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Review of 10 Free or Low-cost Video Editors

Video - The Ultimate Communication

Reviewing 10 x low-cost video editors has turned out to be a bit of a daunting task, so I have broken it down to some simple principles. 

The tricky thing to evaluate is the different requirements you will need, based on your editing skills and the time you are prepared to learn the editing process.

With this in mind, I’ve come up with is a list of the features that I consider necessary for the type of videos you will be producing to promote your small business. I’ve added as an extra feature “Ease of Use”

Since the rationale of this web site is to use the things you are ready own or are free to access, I’ve concentrated on the Free Video editors and only added those paid ones that fit into the “low cost” basket. 

 

This means that the professional video editors are not included for several reasons really, they are more expensive and, by default, they need a considerable amount of time to learn those extra facilities.

 

Added to that, the professional programs need to be used on a regular basis for you to simply remember how to do things - as a casual user - the simpler the better.

 

I’d like to point out here, that just because a video editor is more feature-rich it doesn’t mean that it will be better for YOU. 

 

You need to concentrate on the features you will need in normal day-to-day use.

 

Anything extra is just a distraction. No point in wasting time going down rabbit holes, that have no substantial benefits. 

 

If there are obscure things that you need to do infrequently, it may be best to get a professional to do those when you need them.

 

At the end of this video, I will tell you the winners of the three categories.

 

These are the 3 category winners;

 

  • Beginners “Easiest to use”

  • Feature-rich “Allrounder”

  • Best Features ‘Biggest Learning Curve”

 

This is the list of Video editors.

 

Free with no watermarks or trial period

  • ShotCut

  • OpenShot

  • HitFilm Express

  • DaVinci Resolve

  • iMovie

 

Low cost editors - under $100.00

  • WonderShare Filmora

  • VideoPad 

  • Movavi Video Editor

  • Filmage Editor

 

 

All, bar iMovie and Filmage, are able to run on both Mac and Windows. 

 

Also, from the left field, I’ve added a web-based fast, and easy-to-use solution for short and snappy Videos.    

 

FlexClip

It is important to mention that just because some are free that they are inferior to the paid options.

 

For sure, all of these editors will put a simple video together with no issues. 

 

It mostly comes down to your personal preferences and I will point out things to look for, as we go through the comparisons.

 

From a starting point, I’ve taken the following as taken for granted:

All applications will do the basics,

  • import any footage,

  • add to a timeline,

  • cut and shorten the clips in the timeline,

  • add transitions and text. (Some have more choices of transitions and better ways of handling text)

 

All have some color correction ability and will allow a voice-over to be added to the audio as well as the ability to extract audio from the video track.

 

All will export at Least HD 1920x1080 and allow access to social media or as a standalone video file.

So what are the other features that you should look for?

 

These are the items that I have specified as needed for Promotional Videos in each of the individual video editors.

 

  • Audio Meters - to see the volume output levels.

  • Freely modifiable text

  • Multi tracks Min 3 x Video tracks

 

  • Then 3 x features that are needed when you are using extra audio recorders and a Green Screen to replace backgrounds.

  • Chroma/Green Screen editing

  • Audio sync

  • Ability to mask part of a video track.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The items in the bottom row are nice to have, but will not affect the outcome of this count down.

 

Let’s look at the different applications:

 

OpenShot.

 

I like the ability to move the panels to different places.

 

Import is easy from the file menu or drag from your computer to the Project files panel, then dragged to the timeline

 

Automatic transitions are added when clips are overlapped in the timeline. 

 

Extra tracks can be added by right-clicking in the track area.

 

It doesn’t have audio meters, MultiCam or ability to sync audio.

 

Text is modifiable, titles are selected from the Titles menu - adjusted in the title editor which adds them to the “project files” panel so that they can be dragged into the timeline.

 

Split-screen can be achieved by cropping the tracks above using the Properties panel

 

The green screen is selected with the Chroma filter, then adjusted in properties. 

