Best Free Video Editing Software 2020 - Pro View

The meteoric rise of youtube and social sharing platforms over the last 15 years has lent its hand to the development and creation of advanced and innovative video editing software packages across the board.

As of July 2020, there are over 4.5 billion people online and when you consider nearly all of those unique users are also engaging in social media, there has also been an explosion in the number of people using the internet to make money through marketing and social channels. The growth in competition within these markets means that there is a never-ending struggle to stand out and have more eyes drawn to your content, instead of the content of your competitors.

Video has a big hand in that, the time and effort taken into creating video content for your business and social channels, pays off in abundance. After all, YouTube registers over a billion hours of watched content every day! And consumer research shows that video content is the most sought after online content from consumers today.

With this in mind, it is natural for digital marketers, social media managers and social influencers to turn to video as a new way of promoting their business, and luckily for them, nowadays it is easier than ever to get your content made and published. For many, they will take the traditional route of hiring freelance creative staff or going to a creative agency for their video work - but for those who are looking to get creative themselves, there are plenty of viable free options out there for you to use.

I'm going to take a look at three free NLE's (non-linear editor). Free software obviously comes with its limitations, but sometimes a little creativity can go a long way, and with this free software at your disposal, you will be creating your own engaging sales-driving video content in no time at all.

Let's dive in.

Video editing on an ipad
From Jackson Hayes at Unsplash

1. Shotcut - Free, open-source, cross-platform editing software

Stand out features:

  • Supports a wide range of video and image formats

  • Supports 4k footage

  • Import image sequences

  • 360 video support

  • Colour-grading

  • Audio effects

Our rating: 3/5

Recommended for: Beginners, intermediates, people looking to add that extra level of professionalism to their edits.

I was first introduced to open source video editing software when I came across Lightworks a few years ago. I was impressed with the collaborative and efficient program they had created (and are still developing) and when comparing the list of features it had to those in my subscription service video editing software - I was astounded. A more thrifty version of myself would have downed tools and jumped ship immediately, save for the comfort of using a program that I know inside out.

Shotcut is much, in the same way, a formidable piece of software. There is not much that a beginner or intermediate video editor would miss from their experience whilst using this software, and the fact that it comes at no cost to the user is truly breathtaking.

As an editor there are three fundamentals I am looking for in my NLE (Non-linear editor); Multi-tracks, so I can layer footage and audio on top of each other, Colour grading, to get the best out of every shot and to create a dynamic and fluid look throughout the video; and audio effects. With these three components, you can create fantastic polished videos with ease - making sure they look good and sound good.

The Shotcut website has a great set of tutorials to get you going if you are a beginner, and if you are more seasoned with NLE's - the similarity between Shotcut and the top paid-for video editing software packages will come as a welcome sight, allowing editors of any level to slip in and create without much troubleshooting.

If you're looking into learning video editing as a hobby or want to take it a bit further, then I would recommend downloading Shotcut and getting to grips with the tutorials. A good understanding of the features of Shotcut will give you a great position to handle paid for NLE programs that you will come across if you pursue a career in the field - but it will also give you a distinct advantage over people who are using more basic video editing software packages with limited features.

2. Da Vinci Resolve - Editing & Colour Grading Software

Stand out features:

  • Supports a wide range of video and image formats

  • Supports 4k UHD Format

  • Import image sequences

  • Advanced colour grading

  • Audio effects

Our Rating: 4/5

Recommended for: Beginners, intermediate looking to focus on colour grading, professionals.

Screen shot from of their NLE editor showing a timeline, media pool and program viewer.
Screenshot of Da Vinci Resolves Editor from

As a Creative Video Editor, I understand that there is a massive amount of importance in the colour grade of a film. Especially when trying to convey mood, emotion, and trying to keep a consistent feeling throughout your work. I remember opening up Da Vinci resolve for the first time and having my mind blown by what seems like an extremely complex setup for colour grading and editing - it was similar to Premiere and FCP which I had worked in until then, but also totally different.

