Video editing is fantastic fun, and thanks to YouTube, it’s easy to share your creations with the world. If you want to get started with it but aren’t ready to pay for a video editor just yet, there are plenty of ways to do so for free. We’re taking a closer look at the available software to find the best free video editors.
Most, but not all, of the tools on this list have a paid version that offers extra features. Those features are often good to have but not necessary. The tools here can be used to create high-quality output, and all of them can teach you something about movie creation. Our fave is HitFilm, but all other options will stand you in good stead, too.
Though there are many good free tools that you can get great results with, it might be worth looking at the paid alternatives out there. Read our list of the best video editing software to see what’s worth spending your hard-earned dollars on.
Choosing the Best Free Video Editing Software
There are various factors we look for when rating video editors. What you want when you edit videos will vary depending on your level of expertise, as well as whether you’re using it professionally or just for fun. Free tools are more suitable for beginners, but more experienced editors may be surprised by what’s available.
Features define what software can do, so we consider its capabilities and look at what it offers. Nearly all editors use a timeline with several tracks and provide a selection of video and audio effects, as well as text titles.
Many offer support for different types of filming, such as 3D and multicam, as well as image stabilization and lens correction. Serious users will also appreciate color correction tools.
Features are no good if you can’t figure out how to use them, so we also look at how intuitive the software is, as well as how much support it gives you when you get stuck. This is especially important for those who are new to video editing, and if you’re looking for a free editor, that may well be you.
Performance is also important. Video editing pushes your hardware to its limits, and if you’re editing at higher resolutions, you’re almost certainly going to notice delays or slowdown. We usually test with video clips at standard resolution size to see how well the software performs. We value fast, responsive software and are always on the lookout for bugs or crashes.
Supporting a variety of import and export file formats lets you work with the widest range of source material and export to as many platforms as possible. This tends to be a weak area of free tools, with paid software being more comprehensive. Most software will let you produce 1080p output, though, which is more than good enough for sharing to sites like YouTube.
Take a look at our Corel VideoStudio Ultimate review to see the range of formats supported by a typical, paid software.
We also check price, but that’s not a major factor here, of course. Some of the software includes optional upgrades or has a paid alternative version with extra features, though.
How Good Is Free Software?
The free software here includes some fantastic choices for learners and amateurs, and it can even be used professionally, though it doesn’t usually offer as many features as paid tools. Read our Final Cut Pro X review or Adobe Premiere CC review for more on some of the best paid tools available.
There’s a lot of competition in this area. Many free tools are cut-down versions of paid software. Some tools give the main software away for free and have plugins and extras to buy. Even the totally free offerings here often have a few hit movies to their name, so don’t assume “free” means you can’t achieve great things with them.
Our favorite piece of free software is HitFilm Express, which offers strong performance and has a good feature set. It is also intuitive enough for beginners. It has a paid version, which you can easily upgrade to, if required.
Best Free Video Editor: HitFilm Express
HitFilm comes in two versions. HitFilm Express, the free version of the software, is a highly capable tool and includes many of the features of its paid sibling, HitFilm Pro.
Any features it doesn’t include are offered as optional extras in the free version, but if you are going to buy them, you may as well purchase the full $299 package, as you could easily spend many times that on upgrades.
HitFilm Express has a range of special effects that include the usual blurs and visual tweaks, as well as things like color correction to help make your movies more professional. Some impressive extras, such as lightning and rain, are also available in the free version.
You can also add titles to your movies and do chroma keying. There are more than 400 effects altogether, and while that isn’t as much as the 800 included in the paid version, you aren’t exactly short of options.
Other Reasons We Like HitFilm Express
HitFilm Express’ snappy, responsive interface performs well. It produced quality output when we tested it, taking roughly 60 seconds to render a minute of 720p footage, with a minute of 1080p video taking around 100 seconds. We did have some issues when upscaling the frame rate, but that isn’t a deal breaker.
HitFilm Express is one of the easier tools we’ve used, and you shouldn’t have any trouble getting started with it. Its interface is intuitive and readable, with menus and controls clearly labelled. That said, it doesn’t feel as professionally focused as some tools, such as Final Cut Pro X or Adobe Premiere Pro CC.
It doesn’t export to DVD or Blu-ray, but you can export to various popular formats, such as MP4, MOV and AVI, and it has settings for sharing with services like YouTube and Vimeo.