 

Select the color to remove and then change the fuzz - start at 180 and adjust

 

It does have a stabilizer and also allows Keyframes

 

 

Overall impression: Even though I initially like the ability to move the panels around it gets confusing. 

 

Things are hard to find and when you do find them they can be tricky to use.

 

 

ShotCut

 

This application has a moderate-to-high learning curve, in its favour it does a good feature set including export up to 4k. 

 

It also has Multicam abilities and Keyframes.

 

It is a little confusing to start with until finding the “Open File” command

 

However, there are quick views of the interface for different types of editing, like, Logging, editing, Audio, and FX.

 

First, create a project and then open a file to import footage. Select the clips and they appear in the playlist

 

I personally like the ability to undock the interface panels.

 

It does have multiple tracks for video and audio, these are added from the timeline menu bar.

 

Text in the Titles can be freely modified.

Text is added as a “Filter” - select rich Text and then the options are on screen

 

Audiometers are there from the start no need to add any panels

 

GreenScreen ability is called Chroma Keying and added from the filters menu as is the Masking feature

 

Audio sync can’t be done automatically so you need to have a distinctive sound and vision to match up the clips.

 

 

HitFilm Express

 

This Application is more logical and asks if you want to start as a new file or open an existing one. Though it does push the Add-on packs a bit hard at the start to confuse new users.

 

Select new and it asks for some settings - select 1080p or just press OK to move on.

 

Once it opens up select “import Media” from the file menu.

 

Select Organise from the Window menu.

 

I found the interface easy to get around and like the ability to move panels around to where you want them. Plus the ability to have them float or be added as tabs to other windows.

 

Clips can be dragged into the timeline and multiple tracks can be added by right-clicking above or below a track in the sidebar.

 

Audiometers need to be added from the Window menu

 

Titles are added by selecting the “set tool” in the viewer, as you drag in the viewer window text it is inserted above the track in the timeline. 

 

You can modify the text in the Text tab which can be dragged into the viewer tabs.

 

Green screen can be selected in the “Effects” as Chroma under the Keying heading.

 

Both Audio and video can be synced but Multicam is an “add on” - it comes in the “starter pack”

 

Masks can be drawn using the freehand mask tool in the viewer.

 

I like this editor all except the grey/white interface, it is quite snappy and has an intuitive feel to it.

 

 

 

DaVinci Resolve

 

Resolve has a really sophisticated feel to it, the first impression, to notice, is how easy it is to switch views showing different panels in the interface. 

 

The Media view shows the content of your computer’s disks allowing you to add clips to the Media Pool 

 

The Cut view shows a view to pre-edit the clips, 

 

The Edit view shows the timeline.

 

Extra tracks can be added by right-clicking above or below the current tracks.

 

Audiometers show at all times and a mixer gives a bigger view.

 

Titles are found in the Effects panel, that can be displayed from the “Show panel” in the “workspace” menu. Text is fully modifiable.

 

Green Screen is accessed from the “Open FX” called “3D keyer” 

Select “Open FX overlay” below the viewer, and it’s controlled in the Inspector by using the eyedropper over the color to be removed. 

 

Use softness to adjust

 

A Split screen effect is easily achieved By using the “Video Collage” effect at the bottom of the FX in the Effects panel and adjusting in the inspector.

 

External Audio can be synced to the video tracks audio in the Media Pool

 

Multicam can be actioned by selecting one or more clips in the media pool and right-clicking to create new Multicam

 

Masks are actioned by selecting the “Fusion” view and then selecting a mask shape, 

 

Let's select a rectangle here.

 

Then back to the Edit view to see the result.

 

Even the free version of Resolve is very feature-rich - the learning curve is massive. 

 

More importantly, if you are not using the Editor frequently you need to remember how to do things. If you intend to do a lot of regular editing this Editor is well worth pursuing

 

 

 

iMovie

 

As I mentioned iMovie is Mac only, it has the least amount of features and that can be seen as a good thing in that you will not be distracted by things you don’t need.

 

As indicated before this means you are less likely to forget what to do. Ideal for those occasional editors.

