Free Video Editing Software for Beginners

Free Video Editing Software for Beginners

Which video editing software should I use? And where can I get it for free?

These are two of the most common questions I get asked by people looking to learn video editing, or those looking to do some video editing on a project, for the first time.

The answers all depends on what you’re trying to do right now, and where you’re looking to get to in the future.

Are you a complete beginner looking for some easy software to use to edit a simple home video of your kids or looking for a way to add some edited video to a work presentation?

Or are you a young editor simply trying to figure out what is the best video editing software you should learn now, if you want to build a successful career in film and TV?

If you already know you want to become an assistant editor, click here! If you’re considering going to film school, read this instead!

Accordingly, I’ve split this post into two parts, the first is for anyone looking to download a really high quality, feature-rich, and most importantly, free video editing software to get started today.

The second half will help you make a sensible choice when it comes to learning the free versions of paid professional video editing software like Adobe Premiere Pro, Avid Media Composer, DaVinci Resolve or Final Cut Pro X, which are most commonly used in the industry.

Here’s the shortlist of…

The Best Free Video Editing Software for Beginners:

Have I missed something truly excellent? Hit the comments and let me know!

Free Resources and Discount Codes for New Video Editors

When you are just beginning to learn video editing, you obviously need some footage to edit with! Now, you could just shoot something on your phone and edit that but sometimes it helps to have professionally shot material to work with.

I’ve put together a supremely detailed guide to building a freelance video editing career from scratch, which includes a section on where to get practice video editing projects, and why getting constructive feedback is so key to improving your skills. This section also includes a discount code for Editstock.com, which is probably the best place to look for complete practice projects, online today.

Alternatively you could download unlimited stock footage to practice your editing with from sites like these: The Best High End Stock Video Footage Sites Compared.

If you are just starting out and looking for other freebies or discount codes, be sure to hit this page dedicated to such things, including free colour grading LUTS, film grain, light leaks, editing books and more!

If you need some cheap or free royalty free production music to add to your project and avoid YouTube copyright enforcements, check out this post which lists my favourite sites for high quality music tracks.

Otherwise, let’s dive into the list…

The Best Free Video Editing Software for Beginners

Looking for powerful yet free video editing software to edit something today?

You’re in luck, there’s never been a better time to be editing video, nor a broader range of free video editing software for doing so. But that also makes picking the right one for your particular needs a confusing process.

In this half of the article I’ve researched and selected the best free video editing applications for Mac, Windows and even Linux that will help you get serious creative work done without spending a penny.

Most of these are desktop applications you can download and work with on pretty much any machine and edit the footage you have sitting on your hard drive.

Other options in the list are browser-based applications where you upload your media files to the Cloud and edit them in your web-browser of choice, without downloading or installing anything.

Most of the applications in this list offer in-app purchases and upgrades to extend their capabilities, but all of them will work pretty effectively right out of the box; albeit with some limitations.

HitFilm from FXHome

  • Best for: New video editors, junior visual effects artists and anyone looking to create fun explosive content for free
  • Platforms: Windows and Mac
  • Download: Download HitFilm for free here
  • Price: Free |Creator – $7.50 $6.25/month | Pro – $12.50 $9.99/month (on sale)

HitFilm from FXHome is the free version of the highly rated and very popular combined editing and visual effects software package HitFilm Pro.

Although limited compared to the Pro version, the free version still comes with almost all the same advanced editing and colour grading features, unlimited HD exports, 127 effects, 10 songs and 25 SFX from Artlist and 5 MotionArray templates.

Given these additional freebies, it would seem foolish for anyone not to sign up and download HitFilm for free!

Even if you’ve never used a video editing package before, the app opens with an introductory project already in progress for you to play with. Backed by an intuitive user interface and in-app tutorials, it is very easy to pick up, although it offers a wealth of advanced tools too!

One of the unique features of the Pro version is the ability to import 3D models directly into your edit and also work in 8K resolutions with ease. Plus you get Mocha tracking for HitFilm, BorisFX 3D Objects and the Foundry’s 3D Camera Tracker.

This is in addition to a total of 322 effects, 200 Artlist tracks and SFX and 50 Motion Array templates!

