP4, 3GPP2. WMV, DV-AVI, DivX, WTV in H.264/MPEG-2, HEVC in 8/10bit, MKV, Dual-stream-AVI, equirectangular projection format for 360° video
Supports social media uploading
You should also know which file formats are compatible with the software. Popular video formats for private and semi-professional filmmakers include XAVC and XAVC-S (used in Sony SLR cameras and camcorders) and the HEVC standard (High Efficiency Video Encoding Standard). At the moment, however, many beginner programs can convert to most formats without any serious problems. However, with certain technical features (like 360° recordings), specialized video editing programs function better than beginner-friendly all-round programs. Something else that is often important to users is being able to edit files in their original state, which some programs do offer. With other video editing software, you must first convert the data to a compatible format so that you can edit it using the program.
Memory-intensive media like 4K resolution videos, in particular, require a lot of computing power when editing multiple video tracks simultaneously. Before you buy a video editing program, make sure your PC or laptop has enough memory and a good graphics card. In extreme cases, even high performance programs can crash. Therefore, your software should not only support the file formats you use, but it should also have hardware that can provide sufficient processing power for the software you choose. The hardware and software should be perfectly matched. Hardware requirements can vary depending on the project and the software. Nevertheless, check whether your hardware meets at least the current minimum requirements:
- One monitor (or more) with sufficient resolution (for example 1920 * 1080 pixels for full HD), good color reproduction (IPS panel or VA panel), 60 Hz refresh rate, and HDMI port. Professionals use preview monitors with video cards for particularly color-fast playback.
- A hard disk with enough storage space – at least 500 GB (1 TB is better)
- You should be able to upgrade your computer with additional storage space to respond to increasing demands. External storage with a USB-3 port is handy. For larger projects, we recommend an SSD memory with at least 1 TV, since SSDs allow faster access times than ordinary hard disk drives.
- The amount of free RAM should be at least 8 GB; for extensive film work, powerful computers with up to 64 GB total RAM are recommended.
- A processor (CPU = central processing unit) with at least 6.6 gigahertz performance (e.g. Intel i5 or i7 and AMD Ryzen 7, Ryzen 5, or Threadripperfor maximum performance).
- You need a powerful graphics card especially for larger projects. You will often find a fast graphics processing unit (GPU) built into the processor (AMD: Ryzen desktop APU like Ryzen 5 2400G; Intel: Intel core i7 8809G, i7 8700K). For more performance, however, you need a separate card with enough monitor ports like Nvidia GTX 1070 or the GTX 1080ti (the latter is more profitable for experienced users). It should also support the CUDO or OpenCL parallel programming architecture.
- A CPU cooler increases the computing speed and lifetime of your processor. If you overclock the processor, cooling is particularly important. Fin coolers, like the be quiet! Dark Rock 3 or Noctura NH-D15, work efficiently and quietly.
- Last but not least, the motherboard should be mentioned. This is the core of a computer on which CPU, BIOS chip, and graphics card and others are mounted. If you want to expand your computer later, the motherboard should provide enough slots. The board also has sockets that are compatible with different processors. AM-4 sockets require AMD CPUs, LGA sockets (1151 and 2011 v3) are suitable for Intel processors.
For certain video editing tasks, like rendering, it is worthwhile paralleling processors with graphics cards. This increases the computing capacity, allowing the computer to work faster. These “parallel computers” use the power of the graphics card via calculation architectures like CUDA and OpenCL.
Basic video editing steps
Basically, video editing can be divided into several phases. How long the editing takes depends on the complexity and size of your video. Many who edit a birthday video or a short film for the first time make the mistake of wanting to incorporate too many special features and details into the film – making the final film seem overloaded. Without writing a previous script, you quickly lose sight of the actual story or purpose of the video. Therefore, you must first write a script in order to record the planned course of action for the video. Then follow the steps below, always keeping your script in mind.
- First, view your material. In addition to the video recordings, this includes audio files for the background music or sound effects. Voice recordings are also included. In addition, photos and graphics may also be used, for example as a single player or title card. Text files can play a role – for example, if you want to add subtitles through your video editing program.
- Once your collection is complete, use your script again. Check if the story you want to tell can be achieved with what you have. Change any details if necessary.
When it comes to small projects, stories can make information more interesting. If your video has an engaging introduction, a tension curve, and an unexpected ending, you will inspire more people with it. Learn more about this in our article “Storytelling: Stories as an online marketing measure”.
- Normally you film a lot more material than you need. You should arrange your media content in directories so that you can quickly find everything again later.
- Choose from different camera angles and more or less successful “takes” which best suit your imagination. Roughly arrange the selected scenes by narrative chronology. You now have a raw version of your project in the program.
- Now it’s time for fine-tuning. Cut your film. Get rid of mistakes, long pauses, or unclean transitions from the film. In this step, you can also change, copy, or extend video sections with the video editing software.
- Check the effects of the image. For example, change the mood of a scene by adding color. Create the desired atmosphere by optimizing brightness, contrast, and sharpness. If you also change the speed, this can lead to interesting effects (fast motion or a black and white scene that looks like an old silent movie, for example). Mirroring is also possible.
- Use effect templates. With the keying effect, you replace a uniform color in the background with an image of your choice – this is how a green screen works. You can also use effects to make it look as if the lens is moving over images (Ken Burns effect). This often makes shots look more vivid. But be careful: less is more – don’t exaggerate the use of these effects!
