The best video editing software will enable you to turn your video clips into professional-looking final edits. No matter whether you're just starting out as a vlogger or a seasoned filmmaker, our guide will help you choose which editing software to use depending on whether you're planning to edit on a desktop computer, laptop or tablet.
There was a time when video content creation was reserved for filmmakers and experts. Now with social media platforms such as TikTok and Instagram, it's part of our daily lives and we all watch and make more videos than ever before. That's because it's never been so easy - the best camera phones are so good these days that the ability to shoot high-quality video is literally at your fingertips.
A big part of content creation, however, is the video editing process which needs an entirely different skill set than editing photos. Even the most basic videos will need to be trimmed, cut together and exported as a watchable file. As you get more advanced in filmmaking, you may want to start adding transitions and effects to your footage as well as color grading your film to give it a cinematic feel.
Videography is now such a broad category and people do it for all different reasons. From the more traditional uses such as creating documentaries and films to creating content for social media, vlogs for YouTube or even live streaming an event.
For that reason, we've split our guide into three sections so you can jump directly to the part that most suits your needs:
• Pro video editing software: What you need if you make most of your money from filmmaking
• Budget video editing software: A cheaper alternative to the pro-end software but with the basics features you need to select, trim and export footage.
• Mobile video editing software: Ideal for bloggers and content creators who shoot primarily on mobile devices and want to be able to edit on the move and upload as soon as it's finished.
For the graphic designers, photographers and generally creative people who have already bought into Adobe Creative Cloud then Premiere Pro is the obvious choice. However, if you're not tied to software already then any of the suggestions below could be good for you.
There's never been a better time to get acquainted with video. Chances are there'll be a time in your life where it'll be a handy skill to have such a documenting a holiday, growing your business or creating visually engaging content for your social media. For that reason, it's a good idea to know what the best settings for your camera are, regardless of whether you're shooting with a DSLR or a mirrorless camera system.
Of course, you can also shoot with your camera phone and these days you buy some of the best gimbals for your smartphone which will help with stabilization so you can shoot really smooth footage. The 2018 horror film, Unsane was shot entirely on an iPhone which proves just how good they can be.
Don't assume you can't get great results with simple software! Great filmmaking skills come from the photographer and their own unique vision, so don't assume you have to pay a fortune and learn a whole dictionary of video jargon to make your mark.
1. Adobe Premiere Pro: best video editing software overall
Adobe's Premiere Pro is our pick for the best video editing software overall. Available for both PC and Mac users, this pro-standard software offers everything you need for serious video editing.
2. Cyberlink PowerDirector:
best video editing software for beginners
This our pick for those looking for a cost-effective entry into video editing. PowerDirector has a wealth of features and tools on offer - and can be bought outright as PowerDirector 19, or on a subscription basis as part of Cyberlink PowerDirector 365.
Best professional video editing software
Premiere Pro is pretty much the industry standard and for good reasons. For starters, it integrates seamlessly with Adobe's Creative Cloud which includes software such as Lightroom, Photoshop and After Effects. If you already have the full subscription to Adobe CC you'll already have access to Premiere Pro, you might just have to download it to your computer.
This is a professional-grade video editing tool that offers lots of customizable options with its interface or you can select from predefined workspaces. Recently, Premier has benefitted from the inclusion of Lumetri Color and more intuitive interactions that make the whole color grading and slicing process more streamlined.
It's brimming with handy tools, pre-installed effects and transitions, an audio alignment feature and you can download third-party effects if it doesn't have quite what you need. Premiere Pro will take a while to get your head around as it has so many features but once you've sussed it, it's a powerful tool for video editing.
Final Cut Pro X is the video editing software created by Apple. It's perfectly optimized for Macs so so long as you're running on a new enough machine, it should be more stable and quicker to render projects than if you were using Premiere Pro. It's jam-packed with pro-grade features such as multi-camera edits to HDR support, in-app color grading and even 360-degree video. Its image-heavy user interface might have startled seasoned video editors when it was first introduced but for anyone just starting out in video editing who want a more professional programme, it makes the process a lot simpler. If you already own a Macbook or iMac and want someone more advanced than iMovie, there's a good chance that Final Cut Pro X will provide the upgrade you're looking for.