 

The other advantage with iMovie is that it is built-in to your Mac and it is hands down the fastest application - it even flies on lower-powered computers, 

 

which is certainly something to watch out for if you are thinking about more powerful applications like DaVinci Resolve.

 

Add ease of use to the speed and it’s what you would expect from an Apple Application.

 

Select the plus - Create New

 

Import Media or drag from your HDD.

 

Drag clips into the timeline.

 

There are no audio meters and this IS a drawback, as you will need to rely on your ears for volume levels.

 

Text is added from the “Titles” tab and these are mostly pre-formatted options so you don’t need to make too many changes, other than the text, Font, and color.

 

“My Media” tab takes you back to your imported clips and you can add a second video track, which will allow Picture in Picture, split-screen and green screen.

 

There is no ability to sync 2 x audio sources nor Masking abilities other than the split and picture and picture abilities.

 

If you are an infrequent user and want an edit to be quick and run smoothly on your Mac computer, iMovie is for you.

 

 

WonderShare Filmora

 

 

My first impression is to the similarities to the simplicity  of iMovie - with similar terminology - like “My Media” tab and a similar type of magnetic timeline.

 

It is easy to import clips - as with many of the other editors, clips are dragged into the timeline and extra tracks can be added with add button at left of the timeline.

 

Clips can be shortened and dragged around the timeline as simply as iMovie and the timeline magnetic effect allows gaps to be removed between clips. 

 

But different from iMovie, when the clips are dragged to another position they stay in place without the sometimes confusing snapping to the previous clip. 

 

To close any Gaps - select all clips and right click to “Close gaps”.

 

Audio meters are at the right of the timeline and can be extended by clicking.

 

Titles can be added from the title menu, two settings default for available titles plus Filmstock for template types, that mostly are paid only versions. 

 

The default titles have an enormous choice though. All are easily editable for font and normal text effects.

 

Green screen is the most intuitive I have seen, if you select a clip in the timeline, Green screen is one of the options for adjustment. 

 

Tick the check box and it is done. - you do have some controls.

 

I really like some of the more obscure features like beat detection, which is done in the Project panel and when you import into the timeline, the beat markers are there. 

 

You can choose how frequent the beats to add.

 

Split screen options are also extensive, Just drag the clips into the pre-set panels.

 

A stand out feature of this app that I haven’t listed as a need is the ability for motion tracking. 

 

Not something you will all require but very hard to do manually when needed. 

 

Think of text following a skier downhill.  

 

I like this video editor, but it could be a little sluggish at times on my iMac.

 

 

VideoPad

 

While this is listed as a free Video editor. The site states: 

A free version of VideoPad is available for non-commercial use only.

 

Start by selecting a new Project

 

Imports are called “Add files”

 

There is the normal drag to the timeline, extra tracks are added as you drag above a track in the timeline.

 

Audiometers show above the timeline

 

Text is added from the top menu’s “Add Text” When the text is selected in the timeline a separate text editor appears.

 

The green screen is actioned by clicking the fx and selecting the color to be removed.

 

Audio and video recorded separately does not appear to be able to be synced

 

Masks can be created with the FX button on the clip then clicking the crop thumbnail.

 

As with Filmora, beats can be shown in the audio tracks.

 

Right-click on the audio track.

 

Overall impressions are that this software is slow to react on a Mac at least, as can be seen in the demo. 

 

The learning curve is higher than expected for an entry software package.

 

 

Movavi Video Editor

 

The first thing I noticed is the snappiness of this editor, it is similar to iMovie in its ease of use and friendliness.

 

Clips are imported via the “Add files” button or dragging from the disk.

 

Clips come into the media bin and then can be dragged into the timeline. There is a magnetic timeline similar to iMovie or Final Cut Pro.

 

Extra tracks can be added by right-clicking above the current track.

 

Titles can be added from the titles side tab, placing the play head over the title will show the fully functional text editor.

 

Audio can be Synchronized, between 2 x clips 

 

Select all tools and audio editing after selecting the 2 x clips in the timeline.