- Digital transitions (waves, pixelation) loosen up rigid slide shows. In films, on the other hand, the images move continuously. Too many different transitions are more likely to interfere. Invisible or soft apertures are usually more pleasant for viewers with longer films. Set the f-stops to your scene cut to signal scene or location changes.
- Insert text. A film wouldn’t be complete without a title. The opening and closing credits must also be included. Subtitles in different languages ensure that as many viewers as possible can follow the story. If you burn your film on DVD with the video editing program, you also have to think about suitable menu texts.
- Now, you’re finally setting your work to music. In addition to scenic dialogue, you can also add background music or sound. It is also possible to add commentary to the film or a narrative voice. You can arrange different sounds on different soundtracks. For individual scenes, you can adjust the volume, bass, and pitch of the individual elements to each other (the background music should be softer than the dialogue so you can follow along).
- Your film is now almost finished. All you have to do is save it. In fact, rendering large files can take a long time. This is another reason why it is important to have an efficient video editing program in combination with good computing power.
Modern video editing programs offer these functions
Films used to be cut by hand. The flammable stripes had to be copied each time an extra scene had to be inserted. This was actually done by making real cuts in the film strips and gluing in new sections. Special effects were created by the team either analogously on the set or the editors had to work in effects in laborious manual work. Non-linear video editing has greatly simplified film editing and has only been possible since film digitization.
Video editing software gives you a digital editing environment where you can preview your film in progress. You do not change the original files, just the virtual copy. The video editing program only saves your entire project as a new video file when you render the film.
Non-linear editing (NLE) uses this digital environment to give you more editing freedom. A major difference to classic video editing with film reels is that you are not forced to edit the film chronologically. On the program’s timeline, you just place clips in the desired order. You arrange additional elements like audio files, text, or effects on parallel tracks. If you shortened a scene or move it to another location, you just need a few clicks. Some editors also work with a magnetic timeline. This prevents gaps on a track. An inserted clip automatically connects to the nearest clip – other clips move up.
Video editing software usually contains two modes: storyboard or timeline. In storyboard mode, you see clips as individual images. This form of editing is simple. It is suitable for quickly arranging your scenes. If you want to work in detail, you should switch to timeline mode. You will see your video files on the timeline. Below this are parallel tracks for other movie elements (e.g. music). These are also arranged chronologically one after the other.
When you click on an element, the program displays the appropriate tools. You can cut scenes directly on the video track, adjust colors with color correction, or set a filter on a parallel track. You can also adjust the audio track: Good video editing software automatically downsamples background music when people are talking. This function is called audio ducking.
Videos in their raw form consume a lot of storage space. The finished videos are therefore usually converted into another format (consisting of a codec and container). In most cases, the original file is compressed to such an extent that picture and audio quality will satisfy even the most demanding viewer. Since videos usually consist of different media, as well as digital and analog formats, your video editing program must support the different image, video, text, and audio formats in order to be able to save them in the desired playback format.
Your video editing software should be able to render the following playback formats:
- Microsoft’s AVI (Audio Video Interleave) format has long been one of the most popular video formats. It is compatible with macOS and Windows and is still often used on the web. It compresses files less compared to other formats, so the original quality doesn’t suffer so much.
- The WMV format (Windows Media Video), also from Microsoft, is increasingly replacing AVI. Videos in media libraries are often stored in VMW because the format is well suited for streaming.
- Apple’s QuickTime container format is primarily intended for longer films. It divides the various elements (video, audio, etc.) directly into separate tracks. It can also save hierarchies. You can save it either as a .mov file or as a .qt file. It is also the basis for the ISO standard MP4. This standard compresses media very strongly so that it can be played on platforms with few resources. It is a popular format on the web and for mobile devices.
- Flash video containers like FLV (flash video) and SWF (Shockwave Flash) are formats that are often used for online streaming. With a suitable codec, you can play them in Adobe’s Flash Player, for example. However, they do not run on mobile operating systems, so this format loses importance.
- Matroska is an open source format that also supports video with varying frame rates (frame rate = number of frames per second). Besides video tracks (.mkv) it also integrates and processes audio tracks (.mka), 3D elements (.mk3d), and subtitles (.mks).
- The AVCHD (Advanced Video Codec High Definition) format is suitable for 3D videos. It uses the H standard of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), H.264/MPEG-4. High-resolution camcorders for amateur filmmakers and semi-professional users often use this format.
If you use a non-digital format, for example, because you want to edit a DV video cassette, you need additional hardware as well as your computer, since you then need to connect a VHS player to your computer. Alternatively, you can use an analog-to-digital converter with the included conversation software and connect it to your computer using your USB. Be sure to check in advance that your software is compatible with the format.
Viewers are increasingly demanding higher quality video – your video editing program should also take this into account. Therefore, make sure that your program supports 4K HD videos. Of course, your graphics card and your processor must also be able to process the amount of data associated with it. For the amount of data a film needs, professional programs organize your data using footage bins. In the databases, you create directories and categorize the material based on its metadata. Also, make sure you have access to an adequate upload speed if you plan to put videos online.
If you post videos on YouTube, you can also use many video editing programs to rank better on the online platform. You can easily edit SEO-relevant settings like titles, metadata, and keywords in the program. In our article YouTube SEO: Ranking factors and optimization tips you can find out what to look for.