Latest Features

HitFilm was acquired over a year ago by Artlist (who also own ArtGrid and MotionArray) and since then the development team at HitFilm has nearly doubled with lots of new feature and improvements added to the latest release.

This includes a whole new look to the user interface, a dedicated content panel to download music, sound effects and templates directly into your project and a learn panel that brings hundreds of how-to videos to your finger tips.

It’s also an ideal time to start using HitFilm as they’re offering additional discounts on the paid versions of the app with up to 23% off for a limited-time!

Learn HitFilm

If you’re looking for free tutorials there are TONS of them on their very active and entertaining YouTube channel.

There are playlists for pretty much everything, including:

Hit Film is a very capable piece of editing software, that looks to have an exciting future ahead of it under Artlist’s stewardship.

The latest features make it even more approachable for the first time editor, yet it has a strong selection of professional tools to help you deliver complex projects too.

The bundling of the Artlist production music and Motion Array motion graphics assets also makes for a very compelling all-in-one subscription offering for new editors.

Download HitFilm from FXHome by Artlist for free here.

DaVinci Resolve

Ever since Blackmagic Design bought DaVinci Resolve several years ago they have totally transformed the industry leading colour grading software into the best free editing, colour grading, sound design and visual effects application available today.

As of the latest version, it is without a doubt the most feature-rich and ‘professional’ application you can download and deliver from, without spending a single penny. You can see just how many features are included in the free version here.

Blackmagic Design can give Resolve away for free because they also make excellent colour grading and editorial hardware to go with it. I reviewed two of their colour grading control surfaces here. (Which you probably don’t need if you’re a beginner!)

The only caveat to using Resolve is making sure your system will run it smoothly. Be sure to check out the system configuration guide (last updated for v15), to make sure you’re getting the best performance you can. Although their improved proxy workflow means that it should function pretty well on any system.

Also the user manual is the best you’ll ever encounter. It is now over 4000 pages long.

Learn DaVinci Resolve

For the release of DaVinci Resolve 17, Blackmagic Design released 17 hours of free training covering every aspect of this multi-faceted program, which I’ve brought together here.

This older round up of DaVinci Resolve resources also includes a brilliant 10-part video tutorial series that will take you through editing your first project from start to finish.

If you prefer to start with some easy to follow, professionally structured training then check out this post which has detailed reviews of some of the best paid training available today.

For a wealth of further resources browse through the nearly 200 posts on this blog which feature DaVinci Resolve, and within each post you’ll find countless further free tutorials, tools, resources, paid training titles and more.

Download DaVinci Resolve for free here.

Runway.ml – Video Editor

  • Best for: Absolute beginners who need to join a few clips, pro editors who need a quick AI driven VFX fix.
  • Platforms: In-Browser so all of them?
  • Download link: Try Runway.ml’s video editor here.
  • Price: Free or $15/35/$100/month depending on plan.

I’ve never used an ‘in-browser’ video editing app before, and I have to say I was hugely impressed by Runway.ml’s online video editor.

Not only is the interface entirely intuitive for anyone who has used a track-based editing program before, but even if you hadn’t, it wouldn’t take more than a few minutes to find your way around.

That and the AI powered super-features such as automatic rotoscoping and masking, in-painting and motion tracking (coming soon). These tools mean any editor who needs to get a shot fixed in a hurry, could quickly upload, rotoscope and download with an alpha channel in a minute or two, even if they’re editing in some other desktop based application.

For complete beginners there are pre-edited projects you can swap out the shots for and customise the text in to create your brand new video, as well as lots of preset filters, LUTs and effects to throw on too.

Free Vs Starter Vs Creator Vs Pro

The free version gives you unlimited access to their ‘AI magic tools’ but only 1GB of cloud storage to work with and exports are limited to 720p resolution.

For just $15/month on the Starter plan you get everything in free but exports bump up to 1080p, include mattes and you get 5GB of storage.

Creator costs $35/month, provides 100GB of storage, 4K exports with a ProRes option too.

Pro costs $100/month for 2TB of storage, PNG, depth map and optical flow exports, Teams and early access to new beta features.

There is a 20% discount for paying annually across all plans.

