Video Editing Software: The Five Best FREE Programs

One of the single most common questions I get as an online video production teacher is, “What is the best FREE video editing software?”

People want to edit their video and they want to do it on the cheap!  Sounds good to me.  You have lots of options

Windows Movie Maker and iMove are the two obvious answers.  Both will do the job, although iMovie is LOTS better.  Those two programs are both extremely common since Windows Movie maker comes preloaded on PCs and iMove comes preloaded on a Mac.

There are also dozens and dozens of additional free video editing programs out there that are not as common.  Are they any good?  Yes, some of them are. In fact, some of them are awesome.  Others are unstable and difficult to use and you need to stay away from them.

A fellow I met recently named Gary Comerford has a website dedicated to free video editing software.  His site is a wealth of information on all the many free edit programs available.  There are several links to his site in the article below.

Gary was kind enough to write an article for me on what he considers the five best free programs.  Then he over delivered and wrote about six!  Here is his very informative article.  You can learn even more about any of the six by clicking the name links.

FREE VIDEO EDITING

BY GARY COMERFORD

 

Pssst!… Want to know a secret? There are loads of really good, really functional tools out there for editing your home video (you know, the stuff you shot with that brand new camcorder you purchased recently. Footage of the kids playing football, bouncing on the trampoline, swimming at the beach. Or stuff you hope to send in to some ‘Best Home Video’ show to earn yourself some money).

You see the increase in processing power of PC’s, coupled with a newer, smaller, cheaper, family of camcorders from Hitachi, Sony and Panasonic, has brought video making down to the level of the average consumer.

But the one thing that isn’t always cheap is editing software. The top of the line versions cost hundreds and even thousands of dollars. Sure, they’re good and they are definitely worth it. But is that the sort of money you want to pay for what is, essentially, a simple process?

No! Of course not!? You want to use some of the free tools that are out there to get your vision out to your audience.

Listed below are a collection of my top 5 free editing programs that you can download right now! This doesn’t include the ubiquitous Windows Movie Maker which – to be honest – isn’t particularly good. It also doesn’t include iMovie on the Macintosh – although that is a great little piece of software.

1)  TABZS4

–> TABZS4 is a free video editing and compositing tool from Zwei-Stein. Its not for everyone, but it could be for you. I know, the TABZS4 (T@B ZS4) free video editor sounds crazy – especially with a name like that, but I figured we should check it out anyway. TABZS4 is essentially a compositing tool AND a video editing tool. It uses a timeline, similar to the larger, professional tools, but it also has functionality to allow you to apply ‘filters’ to it to affect the video. This includes items such as ‘Green Screen’ (or Chromakey), distortions and colour manipulations

2) Wax –

A free tool with powerful editing and compositing abilities. This is actually quite a flexible tool along the same lines as Blender, in that it is multi-faceted. However it isn’t as complicated as Blender though and the learning curve is shallower. It can be used as a stand-alone editor (NLE) which will allow video to be edited as required. But it can also be used as a plug-in to tools such as Vegas and Adobe Premier. This is a new product to me, but it has  strong looking functionality. I would be inclinded to have a deeper look at this if wanting something more complex than, say Windows Movie Maker, but less complex than Blender

3) Video Spin

Video Spin is the free video editing tool from Avid/Pinnacle. Videospin is one of the more promising free video editing tools on the market. The reason being that it comes from Avid who are the prime maker of professional grade editing software. If you’ve watched a Hollywood feature film recently chances are it has been edited on an Avid system. The software is actually a low functional version of Pinnacle Studio that has been rebranded and given away. The software is now, apparently, ad supported as well. As PC World said in their review “You also must put up with advertisements–for Pinnacle products, and even for products sold on Amazon.com–rotating in the top-middle of the interface. I didn’t find them intrusive, but like Studio, VideoSpin has a few spots where you must watch where you click. If you select ‘More Transitions’ from a drop-down menu, the application will open your Web browser to an ad for upgrades. That’s more annoying.