The beauty of Da Vinci Resolve is that even in the free package, you can create slick edits with fantastic colour grades without spending an extra penny. The full version does come with its perks and having used the paid version (Studio) I don't think I could go back to the free one and lose access to features such as denoising footage and true 4K rendering.

That being said, if you are learning how to edit and want to make your videos look great, then Da Vinci is definitely a software I would recommend you get to grips with. Its timeline looks very similar to other NLE's that you will see out there, but their function buttons are named differently and have different shortcuts; so if you're coming from a different program, it might take you a little while to get used to the editing process again.

Once you've got a handle on the new shortcuts and tools, you will find that the editing process is just like any other NLE, same transitions, same audio effects. Resolve will usually take up your whole screen and blocks out most other windows that you're using, useful for when you're trying to keep your focus on the work at hand, and compared to other free NLE's, its UI is clean and modern with neatly labeled tools and functions and a variety of ways to set up your workspace.

The power of Resolve is in the colour. Even now, I complete my edits within Premiere and export out my timeline to drop into Resolve so that I can grade in there. It is a much nicer experience than grading in Premiere and the layout lends itself to getting detailed, vibrant grades from your footage. I would recommend watching a couple of youtube tutorials on how to grade in Da Vinci before you being and even follow along with some of them before trying to tackle any larger jobs. But, as with the editing process in Resolve, once you get used to it you will have an extremely powerful tool at your disposal which will add that extra sparkle to any film you are creating.

Resolve offers a chance for advancement too, upgrading to the paid version is a must. It's around $295 (November 2020) and I would advise buying the SD card version instead of the dongle version as you can then utilize it on multiple machines. The upgrade offers a lot more features that you will enjoy and will make take your post-production to the next level.

For a beginner or an intermediate, Resolve is a fantastic tool to have in your arsenal. Even if you don't use it as your main editing software, the colour grading tools are invaluable.

3. Lightworks - Powerful, professional NLE

Stand out features:

  • Use Proxies for 4k footage

  • High-end features and effects

  • Customisable workspace

  • Good support in form of tutorials and community forums

Recommended for: Beginners and Intermediates

Screenshot of the lightworks editing software homepage
Lightworks homepage

As mentioned previously, Lightworks was the first open-source NLE that I was introduced to. Just after I had started on my path to becoming a professional video editor, my Dad was having a play with some footage, and whilst browsing articles just like this - came across Lightworks.

After an initial period of having his mind blown he managed to get a handle on the program by watching their concise and detailed tutorials.

Whilst it's still not going to be on par with the likes of FCP and Premiere, Lightworks really is a full package that can help you create professional high-quality edits without the cost. If you're in digital marketing or communications, I would recommend watching the videos and having a play as this really is a fantastic bit of software and can take your online content to the next level. Whether your cutting interviews, corporate promos, or how-to videos, Lightworks will be able to handle it with ease.

They constantly update and review the features available to you and have included new codecs to read mobile phone footage, meaning you can now make use of those fantastic 4k cameras on your smartphones to get great looking footage into an edit.

Here in lies the problem with Lightworks, however. The current free version only exports up to 720p and requires a monthly subscription to export at anything higher. Although this may not be a problem for a lot of people if you are uploading to social media etc, as even 4K footage will look good at 720p, it is a bit of a let down if you're looking to improve the overall quality of your work in a time where even smartphones are getting 4k screens.

The current subscription is around $21 a month (November 2020) which is currently more than Adobe Premiere Pro is going for, and in the balance of things - I would rather pay for Premiere for the ease of use and integration with the rest of the Adobe packages.

If you're not too bothered about your export resolution, however, then I would still recommend learning Lightworks, even if it's as a springboard to other NLE's down the line. The process of editing is a learned skill that can be applied across multiple software, with just a little tinkering to understand their unique tools.

As an editor, your focus is on the storytelling and for anyone starting out or who doesn't want to pay for software initially, then these three options are fantastic avenues for you to pursue and to get your stories out there.

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