In addition to videos, you can also create slideshows with the standard software. A powerful editing program should also be able to edit 3D videos. With many, you can at least create a 3D title.
Strictly speaking, a 360° video is little more than a series of six image files. However, it requires integrated metadata that can process the overlapping images and provide a panoramic view. Not many programs offer the full range of tools for 360° video, but you can expect at least basic editing options from mid-range video editing software.
Basic features that let you design transitions and synchronize video and audio tracks are included with most video editing programs. You should also be able to adjust the playback speed. Good software also includes an image-stabilizer – preferably with motion tracking. If you’re using a handheld camera, the image often looks shaky. The stabilizer compensates for this. Motion tracking tracks the movement of objects. This function also compensates for shaky camera movements.
Chroma keying (also known as color-based image extraction) is a function that allows you to completely replace objects or layers. When rotating, this object must have a continuous color, often a green or blue background. You can then insert an image or video as a new layer into this background. With the keying tool you can replace the corresponding color with the other layer.
Comparing the best video editing programs in 2018
Adobe Premiere Pro CC
The professional video editing program Adobe Premiere Pro CC meets almost all requirements for modern non-linear video editing. Within Adobe’s Creative Cloud, subscribers can also directly access Adobe’s After Effects if they are subscribed to it. The program is a powerful post-production tool, allowing you to add effects and graphics to your videos. Plus, Premiere Pro automatically downloads Adobe Media Encoder. This helps you to quickly and easily render the appropriate video format for your output medium. Adobe is also known for its user-friendly layout. If you’ve worked with other programs from the Creative Cloud before, you’ll be able to quickly familiarize yourself with the video editing software.
Adobe Premiere Procan only be used on a subscription basis, which means there are regularly new editions. This investment is primarily worthwhile for professionals and semi-professional users. The Creative Cloud package enables them to use various other programs for image, sound, and video editing, depending on the scope of their subscription. The cloud server that can also be used in the package ensures better team workflows. Team members can exchange data quickly and easily on the server.
For beginners and advanced users we recommend the cheaper product option: Adobe Elements. Even its slimmer functional range should be sufficient for most semi-professionals. That having been said, Premiere Elements also offers beginners easy-to-understand functions that enable presentable results – for example, with the help of automated video editing.
When you start Adobe Pro CC for the first time, you will be greeted with an introduction. The main menu can be found at the top of the clearly arranged user interface. To select the desired workspace – from cut, color, and audio design, to effects and graphics – just select the appropriate tab. The user interface then switches to the working environment (the color correction in the above picture). Under “Learning,” the video editing program offers you a series of tutorials. In the “Assembly” area, load your media into the project directory and arrange your files there. The other tabs are assigned to various editing categories.
You have at least one preview window for your sequence on the user interface. Premiere Pro also supports a second monitor for comparing clips. Alternatively, you can see analysis visualizations such as the Lumetri Scopes in the image to the left. Below, you’ll find the timeline, where you can drag and drop clips and effect elements. Videos appear as thumbnails, and audio tracks show the timeline in wave form. To the left of it, your media is available in the minimized directory window. You can simply drag them to the desired track.
With Lumetri Scopes, experts achieve amazing image effects. Learn how to use this tool correctly in this Lumetri tutorial.
Both effects and graphics, as well as color correction and mixing, have multiple libraries: internal templates, Adobe Stock, After Effects, and your local collection. Adobe Stock also provides professional filters and effects that you can purchase.
Within Adobe Premiere Pro, you can edit your clips using a variety of convenient tools. The video editing software provides the individual sliders and wheels in organized drop-down menus. Text graphics are visualized in small preview windows.
As for special effects, Adobe Premiere Pro can’t quite compete with other professional video editing programs. That’s how Final Cut Special Effects integrates without sacrificing efficiency. Premiere Pro, on the other hand, works with high-resolution video formats. For 4K videos, you need a powerful graphics card and a good processor. You won’t find special effects and graphics in Adobe Premiere Pro either. You’ll need a Creative Cloud subscription for Adobe After Effects. However, Premiere Pro’s toolbox does include 3D titles.
The split layout is especially helpful for teamwork, since different experts usually work on professional projects. The different workspaces offer specialized tools for each individual task area. Everything can then be put together in the cloud. For this purpose, the person in charge creates a team project when opening the program. However, this function is primarily used for producing complex films. This is why it’s only available to Enterprise customers.
What’s new in Adobe Premiere Pro CC 12.11:
- Competitor Cyberlink PowerDirector was one of the first to offer tools for 360-degree virtual reality. Premiere Pro also took its first steps in this direction in the 2016 version, however, they offered relatively little in comparison for 360-degree movies. Now the video editing software finally has a tool for 360-degree recordings: immersive reality. Adobe also developed suitable handset controls. This allows you to rotate and edit the image. In order to smoothly merge the image edges, Premiere Pro revised the function “VR: layer to sphere.”
- If you use the Lumetri color tools in conjunction with the second monitor, you can match the colors of two images. To do this, click on “Color Wheels & Match” > “Color Match” in the color correction tool menu and activate “Comparison View.” If you check “Face Detection,” the video editing program will capture faces. This preserves natural skin tones, even if you make major color changes in the rest of the recording.
- Another Lumetri innovation: Premiere Pro enables user-defined LUT directories.
- In addition, it is now finally possible to open two projects at the same time and adopt templates from one project for the other.
- Automatic ducking highlights dialogues and automatically reduces the volume of background music.