If you need help learning to use it, there are plenty of tutorial videos on YouTube. If that gives you any problems, check out our how to unblock YouTube guide. Read about both HitFilm Express and Pro in our HitFilm review.
- Excellent range of effects
- Snappy & fast
- Easy to use
- Limited export options
- Full of paid extras
- Not feature rich
iMovie is an excellent piece of software for Mac owners. If it wasn’t included with your Mac, you can find it available for free in the app store.
It has a clear user interface with its timeline at the bottom, a panel at the top-left showing your clips or the effects you’re working with, and a panel on the top-right showing what you are currently working on.
If you’re new to video editing, you can’t go wrong with iMovie. It is easy to use, but it still has plenty of features to get your teeth into. Like most Apple software, it is good at the basics, and cutting and arranging your clips is very straightforward. If you want to keep things simple, iMovie is one of the better choices out there.
Other Reasons We Like iMovie
iMovie has a few backgrounds to use, some of which are animated. There are also plenty of title effects, along with several transitions to link your clips together. You can use Chroma key effects, too.
You can change the speed of your movies and stabilize shaky video. If you need things like 360 editing or multicam, you’re out of luck. If you enjoy using iMovie, though, and want to go further with video editing, take a look at Final Cut Pro X.
In addition to the standard Mac version of iMovie, there are also versions available for iOS devices. Working on those may be limited compared to the desktop version, but it means you can be productive on the go and do something creative on the train to work.
iMovie lets you share videos directly with services like Facebook, YouTube and Vimeo. It can handle 4K video, though it doesn’t have a huge selection of output options. iMovie also supports ClassKit, Apple’s system for letting teachers assign work to students.
- Simple & intuitive
- Available for mobile devices
- Good for learning & teaching
- Lacks some advanced features common in other tools
- Not many visual effects
- Limited export options
Lightworks bills itself as the professional editor for everyone. Easy to download and set up, it asks you to give your machine a unique identifier on startup, making it useful for groups of people working on the same file or clips. The free version lets you try it for seven days before registering, but you don’t need to pay.
Lightworks is reasonably easy to use, with intuitive, simple controls, but it has also been used on a number of major films, including Pulp Fiction, Heat and The Wolf of Wall Street.
As your movies get bigger, you’ll appreciate the range of filters and sort options in its media library. If you have hundreds of clips to sort through, Lightworks is a good choice of tool. With all those clips, the best cloud storage for video will come in handy, too.
There isn’t an in-app help menu, which is a shame, but there’s a downloadable user manual, along with several guides on its website, which also includes a forum. There are tutorials on YouTube if you need more help.
Other Reasons We Like Lightworks
Lightworks has slip and slide tools to make it easy to get your timing right. Its cutting system is a little tricky to use, though, and its UI has the occasional issue, such as menus that appear partially off screen.
It has excellent color adjustment features, allowing you to tune the look of your movies. It is also good at titling and simple 3D effects. It has plenty of visual effect filters, including chroma keying and various stylization options. Most of its filters have a detailed set of options, letting you tune them as needed.
In addition to its free version, Lightworks has a “pro” offering at $437.99, which includes extra features, such as 4K output and enhanced visual effects.
Lightworks is a high-quality tool with plenty of features, though its free version does have some limitations. It is available for Windows, Mac and Linux.
- Good color adjustment tools
- Easy to use & intuitive
- Strong media sorting option
- Few export options
- Some UI issues
- No in-app help
Mostly known for its 3D graphics capabilities, Blender also includes video editing features. It has been around since 1998 and is free and open source, so you can modify the code yourself if you like. It has a large, helpful community ready to offer support to fellow users.
Blender lets you perform basic video editing, allowing you to import clips, then cut and arrange them as needed. You might need to look up the basic functions to get started. For example, you right click to select and drag clips, and press “K” to make cuts, which isn’t obvious at first. Once you’ve figured it out, though, you can get a lot done with it.
In addition to being a capable video editor, Blender is an excellent tool for 3D modelling and animation. We’ve looked at it before in our articles on the best 3D modelling software and the best 3D graphics software.
If you want to work in 3D and then animate your results, Blender is ideal. If working largely with camera footage, though, it isn’t. To get an idea for what Blender does best, take a look at a selection of its output.
