The Best Video Editing Software 2017

best video editing software

The digital revolution has changed film and video for the better.  Saving costs on developing film is one thing, not to mention having access to higher quality cameras, drones, and free video lessons on how to make professional videos. But digital editing helped users surpass the biggest access hurdles. The ability to shift around clips, add complex effects, color correct, and watch playback in real time saves countless hours of the editing process. More importantly, it has thrust the tools of the film industry into the hands of anyone with a decent computer and a willingness to learn the software.

Despite these innovations, choosing the best editing software for you isn’t simple. Even if access is comparable, you won’t likely edit a feature film with the same program your grandmother uses to cut together home movies. Let’s look what the best options are, later in the article you will see how they were chosen.

Best Editing Software Across Platforms:

You should choose Adobe Premier Pro for 2 reasons. They offer a trial and after your trial ends the monthly subscription is only a fragment of the cost you'd pay for other software.

adobe premier pro screenshot

Another place Premiere Pro CC shines is when you’re finally done and ready to get your file. The sheer amount of file options is staggering, so you can spit out the exact type of file you need for any purpose.

One of its most useful features for larger projects is its ability for collaboration. Since it’s on Adobe’s Creative Cloud, collaborating with other editors is far easier. Using their “Team” add-on, you can have effects artists using the same footage in After Effects at the same time. As with other Adobe products like Photoshop or After Effects, you can work in layers. Plus, since it is for both Mac OS and Windows, you can share with editors who have different operating systems externally too.

With the start of Adobe’s Creative Cloud line, you’re stuck with subscription-only. If you use other CC products you can package them together, but getting Premiere Pro CC alone will cost around a couple hundred USD a year.

Small aside: Adobe’s Elements line is a great way to get simplified versions of their products at a single, more affordable price. If you’re not at the serious level but iMovie and Windows Movie Maker aren’t cutting it for you, consider Premiere Elements.

* It's important to have editing software that accepts a wide range of video formats or at least the video formats that YOU need. Such as avi, mov, mp4, mpeg etc. 

"It's also the best for Youtube and Video Gaming"

Adobe Premier Pro stands out also as the go to choice for video editing software for Youtube. The primary reason is that Adobe Premier Pro features superior technology. Mercury Playback Engine utilizes your graphical processor unit (GPU) instead of the central processing unit (CPU). This means if you have a proper personal computer or a powerful laptop you will render, edit and export your work projects faster.

It's also a go to choice for many videographers who explicitly edit gaming content. With the gaming industry(600 bil+) being more than 3 times bigger than both the music and film industry combined. An example is Nicetryan, he graduated from Youtube and went to work with Riot. In either case our primary recommendation is still Adobe Premier Pro for those who are seriously interested in video editing professionally.

Best Editing Software for Mac Only:

2. Final Cut Pro 

The Mac-exclusive Final Cut Pro X is probably the biggest rival of Adobe Premiere Pro CC, gobbling up an equally large share of the market and giving Apple fans their own (quite affordable) professional video editing software. Final Cut Pro X is famous for its incredibly intuitive timeline simple enough to be used without hours of tutorials and figuring out where all of the hidden features are. 

One of Final Cut X’s most useful features is its magnetic timeline. While many editing programs have a “snap” feature so that you don’t find yourself mis-clicking and snipping off a frame or two, the magnetic timeline takes that notion a large leap forward. When you drag a clip into a space with a splice, it automatically opens up to exact size of the clip. It will even take along with it any paired files or effects and all of them will fit in perfectly. Granted, this would be annoying if you didn’t want that to happen, but it’s really simple for fast edits.

Speaking of speed, Final Cut Pro X’s ability to handle 4K is (currently) unrivaled outside of Avid’s monster. With 4K footage increasingly becoming the new standard, this is a big boost for Final Cut. You’ll get smooth playback and speed that would be far slower in other programs.

Final Cut Pro vs Adobe Premier Pro

Mac book pro

Here you have 2 choices. I would recommend you get the Final Cut Pro if you want simplicity and an easy time getting everything to work. Final Cut Pro was made for Mac by Mac. It's natively compatible with it which means it simply works better than any other software would on most other platforms were it wasn't custom made for the platform. But it lacks the range of function that Adobe Premier Pro possesses. So what is more important to you? Are you more of a casual videographer or just a Youtuber with a DSLR camera? then get the Final Cut if you are an Apple fan but want the most advanced software for video editing then get the Adobe Premier Pro.

One interesting area Final Cut also excels at is battery life. Most of the other large programs really drain your battery quickly if you’re working on laptops which some editors will need if they edit on the go. Since Final Cut Pro X was optimized with MacBook Pro in mind, you can work for quite a while without needed a recharge. Then again, if you’re working on a very powerful machine for a feature film, you wouldn’t need to worry about this.

A small thing that helps separate Final Cut Pro X from other editing software is that you can preview clips before you upload them. If you have a bunch of files in your camera, the names might just be numbers. It saves a lot of time to get a quick view before you upload and end up not using it.

Finally, one of the best features of Final Cut Pro X is its almost nonexistent rendering time. If you’ve ever waited for hours for a render to complete only to find one little dropped frame halfway through, and then have had to redo the whole thing with a looming deadline, you’ll know why rendering speed sometimes serves as the deciding factor for an editing software.

Although it’s packaged with some higher-end Mac computers, buying the software separately runs about 300 USD. Considering how some other software works on a subscription, this could be either cheaper or more expensive depending on your needs.