- The user interface of After Effects’ templates has a new layout. This is intended to make editing easier.
- New supported RAW camera formats: Canon C200, Sony Venice, IPP2 for RED.
Adobe Premiere Pro is currently one of the best video editing programs and offers countless possibilities for professional post-production. The clear layout is subdivided into different work areas. The Creative Cloud allows users with different tasks to work together on the same project. What Premiere Pro lacks in effects, it brings back with well-integrated plugins from other programs. Thanks to the many tutorials and a clear layout, even amateur filmmakers can achieve very good effects with Premiere Pro. However, due to the relatively high monthly price, the program is actually only worthwhile for professionals.
|Clear, user-friendly layout||Can falter with large amounts of data, which 4K video editing requires|
|Wide range of tools for professional video editing||No special effects integration|
|Powerful color correction and matching tools|
|Compatible with many applications and directly connected to the Creative Cloud|
|Supports multiple formats|
Adobe Premiere Elements
Premiere Elementsis Adobe’s home video editing software. Beginners use it to easily create short clips, dynamic slideshows, and small videos. The library helps you find and organize videos on your hard drive.
So, Premiere Elements does a lot of work for its users. Automation is the key word. Thanks to templates for color correction, editing, and audio design, even professional-looking videos can be produced in a relatively short time.
To download Adobe Premiere Elements, you don’t need cloud access, but you do need an Adobe ID to sign up for Adobe Premiere Elements. The software is available at a fixed price. Minimum download requirements are 4 GB RAM and 5 GB disk space for the app (10 GB for optional items). In the test, the installation took some time. Then the program opened with a dialog window. If you buy the complete Elements family, you can choose between Photoshop Elements, Elements Organizer, and Premier Elements.
Image editing lets you optimize your photos before you put them in a slideshow, for example. The organizer has some layout improvements over previous versions. It now allows you to organize your media with tags and a rating system. The search criteria have also been enhanced. The video editing program analyzes images and videos with artificial intelligence and face recognition. For example, if you search for people, the search function lists images and videos that show people. If you search for pictures of certain places, the program determines suitable pictures taking your metadata into consideration. The tool still has minor flaws, but they will probably be fixed in future versions.
The video editing interface has some elements in common with Premiere Pro. You’ll find four different user interfaces on the horizontal menu bar. However, Premiere Elements does not distinguish between different professional work steps. Instead, it divides the user interfaces into current Adobe Elements information (eLive), tutorials (Guided), and two editing modes: Quick and Expert. While Premiere Pro follows the aesthetics of the current cloud design, the Premiere Elements layout design seems a bit dated. However, this has hardly any effect on performance.
Do you want to make your slideshows more lively? Use the video collage tool in Premiere Elements media directory. The tool combines photos, videos, and music to create a dynamic video collage.
In Quick mode, you work with storyboard video editing. It’s a quick and easy method for beginners. The user interface is taken over by the video preview. On the timeline below, you can see the individual frames next to each other as an image preview. The track above is for text, below are audio tracks and effects. You can move clips on the timeline by dragging them with the mouse. If you click the beginning or end of a clip, you can shorten it. To trim a video element, fix the red slider at a point (the start point) and click a later point in the clip (the end point). A scissors icon appears. Click on it to trim the video.
Create your first video in minutes with video templates. The tool menu bar is on the right. Many of the fix tools work automatically. For example, the Auto Smart Tone feature improves color with a single click. Quick mode provides multiple templates to adjust the color temperature or individual tones. You can then fine-tune them with the corresponding sliders. Under “Edit” you will find image effects and scene transitions as well as a list of all applied effects. Use the “Add” feature to add text, sound, and animated graphics to your video.
In Expert mode, you work with a professional non-linear video editing environment. On the timeline, you can edit multiple video and audio tracks and add text and effects with professional tools. This mode offers more effects and transitions than the Quick mode. You’ll also have more audio editing tools to choose from. In addition to the classic video track, there is a special audio track for the timeline.
New to Adobe Premiere Elements 2018:
- Automatic video analysis identifies the best still images and takes snapshots.
- Smart Trim recognizes faces and shortens videos thanks to artificial intelligence. This feature selects the best clips and discards unnecessary elements. This feature is not new, but it works more accurately than before using modern technology.
- Bounce Back repeats certain settings and plays them back and forth several times in a row.
- Still image with dynamic titles is a feature that helps you freeze your video at a specific point (freeze frame). As long as the video is frozen, a title moves over the image. This effect isn’t new either, but Premiere Elements now gives you a tool to guide you through the process.
- A similar tool supports you when you prepare short videos with animated text for social media. It exports your project to platforms like YouTube, Vimeo, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
- In addition, the current version of the video editing program also creates and exports GIF files with animations.
- With action cameras you can film dynamic movements and breathtaking panoramic views – or they use special lenses like the fisheye lens. The new Premiere Elements tool window allows you to optimize even these extreme videos.
- The new version offers default settings for the video standards PAL, NTSC, and Full-HD.
- The media library has been improved. Import and export your media to this directory. You can also upload media to the network through the library. You can organize the directory using your own tags or you can search your hard disk for specific media types, albums, dates of origin, locations, persons, or events. Use the rating tool to determine the best clips for your video project.
- The media library and the fast editing mode support a touch screen function. However, the feature is still expandable. Small controllers, for example, make manual operation more difficult.
