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🎬 Free video editors for Mac and PC

🎬 Free video editors for Mac and PC
By Dan Mason • Issue #9 • View online
Most of my video is done on mobile or iPad these days, but there’s still a place for large-screen editing. Since I decided to go Adobe-free this year, I’ve tried a bunch of free alternatives. Here’s what I found. But first …
Happy Friday all. Hope you’ve had a good week - and a great summer. I think I blinked and missed it, but it’s nice to see more in the diary and it was a pleasure to work on podcasting with some inspiring members of the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain this week.
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I’ll try to resist talking about mobile and focus on browser-based editors and desktop apps I like a lot - or not much at all …
Browser editors
Simplicity ★★★★★ Features
Trim, crop, change resolution and format of single video clips, export. That’s it!
Simplicity ★★★★★ Features ★★★
Headliner launched as an online video editor but was adopted by podcasters, because it is just such a great tool for creating audiograms (image, audio plus animated waveform).
Still, Headliner’s full editor has video/image, audio and title tracks, with transitions and effects. The timeline is intuitive and simple. Maximum individual file upload limit is 350MB, but then I wouldn’t use a browser editor for anything more than short videos anyway.
You get up to five projects per month with a free account (10 for $8, unlimited for $20). Among the online editors, Headliner shines.
Headliner: Simple, smart and the best tool for audiograms
Headliner: Simple, smart and the best tool for audiograms
Simplicity ★★ Features ★★★
Kapwing offers a ton of free video tools, including a full editor that is, to put it mildly, quirky. All the tools are free to use as long as exports don’t exceed seven minutes. Upgrade is $17 per month. The main editor may not be my cup of tea, but I regularly use Kapwing’s excellent subtitle tool.
Kapwing: The full editor is quirky, but subtitle tool is a gem
Kapwing: The full editor is quirky, but subtitle tool is a gem
Desktop editors
OpenShot (Windows, Mac)
Simplicity ★★★★ Features ★★★
OpenShot is a smart, open-source video editor for Mac and PC that looks easy to use - and is, as far as it goes.
Organising media on multiple tracks, trimming and joining clips, adding transitions, effects, cutaways and audio is a breeze. I like the separate simple and advanced timeline views. But you might become frustrated when it comes to adding titles or ducking audio.
Almost great. But not quite.
OpenShot documentation here and lots of tutorials on YouTube, like this one: bit.ly/2YsrkLU and this series: bit.ly/39r1eiD
OpenShot: Good for simple projects, but lacks depth
OpenShot: Good for simple projects, but lacks depth
ShotCut (Windows, Mac)
Simplicity ★★★ Features ★★★
ShotCut has more advanced features than OpenShot but still manages to look clean and businesslike.
Despite this, doing simple tasks like adding transitions feels clunky and getting to grips with the timeline seems to take more effort than it should. I’d like to like it more, but can’t.
ShotCut: Some good features, not quite matched by ease of use
ShotCut: Some good features, not quite matched by ease of use
VSDC (Windows)
Simplicity ★★★ Features ★★★★★
I’ve not tried VSDC, but it is hailed by many as a very capable free editor for PC, with a pro upgrade for only £17. It has the bells and whistles of high-end editors, but the timeline looks cluttered.
If you want to trim a clip, this is a sledgehammer to crack a nut, but if you want the full monty, go for it.
VSDC: Busy interface but solid free tier and modest upgrade cost
VSDC: Busy interface but solid free tier and modest upgrade cost
DaVinci Resolve (Windows, Mac)
Simplicity ★ Features ★★★★★
The free version of DaVinci Resolve is still something NASA would be proud of. The learning curve is not even worth attempting for those who want to create video for social media. But if you have Hollywood in your sights, this is a giant step forward.
DaVinci Resolve: Prepare for movie editor lift-off
DaVinci Resolve: Prepare for movie editor lift-off
VideoPad (Windows, Mac)
Simplicity ★★★ Features ★★★
Yes, it comes with all the transitions, animations and effects you need to create a solid multi-track project, and I like the manual subtitling tool, in a separate interface.
But transitions and effects are SO dated. In fact, the whole thing looks like it needs a makeover. Personally, I find the interface clumsy and the nudges to upgrade become annoying.
VideoPad: Capable editor with clunky interface
VideoPad: Capable editor with clunky interface
iMovie (Mac)
Simplicity ★★★★★ Features ★★
If you have a Mac, you have iMovie. For trimming, adding transitions plus simple titles and effects, it’s fine. You can also add cutaways and insert keyframes to adjust audio volume. But for me the poor title options and crazy restriction to landscape (without using a workaround) leave me reaching for other tools. 
iMovie: Free and easy, but limited title options
iMovie: Free and easy, but limited title options
VN (Mac)
Simplicity ★★★★★ Features ★★★★
The VN app for iOS and Android is a great free mobile video editor, as anyone who has been on my mobile video courses over the past couple of years will know. The desktop version of VN looks and feels like the mobile version, so anyone who has used the app will feel at home. You can even move projects between them.
With extensive title, transition, keyframe and audio options in a smart multi-track timeline, it’s easy to like VN. I do.
You can run the app on Windows machines, but only by installing Bluestacks. Hopefully, a native Windows version will come soon.
VN: If you like the mobile app and have a Mac, try this
VN: If you like the mobile app and have a Mac, try this
HitFilm Express (Windows, Mac)
Simplicity ★★★★ Features ★★★★★
There is a registration hoop to jump through, but when you launch HitFilm Express, you are in for a treat. The interface is understated, sleek and crisp, presenting a full range of editing tools without fuss.
If you have used video editors before, everything you would expect is here. HitFilm Express also makes it easy for beginners to create simple projects with templates. The software includes impressive output presets and professional-looking titles. I like this a lot.
The HitFilm Express Manual is comprehensive and the starter video series easy to follow. Here’s a full tutorial playlist. The mighty Pro upgrade will set you back just over £300.
HitFilm Express: Looks great and performs well for bigger projects
HitFilm Express: Looks great and performs well for bigger projects
Thanks for reading 👏
🌍 I’ve been fortunate to work with amazing creatives and causes around the world as a trainer and educator. I get lots of ‘how do I …’ questions, so I started this newsletter to share the answers.
If you enjoy it, please share it! And if you have a question, suggestion or useful stuff you’d like to share, get in touch: dan@danmason.co.uk 🔗 bio.link/masondan
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