Best free video editing software 2016/2017

Making good-looking home videos is now easier and cheaper than ever thanks to the huge array of free video editing software. Whether you want to dabble in animation, add special effects like in Batman Vs Superman, or go for something simple but professional-looking there's a free video editor that's perfect for you. We've even included a few packages that have been used in Oscar winning Hollywood movies, hit TV shows like Red Dwarf, and by NASA. Here are the 17 best free video editors to download in 2016/2017.

By


  • HitFilm 3 Express
  • Blender
  • Windows Movie Maker
  • Machete Video Editor Lite
  • BlackMagic DaVinci Resolve
  • WeVideo
  • Lightworks
  • VSDC Free Video Editor
  • Avidemux
  • Kate's Video Toolkit
  • MPEG Streamclip
  • VirtualDub
  • Free Video Dub
  • Freemake Video Converter
  • Pinnacle VideoSpin
  • YouTube Editor
  • Wax
  • Conclusion
  • More stories
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Best free video editing software

HitFilm has been around since 2011 and in that time the software has gone from strength to strength - it is definitely one of the best free video editors around. Hitfilm 3 Express is the free version currently on offer, and includes a surprising amount of the features you’ll find in its big brother HitFilm 3 Pro, albeit without the nearly £300 price tag.

The interface is clean and makes sense without too much explanation, but if you do find yourself getting lost then the raft of tutorial videos on the HitFilm site will get you going once more. While HitFilm 3 Express is a standard video editor, there is definitely a lean towards special effects, and the package includes 2D and 3D compositing capabilities, automatic motion-tracking, plus green screen removal tools.

Hitfilm 3 Express also has the ability to create virtual lighting based upon the actual lighting in a shot. This can help with adding deeper shadows to enhance the atmosphere of a scene. Motion-blur and depth of field effects can also be added in post production thanks to some clever technology contained in the software.

Those looking to work with 4K video, or needing 16-bit rendering and OpenEXR export options will need to upgrade to the Pro edition though, as they are not enabled in Express.

Perhaps the most alluring part of the Express experience is the wide wealth of expansion packs that you can buy for between £8 and £20. These mean you can upgrade the software over time, adding only features that you actually need. One particular favourite of ours was the Sci-Fi Adventure pack (£20) that allows you to quickly add light sabres, laser bolts, and a number of other specialist effects for a low entry cost.  If that’s not your bag then some of the others packs include lens flares, colour treatments, atmospheric lighting, and even classic film stock.

Get HitFilm3 Express here

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HitFilm has been around since 2011 and in that time the software has gone from strength to strength - it is definitely one of the best free video editors around. Hitfilm 3 Express is the free version currently on offer, and includes a surprising amount of the features you’ll find in its big brother HitFilm 3 Pro, albeit without the nearly £300 price tag.

The interface is clean and makes sense without too much explanation, but if you do find yourself getting lost then the raft of tutorial videos on the HitFilm site will get you going once more. While HitFilm 3 Express is a standard video editor, there is definitely a lean towards special effects, and the package includes 2D and 3D compositing capabilities, automatic motion-tracking, plus green screen removal tools.

Hitfilm 3 Express also has the ability to create virtual lighting based upon the actual lighting in a shot. This can help with adding deeper shadows to enhance the atmosphere of a scene. Motion-blur and depth of field effects can also be added in post production thanks to some clever technology contained in the software.

Those looking to work with 4K video, or needing 16-bit rendering and OpenEXR export options will need to upgrade to the Pro edition though, as they are not enabled in Express.

Perhaps the most alluring part of the Express experience is the wide wealth of expansion packs that you can buy for between £8 and £20. These mean you can upgrade the software over time, adding only features that you actually need. One particular favourite of ours was the Sci-Fi Adventure pack (£20) that allows you to quickly add light sabres, laser bolts, and a number of other specialist effects for a low entry cost.  If that’s not your bag then some of the others packs include lens flares, colour treatments, atmospheric lighting, and even classic film stock.

Get HitFilm3 Express here

Best free video editing software

Blender is a hugely powerful open source software suite primarily used for the creation of 3D modeling and animation. In fact it’s so capable that it’s been used to create animations for the History Channel, TV adverts in a number of countries, special effects on series ten of Red Dwarf, and demonstration videos for NASA. It was even found on the set of Spiderman 2, when animators put together special effect storyboards for the director Sam Raimi using the software.

So why is it included in this round up? Well, aside from the fact that you can create animated features or shorts on Blender, it also has a fully fledged video editor built-in. Clips can be placed on a timeline, edited for length, overlapped with others, and joined with a range of transitions or fades, just like on any other package. Various advanced features can also be accessed with a little effort, including 2D and 3D motion tracking, compositing of animated objects and real footage, plus even some nice camera correction tools that can deal with lens calibration and image stabilisation.

As Blender is an open source project the documentation can be a little random at times, but the healthy user forums mean that you can usually find the answer to your question without much difficulty. You will of course have a fair few questions because there is simply so much you can do with this software. If Blender was on sale for a couple of hundred pounds it wouldn’t look out of place. The fact that you get a package like this for free is….well, ridiculous.