Adobe Premiere Elements differs from its professional sister program by focusing on a different target group. Accordingly, Premiere Elements has a smaller range of functions. However, amateur filmmakers can still achieve good results with the software thanks to how easy it is to operate. Automatic image correction and suitable templates simplify the entire process. With integrated tutorials, inexperienced users learn how and for what they can use the expert tools. Therefore, we recommend the video editing software especially to untrained enthusiasts who want to carefully approach professional video editing programs.
|Supports 4K video||Some videos falter even with low picture quality|
|Different editing modes for beginners and advanced players||Renders only the whole video, works comparatively slowly|
|Many tutorials in eLive mode||No HEVC or 3D support|
|Expert mode: choice between classic video track timeline and audio track|
Apple Final Cut Pro X 10
Final Cut Pro Xis on par with Adobe Premiere Pro when it comes to professional video editing. In contrast to Adobe’s competitors, however, the video editing software runs exclusively on macOS. This can lead to compatibility problems if you want to render a video in a native Mac format and play it on Windows computers. However, Final Cut also scores points with its smooth operation, even with storage-intensive media. Organize complex projects in the library using tags and a rating system. Professional audio editing functions and a wide selection of visual effects round off the program.
Final Cut Pro Xis the successor to Final Cut Pro, a video editing program designed with experts in mind. The new incarnation offers more than the basic iMovie, which comes pre-installed for free on Mac operating systems. Final Cut Pro X aims to bridge the gap between the professional technology of its predecessor and simpler, easy-to-use free applications. The tool palette includes enough tools to satisfy the needs of both semi-professional users and freelancers. Additionally, the software costs considerably less than the professional version.
However, Apple’s product receives fewer updates than Adobe’s competitor. These updates are done automatically through the Apple App Store. For example, the latest version adds a color-correction tool that rivals Premiere Pro. Additionally, the Apple product supports 360-degree video editing with extensive features and boasts up to 8K resolution.
As one of the world’s best video editing programs, Final Cut Pro X offers a powerful database: the Smart Library. The directory imports media, recognizes image content (like people, for example), and sorts clips by setting size (totals, semi-totals, etc.), or image stability.
The elegant dark grey user interface draws attention to the media content. You can either divide the layout according to your ideas or use one of the predefined modes. Although Final Cut allows you to create your own layouts, the program does not offer floating tool windows.
A special feature is the so-called roll tool. This unique tool helps you to organize your tracks. Each clip plays a specific role in the movie: it can be background noise, a video clip, or subtitles. Each of these roles is assigned a specific color. The tool lets you create custom roles for your project. Then assign specific colors to each role, like light green for dialogs. On the timeline, you will see colored tracks.
The non-marking, magnetic timeline is another innovation. Classic, nonlinear timelines have several loose tracks, Final Cut has one main track. Like a tree diagram, audio tracks and effects branch off. If you move a clip with a connected audio track, that track follows it along the timeline. The magnet function attaches successive clips to each other. If you shorten one clip, all the others move up. To link multiple clips to form a unit, use the connect clips function. This allows you to keep your timeline very clear, even when working on large film projects. If, on the other hand, you want to separate the audio and video tracks of a clip, simply double click the clip.
If you want to insert a gap in the timeline, go to Edit > Insert Generator and select the “Gap” option. The keyboard shortcut is Option + W. You then adjust the gap with the cutting tool.
Final Cut Pro Xincludes a remarkable number of video and audio effects (more than a hundred each). These include 3D titles and frames. You can customize each of the effects. If you integrate additional special effects functions through plugins, Final Cut integrates them directly into the user interface.
New with Final Cut Pro X 10.4in 2018:
- Apple offers new features for its ProRes format. For example, if you import a HDR video or 4K formats directly from your camera, you can edit them as ProRes RAW in the original RAW image quality. At the same time, the new ProRes format saves storage space. To get the most out of it, you need a HDR-capable camera and a monitor that correctly displays the HDR colors.
- Just like Adobe Premiere Pro, the new color correction consists of color wheels. This allows you to change brightness, colors, and intensity. The tool distinguishes between shadows, highlights, and midtones. You can also adjust the entire image, and use sliders to edit shading and color temperature. You can use color curves to correct individual color values. Final Cut allows you to customize the desktop according to your needs and shortens work steps with keyboard shortcuts.
- More and more film producers are integrating subtitles for different languages or the hearing impaired into their online videos.In the current Final Cut update, the subtitle tool makes this work easier. You can create text directly in the program or import text files – even for multiple languages. Simply connect clips and subtitles on the timeline. If you adjust the layout, changes are displayed directly in the preview window. Final Cut also lets you easily upload your finished video to video platforms. The video editing programs supports Vimeo and YouTube for this purpose.
- Final Cut Pro Xtakes the lead in 360-degree video editing. Unlike Premiere Pro, it even offers users a full-featured stitching tool. This tool lets you merge your all-round view. The tool even masters the detailed textures of grass, for example. You can also use the patch tool to remove your equipment from the image – which is unusual for a video editing software to offer. If your computer has enough computing power, you can even use the video editing software to edit 60-degree recordings with up to 8K resolution. Use the appropriate filters or the horizon correction.
- The latest version of Final Cut Pro X also allows you to import and export XML formats. This allows you to continue working on your project with other applications. You can use DaVinci Resolve, which has its strengths in color correction, and then continue working with Final Cut. XML also makes it easier to transfer projects from mobile systems like iOS.
