Are you getting started in filmmaking or video editing? Consider these free editing programs to round out your toolkit and improve your creative workflow.
If you’re just starting out in your editing, videography, or directing career, you might feel overwhelmed by the seemingly endless programs, techniques, and types of videos out there. With hundreds of different career paths down multiple branches of the filmmaking tree, which one is best for you? If editing interests you, don’t bust out your wallet just yet. There are plenty of free, nonlinear editing programs available. Not only is this list perfect for first-time editors, these programs also offer experienced editors a chance to see what other programs are out there to widen some horizons.
Let’s start by taking a look at the accessibility and price points of the free options available.
Whether you’re working on Windows or with a Mac, Filmora is perfect for anybody new to the art of editing. Taking a clip from your Downloads folder and dragging it into your timeline is simple with this intuitive program. There are no free trials or subscription requirements. Filmora is simply a basic, free editing app for users who don’t usually deal with giant project files or complex multiple timeline workflows. But, for what it’s, it works very well.
If you’re working on a Mac, you’re in luck. iMovie has been around for over twenty years. It was the first program I used when I cut my little documentary film in middle school. It’s reliable, intuitive, and free! What iMovie does right is present video editing in the most basic way possible — your workspace is about the clips you’re using, your timeline, and a preview window. If you’re new to video editing, there’s no more intuitive video editing software to start with than iMovie.
DaVinci Resolve 16 is going to be your best option for beginner- to intermediate-level editing. If you’re moving on from iMovie or something like Filmora, you should use this program. There’s a paid “Studio” option for Resolve, but this free version is a perfect introduction to the Resolve universe, and it can prepare you for more involved, complex editing. Aside from the standard specs most NLEs offer, there’s no beating DaVinci’s color grading program.
If you happen to choose DaVinci Resolve and aren’t sure where to start, try checking out Lewis McGregor’s (certified DaVinci Resolve Trainer) library of Resolve tutorials, as well as articles over at PremiumBeat. These videos cover everything from importing clips to editing audio to hitting export.
Final Cut Pro X usually offers a free thirty-day trial, but as of March 2020, they are currently offering a 90-day free trial. Three months is a real steal, and it’s enough time to figure out if you’re a Final Cut convert or if you want to default to completely free software like DaVinci. If you work with the program enough and develop some practical skills as an editor, you’re going to want to upgrade to the paid program. It might hurt, but Final Cut does offer a one-time payment fee instead of a subscription-based platform, like Premiere Pro CC.
Now, Premiere Pro also offers a “Free Trial,” but it only lasts seven days. While this is enough time for you to experiment on a project, you’ll have to make the call on whether or not you want to keep using this program. If you’re curious about editing in Premiere Pro, check out Part One of our two-part series below.
Phone Video Editing Apps
So, the iMovie app for your phone is actually a good, reliable way to quickly edit phone-captured video on-the-go. If you shoot footage or have clips saved to your phone, this app is perfect for quick, on-the-fly editing. Another app that you could consider is the FilmoraGO app. Once again, Filmora is here to save the day and teach you the basics.
Now, for more options and a greater variety of capabilities and processing power, these apps and programs aren’t free, but they certainly cost less than the desktop version of the software you’d be editing on.
Side note: Premiere Pro does offer an app — Rush — but it requires a Premiere subscription. You can watch a full tutorial on using Rush here.
Learning the Programs
Once you’ve downloaded your free editing program, the first question you may ask is: How do I use it? How do I build my timeline and complete my story? The biggest asset available to filmmakers, in this day and age, is YouTube. YouTube is your best friend and will guide you into the video editing abyss — a lucrative, lonely abyss. It offers tutorials on just about everything.
There are plenty of avenues and experts that post daily on basic and advanced filmmaking tips and tricks — whether that means giving out free assets and video elements for your motion graphics or providing sound effects on the house. For a look at how clips work together on a timeline to tell a story, check out our breakdown of some of the most important cuts any editor should know, regardless of your experience.
This post was originally posted in January of 2018. We’ve updated it to reflect changes in the industry.
Top image via SFIO CRACHO.
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