In a nutshell
- You don’t have to pay for video editing software; there are lots of great free programs out there.
- Choose a program that is best suited to the type of videos you want to make.
- Cloud-based software is great if your computer is older or underpowered.
Shooting videos has never been easier than it is today. Even if you can’t afford a camera, your smartphone can record HD, 4K or even up to 8K with the latest models. However, that’s only half the story. To turn your clips into finished content, you need to edit them. And editing software can be costly.
Thankfully, there are also many free editing software options available. Some free programs are scaled-down versions of paid software with a reduced feature set. There are also open-source programs and even cloud-based solutions that take the strain off your computer if it’s underpowered. This article will cover what’s currently available and help you choose the free editing program that best suits your needs and ability. Also, you will learn the benefits and limitations of some of the most popular free video editing programs. Unless otherwise stated, you can assume that the programs are available for Windows and Mac users.
Why use free video editing software?
Despite the saying that you get what you pay for, there are several high-quality video editing programs you can get for free. Almost all of them provide tools for producing home videos, school projects, YouTube videos and social media content. There are also more advanced video editing programs with all the tools you need to tackle any project, including music videos, documentaries and even feature films. In addition, if you are new to video editing, there are software solutions with user-friendly interfaces. Many programs also come with tutorials to help you learn video editing techniques.
Best free video editing software available
Blackmagic Design DaVinci Resolve
DaVinci Resolve is the most powerful and comprehensive free video editing software available. The paid-for version of DaVinci Resolve Studio was even used to edit movies such as “Deadpool 2” (2018), “La La Land” (2016), and “X-Men: Apocalypse” (2016). The program is laid out with separate tabs to work through the editing process logically. These cover importing your media, editing your footage, color grading and delivery. Resolve also includes a version of Fusion for advanced special effects and Fairlight for audio editing.
The program is so fully featured that it can seem a little daunting at first. However, it also includes a simplified Cut tab for quick and simple edits. Additionally, Blackmagic Design offers extensive training manuals and videos for every aspect of DaVinci Resolve, all for free.
However, there are some limitations compared to the Studio version of the program. In the free version of Resolve, you are limited to editing in Ultra HD at up to 60 fps. Also, you can only work with 8-bit video formats. And to access more advanced features, such as noise reduction, you will also need to upgrade. But, for many editors, the free version of DaVinci Resolve is the only program they’ll ever need.
HitFilm Free is an editing and visual effects program from FX Home and Artlist. Although it’s a scaled-down version of the paid Creator and Pro versions, HitFilm Free still includes powerful video and audio editing and color grading features. It also comes with 127 professional visual effects that you can easily add to your videos. Additionally, you get ten songs and twenty sound effects from Artlist’s stock library and five Motion Array video templates.
When you first open HitFilm Free, you’re greeted with a comprehensive range of video tutorials. So, it’s quite easy to jump right into using HitFilm Free.
One of the limitations of HitFilm Free is you can only export your video in resolutions up to 1080p HD. Though, you can still work with higher-resolution video files when editing. If you want to create great HD videos with high-quality special effects, HitFilm Free is a top choice.
Adobe Premiere Rush Starter
As its name suggests, Premiere Rush focuses on quick and easy content creation. It has simple tools to edit your video, add transitions and titles, apply color correction, speed effects, adjust the audio and add music.
Adobe Premiere Rush Starter stands out because it allows you to seamlessly swap between your computer and your smartphone while making edits. For example, you can start editing footage in the Rush app on your phone right after a shoot and then continue editing on your desktop computer when you get home without having to download the footage. However, you must pay for an Adobe Express subscription if you want to sync your editing projects between your desktop and mobile devices.
iMovie is exclusive to Apple devices, including iPhones, iPads and Mac computers. If you’re new to video editing, iMovie offers various features to help you craft high-quality videos. The Magic Movie function identifies standout moments in your clips to create an automatic edit, while the Storyboards feature offers 20 pre-made templates to guide your shooting and editing process.
Although iMovie limits you to two video tracks, it allows for multiple audio tracks. You can speed up or slow down clips and add special effects like green screen. Easy-to-use filters can change the look of your video, offering styles like nostalgic silent-era, vintage Western, or comic book aesthetics. If you use an Apple device, iMovie is a solid option for beginners.
Lightworks is a robust video editing software featuring a clean, simple interface and compatibility with Linux, Windows and Mac systems. Like DaVinci Resolve, Lightworks offers layouts for assembling, editing, VFX and audio that you can toggle between with a single click. This optimizes workflow by arranging the workspace around the tools needed for each stage of editing. The program allows you to trim multiple video and audio tracks. It also has a good range of transitions and effects, including several keying tools for green screen and picture-in-picture.