4) Avidemux

One of the more stable and complete free tools available. Apart form being able to cut and handle video (as you might expect from a video editing tool) it can apply various filters (such as twenty ways to deinterlace a video ) and adding filters to affect colour, supress video noise, and add subtitles. Of the tools on this list this is, easily, the most complete and stable: It isn’t in beta release. It is out in the websphere, and it can perform lots of things that the other tools on this site can’t. It also output’s to quite a few different formats such as DVD, MPEG4 and HuffYUV. However, (and there’s always a ‘however’!)it is limited in its functionality (doesn’t support multiple audio tracks, for example) and is much less functional than a big package such as Adobe Premier.

5) Blender –

Blender is an incredible program for 3D animation.  Blender is  not a standard run-of-the-mill video editing program used to make home movies from the beach.  Blender is WAY more powerful and complex for that, perhaps best described as multi-use 3D editing/compositing and modeling tool. It’s been used for big budget animations such as Elephants Dream.

This is a high level program that can truly create amazing footage. To be open source and free is even more amazing.   This is the tool that will allow you to edit, create 3D graphics, add effects, manage your sound and render out some of the greatest films you’ve seen. Check out It is very, very powerful. The film ‘Elephants Dream’ was put together using it and it certainly was up to the task. For something a little more approachable (and funny) look at Big Buck Bunny.

The problem with Blender is that it’s complex and not that easy to learn. But if you can climb that steep learning curve it’s a doozy.

PLUS – because I’m a Mac user myself let me add another one into the mix which is great for those of you who follow the zen of Apple:

6) Hyperengine-Av

Trackless editing for your Mac. This is ‘the other’ free Mac video editing software. One of the features of this software is that it does away with the multi-track tmeline concept and replaces it with a trackless set-up. This means that things like audio and video, transitions and effects can be placed randomly across the timeline without being stuck on a particular track in the timelines. It makes for an interesting looking timeline! HyperEngineAV has a couple of quirks that take a bit of getting used to, but it is functional and can be extended with the purchase of a license. There is good documentation for it and it appears to be supported as they have released a new version

Generally speaking, unless you are only doing very basic things you may need more than one tool to create your final vision. I would recommend something like Avidemux or even Blender (If your after something very powerful and free). Don’t be fooled by the fact that some of these are free – they are good pieces of software (The mantra that free software can’t be any good is blown clear out of the water when you look at some of the stuff Google produces. it’s functional, it’s ubiquitous and it’s free!)

I would recommend you take a look at some of the tools on here as a way of starting your collection of editing tools. Some may not be to your style. Some may be too simple, some too complicated. just try them out and see what works for you. You never know, you may find the perfect match

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Gary Comerford runs the free video editing web-site at http://www.free-video-editing.com Check out his site for reviews of free software, on-line software, and commercial software that you can get on a free trial basis.

Thanks Gary!  And thank you for reading Video Production Tips

Lorraine Grula

Internet Video Gal

Comments

  1. Thanks for the information. This can give webmasters an idea on how to finetune their videos and make it work.

  2. A great tool on the Mac for converting between video formats, extracting tracks, and embedding subtitles is ffmpegX: http://www.geekology.co.za/blog/2009/02/ embedding-subtitles-srt-into-video-files-avi-mpg-mp4-mkv-etc/

    Willems last blog post..Linux Quick Tip: Renew a machine’s DHCP lease with dhclient

  3. Good stuff man, I’m a devout user of videospin myself, but sometimes find myself wanting more.

    I will check out a few of the other free programs before upgrading to pinnicle studio, which I will most likely end up doing anyway.

    Normal Joes last blog post..Wealthy Affiliate Review. See What’s Inside Before You Pay A Dime.

  4. KIM says:

    About Blender…. I don’t see ONE single example of a real movie made with blender, all I see is 3D, modeling, and graphic type videos and examples. Am I downloading the wrong blender?

    Please advise! thank you -

  5. Hi Kim.
    You do not necessarily have the wrong program, (I do not know since I am not there!) but perhaps you are not finding the web pages with the best examples. It is primarily for 3d stuff, not run-of-the-mill video editing.
    Thanks
    Lorraine

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