 

Unfortunately, there is no audiometer facility.

 

The Green Screen is found in “all tools” and “Chroma key”, 

 

select the color to be extracted.

 

Masking is achieved with “Highlight and conceal” in the "All tools" area.

 

 

This is an easy-to-understand and quick to learn editor with most features needed for a promotional video. It is only let down with no audio meters.

 

 

 

Filmage Video Editor

 

First impressions are that the layout of the panels is reminiscent of Final Cut Pro and Premiere, 

 

With a Media Browser, Viewer, Timeline, and Inspector in the same locations. 

 

In fact, the audio meters are also shown in the same place,

 

Click the small meters above the timeline.

 

Clips are imported and appear in the media browser and dragged into the timeline, as is normal

 

Extra tracks are added by right-clicking above the default track.

 

Text is added from the “Resources” tab as are “Stickers”. The inspector allows modifications - Even keyframes.

 

There is no Green screen ability, Multicam, Stabilisation or Masking.

 

This is a speedy editor but has limited features for separate audio recording and green screen with just basic color correction.

 

It certainly will appeal to any one who has used Premiere or Final Cut Pro and will have you editing efficiently and quickly. 

 

This could be a choice for iMovie users wanting to step up with an audio meter with only a little more of a learning curve, 

 

But be aware of the lack of green screen and stabilisation.

 

Also to note Filmage is a Mac only program.

 

 

 

FlexClip 

 

FlexClip is a different way of thinking from conventional editing.

 

It is template based and will suit small businesses who just don’t have the time or inclination to get involved or learn computer based editing.

 

Combined with Stock photos and Videos, FlexClip may be the way you can get short videos made in the shortest time possible. 

 

It will not be as flexible as the other video editing software in this tutorial but is by far the quickest and simplest.

 

Flexclip has hundreds of templates that can be easily modified.

 

This is web based - check out this tutorial; https://youtu.be/BAQapRLTs-o

 

 

The winners

 

If you have been through all the 10 different applications, thanks for sticking with me, if you have jumped in here, then this is where the most suitable editors for producing promotional videos are listed.

 

I’ll count down from the most obvious.

 

Best Feature ‘Biggest Learning Curve

 

The winner is of course “DaVinci Resolve”.

It is streets ahead of all the others in features but that certainly comes at a very steep learning curve.

 

Amazingly for a free application, Resolve has arguably the best color-grading functionality of any video editing application, including all those paid ones - so if color is your thing, that’s a very good reason to look to Resolve.

 

As most of you that are watching this video, are here to produce quick promotional videos, Resolve is overkill - but it does hands down win the “Best Features” award.

 

Beginners “Easiest to use

 

The overall winner of this category would be “Filmage Video editor”, were it not for the fact that Filmage is Mac only. It just pips iMovie in that it does have audio meters, which in my mind, is a must have feature.

 

So the award has to be shared by the next best which is a Mac and Windows editor. “Movavi Video Editor”

 

Shared Winners: “Movavi Video Editor” & “Filmage Video editor”

 

 

Feature rich “All rounder

 

For me this is the ultimate winner as it, fits in the low cost category at $80.00 for the “For Evermore” license, it’s very easy to learn and it is the most feature rich after DaVinci Resolve, without the learning curve. 

 

The winner is “Wondershare Filmora”.

 

Even if you do find Filmora is a little sluggish on your computer, I didn’t mention in the review that the video quality can be lowered while editing to overcome that. 

 

Great for the beginner, but be aware that organisation of footage is not a strong point of Filmora so complex projects will get messy and disorganised.  

 

Other than that, there is nothing NOT to like about Filmora - and it’s easy to use - a real winner

 

On this basis I will be using Filmora for all my tutorials for both Mac and Windows users for the rest of this tutorial series about “Video Marketing for Small Business”

 

I suggest you download the trial now and follow me through.

Trial link

https://tinyurl.com/3ph84fa6

 

Also have a look at:  “The Essential Filmora training video”

 
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