Video editing programs should be fun, fast, and easy to use. Regardless of what type of project you’re working on, as an editor, you want to spend more time telling story than thinking about how to perform a task using a piece of software.
Beyond usability, getting started with video editing used to be cost prohibitive for the average person, but now there are dozens of affordable and sometimes free programs that can help you create your films in a fast and constructive way.
Without further ado, let’s have a look at our picks for the best video editing programs currently available.
Table of Contents
- Best Overall: Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve
- Best Industry Standard: Avid Media Composer
- Best Alternative: Adobe Premiere Pro
- Best Performance: Final Cut Pro X
- Best Under the Radar: Vegas Pro
- Final Thoughts
Originally designed as a high-end finishing application, Blackmagic has spent years upgrading Resolve into a fully fledged editing, motion graphics, color grading, and sound mixing program for everyone.
And the best thing about DaVinci Resolve is that it is absolutely free to get started on, and for those who need extra features there is a Studio version for $300.
If you know absolutely nothing about editing, getting started with Resolve can be super easy with their "Cuts" page, a slimmed-down editing timeline that makes it easier to rough out an edit by removing all the confusion. Once you’ve roughed out your sequence, you can deep dive into a more precise edit on the "Edit" page, add graphics and effects in the "Fusion" page, color grade inside of the "Color" page, mix and design sound in the "Fairlight" page, and finally send it out to the world from the "Delivery" page.
Where other post-production application makers, like Adobe, have split these functions up into separate programs, Blackmagic gives everything to you under one umbrella in Resolve. It is like having five programs inside of one.
What's more, the coloring tools inside of Resolve are second-to-none and have become the de facto standard for final post across multiple industries. Simply put, learning DaVinci Resolve is the smartest thing anyone currently working or starting out in post production can do to ensure they’re keeping up with the future of filmmaking.
Resolve is available for computers running Windows, MacOS, and Linux, and it draws its processing power from the system’s GPU, meaning you can improve the performance of your current machine by upgrading the graphics card rather than replacing the whole system. Blackmagic is unique as a company since they also manufacture their own professional cameras as well, and have created an entire video pipeline that begins and ends in their ecosystem.
And it never hurts when a program this robust is free.
Avid is a staple in the industry. You would be hard-pressed to find a filmmaker who hasn't heard of it, which can be said for any one of the programs on this list.
Media Composer comes in several versions, including a free version, and if you're looking to be a versatile editor, you're going to want to know the ins and outs of the program.
For the number of complaints about crashes and requested updates, you wouldn't think Premiere Pro would be as popular among filmmakers, yet it's one of the most-used programs among content creators. With new Adobe Sensei features being released, Premiere Pro aims to make workflows even easier in the future.
What makes Premiere Pro popular is how well it communicates with other Adobe Creative Cloud programs. If you update a title in Photoshop, the linked PSD file will automatically update in Premiere. The same for After Effects or Character Animator files. The programs communicate with each other across the entire platform, which is going to save you time in the edit.
Apple's Final Cut Pro X is very affordable, especially if you qualify for the students and educators discount. A single purchase of $299 if not a student, or $199 if you are in education, Final Cut Pro is a fantastic non-linear editor.
The biggest thing you get with Final Cut Pro is incredibly tight integration between Apple software and hardware. Plus, support for ProRes RAW, which has come to Adobe and Avid as well.
There is simply no other program that works as well on Apple hardware as Apple software. If you use a Mac, you should consider Final Cut as an option. They even offer a 90-day free trial. Of course, at the end of that trial, you will need to purchase a full license.
Vegas has somewhat of a cult following. In 2016, Sony cut ties with Vegas, selling it to MAGIX, who then created the subsidiary Vegas Creative Software. The company offers four different software platforms: Vegas Post, Vegas Pro, Vegas Movie Studio, and Vegas Stream. Each platform has multiple software bundles that cater to different needs, with Vegas Movie Studio and Vegas Pro being their non-linear editors.
Vegas Movie Studio is a light version of VEGAS Pro, similar to how iMovie is to Final Cut Pro. Vegas Pro is its most advanced non-linear editor that carries on the tradition Sony laid out years ago. It's packed with tons of features for color grading, HDR support, compositing modes, nestled timelines, mastering in 5.1, ACES support, and more.
Vegas Pro is available in a monthly subscription for $19/mo or in a perpetual license starting at $315.
All of these video editing programs have been widely adopted for documentary, narrative film, and broadcast projects.
If results matter to you more than network integration for multi-editor projects, there is currently nothing better or cheaper than Blackmagic’s DaVinci Resolve, and the ever-expanding list of features that it comes with will blow you away.