Why Buy Professional Video Editing Software?
The top performers in our review are Adobe Premiere Pro CC, the Gold Award winner; Final Cut Pro X, the Silver Award winner; and Avid Media Composer, the Bronze Award winner. Here's more on choosing software to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of these eight applications.
Why Professional Video Editing Software?
Editing is one of the most important steps in the video production process. Whether you're creating a feature film, a TV show or a simple YouTube video, the editing station is where you build what your audience will see, hear and experience. While consumer-level video editing software will suffice for small projects, if you're working on something that has a large audience, a big budget, or many complex elements, you need the power and precision offered by professional movie maker software.
The best professional video editor applications for PC let you organize a wide variety of media types, including video, audio and images, into bins and folders where you can easily find them when you need to place them on the timeline. They also offer superior enhancement options in the form of visual effects and tools, such as precision trimming, color correction, masking and key framing, that go far beyond what is possible in consumer-level applications.
How It Works
Even though they're more powerful programs, professional movie editing software applications possess all the functions their consumer-level counterparts have and follow a similar workflow.
You start by importing all the media you want in your project into the program. When you're working with this level of software, it's highly likely that your source material will come from several sources. The best movie editing software can import video and sound from high-powered movie cameras and audio equipment. Even video shot on lower-cost devices such as DSLRs, or even smartphones, work in these applications. With rare exceptions, if you can capture video, images or sound with a device, you’ll be able to use it with professional movie maker software.
Once your entire media is imported into the program, you'll need to organize it for easy access when you begin the editing phase. If you're creating a complex project, this task is usually time-consuming. The best video editing software makes this process as easy as possible by providing media-analyzing tools. These features help you review and categorize your project elements more effectively.
The editing module of professional movie editing software is where the magic really happens. Each of the eight products on our lineup have all the tools industry professionals use to produce the content that you watch in the theater and on your TV, computer, and mobile device. The toolsets found in these programs are so deep that it takes years of training and hands-on experience to master them. But if videography is your passion, you would be well served to invest the time learning these tools so you can produce the best possible results.
When you're done crafting your film or video, it's time to create the finished product. The best video editing software allows you to export your video from directly within the program. However, many of the products we reviewed come with sister applications such as Adobe’s Media Encoder or Apple’s Compressor. These programs give you more control over the finer aspects of your finished video like resolution, frame rate, bit rate, codec and more. These programs even allow you to configure your audio for surround sound systems that give your projects a more immersive experience.
What We Looked For, What We Found
Top Ten Reviews seeks, whenever possible, to evaluate all products and services in hands-on tests that simulate as closely as possible the experiences of a typical consumer. The software companies in our lineup had no input or influence over our evaluation methodology, nor were the methodologies provided to them in more detail than is available through reading our reviews. The results of our evaluation were not provided to them in advance of publication.
Simply put, the top editing applications make your job easy and provide the tools you need to make a flawless final cut. We evaluated the best top video editing software based on the criteria below.
When you reach this level of sophistication in the video editing world, you'll find that most applications have very similar tools and feature sets. Indeed, you can import the same footage into any of the products in our review and achieve more or less the same results.
What differentiates one professional video editing application from another, however, is how well all the tools come together. This means that aspects of the software, such as user interfaces, workflow and usability, become extremely important in making your decision about which product to buy.
With each of the eight professional video software on our side-by-side comparison chart, our video editing experts evaluated the interface and workflows of each one. They determined the skill level required to operate each program: basic, intermediate and advanced. They also assessed their workflows to determine which programs are the most accessible, intuitive, and useful for the novice and veteran user alike.
If you are new to movie editing, you'll probably want to use a basic program like Magix Video Pro or Lightworks. Users who have experience with consumer-level video editing software should have enough skill to operate intermediate programs like Adobe Premiere Pro CC or Apple’s Final Cut Pro X.
More advanced programs like Avid Media Composer and HitFilm require special hardware and superior editing ability to operate the application properly. Users should honestly evaluate their editing prowess before purchasing one of these video editing applications.