Best Editing Software for Huge Projects:

3. Avid Media Composer

This one could just as easily be labeled as “Best Editing Software If You Have a Ton Time to Learn How to Use It and a Super Powerful Computer.” The learning curve here is steep—forget the nice magnetic drag-and-drop features from Final Cut Pro X and expect to have to really learn the tools. Plus you need a high quality machine. While a minimum of 8 GB RAM to run it isn’t much, Avid’s spec page recommends 24 GB RAM for big projects. This is definitely not your average laptop software.

Despite that difficult accessibility, there are two main reasons why Avid Media Composer is probably still one of the most used editing programs in the film and television industries.

  • The first, and less fun reason, is that the older editors know it and they’re good with it. Inertia plays a key factor in any industry, and there is simply no reason to learn new software if the older favorite is still keeping up with technology. Avid is very keyboard-centric, and with a lot of experience comes a lot of speed. Few editors are willing to give that up once they’ve reached that point.

  • Second, the cloud sharing is unrivaled. Despite Premiere Pro CC’s Team mode, Media Composer is still the leader for large groups of editors. Since big productions like feature films and reality TV shows have tons of footage and big teams, Avid works the best for them.

A couple other key features are unique to Avid Media Composer. One is that it’s very easy to link to the film script. You can have pages of the script tie right into your edits to help keep track of larger projects.

Also, with the addition of their Dynamic Media Folders, you can automate a lot of imports and other actions. For example, you can set a folder to connect to a camera and automatically import anything that shows up. This can save a lot of time.You’re not stuck choosing between Mac and PC—this old favorite works across platforms. Although not subscription-based, the price going to feel very “pro” compared to the others on this list and is far more expensive.

Best Free Editing Software:

4. Lightworks

While many people may be satisfied with the software that comes pre-installed with their operating system if you’re making a school project or a video of your family vacation, the best option for a more professional free editing tool is Lightworks. Lightworks looks and feels like many of the other editors on this list, with a robust set of tools and abilities but with a free option that can actually work (though it has some caveats which will be clear below).

One of Lightworks’ best features is its workflow. There are plenty of options for customization and each piece can move about at will. With separate windows you can shape your workspace to fit your needs. Because it’s free, the community helps develop features for it like customized motion graphics. With fast keyboard features, you work surprisingly quickly with this program.

Lightworks also won’t put too much strain on your machine. The whole package is only 200 MB and it runs well on 3 GB RAM. That doesn’t mean, however, that it isn’t doing much—it’s just efficient.

Video Editing Software For Beginners Under 100$

5. CyberLink PowerDirector 15

cyberlink power director 15

CyberLink PowerDirector is my top choice for beginners not wanting to spend much but still wanting quality software that still functions at a high level. PD has support for 4K video and renders it in record time considering even limited hardware. It has a huge variety of templates you can choose from so not much expertise is required because you can just drop in your raw video and be done with it.  Easy to set up, fast processing, beginner friendly what more could you ask for?

  • Supported Formats: 20/20
  • OS Support: Windows and Mac

PROS

  • Good price
  • 360 Degree video editing
  • Fast Rendering
  • Action Camera
  • GPU Acceleration

CONS

  • No 4k in 60 fps

How I Chose The Editing Software

For this list, let’s consider professional tools only. While there is a lot you can do for cutting together your home movies with very simple programs like Windows Movie Maker or iMovie that probably come with your Windows or Mac machine already, that decision has already been partially made for you.

Also excluded are programs that are primarily for something else but could be used for video editing, like Blender or After Effects—both useful, robust programs that do something else (3D animation and motion graphics respectively) better than they edit.

Since each of the following four programs do something amazingly well, they each earn a “best” title for their category. These are the favorites for good reason, and their differences are what’s going to help solidify your choice.

How to choose

  1. Are you editing feature films or daily clips for YouTube? For one, you’d want strong collaborative features. For the other, you want fast uploads and render times.

  2. Are you simply editing clips or are you responsible for the entirety of post-production including graphics and color correction? Some software specializes in graphics while others provide very basic tools and require separate programs to handle most complex graphics and color correction.

  3. What kind of footage are you working with? Do you have simple video or will you need something that can do 4K well, or even stereoscopic 3D?

  4. Unfortunately, one of the big decisions early on that needs to be made may is your operating system. While some of the best choices on this list cross multiple platforms, others are more exclusive. If video editing is your job, it won’t seem silly to choose your machine based on the software you prefer.

What is chroma key?

Chroma key is a function in editing software to replace the background color of a picture or video (think green screen) with color or footage of your choice. See the example below:

Wrapping it up

So why would anyone pay for their software when something powerful is free? There are a couple reasons. First, Lightworks loves to crash—not an ideal feature for a tool that requires patience. Second, your output is very limited in the free version and your maximum resolution is only 720p, which even for YouTube users it might not cut it. For more output, higher resolution (including 4K and stereoscopic 3D) you’d need to get the Pro version.

Lightworks, therefore, is either completely free, runs by subscription at a price comparable to Adobe Premiere Pro CC or an “Outright License” is available for about the price of Final Cut Pro X. That purchasing versatility (and a strong free component) could make Lightworks the best choice for an independent editor looking to save money who may wish to upgrade later.

About the author

John Thatch

John Thatcher is a computer science educated artist. He uses technology to solve artist problems. His friends don't like it when he speaks of himself in the third person. But John does it anyway, because he's a rebel.

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