If you’re looking to create a video, then your final result will greatly depend on the software you use to edit the raw footage. However, with so many options out there, choosing the best software for Mac is no easy task (see our best video editing software general guide for a rundown of options for all operating systems).
Perhaps the three biggest factors that should influence your decision are what you’re planning to create, how experienced you are in the art of editing, and how much you’re willing to spend. If, for example, you’re a professional editor with a high-spec Mac, then your needs are going to be greater than that of a newbie YouTuber with a relatively old MacBook (see our best software for editing videos for YouTube for more options there).
We’ve taken all this into account with this buying guide, so whether you're a total novice or an editing wizard, as long as you're using macOS, we can help you decide which is the best editing suite for your needs. If you're a Windows user, then see our guide to video editing for Windows instead.
Video editing macOS: The best suites in 2021
Final Cut Pro X is one of the industry heavyweights when it comes to editing software, we say one of because it’s difficult to decide between this and Adobe Premiere Pro. Both are incredibly powerful and used by professionals across the industry. However, Final Cut Pro X boasts additional functionality that’s likely to tickle the fancy of Mac users. For example, it seamlessly integrates with other macOS software and apps, such as Photos and iTunes.
What’s more, the interface will feel familiar to Mac users, which in turn makes it that much easier to use. But don’t let the platform’s simplicity fool you. It’s still a very powerful tool and its magnetic timeline is an efficient way of editing footage once you’re used to it.
The software also supports multicam editing, XML importing, and 360-degree VR content, and boasts updated colour grading tools. Moreover, these features have been joined by additional capabilities, such as 3D titling and an impressive Flow transition to smooth out jump cuts.
Some might also prefer the one-off payment method that comes with Final Cut Pro X as opposed to the monthly cost of $20.99 (paid annually) for Adobe Premiere Pro. However at $299.99 / £299.99 it’s not cheap.
Despite this, it’s still one of the best editing solutions on the market and is really aimed at professionals. If that’s you, then Final Cut Pro should pay for itself in no time. For more information, see our Final Cut Pro X review.
As we’ve mentioned already, users have to fork out $20.99 per month for Adobe Premiere Pro, or $52.99 for the whole Adobe Creative Cloud package, which is well worth the money if you’re going to make the most of it. Whilst the cost of a monthly subscription can soon build up, users can rest assured they’ll be using the latest version of Premiere Pro, whereas Final Cut Pro X users will need to buy the next version as and when it’s released in order to access the latest updates.
Speaking of updates, some of the latest additions to the Premiere Pro suite are great for saving time and working with others. Firstly, there’s the new Auto Reframe feature which automatically formats and resizes your video to fit the aspect ratio required when posting or sharing online – without cutting out any of the integral components that make up the shot (such as hands and faces).
Then, there’s Productions, the collaborative tool that enables multiple people to work on the same project, at the same time – without duplicating files. It’s called Cross Project Referencing, and thanks to the Project Locking feature (which is the default setting), you don’t have to worry about multiple people editing the same clips. See our Adobe Premiere Pro review for more information.
Considering it started as a mere colour grading tool, DaVinci Resolve has come a long way since its inception. What makes it all the more impressive (and appealing) is that so many of its features are included in the free version of the software. So if you’re happy to settle for 60fps up to 4K, then this will do just fine.
However, if you do want all the bells and whistles and plan on working with stereoscopic 3D sound, up to 120fps, and up to 32K resolution, then DaVinci Resolve Studio will set you back $295, which will pay for itself if you’re a professional.
However, one big difference that makes DaVinci Resolve stand ahead of both Final Cut Pro X and Adobe Premiere Pro is that the company behind the software, Blackmagic Design, has said all future versions will be free to existing licence holders. This means that users only have to make a one-off payment and will get lifetime access to every version of the software.
It’s worth noting that the interface can be complicated, and beginners might find this daunting. But as it’s free, there’s certainly no harm in giving it a go.
Last but certainly not least, the latest version of Filmora by Wondershare is a fantastic editing suite for serious beginners and dedicated hobbyists. It’s packed with some powerful tools at a fairer price than other premium editing software.
The subscription plan costs just $39.99 per year, whilst the perpetual plan provides lifetime access for a one-time payment of $69.99. Note, however, that this doesn’t include future versions of Filmora beyond Filmora X. There is, however, a free version of the software, which gives you the chance to play around before making any commitments. Whilst there’s no time limit for how long you can use the free version, any exported media will be watermarked.
Some of the latest features in Filmora X are great for optimising your workflow and getting the most out of your creativity. One such is the motion tracking feature, which allows you to track movement and get any kind of visual element to follow that motion. There’s also the colour matching tool, which allows you to quickly match the colour grading of different clips.
A lot of effects are also included with Filmora X, and even more with Filmstock - Wondershare’s "one-stop shop for royalty-free video effects, audio, and stock media" - but because most of these require additional downloads, utilising them might interrupt your flow. Read more with our Filmora X review.
iMovie is essentially Final Cut Pro X’s little brother. Well, it’s more like a baby brother, but it does come free with your Mac, so there’s no harm in trying it out. It’s a great option for beginners looking to get to grips with editing software, low-key hobbyists, and even YouTubers that just want to chop up their videos.
Although iMovie is pretty basic, this could be seen as positive for newbie editors. With iMovie you can splice, trim, and arrange the order of your raw footage and soundtracks. Once you’ve finished your masterpiece, you can even export it in 4K resolution, at up to 60fps. There’s also a decent amount of effects, transitions, filters, and fine-tuning controls for white balancing, colour matching and audio isolation.
On the other hand, if you’ve got absolutely no knowledge of how to edit videos, iMovie’s Trailer tool will enable you to make a decent video without having to do a whole lot. You simply select a template and you’ll be presented with an outline, a storyboard, and a shot list. All you have to do is drag and drop your footage into the placeholder thumbnails on the storyboard and voila, you’ve 'edited' a video.