Amazingly, some of the best free video editing software is almost the same as that used by professionals working on big budget Hollywood productions. In most cases, there’s a paid-for version with more features (click back to page one to read our pick of the best paid video editing software), but the free versions we’re going to show you have the majority of the functionality intact.
In the case of Lightworks, for example, the main restriction is the output format, but VSDC and the amazing DaVinci Resolve let you export your creations in a wide range of formats.
The range and power of the features available in these free video editing software options is remarkable; if you have the talent there’s nothing to stop you putting together a technically accomplished production.
If your needs are simpler and you just want easy-to-use software that sits between Windows Movie Maker and a top-end professional package, then there’s a free video software download for you here as well.
01. DaVinci Resolve
Professional-quality colour correction and audio mastering
Platform: Windows, Mac, Linux | Key features: Great colour-correction, Fairlight audio tools, compatible with Fairlight consoles, multi-user collaboration | Good for: Specialised colour and audio editing
DaVinci Resolve is a professional video editing package that is used on big-budget film and TV productions, and is especially powerful for colour correction and audio – so if those are priorities in your project then this could be the software for you.
As well as traditional colour features such as curve editors and primary colour wheels, there are some incredible features such as facial recognition and tracking, so you can adjust skin tones, eye and lip colour. Audio is the other area of specialism: DaVinci Resolve includes Fairlight audio, which is a suite of high-end audio editing tools that enable you to mix and master up to 1,000 channels.
It’s amazing that this software is available with nearly all the features present in the free version. If you’re looking for the best free video editing software for Windows or Mac, this could be it.
Hollywood-grade editor used on The Wolf of Wall Street
Platform: Windows, Linux, Mac OS X | Key features: Almost any format imported natively; outputs directly to YouTube/Vimeo; multicam editing; project sharing for groups | Good for: Slick-looking films
Lightworks is another professional video editing suite used by people working on major Hollywood productions including Shutter Island, Pulp Fiction, 28 Days Later, The Wolf of Wall Street and Mission Impossible, so it’s exciting that there’s a free version that makes it accessible to everyone.
Amazingly, in the free version you get nearly all the features; the main restriction for the free license version is the output formats – you can only export a web compatible file at 720p. If you want to export a few projects into a different format fairly cheaply, you can buy a one-month licence for £14.99.
Lightworks is undoubtedly some of the best free video editing software for Windows 10. What you’re getting is a fast and very powerful editor with a superbly designed timeline. It does everything you can imagine a big production needs it to, with great hardware and video format support, and powerful project sharing so many people can work together easily.
It's a powerful piece of kit for a freebie, handling video capture and advanced editing with ease. The timeline enables a high degree of control so you can trim and mix together your audio and video clips exactly how you want them.
Because it's a slimmed-down version of a professional suite, you may find that the interface isn't the easiest to navigate. But there are plenty of good tutorial videos that will get you up and running pretty quickly – and you won't have to pay a penny, as long as your projects are non-commercial.
Read TechRadar's Lightworks review
Add special effects and text that will output in a range of formats
Platform: Windows | Key features: Supports wide range of file formats, built-in DVD burner, chart tool, video stabiliser | Good for: Presentations
Lightworks and DaVinci Resolve are ideal if you’re making a slick-looking film, but if you’re making a presentation and want to add text, lines, charts and other special effects to it, VSDC might be the free video editor for you.
It includes Instagram-style filters, lots of special effects including colour correction and blurring, and there’s a mask tool so you can apply effects to part of the video (for obscuring faces, for example).
There’s a video stabiliser to help remove camera shake from footage taken with GoPros or drones, and also a powerful chart tool for adding graphs to presentations.
Unlike Lightworks, the free version of VSDC will export to a range of different formats including AVI and MPG. If you’re unsure about formats, you can even tailor the output so that it works well on particular devices for playback. It supports most video formats, so you shouldn’t have any trouble importing your clips, and there’s a built-in DVD burner.
Read TechRadar's VSDC review
04. Hitfilm Express
Powerful video editor with add-ons to suit your needs
Platform: Windows, Mac | Key features: Over 180 visual effects; 2D and 3D effects compositing; MP4 H.264 export; good range of import formats
No list of the best free video editors would be complete without a mention of Hitfilm Express. It’s capable of producing feature films or music videos with 3D effects, but it’s also good for making videos for YouTube, as direct uploading is built in.
The free version of Hitfilm Express contains everything you need to make a professional-quality production, but in some cases you’ll benefit from expanding its capabilities by purchasing some of the add-on features.
Add-on packs range in price from £8.85 to £44.25, so you can pay for only the features you need and tailor the software to your needs for a reasonable price.
Read TechRadar's HitFilm Express review
Superb free video editor makes powerful editing accessible
Platform: Windows, Linux, Mac | Key features: Support for wide range of formats; comprehensive video and audio editing; supports 4K resolutions; uses FFmpeg | Good for: Basic video editing
Not every project requires a cutting edge, professional-level package, and there’s no point putting the time in to learn powerful software that you’re never going to use again. Shotcut is for you if you’ve outgrown Movie Maker and want to go to the next level, but don’t need the complexity of some of the other packages on this list.
Its interface is uncomplicated and approachable, and you can even customise it to match your needs via dockable and undockable panels. It supports a huge range of formats so you’re unlikely to run into trouble in that department, and there’s a rich assortment of filters and quite advanced special effects that are easy to manage and apply.
This is one of the best free video editors that will do everything required for most projects.
Read TechRadar's Shotcut review
06. Apple iMovie
A Mac classic
Platform: Mac | Key features: Supports 4K resolutions; effects and filters | Good for: Basic video editing
We couldn't really end this list without at least a mention for Apple's classic free video editing software for Mac. If you're a Mac owner, the program should already be pre-loaded on to your machine. But if you're editing amateur, it shouldn't be overlooked - bloatware, this is not.
So what results can Apple iMovie achieve? Well, 'results' is the right word as the finish and sheen you get from an iMovie-made video are much better than you'd expect from a freebie. It's really easy to make your footage sing and you'll be surprised how quick and straightforward it is to finalise a polished-looking (and sounding) edit.
Plus, if your laptop of choice is a recent Pro, then this is one of the programs that has fully functioning Touch Bar support. Although we'd like to see support for 360-degree video and multi-cam editing added to future iterations as priorities.
Read TechRadar's iMovie review