Are you looking for the best free video editing software? You came to the right place.
If you are looking for a free video editor with sufficient features, and easy to use, the short answer is the following, in the following order:-
- Lightworks – didn’t like it. Can only export up to 720p for free version.
- Shotcut – great for beginners with adequate feature for more sophisticated work. Shotcut review.
- HitFilm Express – great for more advanced users. Harder to learn than Shotcut. HitFilm Express review.
- Davinci Resolve – good software. Sophisticated, not easy to learn. Requires beefy hardware.
- YouTube built in editor – very basic. You can just trim the front and the back of a video. That’s about it.
- Windows built in editor – better than YouTube editor. Quite limited. I don’t find it enjoyable for making videos. Review
- Filmora 10 (affordable, has a built in screen recorder). Filmora 10 Review
- Cyberlink PowerDirector (not too pricey, comes with a screen recorder). PowerDirector video editor review.
Update Jan 2021 – Go to this playlist to see my reviews and tutorials of video editing software mentioned.
My preferred free video editor and the reasons behind it
I created my first video in 2009 and became more serious about making videos for my business in 2015. I almost went with a paid software, some versions of Sony Vegas, now known as Vegas Movie or Pro.
Long story short. I couldn’t purchase it, and had to look for a decent free video editor.
Today things have changed a lot. Now you have too many choices it can make your head spin.
First, a bit of my video editing background for context
Since 2009 I’ve used Camtasia, Sony Vegas, Sony Movie Studio, Lightworks, Movie Maker, Blender, and more. Having used them for real projects, I have a pretty good idea what they are capable of.
I also took into consideration, how difficult it was for me to learn the software, so I have a good idea the learning curve to use such software. Here are my list of free video editing software considering it is 2020.
There are many more video editing software out there today and it is impossible to try them all. I get offers to review software from time to time. My list is based on what I have used.
Let’s talk hardware
No video editor review should be posted without posting hardware requirements. It is no point having a fantastic piece of free video editing software but find yourself needing to upgrade your computer for significant amounts of money.
With all the software I used, I installed them on to a 6 year old i5 laptop with 8 GB RAM, and a NVIDIA GT630M graphics card running Win 10 Home.
My criteria for free video editing software will be:-
- No watermarks from the software – watermarks are just lame for fremium video software.
- Export or encode to full HD i.e. 1080p or better.
- Able to get started in around 60 minutes for simple edits. Time includes watching basic tutorials.
- Basic transitions like fade, cross dissolve, etc.
- Timeline editing
- Audio waveform in order to split, or cut videos accurately
- Multi track editing
Nice to have features
- Chroma key function
- Fancy effects, and titles
Here is my list of the best free video editing software. Starting at the most basic video editor at number .
6. YouTube editor
YouTube has a built in video editor. However the functions are very limited. You can only trim the beginning and end of your video and that’s about it. You can’t add titles, text, transitions etc. I suggest you only as a last resort.
5. Windows built in editor
Windows 10 has a built in video editor in the photo application. Who would have thought to look there? This video editor is more capable than YouTube’s built in editor. You can add transitions, create slide show videos from photos, add text and titles.
It doens’t have a timeline and using the editor is quite a frustrating experience. Especially if you want to edit out audio mistakes. Generally, if you take a few hours and start to use a proper video editor, you will not want to use the Windows 10 video editor.
It is just not very efficient or effective. Here’s my review.
Lightworks has a long history in video editing. This software checks almost all my requirements. It can work with many types of video files, which is a plus. The interface is simple, however, I find it hard to use intuitively.
Although I have it installed on my computer and used it several times, I find it hard to simply cut and join videos, to create transitions etc. The most recent edition may have improved this but since it can only do 720p, it is not my choice.
The pros of Lightworks – multi track editing, separating audio from your video clip.
Cons – the free version only exports to 720p video.
3. Shotcut Video Editor
Shotcut app is the most recent software I tried. Having used it extensively for over 2 years now, I’m using this as one of my 2 main video editors. It checks off all my requirements.
The transitions, chroma key, picture-in-picture, keyframe, all the necessary things are all there, plus it is easy video editor to get started.
The cons – not many. Yes, there are the occasional bugs, and crashes. Crashes are recovered automatically, which is a plus so that not too much work is lost. Just remember to save your work regularly.
If I really have to name one, then I would say that due to quick software development, with new features added, occasionally some versions are less stable than others.
One good thing though, is that you can install more than one version on your computer by specifying a different directory to install the second installation. You should keep a stable version on your computer especially when you are working on urgent projects, while you install and test out the latest version.
Works on Windows, Linux and OS X, so if you ever change operating system, you don’t have to relearn a new software.
Below is my video review of Shotcut. The video is edited in Shotcut.
and to get started fast, get my Shotcut video editing tutorial course.
2. Filmora 9 or 10
I slipped in Filmora 9 (new version is known as Filmora 10) here even though it is a paid software. The reason is because it is a good balance between having a simple to use video editor and still good enough for a beginner to start using.
The strength of Filmora 10 is the simplicity plus a large array of effects, transitions, animated text titles that allows your videos to look quite polished even if you are new to making videos. In other works, it can make you look good.
The downside to Filmora 10 is if you have something more specific or want to create something from ground up, it is harder to do so.
1. HitFilm Express
I will put HitFilm Express slightly ahead of Shotcut and Filmora 9 for the fact that it is freemium software. This mean that it is more developed with more features and refinements. It runs on Windows and OS X.
More features means it will also take you a bit longer to learn how to use it. There are paid add-ons that allows you to create special effects – think Iron Man style blaster, bullets, smoke etc. It is targeted to film makers.
Cons – if you are a first time video editor, the interface can overwhelm you. HitFilm’s interface can look a bit crowded even on a 15 in screen. Here’s my review of HitFilm Express. Video is edited with HitFilm Express.
Due to the slightly crowded screen on my laptop, I find myself using more mouse clicks to do certain things.
I use both Shotcut and HitFilm Express depending on what I want to do. Both works well. In someways, Shotcut is faster when doing certain edits when I don’t need all the bells and whistles. In other ways, HitFilm Express is better with features like motion tracking.
In the end, it is a toss. If you are a new a making videos, then I suggest you try Shotcut first.
Get my HitFilm Express tutorials to get a fast start.
Killing a mosquito with a shotgun?
DaVinci Resolve is a free, powerful video editing and color correction software. The paid Studio version is priced at $295. It is advertised as the color grading software that Hollywood uses.
Also have a great audio editing section built in.
What’s the downside?
It requires quite a powerful, top of the line computer to run it.
If you really want to spend that much money on new hardware, it you may be better just use a paid video editor that don’t cost as much, unless you are serious about color grading because DaVinci Resolve was created with that in mind.
On a side note, you can do color grading with Shotcut and HitFilm Express too, just not to the level with DaVinci Resolve.
If you ask me, this is my suggestion which video editor to get you started. If you want free, then you can try Shotcut or HitFilm Express.
If you don’t mind paying a bit of money, then Filmora 10 is a great option for a beginner too. The best thing is, you can download and try all the software I listed here to have a feel for how it is for you.
Take note that there will a large watermark when you export your video when you use the free version of Filmora 10. For the rest of the video editors mentioned here. There is no watermark.
Based on teaching several thousand people with my training, I suggest you go for the simpler ones first. It will help you produce a video much faster.
Most people need the positive feedback from seeing a video being birth rather than looking at tutorials and getting stuck.