- However, Final Cut X Pro 10is not natively backward compatible with earlier versions of Final Cut Pro (7 and older). To import projects from it, you will need a plugin like the paid SentToXplugin.
Final Cut Pro X is constantly expanding its range of functions. As the successor to the professional tool Final Cut Pro, the video editing program combines its professional editing tools with the user-friendly operation of iMovie. With integrated 360-degree video editing, high video quality with consistently good performance and improved color correction, Final Cut Pro X 10 will win over professionals and dedicated amateur filmmakers alike.
|Clear layout||Not natively backward compatible with earlier Final Cut versions|
|Professional tools with intuitively understandable operation – this facilitates the changeover from beginner software like iMovie||Limited to macOS – can lead to compatibility problems|
|Very solid performance||Color correction is inferior to other professional tools like Premiere Pro (but has been improved)|
|Fully integrated 360-degree video editing|
|High image quality with relatively small file size|
|Integrates plugins into your own user interface|
Wondershare Filmora 8.5
Wondershare Filmorais a good entry-level video editing program. Even inexperienced users can create presentable videos in minutes using the simple mode, since in this mode you can leave most of the work to the software. You just load your video clips and music into the program. The rest is done by an algorithm. The advanced mode, on the other hand, offers you all the usual functions you can use to create your own video. In action cam mode, you can optimize videos that you have recorded with special action cameras like GoPro. You optimize the image, adjust the colors, and the speed. The instant-cutter is a simple editing tool without accessories. Use it to cut clips and join them together.
The video editing software downloads quickly – it can be installed with just a few clicks. On the start screen, select the image format of your project and one of the editing modes provided. In addition to widescreen, standard and smartphone formats (respectively 16:9, 4:3 and 9:16), there is also an “Instagram format” (1:1).
The simple mode is just that – easy to use. After you have loaded your media, select a pre-set topic, for example “holiday trip.” Then select titles from the suggested music tracks or upload files from your own library. The preview shows you the finished product. Finally, give it a title and credits. Then save it and share it with others.
In advanced mode, you have more freedom. The left bar shows you the different tool themes within a category (here: different filter themes). On the far right, you can see the video preview. In between, you will find drag-and-drop elements (e.g. the “Canvas” filter) that you drag onto the timeline and integrate into the video. For more complex projects, expand the timeline by clicking “Add New Track.” Eleven tracks is the end. For most hobby editors, this should be enough. The tool selection above the timeline isn’t too big, but it does all the basic functions.
Beginners and hobby filmmakers can enjoy postproduction with the existing selection. They simply upload media like videos, pictures, and music. The video editing software imports many popular video formats (see our comparison table for details) and can export MP4 and MOV files. Popular audio formats like MP3, WAV, WMA, or AMR are just as small a problem as JPEG, BMP, PGN, GIF, or TIFF.
The tool “Text/Credits” provides some appealingly designed headings, which you can drag to the desired position of your video on the text track. If you click on the text element, an editing window opens. Then adjust the text content, shape, and color. If you then click on “OK,” the editor saves the entries in between. You can also simply drag and drop additional elements and edit filters or transitions on their own timeline tracks.
With a little practice, even beginners can create artistic effects with this video editing program. The “elements” are animated stickers that give your video a playful touch. Combined with the Instagram image format, this function is especially interesting for social media users who want to upload small videos quickly and easily.
The special mode for action cameras makes Filmorainteresting for filmmakers who enjoy shooting sports or working with handheld devices. See your video clip on a track in storyboard format and preview. The toolbar has three categories: “Repair,” “Speed,” and “Color.” In the “Repair” category, for example, you can adjust the lens curvature and image format. Under “Preferences” you will find a lot of common action cameras. When you select a camera, Filmora will optimize the video based on the pre-set lens settings. You can improve shaky videos with noise by clicking on the noise reduction checkbox.
Use the speed tool to set the scene for stunts. Slow-motion plays movements slower, which are otherwise too fast for the eye. You can play back a scene faster, but some shots only get the speed effect you feel at the moment they are shot. Every video editing software should also have a color corrector. This is also available in action cam mode. Filters and vignettes allow quick adjustment, but you can also adjust colors manually and specifically.
Filmora is one of the best video editing programs for beginners. You won’t find any professional tools, but the clear toolbar allows users with little experience to easily create high-resolution videos with professional looking effects. You can even create small slideshows in minutes. If you don’t want your videos to show the Filmorawatermark, you can invest approx. $80 for the full version. There are even cheaper video editing programs – but they lack some important features. With Filmora, you get a good beginner software with a user-friendly design and enough functions to feel like a real master editor.
|Action cam mode optimizes dynamic shots||Watermark visible on free version|
|Easy to learn in simple mode, more features in advanced mode||No 360-degree video editing|
|Supports 4K video||No HEVC|
|3D title via plugin|
EditShare Lightworks Free 14
The video editing software Lightworks from EditShare LLC has been in use for some time in the Hollywood film industry to cut films. The full version of the professional tool comes with an annual license of approx. $150. Lightworkswas created as a video editing program for specialized editors. This meant that functions like audio editing were sparse in the beginning. The tool palette consisted mainly of professional editing tools. Lightworks therefore also supports non-linear video editing with keyboard shortcuts. The manufacturer sells a color-coded keyboard with pre-set shortcuts. Older versions are not recommended for private users who need as wide a range of features as possible. In the meantime, however, the developers have integrated more options for editing audio tracks and effects into the software.
