Free video editing software often comes with legal and technical limitations, however. Some widely used codecs require licensing fees on the part of the software maker, meaning they can't offer free software that can handle these standard file formats. That said, the impressive open-source Shotcut does a lot of the same things that the paid applications in this roundup do, including things like chroma-keying and picture-in-picture. Shotcut is completely open-source and free, while another free option, Lightworks has paid options that remove a 720p output resolution limit. Note also that both Shotcut and Lightworks run on Linux as well as Windows and Mac.
PowerDirector helps you enhance your footage with Intelligent Color Correction. This allows you to quickly and easily match color settings across your entire project, which unifies the look and feel of your video and eliminates a lot of guesswork. This might seem like a small thing, but it’s a huge leap forward for video editing software at the consumer level.
I've been seeing a lot of attention paid to creating title effects in the applications over the past year. Apple Final Cut Pro X has added 3D title creation, which is pretty spiffy, letting you extrude 2D titles and rotate them on three axes. Corel VideoStudio in its latest version also adds 3D Titling, though not as powerful as Apple's. PowerDirector's Title Designer offers transparency, gradient color, border, blur level, and reflection in titles; Magix has impressive title templates, complete with animations. Premiere Elements offers a nifty title effect in which your video fills the text characters. Look for an application that lets you edit titles in WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) mode, so that you can type, format, and time it right over the video preview.
Cyberlink is often the first to roll out new and innovative tools and features. For example, it pioneered multi-cam functionality for consumer-level software. That technology was previously only found in professional programs like Adobe Premiere Pro and Final Cut Pro. Cyberlink’s basics are also top-notch. This program has a 99-track timeline, which gives nearly unlimited versatility. You can make simple videos quickly but also delve deeply into complex projects. You may never edit a feature film with this software, but it is more than capable of that task. In our ease-of-use tests, PowerDirector earned an A. Our reviewers noted that the interface is intuitive, the tools are accessible, and even the most advanced features are simple to learn. You can unlock the fullest potential of the program easily if you learn how to use the tools properly.
The free HitFilm Express 9 has a quirky but appealing interface and plenty of powerful features, including a new layout panel and better export tools. An optional Starter Pack ($9.99) adds even more editing options. It's good for prosumers and enthusiasts with cross-platform editing and compositing abilities, tracking options, 2D and 3D effects, speed controls, audio tools and an arsenal of instructional videos.
The Express Projects module offers a library of preprogrammed video templates to choose from. PowerDirector walks you through sorting your footage, choosing the best shots for your video and letting you experiment with where to place footage in the template. This is important for two reasons: First, it allows beginner and novice users the opportunity to complete a project without being intimidated by the complexity of the software; second, it does so in a way that teaches you to use the tools in the Full Feature Editor, making the jump that much easier.
However, simple editing can be done on the cheap if you’re willing to ditch powerful, high-end software such as Final Cut Pro, or Adobe Premiere, in favor of a more modest program. Let’s face it, you’re probably not going to be taking home the Palme d’Or with the film you cut on your laptop, but your home movies and YouTube uploads can take on a whole new shine with a few straightforward tools.
With the popularity of video content today, you'd think Microsoft would make a simple video editing tool even more prolific and available than they even had with Windows Movie Maker. Many times small business and particularly individuals, don't have the funds available for the more involved editing programs, or the time to learn those with huge learning curves to create even the simplest results.
For an option that falls in the middle of the price range, CyberLink has one of the most impressive arsenals of tools -- and it's still easy to use. The recently revamped interface is intuitive, and the features are “content aware,” meaning that they analyze raw footage for things such as shakiness, lighting and faces to create a better final cut. There is also added support for 4K video content.
The Dazzle Multimedia DM4100 Digital Video Creator is very useful to import video from your TV, VCR or DVD player into your PC for editing and then converting to PC video formats. The device is exceptionally good for making videos for use on the Web or as e-mail attachments. Thanks to its use of USB its very simple to install and can be "hot-swaped" with other USB device without rebooting your computer.