In our article about free image editing programs we have already shown that a professional editing software does not necessarily have to cost money. Also in the field of video production, there are some programs on the Internet that you can download as freeware to cut, edit, add effects to your recordings or convert them into the appropriate format. Just the right thing if you want to edit hobby projects or want to get to know the functions and possibilities of video editing. We’ve reviewed the best free video-editing programs for you.
DaVinci Resolve: for those who simply want more
DaVinci Resolve is an all-round solution that combines editing, color correction, effects, 3D graphics and audio post-production in a single package that has only been available once before in this constellation on the market. For the ambitious user, DaVinci Resolve from Blackmagic Design can certainly score points. The free version of the video editing software has even more features than some of the competitors that you have to pay for. However, the crux of the matter is that DaVinci Resolve is aimed more at advanced users, as the operation is rather less intuitive due to the many tools. However, if you have the time and the will, you will be rewarded with quality à la Hollywood.
- Divided into different workspaces (Cut, Edit, Fusion, Color, Fairlight and Deliver at the bottom of the window)
- Live preview of effects
- Virtual 3D environments for stunning effects
- Extensive color correction capabilities
- Various presets for exporting videos
- Integrated audio mixer with multiple effect options and sound library
- Supports workflow with green and bluescreens
- Interface requires some training time as not all features are intuitive
- Features such as graphics card acceleration or higher than 4K video export are reserved for the paid version of DaVinci Resolve Studio
- Requires a decent computer with a potent graphics card including OpenCL 1.2 or CUDA 11, especially at higher resolutions
When downloading, however, make sure you choose the right version. DaVinci Resolve Studio requires a product key. The free version of Davinci Resolve is available for free.
Shotcut: the perfect tool for basic projects
Shotcut is an open source video software for all common operating systems (Windows, MacOS, Linux) and convinces with a variety of formats and professional tools for editing, cutting and “beautifying” videos. Originally, the program was only developed for Linux, which is shown by the fact that some features are not (yet) offered for Windows and MacOS. But what everyone can look forward to are, among others, the following features and advantages:
- Processing of many video formats (e.g. DV, MPG4, MOV), stream formats (e.g. RTMP, RTSP, HLS, UDP) and even image formats (e.g. JPG, GIF, BMP, PNG, TIF, SVG)
- Chroma Keying (color-specific cropping method)
- Picture-in-picture effects and transition effects (fades)
- Numerous filters, including mosaic, waves, blur, etc. (see screenshot)
- Common video corrections such as white balance, sharpness filter or saturation
- Unlimited Undo function with change history
- Audio effects and audio dubbing in mono, stereo and 5.1 surround
Two disadvantages of Shotcut that we noticed:
- Screen recorder and screenshots only possible for Linux versions
- quickly reaches its limits with more complex video projects, since it does not come close to the range of functions of a professional software for which a fee is charged
If you feel a little unsure about the user interface at the beginning, you can refer to the practical manual, which explains and illustrates the first steps in Shotcut in detail. Some people find the user interface intuitive and beginner-friendly, others had to get used to it first. Since the software is free, everyone can decide for themselves and try out whether Shotcut has what it takes for future video projects or not.
VSDC Free Video Editor: just right for advanced users
The free version of the VSDC Free Video Editor offers a fairly wide range of features that allow you to tinker, design and optimize a lot more than simple editing steps. This tool is a non-linear video editor that gives the user a lot of freedom and flexibility when editing and cutting video fragments. But the software has much more in the box:
- Color crossfades, styles and filters for distinctive effects (see screenshot)
- support of all common file formats including converter
- Screen recording with sound
- HD and 4K export (at minimum file size)
- Many settings for video and audio effects (overlays, color corrections etc.)
- Easy creation of videos for multimedia devices (smartphones, consoles, iPad etc.)
The disadvantages of VSDC Free Video Editor:
- Only available for the Windows
- For beginners at various places to overload
- Some functions only available in the PRO version (e.g. video stabilization or hardware acceleration)
For advanced filmmakers and larger video projects, the freeware is absolutely sufficient, as it comes with a lot of features and especially scores with some special features that are rarely found in other free video programs – including screen recording and the ability to export in H265/HEVC codec (for 4K and HD).
Beginners might feel a bit overwhelmed with the VSDC Free Video Editor, so previous experience in video editing is highly recommended.
Lightworks: the proof that professional freeware exists
As one of the first computer-based video editing programs Lightworks looks back on a long and successful history. Since the end of the 80s, Editshare’s software has been available for all filmmakers, large and small. Even award-winning Hollywood films like “Pulp Fiction” or “Mission: Impossible” have been optimized with Lightworks. The program is available both as a paid pro version and a freemium version. The freeware actually only differs in the number of export options and file formats offered, but offers as many professional tools and functions as the Pro version when it comes to pure editing. The user interface of Lightworks alone already shows that the structure and the working method are on a completely different level than simple editing software.
All the advantages of Lightworks Free:
- Supports many file formats (such as DVCPRO, MPEG-2, IMX, AVCHD, DVCAM, XDCAM, RED R3D)
- Interfaces with external programs like After Effects (Adobe) or Boris FX
- Modular structure (customizable work areas)
- Larger range of functions (also included: chroma keying and real-time effects)
If you think you are ready to work with Lightworks, you will not only find on the manufacturer’s site a lot of manuals and instructions. Also YouTube for example has many channels where the first steps and functions in Lightworks are explained piece by piece to get started.
A few disadvantages to compensate:
- Only suitable for editors with advanced knowledge
- Needs correspondingly time to become acquainted
- Restricted export selection for the free version (movies can be exported in 720p maximum and only via MPEG4 / H.264)
Important at the end: Be careful with Windows Live Movie Maker
One last candidate that we do not want to leave unmentioned is the Windows Movie Maker from Microsoft. It was certainly one of the most popular video editing programs in recent years and can almost always be found among the various video editors listed. The free program from the Windows Live Essentials 2012 Suite was easy to use and fulfilled all the basic functions an amateur filmmaker could wish for. At the beginning of 2017, support for the Live Essentials Suite was discontinued and the video software was buried. The reason we’re telling you this is because if you find a download link for Windows Movie Maker on unofficial sites, you’d better keep your hands off it – fraudsters and rip-off artists use these circumstances again and again to spread malware and viruses.