Notable features include professional-level color correction, GPU-accelerated real-time effects, video capture, and nearly all-encompassing format support. However, the free version is only capable of exporting MPEG-4 files with a resolution of up to 720p. Thankfully, Lightworks also offers traditional tools for importing, trimming, and seamlessly weaving audio and video together with a few effortless mouse clicks.
Several of the products here (Adobe Premiere Elements is a notable exception) still support 3D video editing if that's your thing, though the this has been replaced by 360-degree VR footage like that shot by the Samsung Gear 360 as the current home-theater fad. As is often the case, our Editors' Choice, CyberLink PowerDirector was the first product in this group to offer support for this new kind of video media.
Of course, none of the extras matter if an app can't do the most basic editing tasks. At this point, however, all of the products included here do a good job of letting you join, trim, and split video clips. They also let you make use of special effects such as animated transitions, picture-in-picture (PiP), chroma-key (the technique that lets you place a subject against any background, often known as green screening), and filters that enhance colors or apply creative effects and distortions. With most of them you can add a multitude of timeline tracks that can accommodate video clips, effects, audio, and text overlays.
Many video editing apps now include tools that cater to users of action cameras such as the GoPro Hero7 Black. For example, several offer automated freeze-frame along with speedup, slowdown, and reverse time effects. CyberLink PowerDirector's Action Camera Center pulls together freeze frame with stabilization, slo-mo, and fish-eye correction, and color correction for underwater footage. Magix Movie Edit Pro Premium includes the third-party NewBlue ActionCam Package of effects. And Wondershare Filmora lets you subscribe to new effect packs on an ongoing basis.
There are so many different video formats out there, and one device may capture in a different format than another. Furthermore, different devices and platforms need specific file formats for playback—and those formats may be different than what your camera captures! That means you’ll want software that can import from a variety of sources and that will support many file formats for export.
I've been using Canon equipment for decades. I am a photo 'enthusiast' but hardly a pro-style photog. I have used various film cameras, several Canon Rebels, EOS 7D mark 1 and mark 2 plus several 'L' lenses. All that time, I've been searching for the perfect travel camera -- I don't think it exists. I've used many small digital snappers including the Sony RX100-II, which took nice photos but was maddeningly fussy to hold and use, as well as the Fuji XT100 (great camera but fixed 40mm-equiv lens).
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.
One of the things that can be a pain in the neck is that if you're working with a long video, and you want to give different types of effects to different parts of this video, then you have to cut out the parts of that same video you need to change, and later, you need to apply the type of effect you want to each of these pieces of videos separately, and then save them like different files. After all that, you need to join them together. It would be lovely that there was an option to achieve this without so much work.
So—we stretched the meaning of “software” a bit earlier; now, we’re going to stretch the meaning of “beginner.” We included CyberLink PowerDirector on this list because its interface is, at the end of the day, pretty straightforward. Head to the product page, run through the tutorials, and you’ll be alright. There is within the interface, however, an embarrassment of options and effects. If you’re not willing to invest the time in learning all of them, it can get a bit overwhelming.
Nothing makes an impression like moving images with sound. That's why digital video continues to grow in importance online. Couple that trend with the ever-increasing availability of devices capable of high-resolution video recording—smartphones, GoPros, DSLRs—and the case for ever more powerful video editing software becomes clear. Further, the software must be usable by nonprofessionals, and it has to keep up with new formats such as HEVC (High Efficiency Video Coding), 360-degree VR video, and 4K and above.
Clinton directs and shoots videos for Stark Insider. Recent projects include BTS short LUZIA with Cirque du Soleil, short film collection WHO IS STARK INSIDER?, and art-doc WRONG'S WHAT I DO BEST shot on location at the San Francisco Art Institute. His Broadway shorts, such as SHREK UNMASKED, have garnered acclaim. He's worked with DreamWorks, Disney on Ice, and "studied under" filmmaker Werner Herzog. He also writes on Stark Insider about the San Francisco arts scene, Napa, Silicon Valley and gadgets including camera gear. More about Clinton Stark: Bio | IMDB | Gear List