Is 2019 going to be the year when you really start taking video editing seriously? Or are you an experienced video editor that’s looking for a change from the fiddly, difficult-to-use software you’ve been struggling along with for ages? Either way, you’ve landed in the right place, as this TechRadar guide will point you in the right direction to find the very best video editing software – both free and premium – that you can download today.
The most impressive programs make your everyday tasks like cutting, trimming, combining and applying filters to clips as simple as possible. Downloading inferior video editing software will lead only to frustration and a less polished finished product. The tools we’ve picked out for you in this guide are the very best editors in their class.
Below you’ll see lists of both premium and free video editing software. So if you’re ready for something advanced, opting for a paid product will get you high-end extras like 360-degree video support, motion tracking and multi-cam editing, but that’s just the start.
Keep reading to get the best of both worlds, with Adobe Premiere Pro leading the way as our #1 favourite
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The overall best video editing software
These premium video editors can’t be matched – not even by the very greatest free options. The extra resources available to commercial projects help to refine the entire package, often bringing more accurate and configurable effects, an enhanced interface and a faster rendering engine.
1. Adobe Premiere Pro CC
Dedicate the time to mastering Premiere Pro and reap the rewards
Platform: Windows/Mac | Free trial: 7 days | Upload straight to YouTube: Yes | 8K support: Yes | 360 support: Yes | Purchase type: Subscription
Supports 360-degree and VR video
Huge assortment of filters
Subscription model won’t be for everybody
Adobe Premiere Pro is an industry-standard video editor and getting the most from it will require an investment of time as well as cash, but if you’re serious about video then it’s well worth the effort.
There’s a vast assortment of stackable audio and video filters, support for 360-degree and VR video, native support for a huge number of raw file formats, and the ability to work collaboratively with others. You can even start editing your videos before they’ve finished importing.
This kind of power doesn’t come cheap and the monthly or annual subscription fee adds up, but the lack of a large initial outlay makes Premiere Pro surprisingly accessible. It’s worth downloading a trial of the other video editors here before making a decision, but Premiere Pro is extremely versatile and the cloud-based model means you won’t have to pay for upgrades as they’re released.
Read our full review: Adobe Premiere Pro CC
2. Apple Final Cut Pro X
A premium editor for Mac owners, with a unique interface
Platform: Mac | Free trial: 30 days | Upload straight to YouTube: Yes | 8K support: Yes | 360 support: Yes | Purchase type: Retail
Smart ‘trackless’ timeline
Excellent file format support
Price includes major updates
High initial cost
This is a video editor aimed squarely at the professional end of the market, but it’s not needlessly complicated. Its interface is a little different to most, and is built around a ‘trackless’ timeline that encourages you to organize elements into specific ‘roles’, such as voiceover, music and titles.
If you’re looking for a video editor to pair with your drone, Final Cut Pro is an excellent choice. It supports raw video from all the major makes and models, and is regularly updated with additional profiles. It also supports 360-degree video editing (fast becoming mandatory for premium video editing software) and HDR, with advanced color grading.
Rather than adopt a subscription model like Adobe, Apple has chosen to make Final Cut Pro available for a one-off flat fee. It’s relatively expensive, but includes all major updates and will work out cheaper than Premiere Pro if you keep using it over a couple of years. If you own a Mac and are torn between Apple and Adobe, we recommend taking the free trials of both for a spin before making up your mind.
Read our full review: Apple Final Cut Pro X
3. CyberLink PowerDirector
A video editor that puts premium tools within reach of newcomers
Platform: Windows | Free trial: 30 days | Upload straight to YouTube: Yes | 8K support: Yes | 360 support: Yes | Purchase type: Retail
Wizard optimizes videos in seconds
Beginner and advanced interfaces
Fewer fine controls than some
If Adobe Premiere Elements and Apple Final Cut Pro X are overkill for your video editing projects, take a look at CyberLink PowerDirector.
Although PowerDirector is a premium, feature-packed video editor, it’s also very forgiving, and offers a gentle introduction to post production that won’t faze complete beginners. The Magic Movie Wizard is the ultimate example, paring the task of combining and optimizing videos down to a few clicks. You’ll achieve better results by spending a while in the timeline editor, but for anyone who just wants to quickly piece something together to publish on Facebook, it’s ideal.
That’s not to say that CyberLink PowerDirector is dumbed down, though; far from it. The software also offers a standard post production interface based around control panels and a timeline. It sometimes takes a little while to drill down to the finer controls, but every filter and option is extremely flexible once you start exploring. Perhaps most impressive of all, CyberLink PowerDirector makes video editing fun.
Read our full review: CyberLink PowerDirector
4. HitFilm Pro
If you’re interested in special effects, HitFilm is the editor for you
Platform: Windows | Free trial: No time limit, but can’t export | Upload straight to YouTube: Yes | 8K support: Yes | 360 support: Yes | Purchase type: Retail
Superb for special effects
Overkill for beginners
HitFilm Pro is a premium video editor that’s a firm favourite with fanfilm makers – and with good reason. It’s packed with tools for creating stunning special effects, but is accessible enough for home users.
One of HitFilm Pro’s biggest selling points is the ability to tackle pretty much every aspect of video post-production within the editor. Animations, titles, audio editing and color grading are all accessible with a couple of clicks, but the interface is intuitively designed and never feels cluttered.
Unlike the other video editors in this roundup, HitFilm Pro supports importing and animating of custom 3D models, complete with simulated 3D cameras, custom shadows and dynamic lighting. There are also impressive particle effects, and superb chroma-keying to minimize annoying spill.