For color grading, Lightworks provides preset looks and the option to apply LUTs. Advanced grading tools like color wheels are also available for fine-tuning. Lightworks is one of the few free editing programs compatible with high-end video formats like Blackmagic BRAW and ProRes. While suitable for beginners, it also has advanced features for more experienced users. However, it does have some drawbacks, such as limited audio processing features in the free version and a 720P export resolution cap. Anything higher requires an upgrade to a paid option.
NCH VideoPad is a full-featured video editor with an interface that may seem dated compared to competitors. However, it’s quick and easy to use. The clean design helps you find features effortlessly, and VideoPad offers over 50 transitions and video effects, including a user-friendly green screen option. The software provides a solid range of tools for color grading and audio processing. When you’re ready to share your final video, you have the choice to render it as a video file, export it directly to YouTube or even burn it to a DVD.
VideoPad includes a series of tutorial videos, making it ideal for beginners. You can also download free versions of other NCH programs, like PhotoPad for image editing and WavePad for audio editing, right from the VideoPad desktop. However, it’s worth noting that the free versions of VideoPad and its companion programs are licensed only for non-commercial use. For professional use, you’ll need to opt for one of the paid versions.
VSDC Free Video Editor
VSDC Free Video Editor is only available for Windows computers; there’s no Mac version. However, marketed as having low system requirements, it’s a solid option if you’re using an older Windows computer. VSDC Free takes a different approach to video editing compared to most other programs. Instead of having separate tracks on the timeline for video and audio, the program treats all your assets as objects, no matter if they’re video clips, audio files or images.
The program’s timeline uses layers, allowing any type of object to be placed on any layer for complex compositions. It also boasts strong chroma key and color grading tools, along with a variety of effects, filters and transitions. However, if you’ve used other video editing software, you may find VSDC Free less intuitive. Text and buttons clutter the interface, which can be overwhelming for first-time users. So, it may not be the best choice for beginners.
Microsoft Movie Maker (free version)
Microsoft Movie Maker is available only for Windows PCs and offers both a free and a paid Pro version. The free version comes with limited features, including just one timeline track for video, though it does allow separate tracks for music and voice-overs. You can trim clips, insert basic transitions and titles and adjust color grades.
The free version lets you export videos only up to 1080 HD resolution at 30 fps. For higher resolutions or frame rates, you’ll need to upgrade to the Pro version. You also can’t set the bitrate for exported videos in the free version. One major drawback is that saving a project for later work is not an option; you have to complete your edit in one session and export it. Once you close the program, your work disappears. Due to these limitations, the free version of Microsoft Movie Maker is hard to recommend for most users.
There are several free open-source video editing software programs. Open-source software doesn’t require licensing, and you can even tweak the code to fit your needs. While this type of software may be more susceptible to bugs compared to commercial options, the open-source community is usually quick to fix issues. New, improved versions frequently come out to resolve any problems. These programs are commonly available for Linux, Windows and Mac users.
Shotcut offers all the essentials you’d expect from a video editing program. It provides a full suite of tools for editing videos across multiple tracks in the timeline. However, it’s not the most user-friendly option, so expect a bit of a learning curve. For instance, all visual effects are managed through filters, covering everything from green screen and masks to image stabilization and artistic styles. Standard image processing tasks like blurring, sharpening and color grading are applied as filters.
One drawback is that Shotcut organizes its extensive library of video and audio filters alphabetically, not by type. This setup can make it tough to find the specific effect you’re looking for. On the upside, applying transitions in Shotcut is straightforward. You can drag one clip over another on the timeline, and Shotcut will automatically create a default video and audio dissolve. If you prefer a different transition, you can easily change it using a dropdown list of other options.
OpenShot is a user-friendly video editor with a less intimidating interface compared to some other editing programs. By default, it shows your audio and video as a single clip on one track, but you can separate them if you want. OpenShot starts you off with five tracks, and you can add more as needed. Applying transitions and effects is as easy as dragging and dropping them onto your timeline clips. The software also offers tools for speed adjustment and keyframe-based animation.
Blender is a potent tool for 3D modeling, rendering and animation. It has a video editing module, but it’s not the program’s main focus. The editing features are basic, like cuts and splicing, but you can also do more complex tasks like video masking or color grading. If you use Blender for 3D work, you might find these editing tools handy. However, for most new or seasoned users, there are more comprehensive and easier-to-learn video editing programs available.