It's sometimes said there is no such thing as professional software – only professional users. There is a degree of truth in that; a skilled editor can utilize any editing program to its fullest potential. What separate these applications from those on the consumer level, however, is the power, precision and control you have over tools in the application.
For example, every program we looked at has a timeline where you arrange your media and craft your video. The best professional movie-making software products enhance this basic tool with magnetic features that allow you to automatically snap your footage into place. They also offer what is known as "ripple delete" that removes empty portions of your timeline without disturbing other portions of your sequence.
Since the color of your footage will vary from shot to shot, it is essential your professional video software has color correction tools. These tools allow you to adjust the tone, hue and saturation so your shots not only match but also look as vibrant and beautiful as possible.
Another great tool found in professional movie editing software is stereoscopic editing. This feature allows you to create the illusion of depth to your video, which has the result of making your video look more realistic and creates a more immersive experience for viewers.
These are just a few of the tools we look for in the best professional video editing software. Again, these programs possess everything you need to make a feature film, commercial, music video, TV show or any other video you need. You'll need to take the time to familiarize yourself with all of these tools before you can realize their true potential.
As mentioned above, your video project will contain media from a variety of sources. The best professional video editing software is compatible with whatever camera, media type, file format or other element you happen to be working with. In our review, we found that all the programs can import and export all popular video file types, including proprietary files found on cameras and software.
Organizing your media files is one of the most important tasks in the video editing process. The best professional movie editing applications contain tools like smart media bins that automatically analyze and sort your elements. They also have content analyzers that examine your video footage and organize it by shot type, generate metadata as well as detect faces and recognize speech. These tools can shave hours off the organization phase if you're working on a particularly large or complex project.
Another time-saving feature found in pro video editing software is the ability to sync audio and video files. It's common to capture video and audio on separate devices to ensure high-quality sound. You used to have to do this manually by comparing and lining up waveforms so your final video was in sync with the audio. Now, the best pro movie-making programs can analyze the raw sound from the video file and match it with the corresponding audio file. This feature alone saves a great deal of effort and frustration by automating the syncing process.
Export & Production
When you're done crafting your project, you need to remove it from your editing station and launch it into the world. There are myriad ways you can deliver your creation before the eyes of an audience, and the best professional video editors come equipped with comprehensive export options.
Every product in our review can export a video into a stand-alone file on your computer. Any video editing program should be able to create a video in any of the popular formats such as MOV and MP4. The best pro video editing software exports videos in a dozen or more formats. If you're required to use an uncommon format or you need to export your video for more work in an additional program, you should look into purchasing the companion media encoder applications such as the ones we mentioned earlier for even more options.
The best video mixing software also gives you the ability to upload your projects directly to sharing sites like YouTube and Vimeo. This is a great feature because the programs will also optimize your video for those specific services.
Our Verdict & Recommendations
We rated and ranked the best professional movie editing software available. At the end of our evaluation, the following products earned the top spots on our side-by-side comparison chart:
Adobe Premiere Pro CC: This is the perfect program for users who have cut their teeth in consumer-level video editing software. The traditional timeline layout, along with easy-to-find editing tools, mirrors the workflow of the best consumer video editing programs. If you feel like you're ready to trade up, this program is a great choice.
Apple Final Cut Pro X: This is another great choice for editors who have grown beyond the tools found in entry-level software. If you're a Mac user who uses iMovie, you'll love Final Cut Pro X because it's essentially a more powerful and versatile version of that program. You can even import your iMovie projects into Final Cut Pro X if you want more control than what iMovie gives you.
Avid Media Composer: Unlike our other award winners, this program is not suitable for a novice or hobbyist editor. You need special equipment and training to use this software effectively. However, if your goal is to create Hollywood-style feature films or TV shows, you'd be well served to invest the time and money learning how to use it.
If you need more information to help you make a decision, we've also written informative articles about professional video editing programs to help you decide which product is right for you and your project.
Professional video editing software for Windows gives you the ability to transform your raw video footage into something special. It's what allows you to tell your story in a way that is highly honed, polished and, most importantly, entertaining.