The free version does without some functions, while the full version supports more codecs. Compared to Filmora, video editing is less playful. Simply drag a filter or sticker onto the timeline: it’s fast, but there’s a danger of overloading the video. With Lightworks, you work meticulously on color-correction controls, so beginners will need to go through a thorough learning process with this video editing program.
The new layout visually separates work steps using separate user interfaces. Tabs allow you to easily switch between your media database, editing, effects, and audio editing.
To download the video editing program from the manufacturer’s site, you must create a free account. The software is compatible with Windows (32- and 64-bit), Linux (as RPM or DEB) and macOS (as DMG). You can choose between a stable release and the beta version. If you open the program after installation, you will be asked to create a new project. Next, set the frame rate of your video to 24 to 60 frames per second. The video editing software will convert your clips accordingly.
You import your media data into the log directory. This is integrated in your user interface and will allow you to manage your media directly in your video editing program. In the “Project Contents” tab, you can see all project files. In addition to local media, Lightworks offers two libraries with stock footage, which you can purchase: Audio Network for background music and sounds, and Pond5 for videos. The templates are designed primarily for professional users editing commercial films.
Next to the LOG tab, you will find the matching interfaces “EDIT,” “VFX,” and “AUDIO.” In the new Lightworksedition, editing, effects, and audio each have their own user interfaces. Previous versions solved the different tasks with tool windows on a single user interface. This older layout setting can still be found on the start page under “System Settings” (symbol: two gears). To do this, click on “Project Layout.” Change the display from “Fixed” to “Flexible” (freely customizable). If you click on your project, you will be shown an interface that you can set up as you wish.
In the fixed layout, you start the cut using “Edit.” With a double click, you activate a file from the log to work on it. Then drag a clip to the desired position in the timeline. Click it to shorten or otherwise edit the sequence. Consecutive scenes appear next to each other in two preview windows.
The program gives tips when you use the tool for the first time. Beginners in particular will find this feature useful. Although the user interface offers intuitively understandable tools, the program is mainly aimed at a professional target group. Laypersons must first familiarize themselves with the program and work with tools on a professional level. Settings for color correction, for example, can be made precisely in the “VFX” tab. You can also adjust titles according to your wishes.
Under the preview windows, edit metadata and cue markers (white square brackets as start and end points of a scene) in the “Edit” tab on the timeline.
The AUDIO user interface provides a larger timeline view for audio tracks. To the left of the preview window, you’ll find some audio tools, like the “Crossfade” and “Noise Correction” tools. Compared to the previous versions, some new tools have been added, like the “Wind Noise Compensator” (reduces wind noise from outdoor recordings) and 50Hz and 60Hz hum removal. By clicking on “Apply effect,” you can adjust these effects more precisely to your needs.
The free version exports finished videos directly to the social video platforms Vimeo and YouTube – as MP4 files with up to 720p picture quality. Of course, you can also save your video locally. The video gets a watermark. You can burn your video on CD or Blu-Ray only with the full version with costs.
Lightworks Free is a nonlinear editing program for advanced to professional users. The user interface is very clear thanks to the new layout. This allows an exact division of work. The focus continues to be on video editing, despite enhancements to the audio and effect offerings. If you need more post-production functions, you can extend Lightworks with plugins. A nice feature is that you can put videos directly online. For the output, we wish for a wider selection of file formats, as is already common with other providers.
|Free||Audio editing and effects are expandable|
|Professional editing tools||Watermark on output|
|Separate user interface for clear division of talks||Less intuitive than other popular software|
|Supports direct social media upload||Free version does not burn CDs or Blu-Rays|
|Saves automatically||Small selection of output formats|
Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve 15 Beta
The video editing software DaVinci Resolve Studio by Blackmagic is a real professional tool that Hollywood directors work with to cut video. DaVinci Resolve combines editing, sound editing, effects, and color correction in one application. The functions are sophisticated, but require a certain amount of prior knowledge. The version DaVinci Resolve 15 Beta is currently (as of 06.30.2018) even available for free. All you have to do is register before downloading. Blackmagic also offers editing professionals hardware compatible with the video editing software – for example, special grading control panels for professional color correction.
The video editing program surprises in its new version with a feature upgrade. DaVinci Resolve 15 now integrates the special effects program Fusionnatively into its user interface. DaVinciResolve 14 was already linked to the audio editing program Fairlight. The current beta version integrates the tool even better. The program combines video and sound editing with functions for special effects and animation on a single platform.
The download takes a little longer because the software needs a lot of memory space, due to its impressive range of functions. However, the installation runs smoothly. As one of the few professional video editing tools, DaVinci Resolve does not just work cross-platform on macOS, Linux, and Windows. IT also enables a smooth transition to work with its biggest competitors in the professional segment: Final Cut and Adobe Premiere Pro using XML, EDL, or AAF.
When you start the video editing program for the first time, it checks whether your graphics card has sufficient computing power. DaVinci Resolve 15 Beta still needs a lot of RAM, which will probably be improved in the final version. Afterwards, Resolve recommends a corresponding image quality. As you go through the project setup, you can make settings from SD quality to Ultra HD.