DaVinci Resolve initially started out as a color-grading tool but has since become an industry-standard editor. If you've moved across from Premier Pro, the familiar interface complete with timeline, monitor window and media pool should make you feel at home.
It also has a lot of more advanced features such as a new 'cut page' in the Dual Time and its new Neural Engine uses machine learning to apply advanced effects such as removing objects from a scene and morph transitions focusing on a face. The pro version also supports HDR color grading, collaborative working and so much more. There's a one-time purchase fee but after that, it's yours so you don't have to worry about paying for a monthly subscription.
Resolve has also just announced that the latest version (17.4) will work up to five times faster on the new Apple Macbook models with the M1 Pro and M1 Max chips which is great news if you've got the cash to spend on one. The latest update also increases the decoding speed of H.265 rendering and its added Dropbox Replay integration.
If this sounds too much, both technically and financially, you can try the free DaVinci Resolve version instead. But as a sweetener for buying the paid-for full version of DaVinci Resolve Studio 17 you do get a free DaVinci Speed Editor controller/keyboard thrown in.
Best budget video editing software
CyberLink is recognized for its range of reliable creative applications. PowerDirector is a popular video editing suite and the choice of many enthusiasts and professionals alike. Each year a new release adds functionality and incremental improvements to the software and version 19 welcomes a raft of useful tweaks including a new, simpler interface, cleaner timeline controls and the ability to easily duplicate title attributes and clips allow users to edit footage efficiently. There are also updates to PowerDirector's keyframe tools, color matching and motion graphic titles. Cyberlink still offers PhotoDirector as a perpetual license – but the subscription offer is the best overall value, as it gives you free access to Shutterstock HD clips, make it one of the best video editing software programs for those on a budget.
With expanded color grading options and a range of automatic filters, VideoStudio Ultimate is seriously competitive. It gives you control of highlights, mid-tones and lowlights, just like Lightroom does for photos, and the pricier Premiere Pro for videos. It even offers control over specific colors, so you can make a shade of green pop without affecting the rest of the scene. The software also supports the creation of text masks, so you can easily overlay dynamic titles on your videos without having to jump into another application. Even transitions are handled in a novel, customizable way, so you can align elements across scenes so the fades, blurs or wipes happen exactly how you want them to. With a core interface that’s very similar to much of the more premium competition, it’s a great gateway editor for beginners to get started with. The VideoStudio Ultimate 2021 version enhances image stabilization and instant templates, as well as other very useful improvements that make it one of the best video editing software programs for those looking to sharpen their editing skills.
Premiere Elements can be bought as a standalone product or bundled with Adobe Photoshop Elements as a twin pack. For many enthusiast users or beginners this is a big deal, as it is not necessary to pay for other apps you may have limited or no use for on a regular basis. Adobe’s Elements products have a long history of offering a fantastic array of features for a very reasonable price and Premier Elements is no exception. Not only can you take full control of the editing process, if you have limited experience of video work, the Guided Mode can actually teach you the basics and act as a personal instructor. Handily you can switch between Guided Mode and Expert Mode at any time, so if you try getting a little more creative with the advanced features, but find yourself getting lost, you can switch back to Guided and follow along with one of the guided processes to find your way. Premiere Elements 2021 is the latest version, and adds selection tools for local adjustments that 'follow' your subject, double exposure videos and animated matte (e.g. border) effects, GPU acceleration for previewing effects in real time, and new music choices.
iMovie remains a popular editing option for people of a range of expertise levels. Its consumer-level focus however does mean it is easy to use, so even if you have never experienced it before you should fall right into step with the design philosophy without too much effort. It is incredibly simple to import media into a project from your Apple devices, spanning iMacs, MacBooks and iPhones. Within mere minutes you can create attractive videos using the provided templates.
You can also add pre-prepared titles and overlays. Feature-wise iMovie is a little more limited than other applications on this list. You are limited to just a couple of clip tracks, and once you create a project you cannot swap between types – if you want to change the look and style of your video you’ll have to start a new project. It’s not fancy and is a little on the basic side for more advanced users, but for creating quick, short videos iMovie is ideal for beginners and enthusiasts. What’s more, it’s free, so it represents tremendous value and makes it one of the best video editing software programs for those who like to get creative without breaking the bank.