Read our full review: HitFilm Pro
5. Adobe Premiere Elements 2018
A friendly introduction to video editing for complete beginners
Platform: Windows/Mac | Free trial: 30 days | Upload straight to YouTube: Yes | 8K support: No | 360 support: No | Purchase type: Retail
Excellent tutorials for new users
Automated tools for common tasks
Simple step-by-step wizards
You may soon outgrow it
Of all the premium video editors in this roundup, Adobe Premiere Elements is the most beginner-oriented. It’s designed to make video editing as easy as possible, and even its Expert interface is extremely straightforward.
Unlike Adobe’s premium software (like Premiere Pro), Premiere Elements is only available as a one-off purchase, so you aren’t committed to paying a monthly fee to keep using it. It’s also one of the most affordable video editors around, which is impressive for a huge name like Adobe.
Some video editors assume a certain degree of familiarity before you begin, but Premiere Elements is ideal even for total beginners. Its interface features large buttons, clearly labelled. There are also some excellent tutorials included to help bridge the gap between creating a video using wizards and using the more traditional multi-track timeline.
Read our full review: Adobe Premiere Elements
The best free video editors
If you’re a beginner, there are free video editors that will make the whole process as easy as can be and don’t cost a penny. These user-friendly editors offer a gentle introduction to video editing, so you’ll learn the basics and be able to make the step up to a more advanced premium program when you’re ready.
The best free video editor available, for any level of expertise
Platform: Windows/Mac/Linux | Upload straight to YouTube: Yes | 8K support: No | 360 support: No
Advanced editing tools
Well designed interface
Lightworks is an incredible tool that’s published free with the noble aim of making professional quality video editing software available to everyone. As you would expect for such a powerful video editor, you won’t be able to master it overnight, but that’s certainly not something you could hold against it.
If you’ve tried other free video editors you’ll probably find that the interface is a little different to anything you’re used to, but you can arrange the various controls and windows to create something that suits your way of working.
There’s a paid version, Lightworks Pro, which adds the ability to export in formats other than MPEG, publish 4K video directly to YouTube, and export 3D videos, but the free edition of the software includes everything else you need to make impressive videos.
Read our full review: Lightworks
2. Hitfilm Express
A powerful free video editor that’s expandable if you outgrow it
Platform: Windows/Mac | Upload straight to YouTube: Yes | 8K support: No | 360 support: Requires add-on
Expandable via add-ons
High system requirements
Hitfilm Express is another video editor that promises pro-level features for free – and it delivers. The basic editor is very impressive, with advanced cutting tools, a great set of audio and video filters, layers and masking, compositing options, and chroma keying for creating green screen effects.
Additional tools are available for a fee, starting at £8.85 (about US$10, AU$15) for a pack featuring color-correction, exposure adjustment, split screen masking, and various creative filters.
The downside of all this power is that Hitfilm Express is much more demanding than either Lightworks or Shotcut, which is the main reason it’s dropped to third place. Make sure you check the technical requirements before downloading it to avoid disappointment.
Read our full review: Hitfilm Express
3. DaVinci Resolve
Premium quality software for advanced video and audio editing
Platform: Windows/Mac/Linux | Upload straight to YouTube: No | 8K support: Yes | 360 support: Requires add-on
Full audio mastering suite
Advanced color correction
Free version lacks a few features
DaVinci Resolve is a free version of a premium video editing suite, but as with Lightworks, it’s so feature-packed you probably won’t miss the few tools it lacks.
DaVinci Resolve is a professional-grade video editor, with intuitive interfaces for editing, color correction, audio mastering and exporting. Color correction is one of DaVinci Resolve’s standout features, whether you want to adjust a whole video or just a selected part. There’s HDR support, and you can work on raw files directly from your camera.
A few of the filters are exclusive to the premium DaVinci Resolve Studio, and there’s a maximum export resolution of 3,840 x 2,160, but those are the only limitations. It’s overkill if you just want to trim a video and upload it to YouTube, but for bigger projects DaVinci Resolve is hard to beat.
Full review coming soon
It might look unusual, but master it and you’ll reap the benefits
Platform: Windows/Mac/Linux | Upload straight to YouTube: No | 8K support: No | 360 support: No
Advanced, customizable filters
Steep learning curve
Shotcut is another professional-feeling free video editor that requires a little patience if you are achieve the results it is so capable of delivering. The slightly unusual interface can be put down to the fact that this started life as a Linux application, and little has changed in its conversion to Windows.
To start with, the interface may seem a little stark. You will need to not only load a video, but also choose which editing mode you would like to work in and which tools you’d like to use.
There’s no getting away from the fact that Shotcut has a steep learning curve. It’s possible to achieve some impressive results by simply applying one of its many filters to your video, but the real rewards will only be reaped by those willing to invest the time and energy in fully getting to grips with what’s on offer.
Read our full review: Shotcut
5. VSDC Free Video Editor
A non-linear editor stacked with tools, with more added all the time
Platform: Windows | Upload straight to YouTube: Yes | 8K support: No | 360 support: Yes
Non-linear video editing
Easy to master
No hardware acceleration
VSDC Free Video Editor is highly capable, and can yield superb results. As a non-linear editor, it works in rather a different way to many other similar tools, letting you position clips and other elements on the timeline wherever you like and edit them there.
With the ability to not only work with multiple scenes and transitions, but also to add sprites and text to videos, you can create a professional-quality movie if you’re willing to stick with VSDC’s slightly unusual workflow – though its interface has recently had a total overhaul, making it look much more slick and modern. You can now detach the timeline too, which gives you lots of extra flexibility – particularly when working on multiple monitors.
VSDC lets you add extra artistic effects, including smoke. There’s also a dedicated Instagram export profile and automatic image stabilization. You also get look-up tables (LUTs) for professional color grading, the ability to export footage at 120fps, and automatic alignment when dragging objects. An excellent choice for creative video projects.
Read our full review: VSDC Free Video Editor