Other Reasons We Like Blender
Blender is limited and not particularly intuitive, but there are plenty of good tutorials explaining how to use it. One of the guides we looked at mentioned using command line tools to combine audio and video output, so if you’re looking for something simple and easy to use, Blender isn’t the best choice.
You can make adjustments to video tracks by adding effect strips, including transforms, color adjustments and several others. It’s a powerful system, though hard to figure out. There are also audio adjustments, such as volume, pitch and pan.
Blender isn’t the strongest general editor around, but its video capabilities are just one part of an excellent overall package that is well worth exploring if you’re creatively inclined. It is also a top choice if you’re interested in 3D animation.
- Open source
- Advanced 3D animation features
- Tight control over effects
- Limited feature set
- Not geared to live action work
- Hard to use
Wondershare Filmora9 is another good free tool. It is easy to use and a great choice of tool if you’re new to video editing, though it has plenty of features for more advanced users.
With simple controls and useful shortcuts, it makes basic editing easy. You can capture footage directly from your camera and record audio from a microphone, which helps you work quickly.
It has many features for a free tool and can handle 4K editing, as well as action-cam tools and chroma keying. It also has hundreds of special effects to play with. There are many sound effects and music tracks included, and you can also make various adjustments to your audio, tweaking volume and pitch, for example.
Like most tools, editing is based around a multi-track timeline. You can have more than 100 video and 100 audio tracks, enabling you to work on large projects. However, it doesn’t have 360 or multicam editing. You have plenty of export options, though, and can publish to DVD, but not Blu-ray.
Other Reasons We Like Wondershare Filmora9
A big downside of the free version is that it adds a watermark to the videos it creates. That makes it effectively unusable for commercial purposes, though you may find it acceptable if publishing to YouTube or making movies for friends.
Previous versions had a useful storyboard mode, giving you an overview of your movie, but it’s gone in this version, unfortunately.
It is still useful if you want to test the software out, learn about video editing or just make movies for fun, too. If you decide you like it, you can always upgrade to the paid version for $69.99. It also offers a subscription plan. There are plenty of optional upgrades, too, which are paid for separately.
Wondershare Filmora9 is available for Windows and Mac. Read more about it in our Wondershare Filmora9 review.
- Cheap, if you choose to buy it
- Easy to use
- Plenty of export options
- Watermarked output in free version
- Lacks a few features
- No storyboard
If you’re curious about what else is out there, here are a few other free video editing options that we don’t rate as highly as our top picks, but are worth knowing about.
DaVinci Resolve is another tool used by professionals, and it has been used for movies like Prometheus and Star Wars: The Last Jedi. It is excellent at basic editing and color correction, but it’s less strong with its free-edition effects.
It is a popular tool with a user base of more than two million. We haven’t reviewed it yet, but it has a strong reputation and is worth checking out.
Its free version is good, but if you choose to upgrade to its $299 paid version, you get multi-user features, 3D tools and various plugins, along with a wider selection of effects. It is available for Windows, Mac and Linux.
VideoPad is a video editing tool made by NCH Software. NCH also made Prism, which ranks at the top of our best video converter roundup.
Its interface is dated and the performance isn’t great. However, it does produce quality output and has some nice extras, such as closed captions for hard-of-hearing audiences.
It is free for non-commercial use, with its home version costing $60 and the master’s edition costing $99 dollars. There’s a 50-percent off sale at the time of writing, though, so keep an eye out for offers. You’ll have to look closely to find the link to the free version, too. We found VideoPad to be adequate but unspectacular. Read more in our Videopad review.
VSDC is a completely free editor that won’t cost you a thing. Unlike most editors here, it doesn’t have a more advanced paid version. The only thing it charges for is support, but that’s cheap at $10.
It has several useful features, including chroma keying. It lets you work in 4K and can export to a range of formats, as well as to sharing sites like YouTube, Facebook and Vimeo.
In addition to a free video editor, the VSDC free video editor also has screen recording and video capture software available to help you generate footage in the first place.
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As we’ve seen, there are many great tools for video editing that don’t cost a thing. These programs are surprisingly capable. They might not be as feature rich as paid software, but they include effects, transitions and color correction, along with basic editing features.
Some of them have been used to create award-winning movies, so if you try these out, you’ll be using the same tools the professionals are, and, who knows, the skills you acquire might set you on the road to Hollywood glory. If not, then you should at least have fun trying them out.
If you’ve tried any of these editors or know any others, please tell us in the comments. Thanks for reading.