Similarly to Adobe’s Premiere Elements, Filmora 9 does not require a subscription and is aimed at users who are not necessarily expert, which is one of the reasons why we list it as one of the best video editing software programs. However that does not mean the application does not come with an extensive range of professional features. Impressively you have the option of adding up to 100 video and audio tracks, which opens up immense possibilities for complex edits and pro-level videos. There is also a great range of transitions, title effects and trimming options. The automated scene detection feature is great for dividing longer, unbroken clips into workable pieces, for later arrangement on the timeline. It’s easy to work with titles and other content, while the transitions are perfectly acceptable for pro-looking projects. Overall Filmora 9 is a great option and well worth the investment, for the slick and effective tools.
For a video editing suite to be considered truly professional it needs to offer some level of local-adjustment capability, enabling the user to adjust clips based on area. Much like photo-editing in Photoshop, pro video which has been edited using masks can be optimised for color and detail in every zone of the image. Pinnacle Studio 23 enabled the use of Masks to overlay effects, shapes and text by making selections of areas for isolated work. This is a powerful tool and sets Pinnacle apart from some of its competitors. Look-up Tables (LUTs) are another welcome feature for color grading, allowing quick application of complex colour effects. For manual editing you get full Curves control for adjusting colour and exposure. Also present is 360° video compatibility, Multicam editing for simultaneous work on several camera angles and motion tracking, completing an all-encompassing specification list. We liked version 23 and Pinnacle Studio 24, out now, is even better, adding video masking, custom motion graphics, now overlays and enhanced keyframing controls. Overall this is a fully-rounded video editing option for a competitive price. The Studio version costs the most but is the one to go for.
Best video editors for mobile
With iMovie being an included app for iOS devices, the lack of a robust editing tool in the Android ecosystem was acutely felt until PowerDirector hit the scene. As the best video editing software for mobile, PowerDirector features a traditional timeline, and all the tools you’d expect for trimming, editing and exporting your movies, but it also goes much further.
Support for layers means you can have multiple audio tracks, a voiceover and backing track for example. A host of effects and transitions are included, and even advanced features like chroma key, for green screen editing, are available, while if you opt for the paid version you get access to 4K output too.
The application can feel a touch clunky, especially on smaller-screened devices, so try the free version first to make sure it runs well on your device. In addition, the pricing may feel steep for an Android app – but what you get is an incredibly comprehensive solution that could even replace your desktop editor if your needs are mobile-first.
Magisto will put a lot of video professionals and purists off. It relies heavily on templates, and employs a cookie cutter backend system for creating videos. You simply select the photos and videos you want, pick a theme, upload your music or choose from a range of backing tracks, and hey presto: your video is done after a few minutes' rendering. There is a desktop version of the software, but we're focusing on the mobile experience, as it’s where Magisto shines
Within the application, you can decide whether you want your video rendered 1:1 for Instagram, or 16:9 portrait, or landscape, though the max output resolution is 720p.
There’s also an option to overlay a logo, dictate how heavy the theme effects are, and even the pace of the final movie. Using what Magisto refers to as its AI engine, it determines the order of the clips, and applies effects as it sees fit.
While there’s some scope for reordering, it’s largely automated and this is a double-edged sword. It has some neat capabilities - face detection for example, so it knows to keep faces in frame. On the other hand, there’s no granular control over individual elements, so if one scene is slightly off, you either remove it, or press the re-edit button, and hope for the best.
There is a free version, but to unlock 720p video, it will cost you $19.99 for a month month, or $119.88/year, making it pricey and potentially better suited to businesses rather than individuals.
Based on the premise that your best photos and videos can get lost in the dross, GoPro’s reimagined Quik app works as an effective private content feed and makes it easy to produce slick-looking auto-generated highlight videos set to music. Initially a free download, Quik automatically pulls photos and videos from your smartphone, whether the original source was a GoPro, a DSLR or any other device. It’s completely device agnostic, as the previous iteration of the Quick app was, though the new version can also be used to operate a GoPro, transfer content to a phone and live-stream.
Much improved on the original Quik app and a total refresh for all GoPro users, the action camera maker’s new device-agnostic app has a slick new user interface including new filters, tools and music. Star of the show is a ‘mural’ page for keeping track of your favourite photos and videos, though it’s video-centric and you do have to subscribe to get unlimited access to its editing tools, which will put off many.
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