Cloud-based video editing software is great because you only need an internet connection to use it. There’s nothing to install on your computer, and all the heavy work of processing your video files is done remotely. This means that cloud-based software is great if you have an older or underpowered computer. You can also be sure that you are always using the program’s latest version without worrying about updates.
The Canva online video editor excels in creating social media and brand promotion content. With a variety of easy-to-use templates and a stock library that includes footage, effects, graphics, stickers and music, it simplifies the video creation process. However, it’s not ideal for editing longer narrative or documentary videos, and it limits uploads to clips smaller than 1,024 MB. Despite these limitations, it’s a solid option for crafting quick, professional video content.
Flixier offers a simplified video editing experience with a drag-and-drop timeline where you can trim and arrange clips. The program features a variety of transitions, green screen capabilities, picture-in-picture effects and artistic color filters. While the free version limits exports to 10 minutes per month and restricts clip uploads to under 2,000 MB, it’s a solid choice for short-form content. Note that the max resolution for finished videos is 720p.
ClipChamp works exclusively with Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge browsers and features a single video timeline, a text overlay track, and an audio track. The program offers a variety of transitions and effects, including green screen and visual filters. Unlike some editors, ClipChamp doesn’t cap the file size for uploads, making it useful for longer clips. It also provides a library of stock video and audio. While there’s no limit on the number of exports, the maximum video resolution is 1080p.
Flexclip offers a similar interface and range of features to ClipChamp and Flixier. However, you are limited to creating videos that are one minute long. You can also only export your video in standard definition 480p resolution, which is very low quality for use in 2023.
Kapwing features an interface similar to those of its competitors, with a file upload limit of 6 GB. However, it restricts video creation to seven minutes and caps export resolution at 720p.
How to choose the right video editing program for you
Now that you’re familiar with the free video editing software options, it’s time to pick the one that suits your needs. Your choice will depend on the kind of videos you aim to produce. For complex projects, advanced software like DaVinci Resolve, HitFilm Express or Lightworks are suitable choices. If you’re focusing on short trailers or social media promos, Canva offers an easy-to-use online solution. And if you’re already comfortable with Adobe software, Adobe Premiere Rush will feel familiar.
Choose what’s best for your project
If you’ve already dabbled in video editing, you’ll likely find most of the programs we’ve reviewed pretty easy to navigate. Even in advanced software, you can start with basic edits and gradually explore more features as you gain experience. Make sure to take advantage of tutorials and support resources.
Your choice of software may also depend on the video clip formats you’ll be using. While most programs can handle footage from smartphones or basic camcorders, your options are more limited if you work with professional formats like ProRes or RAW video.
One big perk of free video editing software? It’s free. So you can test out one program, and if it’s not a fit, just uninstall it and try another. You’re not limited to a single solution, either. For instance, you might use a desktop editor for big projects and a cloud-based service for social media posts. Find what fits your workflow best, and start producing stellar videos.
Free video editing software rundown
|Software||Video tracks||Audio tracks||Installed App or browser?||In-app purchases||Is there a paid version?||Free limitations||Maximum input resolution||Maximum output resolution||Custom graphic overlays||Chroma key||Auto ducking||Audio mixing||Target user||Mobile/social aspect ratios||Transitions (quantity)||Title presets (quantity)||Color adjustment complexity||Integrated music/sound library||Integrated stock library||Multi-cam support||Editing templates||Keyframing||Operating system|
|Pinnacle Studio 26 Ultimate||Unlimited||Unlimited||Installed app||No||Yes||Only free for 15 days||4K||4K||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Advanced||Yes||100+||100+||Advanced||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Windows|
|Cyberlink PowerDirector 365||99||99||Installed app||No||Yes||Watermark on exported video||8K||4K||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Advanced||Yes||400+||500+||Intermediate||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Windows|
