Best FREE Video Editing Software in 2020: Which One Should You Use?
The phone in your pocket is capable of videoing crisp, bright images. Your edit suite may be as simple as a piece of free video editing software on your regular computer or tablet. It’s no wonder everyone from the bored teenager to the mighty government, the solo influencer to the industry leader, is using video today.
The popularity of video means viewer expectations are high. A straight-to-camera message in one long, shaky shot looks unprofessional. Most online videos consist of a sequence of short shots held together by a soundtrack of voice and music. But the moment you start cutting your footage into bite-sized pieces, you enter the once-humble world of the video editor.
Today, the editor is no longer a sun-starved loner trapped in a room filled with clunky tools and machines. They carry their tools and materials wherever they go – on the train, in a café, the home or office. And the editor can move images, sound, and ideas on a timeline as easily as formatting a Word document.
“The most potent manipulator is the editor,” according to the veteran Cannes- and BAFTA-winning filmmaker Peter Greenaway. “You might have said – what, 20, 30 years ago – it was the cameraman. But basically, now an editor can do anything with a picture… the power of the editor it seems to me is extraordinarily strong and getting stronger.”
The Top Free Video Post-Production Tools
There is a lot of expensive professional post-production gear on the market. But the gap between what pro and free software can achieve is often narrow. Depending on how you want to edit, you may not need to spend a cent. So, what is the best free video editing software for your needs?
Best Free Video Editing Software for Beginners
Microsoft Story Remix
- Comes pre-loaded with Windows 10 devices.
- As easy as using an everyday app.
- Advanced editors will find it too basic, but beginners can make something worthy of sharing.
Story Remix is part of the Microsoft Photos application. It replaced Microsoft Movie Maker in 2017. If you have a PC or a tablet running Windows 10, Story Remix should already be on your machine. It functions seamlessly with OneDrive if that’s where you store your footage.
Microsoft designed the software for beginners, but there’s plenty you can do beyond laying your shots out one by one. Think of Story Remix as a playful video app encouraging you to doodle, experiment, and make your images more fun.
Photos make it easy to publish your videos directly to your social media channel of choice. It also features a powerful multiple ‘undo’ function to take the pain out of the learning process!
Story Remix’s relatively basic interface will frustrate experienced editors or those seeking to create elaborate, feature-heavy videos. Okay, it may not be the best free video editing software for Windows. But beginners can create simple, professional-looking edits to share with their audience.
Best Free Video Software For Serious Editors
- The free version of a top industry package.
- Compatible with Blackmagic hardware.
- Beginners may struggle to do what they want.
Davinci Resolve is developed by Blackmagic Design, the high-end camera and cinema hardware manufacturers. The company offers a paid version with extra features, but the free version contains most of what a regular professional video editor needs. Powerful functions include audio mastering, visual effects, and Davinci’s famous color correction tools.
Filmmakers have used Davinci post-production tools on projects such as Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Avatar. So even if the free version lacks a few features, you can be sure you’re working with top-end editing software.
Best Free Video Editing Software For Captions and Subtitles
VSDC Free Video Editor
- Great options for layering text and graphics over video footage.
- A complex interface that requires practice.
- Use with a third-party transcription service to take the pain out of subtitling.
People are watching more video than ever, but often with the sound off or in a foreign language. Subtitles are essential, but they’re the last thing you add to a video. By this stage in the process, an editor wants to get the video finished with the minimum of fuss. But even paid software can be frustrating when you’re trying to get your captions and subtitles to look perfect.
VSDC is a free editing program with versatile text options. It is the ideal choice for adding titles and other visuals on top of your images. The software’s unconventional interface takes some getting used to, but you can use it to create impressive multi-layered sequences. You could even edit in a different program and import your finished film just to add the text.
Consider pairing VSDC with a transcription and subtitling service like Rev. Rev transcribes audio and provides closed captions at a $1/minute in the file formats that VSDC and other editing software can read.
Best Free Video Editing Software For 3D Workflows
- Primarily a 3D graphics package.
- One of the ‘best kept secrets’ among free editing software.
- Over-complex if your workflow doesn’t involve 3D.
Is 3D modeling, rigging, and rendering your thing? Then you’ve probably already heard of Blender, even if you didn’t know it features a video editor.
Blender is primarily a “free and open-source 3D creation suite.” But the video editor it integrates is more than an afterthought. The editor contains many of the features you would expect from pro editing software. Blender’s advanced options for visual effects, sound design, and animation are very competitive.
For 3D animators, Blender makes it straightforward to edit your 3D images into a sequence and ready to publish. But if 3D is not your game, you may be better off choosing a dedicated video editor without the clutter of Blender’s 3D suite. Beginners, in particular, are likely to find themselves lost in Blender’s busy interface.
Best Free Video Editing Software for Mac
- Comes pre-loaded on some Apple products.
- Simple but versatile.
- Popular with YouTubers but not professional editors.
Apple’s pre-loaded movie editing software has been a figure of fun over the years. But iMovie has weathered the criticism and come out stronger. In fact, fun is what it’s all about. iMovie may not have the functionality of pro-end software, but simplicity is its strength. The program is popular among YouTubers because it is easy to cut together a simple, immediate video.
And iMovie can do a lot of stuff that you might not expect. Transitions (fades and wipes between scenes), basic titles, and green screen support, for example. Plus, you can use it on your MacBook, iPhone, or iPad (it’s perfect for making a video report on-the-go). There’s even Touch Bar support for the newer MacBook Pros.
The software’s lack of advanced features and its unusual timeline panel may frustrate experienced editors. But for many everyday users, iMovie has become far more than a novelty toy.
Best Free Video Editing Software For YouTube
- Free version of Hollywood-grade software.
- Create powerful effects without slowing your computer.
- Export options are limited unless you upgrade.
Lightworks is a professional editing package that serious enthusiasts can pick up along the way. Top editors have used versions of the “Academy and Emmy award-winning video editing software” to edit films such as Pulp Fiction and Hugo 3D.
Free Lightworks comes with a range of effects and titles to get your video audience-ready. Background processing means that those effects won’t slow your home computer down too much while you work. However, you’ll need the paid version for the full range of advanced titling options that come with the Boris Graffiti plug-in.
The main restriction of the free version is that you can only export in MPEG4/H.264 format, with a top resolution of 1280x720p pixels. This is fine for most YouTube projects, and indeed you can upload directly to YouTube from Lightworks. If you do decide you need a hi-res or cinema-ready file, Lightworks Pro costs $25.99/month.
With editing software, the first cut is the deepest
Anyone can publish professional-quality video to Instagram, YouTube, or their website, using today’s powerful free post-production tools.
If it has all the features you need, the best free video editing software is the software you know. The best way to get to grips with any editing program is to import your footage and start cutting.
What are your experiences with the free video editing software we’ve mentioned? Let us know in the comments!