Get Blender here

Best free video editing software

Windows Essentials is a collection of programs for Windows 7 and 8 - and now 10. It includes Movie Maker, which is Microsoft’s answer to Apple’s iMovie on the Mac and iPad, showing that Windows computers can be fun too. It does everything most people need for creating entertaining videos to share on the web and with their friends and family.

A group of video clips can be loaded into Movie Maker and then organised by dragging and dropping them into the order you want them to play. Photos can be dragged and dropped among the video clips and they are given a Ken Burns effect. Video clips can be cut into smaller sections and these can be dragged and dropped too, then scenes can be trimmed by setting start and end points. Visual effects can be applied to clips and they are organised into groups like artistic, cinematic, motions and fades. Dull clips can be brightened and there is video stabilisation to remove camera shake.

Several project themes are available and selecting one adds titles to the start, credits to the end and transitions between clips. You then just edit the text placeholders, customise the transitions and so on to produce a great video. You can even record and insert a webcam video, record narration for the video, and add music and captions, fade the audio in and out on clips and more.

Movie Make has an excellent range of preset output options for HD displays, computers, tablets, phones and the web. You can publish movies directly to YouTube, Facebook, Vimeo and other places. It’s a low tech, easy-to-use, fun tool for creating short videos.

Get Windows Movie Maker here

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Best free video editing software

Compared to Movie Maker, Machete Video Editor Lite is very limited and even the full program costing £18 can’t compete with the other editors. The Lite version tested here does have some useful, if primitive functions though and it can load a single AVI or WMV video clip for editing. Although only one clip can be loaded, the program allows you to select another video clip on the disk drive and insert it at the current point. This means that you can extend the original clip by inserting other clips a points throughout it, or you can go to the last frame and insert a clip there to join two clips together. You can keep on inserting at the end to build a much longer video.

After joining all the raw video footage to create a movie, you can set about editing it. Using the frame advance controls, start and end markers can be set to select a section. Cut, copy and paste works as you would expect and this enables you to trim the start and end of the movie, cut the dull sections out of the middle, rearrange scenes and then resave the whole lot to disk.

There is an option to remove the audio track and in the full version there is also an option to add additional audio tracks, so you could add background music or record a voice-over and apply it to the movie. It’s a shame that feature isn’t in the free version. Machete Video Editor Lite is quick and easy to use, but it is just too limited.

Get Machete Video Editor Lite here

Best free video editing software

It's hard to believe that BlackMagic has made Resolve Lite (version 11) completely free. It's widely used for colour correction in Hollywood movies because of it's power. And yet, despite this being the Lite version, there are hardly any features missing compared to the Studio version which costs around £600. Ok, so it can't do multi-camera editing (that's in version 12), nor can it do 3D. You also lose some minor features such as noise removal, but other than that, this is the same stuff the big boys use. This is definitely one of the best free video editors.

That's a bit of an issue when it comes to learning curves as this is not something you can pick up in an afternoon and end up with a masterpiece. But it's worth investing time as you really can create one when you've learned how to use all that power. Obviously its strength is colour correction but as well as the video editing tools you'd expect from major packages, you can also edit audio, plus sync (manually or automatically) audio and video recorded separately. There's also text capabilties, such as rolling credits, lower thirds and so on. You can import graphics, too.

Get BlackMagic DaVinci Resolve 11 Lite here

Best free video editing software

WeVideo is an online video editor and the obvious drawback is having to upload large files. However, it is fine for short videos if you have fibre optic broadband. A free account WeVideo account takes two seconds to set up using your Facebook login and provides 5GB of storage, and 15 minutes of video a month at 480p resolution. Any number of movies can be edited, provided only 15 minutes is output.

Uploading video clips is straightforward and you can also record live from a webcam too. The editor in the browser window has a familiar layout with clips on the left, a video player on the right and timeline at the bottom. Clips can be dragged to the timeline to add them to a storyboard. Photos can be uploaded and inserted too and there is a Ken Burns effect.

A clip can be opened for editing and this enables the start and end points to be trimmed. A Transform tool palette provides rotation, vertical and horizontal flip, scaling and more. An Effects palette offers nine different video effects such as sharpen, sepia, dream and so on. The audio level can be adjusted and faded in or out. Audio files, such as music, can be uploaded and applied to the movie too.

Around two dozen themes can be applied to a movie, including travel journal, white wedding, memories and classic. They can add effects to the whole video, titles to the start, and so on. When you have finished, the movie can be output to various social networks or stored online at the WeVideo site. It’s great for Chromebook owners.

Get WeVideo here

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Best free video editing software

Lightworks has been used to create Hollywood movies, including the recent The Wolf of Wall Street with Leonardo DiCaprio. There are free and Pro editions, but the main difference is the output formats and you are limited to 720p resolution.