|Blackmagic Design DaVinci Resolve||Unlimited||Unlimited||Installed app||No||Yes||Limited to 4K at 60 fps. Some features such as noise reduction are watermarked||4K||4K||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Advanced||Yes||60+||70+||Advanced||No||No||Yes||No||Yes||Windows, Mac, Linux|
|Blender||8||8||Installed app||No||No||Part of a 3D modelling program||4K||4K||No||No||No||Yes||Advanced||No||3||0||Beginner||No||No||No||No||No||Windows, Mac, Linux|
|Corel VideoStudio Pro 2023||50||8||Installed app||Yes, titles, effects, overlays, templates||Yes||30 day trial only||8K||4K||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Beginner||Yes||160||58||Intermediate||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Windows|
|Openshot||Unlimited||Unlimited||Installed app||No||No||None||16K||16K||Yes||Yes||No||Yes||Beginner||Yes||400+||60||Beginner||No||No||No||No||Yes||Windows, Mac, Linux|
|Nero Video||99||99||Installed app||No||Yes||Paid version only||8K||4K||Yes||Yes||No||Yes||Beginner||Yes||40+||34||Beginner||Yes||No||No||Yes||No||Windows|
|Pinnacle Studio 26||6||6||Installed app||No||Yes||Only free for 15 days||HD||HD||Yes||Yes||No||Yes||Beginner||Yes||100+||100+||Beginner||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Windows|
|VideoPad Video Editor||Unlimited||Unlimited||Installed app||No||Yes||Home use only||4K||4K||No||Yes||No||Yes||Beginner||No||52||0||Beginner||No||No||No||Yes||No||Windows|
|Filmora||Unlimited||Unlimited||Installed app||No||Yes||Watermark on exported video||4K||4K||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Beginner||Yes||75||75||Beginner||Yes||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||Windows, Mac|
|HitFilm Free||Unlimited||Unlimited||Installed app||No||Yes||Exports limited to HD||8K||HD||No||Yes||No||Yes||Beginner||Yes||15||0||Beginner||Yes||Yes||No||No||Yes||Windows, Mac|
|Adobe Premiere Elements 2023||Unlimited||Unlimited||Installed app||No||Yes||30 days free trial and watermark on video||4K||4K||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Beginner||Yes||70+||200+||Beginner||Yes||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||Windows, Mac|
|MAGIX Movie Studio 365||32||32||Installed app||No||Yes||30 days free trial and videos limited to three minutes||4K||4K||Yes||Yes||No||Yes||Beginner||Yes||Up to 900||Up to 900||Beginner||No||No||No||Yes||No||Windows|
|MAGIX Movie Studio 365 Platinum||200||200||Installed app||No||Yes||30 days free trial and videos limited to three minutes||8K||8K||Yes||Yes||No||Yes||Beginner||Yes||Up to 1,500||Up to 1,500||Beginner||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Windows|
|Capcut||7||10||Installed app||Yes||No||15-minute video limit||4K||4K||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Beginner||Yes||120+||250+||Beginner||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Windows, Mac|
|Movavi Video Editor||Unlimited||Unlimited||Installed app||No||Yes||Seven-day trial period and watermark on exported video||4K||4K||Yes||Yes||No||No||Beginner||No||150+||70+||Beginner||Yes||Yes||No||No||No||Windows, Mac|
|Flexclip||1||1||Browser||No||Yes||Video output limited to 720p and watermarked||4K||720p||Yes||No||No||No||Beginner||Yes||60||300+||Beginner||Yes||Yes||No||Yes||No||N/A|
|Kapwing||1||1||Browser||No||Yes||Only imports files 6 GB or smaller.|
Video output limited to 720p, five minutes long and watermarked
|ClipChamp||1||1||Browser||No||Yes||Export limited to HD||4K||HD||Yes||Yes||No||No||Beginner||Yes||32||40+||Beginner||Yes||Yes||No||Yes||No||N/A|
|Flixier||1||1||Browser||No||Yes||Only imports files 2 GB or smaller.|
Resolution limited to HD.
Video output is watermarked
|Canva||1||1||Browser||No||Yes||Only imports files 1,024 MB or smaller.|
Resolution limited to HD
|Shotcut||Unlimited||Unlimited||Installed app||No||No||None||8K||5K||No||Yes||No||Yes||Intermediate||Yes||25||0||Intermediate||No||No||No||No||Yes||Windows, Mac, Linux|
|Kdenlive||Unlimited||Unlimited||Installed app||No||No||None||4K||4K||No||Yes||No||Yes||Intermediate||Yes||41||0||Intermediate||No||No||Yes||No||Yes||Windows, Mac, Linux|
|Cyberlink PowerDirector 21 Ultimate||99||99||Installed app||No||Yes||Watermark on exported video||8K||4K||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Intermediate||Yes||250+||50+||Intermediate||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Windows|
|VSDC Free Video Editor||Unlimited||Unlimited||Installed app||No||Yes||None||4K||4K||No||Yes||No||Yes||Intermediate||No||11||0||Intermediate||No||No||Yes||No||Yes||Windows|
|Lightworks||24||32||Installed app||No||Yes||Exports limited to 720p||4K||720p||No||Yes||No||Yes||Intermediate||Yes||110||14||Intermediate||Yes||No||No||No||Yes||Windows, Mac, Linux|