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Top 3 Free Editing Programs
Editing your own movies
If you've stumbled across this Hub you're probably a young or independent film maker much like myself and you're probably on a low budget or no budget at all. When first starting out it's a little daunting just how much making a movie costs. Not only are the cameras and good lenses a bit steep, but the entire post production process will set you back as well.
Although, there is some light at the end of the tunnel. The internet is a fantastic place to find a wealth of resources t help you out with your project. And so Lets look at some of the best free movie editors to get going.
1) VideoPad Free - NCH Software
If you want something basic then this is a great start. Like most programs on this list, VideoPad has a free and pro version available for download, but the free version itself is pretty extensive. You won't be able to pull off quick Tony Scott style edits nor 3D elements of any kind, but like I said this one is more for new comers to editing.
Easy to Learn?
Remarkably so. VideoPad can be learned simply by playing around with it for half an hour. Everything is clearly marked out and labelled and because of its basics there's not much to be confused about. The timelines and windows follow the same form as most video editors and so its barely and effort to use if you've edited movies before.
As well as this NCH Software's website has a bunch of tutorial videos to help out if you want to get started right away without all that playing around. The tutorials are clear and precise and take the time to allow users to work alongside it.
What are the features?
As aforementioned, VideoPad is like the step up from windows movie maker, but a step down from most pro editors. That said, however, VideoPad does have some great features. The trimming tools and audio adjustments are nothing special but very easy. The transitions available are extensive, but you probably won't use most of them. The same could be said of he various filters such as sepia, black & white etc.
Where VideoPad really shines is in the effects department. For such a basic program there's a surprisingly wide set of tools to use to create any number of effects. The overlay track tool can be used to create both muzzle flare effects and green screen chroma key.
A few here and there: the music and sound effects library is a little lacking. The library is wide and contains a lot of different styles of music and a good range of sound effects. Where it falls short is simply the quality of these sounds and music tracks. Many sound effects come off as less than striking or cartoon like. The music tracks are usually to short or simply wouldn't fit in most movies.
As well as this VideoPad has a slight problem with it's timeline and audio tools. Even though I did praise them for their ease of use, they do have something to be desired in terms of accuracy. If your raw footage is a little long then you'll have trouble getting to the exact place you want to cut, because VideoPad just isn't that precise.
Who's it for?
I'd say if you've just started out then VideoPad is the program to get before moving onto something more extensive. It's easy to use with some good effects tools. Just don't be looking to follow in the footsteps of Gareth Edwards with this one.
2) Lightworks (Free Version)
As I mentioned before this does come with a pro version, but you won't be missing too many major features if you use the free download. Lightworks is a program made by editors for editors and since it's creation has been used to edit a number of major motion pictures such as Martin Scorsese's The Aviator and Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction. Yes this program will actually provide you the tools needed to edit your first feature film for free.
Easy to use?
Through some trial and error you'll get the hang of it, but it will cause a little bit of confusion. If you're looking to just download and start editing then hold your horses for a second. What may confuse some about lightworks is actually one of it's strongest features. Lightworks is not just a timeline and preview window, but an entire platform to organize, format and edit a movie. Most programs will leave you're file organisation to you and your computer, but Lightworks provides you with a place to easily access all of that fast.
Using the tools in Lightworks may seem a little odd at first, but with the help of tutorials on the website you'll soon see ho it all ties together and how the platform layout is a great benefit and not a hindrance.
What are the features?
Lightworks has all the essentials and trimmings. Once you get to grips with the platform everything starts falling into place. The timeline is simple and at a glance an editor can see how his/her footage is beginning to take shape. As well as video editing Lightworks also has an extensive audio editor which allows you to sync your audio and music effortlessly.
Lightworks also gains instant praise for its effects tools. Don't try to pull off Avatar obviously, but for action film or sci - fi with just a few shots then Lightworks is all you need. The control of special FX assets such as muzzle flares, smoke or fire is beautifully crafted. Lightworks also provides users with frankly brilliant green screen tools.
Lightworks greatest strength as I said comes from its simple organisation. The system of using "racks" and "bins" is a great way to keep your raw footage of scenes or perhaps episodes in a coherent and easy to search manor. And if you're a creature of habit and want to organize your footage your way then Lightworks is flexible enough so that you can.
Honestly there are few major drawbacks here. The tutorials are extraordinarily helpful and if you have a problem, but can't find answers there you can use the Lightworks forum where experienced editors are eager to help new comers out. The only "drawback" so to speak is that the prices in the Lightworks store can be a bit high. However once you've saved up enough money for your Lightworks keyboard and mouse you'll have even more tools to make the editing process smoother and faster.
Who's it for?
Lightworks is so user friendly that really any editor or movie maker can use it. From editor veterans to those just starting out, Lightworks is a great tool to take your project to the next level.
I said with both previous programs that they were the free versions that could later be upgraded. Not so with Blender which is completely free and open source to all who want it. That said you might logically assume that because there is no upgrade that this program wouldn't be as extensive, right? Quite the opposite...
Easy to use?
This is a difficult question to answer mainly because Blender works unlike any other editor. If you're used to Adobe or Final Cut the Blender video editor will seem strange and awkward so in that respect Blender takes a lot of getting used to. The editor is more dependent on keyboard shortcuts than most programs, but it works with any keyboard and you don't have to fork out for a specially made Blender Keyboard.
Considering its unusual controls you may be making another logical assumption that Blender's website would have a wealth of tutorial videos, right? In fact, no. In this respect Blender needs some improvement in its support. Tutorials available from the company come in the form of books and DVDs bought separately. However Blender's own forum and the wealth of tutorials on youtube can be used instead.
So if you learn Blender for the first time it's going to take some work, but work that will pay off.
What are the features?
This is the reason that Blender - for me anyway - is the best free editing software online today. Blender is not just a video editor: Blender is a video editor; 3D modelling and animation; even a video game platform. Blender is one of the most extensive and expansive programs I have ever seen. You can literally use it for just putting a drama together with basic cuts or use it to show armies of CG robots that fly battling over the skies of a futuristic city. You can use it for muzzle flares in an action short or stage a space battle involving thousands of ships.
With the exception of an extensive audio editor (for now), Blender just about has the entire post production process in one program. I also said no audio editor (for now) because Blender is open source and anyone with the programming expertise can modify it at any time. So who knows maybe we will see an audio suite for Blender in the future.
Yes: the aforementioned learning how to use it can be a bit of a hassle to some. Without buying the tutorial books even a veteran editor might get a little lost among the keyboard shortcuts and unorthodox format of the software. The fact that it has so many features and has so many capabilities results in all of the menus and timelines seeming a bit cluttered.
Who's it for?
Anyone who is anyone. Blender can be used by small independent films or large scale Hollywood productions. For now it remains primarily used by independent film makers mainly because it has everything they want in post production for free. Blender is software created for the sole purpose of letting indie film makers achieve those blockbuster heights, but spending a fraction of the money. In the end isn't that worth a bit of hassle at the beginning?
basic editing, overlay tracks, chroma key
extensive editing, overlay tracks, audio editing, chroma key, project organisation
extensive editing, overlay tracks, chroma key, 3D modelling and animation, game engine