The help section of the site is very good and worth browsing if you’re interested in how things work, or some of the capabilities, for example, what video formats and codecs are currently supported. Notably ProRes and H.264/H.265.

One of the impressive things about the export options is the ability to generate depth maps and PNG sequences or Pro Res exports (from the Pro version). The depth map feature that was recently added to DaVinci Resolve 18 Studio was a huge hit with professional colorists.

Caveats

One thing that isn’t very clear is what kind of processing is being done to your images along the way, so if image fidelity is critical in some regard then you might want to ask them about it first.

Another obvious caveat is that you would need to be connected to the internet and happy to upload your files to Runway’s servers to get any work done – which is usually fine unless security protocols would prohibit this. Or you’re just off-the grid somewhere!

Given that you have to upload everything, you’re also only really going to want to be working with short clips, which might be great for putting together a product promo or short sizzle, but even then you can be drawing from a lot of media.

But maybe if you’re on the 2TB Pro version for $100/month you also have really fast internet.

You can learn everything you need to know about using Runway’s video editor on their concise yet growing YouTube tutorial channel in a few minutes.

Every editor, new or old, should be aware of what Runway are building, so they can leverage their AI tools as part of their professional toolkit for solving traditionally complex problems in a jiffy.

Try Runway.ml’s video editor for free here.

If in-browser video editing is something you’re interested in exploring further, also check out these similar services:

Filmora from Wondershare

  • Best for: Video bloggers, tutorial creators, part-time editors and anyone with a penchant for online video content.
  • Platforms: Mac, Windows, iOS, Android.
  • Download Link – Download a free trial of Filmora here.
  • Price: Free trial with watermark| Annual with updates $49.99 | Perpetual $79.99

I’d not heard of Wondershare’s Filmora before their marketing team got in touch to tell me about it, but it does look like a really useful low cost option for parents, hobbyists, online content creators and video bloggers looking to create smart looking videos they can easily share online and via social media.

They’ve just updated the app to version 11 which includes a number of impressive new features and improvements including:

  • Instant Mode
  • Auto Sync Footage to Beat
  • Speed Ramping
  • Motion Tracking
  • Audio Visualiser
  • Auto Synchronisation

Through third party plugins there is also the option to add effects from Boris FX and NewBlue FX as well as a plugin to generate speech to text subtitles, although these require a second subscription to access.

According to the site they already have over 77 million happy users and the real attraction to using Filmora seems to be the very low price ($80 lifetime license) and the drag-and-drop content creation simplicity it delivers.

77 million users is also a pretty eye-popping stat, so they must be doing something right!

The Filmora YouTube channel is packed with free tutorials for getting started with the software, including:

Download Filmora 11 for free here.

Lightworks

  • Best for: Old school Oscar winning editors. Editors who are tired of the ‘usual apps’ and anyone who wants to try out a really interesting toolset (mostly in the paid version)
  • Platforms: Mac, Windows and Linux
  • Download Link: Download the latest version of Lightworks for free here
  • Price: Free or $99/year $249.99 outright

I’ve been an interested observer of the development of Lightworks, ever since I discovered that it was the editing application of choice for Thelma Schoonmaker (Wolf of Wall Street) and Tariq Anwar (American Beauty, The King’s Speech).

It comes in three different versions. A limited free version, a semi-limited Create version and a unlimited Pro version. The Create version sits in the middle and is aimed at “YouTubers, gamers and anyone who wants to do more more than cut clips together.

Free Vs Create Vs Pro

You can compare all three versions here, but the main limitations for the free version around around exporting (max 720p) as well as some of the advanced titles, effects and third-party plugin which includes TotalFX (177 effect plugins).

The Create version is available for just $9.99 a month, but in comparison to FX Home’s Pro subscription (also $9.99/month) it doesn’t look to be as good value for money, given everything else FX Home includes.

One of the most compelling attributes of Lightworks are it’s trimming tools, which are all available in the free version too, and are one of the reasons why ‘Hollywood editors’ as Schoonmaker and Anwar like to use it.