You don’t get project templates, scrolling titles and other fancy effects, and instead it focuses on providing precision tools and clip handling. Videos are imported and organised into bins and racks, and rooms are created with editing layouts. Video clip handling is very database-like with multiple views, searching, sorting, tagging and so on. It’s designed to enable teams of editors using multiple workstations to create two hour movies containing dozens of scenes and hundreds of clips. This would be impossible with the other video editors.

The editing tools are very powerful and they offer a fine degree of control that other video editors don’t have. Video and audio tracks, of which there can be many, can be independently edited, so you can cut a section of video from the middle of a scene leaving the audio and cut away to show something else, then return while the audio continues to play. The flexibility you have when joining scenes is excellent and in and out points can be finely tuned directly in the timeline. There is a limited range of special effects like transitions, but TV programmes and Hollywood movies rarely use anything other than fade from/to black.

Lightworks is aimed at professional video editors and it is fascinating to use a tool employed by Oscar-winning Hollywood movie editors. It doesn’t do a lot, but what it does is brilliant.

Get Lightworks here

Best free video editing software

Of all the video editors on test, this one is the hardest to use and it is initially quite confusing. It has a lot of features whose function is not obvious, but it is worth persevering because it is capable of some clever effects. In fact, the number of functions is a bit overwhelming at first.

In VSDC you create a project and this has a number of scenes. Each scene has a number of objects and these can be video clips, photos and other items. You can apply various effects to the objects in a scene and there are a lot of them to choose from. The brightness, contrast, hue, saturation and other attributes can be adjusted, objects can be flipped, skewed, rotated and so on, there are fire, water and plasma effects, and several transitions. Video clips can be trimmed and cut into smaller parts, and moved around. Then there is a whole series of audio effects too.

The editor is more like Movie Maker than Lightwave and the effects are numerous and flashy, but they lack the simplicity and precision of the pro editing features in Lightwave. If you want to do things like picture-in-picture, add speech bubbles with text, overlay lines, rectangles, and ellipses, then VSDC is the tool for the job.

The range of output formats is excellent and there are presets for the PC, DVD, iPod, Xbox, Playstation, mobile phones and more. Videos can be output to DVD, VCD, AVI and MPG too. It will even burn CDs and DVDs. VSDC has more features than any of the others and is worth considering.

Get VSDC Free Video Editor 2.19 here

Best free video editing software

Avidemux is a specialised video editing tool and it is not a general movie maker. Only one video clip at a time can be loaded and so it is not possible to create a movie by stitching together scenes from several sources. It is best used as a tool to prepare clips for use by another movie editor.

After loading a video clip, the start and end can be trimmed by setting in and out markers. There is a preview window and a wheel control used for moving forward and back through the video and you can step through it frame by frame. It is possible to add an extra audio track, such as music, to a video.

What Avidemux is best at is manipulating the output. There are eight categories of filter and numerous items in each category. Among the options are add borders, add a logo with alpha blending, change the frame rate, crop, fade in and out, rotate, flip and resize. You can adjust the brightness and contrast, hue and saturation, reduce noise, sharpen edges, and more.

If you had clips of different sizes and frame rates, as you might if you have used different digital cameras, camcorders and mobile phones over the years, Avidemux could be used to make them all the same size and frame rate before you use them in another video editor to make a movie. There are some useful presets, such as DVD, 720p, PSP, SVCD and so on. Despite some useful features, this editor is of limited use though and error messages are frequent.

Get Avidemux here

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Best free video editing software

Kate's Video Toolkit offers an all in one solution to your video needs. It converts, cuts, joins, mixes, allows you to apply transitions then to play the end result.

Get Kate's Video Toolkit here

Best free video editing software

MPEG Streamclip allows you to open multiple video files and trim, cut, copy or paste them. It has an excellent range of export options as well.

Get MPEG Streamclip here

Best free video editing software

VirtualDub is only for AVI files, but lets you trim clips, add filters and effects, and add plugs for more features.

Get VirtualDub here.

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Best free video editing software

Free Video Dub offers basic video editing, without decreasing the quality of your video.

Get Free Video Dub here

Best free video editing software

Pinnacle VideoSpin is a video and photo editor. It allows you to add sound effects, background music and photos to your videos.

Get Pinnacle VideoSpin here

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Best free video editing software

Wax offers video compositing and special effects features; and can be used either as a standalone app or as a plug-in.

Get Wax here

Best free video editing software

The range of high quality, free video editors available at the moment in simply amazing.

HitFilm 3 Express is an excellent choice for those looking to create professional level content, especially if you have a penchant for special effects.

Lightworks and DaVinci Resolve are geared towards the precise editing and cutting of clips and scenes that professional TV and movie editors require and are perfect for long and complex editing jobs.

If you want to try your hand at animation or 3D modelling in your movies, then Blender is an incredibly powerful tool to use, although you will spend a fair amount of time learning the ropes.

For those with simpler demands though, you would do a lot worse than heading back to the old faithful of Windows Movie Maker. It's easy to use and has decent features for creating fun movies to share online with family and friends.

But of course since they're free, why not get them all?

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