Some of the best video editing tools are yours to download and use completely free. Whether you’re an experienced home videographer or making your first foray into filmmaking, there’s a free video editor that will provide everything you need.
If you just want to cut a clip to size or add a new soundtrack, there are lightweight editors that will help you get the job done in seconds, and export the video in a format suitable for uploading online, or playing on any desktop or mobile device.
Alternatively, if you’re looking for more advanced tools like chroma keying and color grading, there are also advanced programs that offer everything you’d expect to find in premium software – except the price tag.
However, not all videos editors are created equal. Some put strict limitations on the length of your finished products, offer a very small selection of editing tools, or apply a watermark when you export your work. Here we’ve rounded up only the software that delivers on its promises, making video editing easy and fun.
Puts professional quality tools within the reach of everyone – regardless of budget. The best free video editor available
Advanced editing tools
Well designed interface
Lightworks is far much more than a simple tool for cutting clips – the pro version has been used to create big-name movies including The King’s Speech and Road to Perdition.
As you would expect for such a powerful video editor, you won’t be able to master it overnight, but that’s certainly not something you could hold against it.
Lightworks is described as the professional video editor for everyone, and we reckon that’s a fair summary. Despite its power, it will run well on fairly modest hardware, and it handles video capture and advanced editing with aplomb.
If you’ve tried other free video editors you’ll probably find that the interface is a little different to anything you’re used to, but you can arrange the various controls and windows to create something that suits your way of working.
The free license has everything you need to make amazing videos, but TechRadar readers can also get 40% off a monthly Lightworks Pro license using the special discount code TECHRADAR_LW_PRO_MONTH_2017. Lightworks Pro adds the ability to export in formats other than MPEG, publish 4K video directly to YouTube, and export 3D videos. Find out how to use your discount voucher.
It might look unusual, but master it and you’ll reap the benefits
Advanced, customizable filters
Steep learning curve
Shotcut is another professional-feeling free video editor that requires a little patience if you are achieve the results it is so capable of delivering. The slightly unusual interface can be put down to the fact that this started life as a Linux application, and little has changed in its conversion to Windows.
To start with, the interface may seem a little stark. You will need to not only load a video, but also choose which editing mode you would like to work in and which tools you’d like to use.
There’s no getting away from the fact that Shotcut has a steep learning curve. It’s possible to achieve some impressive results by simply applying one of its many filters to your video, but the real rewards will only be reaped by those willing to invest the time and energy in fully getting to grips with what’s on offer.
3. Hitfilm Express
A powerful free video editor that’s expandable if you outgrow it
Expandable via add-one
High system requirements
Hitfilm Express is another video editor that promises pro-level features for free – and it delivers. The basic editor is very impressive, with advanced cutting tools, a great set of audio and video filters, layers and masking, compositing options, and chroma keying for creating green screen effects.
Additional tools are available for a fee, starting at £8.85 (about US$10, AU$15) for a pack featuring color-correction, exposure adjustment, split screen masking, and various creative filters.
The downside of all this power is that Hitfilm Express is much more demanding than either Lightworks or Shotcut, which is the main reason it’s dropped to third place. Make sure you check the technical requirements before downloading it to avoid disappointment.
4. VSDC Free Video Editor
A non-linear editor stacked with tools, with more added all the time
Non-linear video editing
Easy to master
No hardware acceleration
VSDC Free Video Editor provides a huge array of effects and filters to enhance your footage, with both wizards and manual options to suit beginners or more advanced users.
VSDC is highly capable, and can yield superb results. As a non-linear editor, it works in rather a different way to many other similar tools, letting you position clips and other elements on the timeline wherever you like and edit them there.
With the ability to not only work with multiple scenes and transitions, but also to add sprites and text to videos, you can create a professional-quality movie if you’re willing to stick with VSDC’s slightly odd way of working and unusual interface.
The latest version of VSDC adds extra artistic effects, including smoke. There’s also a dedicated Instagram export profile and automatic image stabilization. It’s noticeably faster, too. An excellent choice for creative video projects.
An accessible free video editor for small editing tasks like cutting
Lots of export options
One thing to understand about Avidemux from the outset is that it is not going to help you create the next Star Wars or to become a master movie producer. Rather, it’s a set of essential tools for everyday video editing, covering all of the basics such as converting formats, trimming footage, appending one clip to another, and applying filters and effects.
While Avidemux isn’t offer the most powerful free video editor, it’s not a pared-back Windows Movie Maker style affair either. You might have to go hunting for some of the more advanced options, but spend a little time perusing the menus and you’ll be impressed.
There’s also a handy quickstart guide to get you rolling if you’re totally new to video editing. If you can’t see a tool you need, Avidemux is also expandable via plugins that add features like subtitles and watermarks.