Latest Features

The last couple of releases of Lighworks add:

  • 200 Free Music Tracks from Epidemic Sounds
  • QuickFX Audio Templates for audio sweetening
  • Audio Effects: Noise Reduction, Graphic EQ, Compressor, Reverb
  • Advanced Scopes
  • 10-Bit Pipeline (decode only in Free)
  • Quick LUTs (in Free)
  • Apple Pro Res Encode/Decode (decode only in Free)

It goes without saying that it’s clearly a very capable editing package that has some devoted users. If you are a new editor looking for a capable system the Free or Create versions will deliver great results. Or if you’re a professional editor curious to see what it is like on the other side of the fence, then download it and give it a whirl.

You can check out previous posts about Lightworks on this blog here, or watch some of the easy to follow tutorials below and on the official YouTube channel here.

Download Lightworks for free here

Which Professional Video Editing Software Should I Learn First?

how to choose video editing software

In my recent article for editors switching between professional video editing applications, I suggested which software you might want learn first and invest serious time in, depending on where you want to work in the film and TV industry, in the future.

I thought I’d expand on those thoughts here to help you lay a solid foundation for building a career in the film industry from scratch.

For a LOT more detail on how I would build a freelance video editing career from scratch, check out this post which details what I would do and buy if I was trying to set myself up for a freelance career in film editing without going to film school.

Which Professional Video Editing Software Should I Learn?

For each of these high profile editing applications there are free trials available, which are usually fully functional, but time-limited.

When it comes to investing your money in one of these applications FCPX represents the best value (it’s $299 for a lifetime of free updates) whilst Avid Media Composer is probably the most expensive for what you get, at $50/month.

Avid is more ‘expensive’ when compared to paying the same money per month for the full suite of Adobe’s Creative Cloud applications. These include Adobe Premiere Pro, After Effects, Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign and many more!

If your creative pursuits are broader than straight video editing, an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription is great value. Although if you stop paying, you no longer have access to any of your software.

These thoughts may well be contentious, and feel free to hit the comments and share your experience. I’m certain everyone’s will be different!

For further resources for learning to edit, take a rummage in the following categories for every single post on the blog related to these apps:

Avid Media Composer | Adobe Premiere Pro | Final Cut Pro X | DaVinci Resolve

In many ways it doesn’t matter which editing application you learn, how expensive it is, or what it’s feature set.

Learning software is easy, learning how and why to edit is much harder.

But it can be done!

You just have to cut and cut a lot.

Avid Media Composer | First

Avid Media Composer has long been the industry standard when it comes to film and TV post-production. It is robust, comes with (optional) dedicated hardware and delivers decades of confidence in its tried and tested workflows between post production teams.

Avid finally offers a free (non-trial) version of the software called Avid Media Composer | First, which is quite limited but still very useful if you want to learn to edit in this ‘legendary’ software.

What do you get for free?

  • Support for Mac and Windows
  • Limited to 4 video tracks and 8 audio tracks
  • Limited to 1080p resolution and Rec. 709 colour space
  • Unlimited Projects
  • Only 5 Bins per project
  • QuickTime export to H.264 and DNxHD only

So what don’t you get for free?

  • 24 video tracks and 64 audio tracks in full version
  • No support for DNxHR
  • Full colour correction, audio editing and effects tools
  • Full keyboard shortcut mapping
  • Everything else!

If you do want to pursue a career in feature film and broadcast television then you should master Avid Media Composer.

This subsequent post will help you understand what you need to become an Avid Media Composer Assistant Editor (Overnight). It includes professional training courses, free tutorials, recommended books and a whole lot more. It also covers why you should learn Avid Media Composer over other NLEs.

Download Avid Media Composer | First for free

10 Comments

  • I’m using videopad. I’m a super noob only program that I could figure out how to delete scenes. Problem with it is I can’t find guides for other things such as speeding up, putting an image at the end of video for 7 sec 🙁

  • I encourage you to give Media 100 a go. As you say, it’s free. So there is not much for you to lose actually editing a project. Obviously the UI works better across two screens but it is manageable on one.

      • I’m quite ashamed it took me so long to respond to the comment, but I actually sent you a message about it a couple of days ago. Unsure if it went through though. Could you please take a look and drop me a line if it piques your interest? I promise to respond this year.

        Cheers,
        Nina

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