In the new version, you save loading time. If you open a project, the timeline on which you last worked is loaded directly. This means you need less RAM at the start. If you open another timeline, you briefly need to load it. If you want to work without delay, select the option “Load all timelines when starting a project” under “User settings” in the “Save projects” window. However, this mode requires more RAM.
Order for large data collections: the smart-bins automatically evaluate your media files’ metadata. The media libraries help you to categorize large amounts of data.
The video editing program offers numerous tools and features: from timeline stacks to audio track controls to precise transitions even with time distortion. Accordingly, a number of toolbars are assembled on the user interface. If you don’t need a tool, simply minimize it. Two preview windows allow you to control your work. Below these, you will find the timeline. There, you can edit several clips on the video track at the same time by selecting them with the mouse. In the selected timeline packages, you can cut several scenes at once. The context-sensitive trimming tool helps you to set the best cut. The multi-camera tool also lets you capture multiple perspectives in a scene. The tracking tool tracks objects. Both tools let you seamlessly merge multi-camera scenes. The free version works with a frame rate of 60fps (full version: 120fps).
3D video editing already existed in the previous version. Add titles in 2D or 3D. Fairlight integration also enables 3D sound distribution. Use the newly integrated fusion application to animate entire 3D environments. There is no separate editor for 360-degree videos, but you can edit them. However, make sure your video’s resolution and frame rate match your timeline settings.
If you have enough RAM on your device, you can also use the free video editing program to edit HD videos with up to 4K quality (8K with the full version) – the same applies to native RAW formats from various manufacturers (like Panasonic, Canon, Nikon) and action cams.
DaVinci Resolve 15 is rightly considered one of the best video editing programs on the market. Resolve has evolved from an already very mature, non-linear video editing program with unbeatable color correction to an extensive video editing platform. It now integrates Fairlightaudio editing natively. The new fusion interface for special effects and animation complements the rich offering. Resolve 15 lets you edit a wide variety of formats, and preview multi-camera productions and marked track packages side-by-side. The intelligently designed tools help you to perfectly adjust sound and image, even for multiple clips. We recommend the free version to semi-professional users.
|Extensive function package also in the free version||Longer training period|
|Motion tracking and image stabilizer via multi-camera view and timeline packages possible||Beta version requires a lot of RAM|
|Post-production environment with integrated chat allows simultaneous work and continuous exchange|
|User-friendly user interface (for experienced users)|
Cyberlink PowerDirector 16
The Cyberlink PowerDirector 16 is voted again and again by numerous testers in the top video editing program ranks. And rightly so, because the video editing software offers more than enough features for home use. Whether it’s a slideshow or a small film project, the program allows even beginners to achieve appealing results in a short time. At the same time, the software always works reliably: where other video editing programs get bogged down during editing, PowerDirector’s preview videos almost always run smoothly. The program is also a pioneer in 360-degree video editing. The price is in the acceptable middle range. Despite the relatively high memory requirements of video editing software, download and installation are quick.
The start window greets you with five choices. You can use the timeline mode, popular with professionals, or the convenient storyboard mode to edit videos. Use the 360 editor to polish up your 360-degree videos. Making slideshows is also possible. Choose the right aspect ratio right away. Something practical for users who record simple videos with their smartphone: PowerDirector also allows you to work in vertical aspect ratio 9:16.
The user interface looks tidy and offers many editing options for beginners. In timeline mode, for example, you can just load your media into a new project via Edit > Import. Drag and drop clips to the video and audio tracks in the order you want. The MultiCam Director lets you fine-tune a scene from different perspectives and join up to four tracks together.
If you click on the scene in the video track, different image editing tools appear. If you select the audio track, sliders for different audio tracks will appear. Use sliders on the timeline to set interfaces. You design transitions using the transition templates (flash icon).
On the right in the mark, you see your film preview. The slim menu bar on the far left contains your toolbox. After clicking on one of the icons, all effect templates and editing options are displayed in the free area next to it. Under “fx” you will find simple filters. Drag your desired effect (“Old movie” with sepia sound in the picture) onto the corresponding track to apply it to a clip. Text elements such as titles (such as “river journey” in the above image) or credits can be dragged onto the text track. If you select the microphone icon, you can voice in comments. Add music and effect sounds to the music track.
You can render the finished video quite quickly with the video editing program. PowerDirector also offers several menu templates. You can use them to create a user interface for DVDs or Blu-Rays you have burned yourself. Alternatively, you can share your work on online platforms like YouTube or Vimeo.
Slideshows can also be created in just a few steps. First, import the desired images, then select a playback style (motion, camera, normal) and add appropriate music. Check your work in preview. Then render or share the slideshow.
Working with the Cyberlink PowerDirector is extremely easy. The intuitive user interface allows even beginners to create appealing videos. Color adjustment and sound settings are self-explanatory. Even 4K videos can be edited with the video editing software without compromising on quality. We were particularly impressed by the ease of use even in 360-degree mode and in MultiCam Director. The template package is suitable for high-quality home videos. However, professionals will hardly be satisfied with the size of this collection. The manufacturer refers to the additional packages for sound or holiday special effects, but some of them cost more than the program itself. For experienced enthusiasts, the Director Suite 6, which includes the Photo, Audio and ColorDirector, is the best choice.
|Clear layout with intuitively understandable operation||Trial version with watermark only|
|Supports vertical format for smartphone videos||Available for Windows only|
|360-degree video editing||Clear template package (sufficient for beginners)|
|Support: Tutorial, demo version, FAQs, community and telephone support|