After testing six of the most popular free editing suites, our top choice is HitFilm Express 9 for its lavish cinematic capabilities and high-powered interface. For Mac owners, Apple's iMovie is the no-brainer choice, because of its macOS integration, top-notch output, professional themes and trailers, and support for professional shooting and editing techniques. For YouTube and other social media platforms, the free, cross-platform VideoPad is the best option.
Apple’s Final Cut Pro X software falls into what we call the “prosumer” category because it treads the line between a product for consumers who want to up their video-editing game and one for professionals who need powerful editing tools. It lacks a traditional timeline-track interface, which is enough to scare some users off, but the software is intuitive and powerful nonetheless. It has great organizational tools like libraries, ratings, tagging, auto analysis for faces and scenes, and automatic color coding for track-specific clips, useful keyboard short-cuts and drag-and-drop media importing give Adobe’s Premiere Elements a run for its money. Unfortunately, you can't directly open projects from Final Cut Pro 7 or earlier, but there are many third-party plug-ins that will help you out there.
Another program, VSDC Video Editor Pro, simply has too outdated an interface, making common tasks difficult. Longtime pro video editors will note the absence of Avid Media Composer, which is simply too unwieldy for PCMag's primarily consumer audience. There are a couple of more interesting applications—NCH VideoPad and AVS Video Editor among them—that we simply haven't tested yet.
Added features such as time remapping for including slow motion, high-speed effects or freeze action are complemented by easily grouping or ungrouping clips on a timeline to edit in bulk or one at a time. With over 1,500 customizable effects, transitions and titles, there’s something for everyone. Even as the video itself is the focus, custom fitting your project with a soundtrack is handled well with custom-fit audio allowing your movies to both look and sound good.
The Full Feature Editor contains simplified versions of nearly all the tools available in professional video editing software. For example, you have access to an audio mixer that lets you fine-tune your sound, the chroma key that allows you to create green-screen effects, and a surround-sound configurator that optimizes your video for home entertainment systems and even movie theaters. These tools and others allow you to make the same type of videos as Hollywood professionals. PowerDirector is a great program not only for creating great videos, but also for learning nonlinear editing in case you decide to upgrade to professional video editing programs.
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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.