A Beginner's Guide to Editing Video with Free Software
If you're getting ready to edit a video for the very first time, you'll need to know the basics.
I'm sure many of us can remember the first time we opened up an editing program—immediately breaking out in a cold sweat looking at the complicated buttons and options. If you're a first-time editor who'd rather bypass all of that unpleasantness, good news! Simon Cade of DSLRguide gives you a step-by-step beginner's tutorial on how to use free NLE programs like Windows Movie Maker and Apple's iMovie to edit video projects. Check it out below:
First off, let's just say—hey newbies, you're in a good place! Those of us who are grizzled old fools with years of editing experience under our belt have been there before, so we know the frustration and confusion of trying to navigate an extensive program that does powerful things with video—we don't even know it does many of those things until years later. Besides, we're all here for the same reason: to learn stuff.
Okay, now that that's out of the way—let's talk NLEs, or "non-linear editing" systems. There are a lot of great ones out there, like Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro, DaVinci Resolve, and AVID, but these tend to cost a pretty penny with either an outright purchase or a monthly subscription. If you're just wanting to learn the ins and outs of basic editing and aren't ready for the investment, you might want to look into using free or inexpensive programs, like VEGAS Movie Studio, formerly Sony Vegas ($50), Movie Maker, or iMovie, both of which can come standard on your Windows PC or Mac.
Lightworks is also a great program, one that pro editors use (Thelma Schoonmaker used it on The Wolf of Wall Street). The Pro license costs $25/mo, $175/year, or $438 outright, which is a lot less expensive than other NLEs with a lot of the same powerful features. You can also license Lightworks for free, but with limited functionality: you can't import 4K video files, there's no Blackmagic and AJA camera support, and there's limited exporting options. But again, if you're just looking to practice a little, this, as well as the others are great options.
Establishing an efficient and effective workflow is a top priority as well. There are as many different workflows as there are editors, and some may swear by theirs, but the key here is to find one that works for you and stick with it. Changing it too often can actually make things worse and more complicated for you, especially when you're just starting out.
After that, it's just a lot of practicing. Trial and error is a fantastic teacher, so the more you try and fail, the more you learn. (You can peruse our articles on editing to expand your knowledge a little, too.)
For all of you experienced editors, what advice do you have for the beginners reading this article? Which tools/concepts gave you the most trouble when you started out and how did you learn to master them?