PROS / This software is extremely customizable.
CONS / It’s missing some features such as the ability to create closed captions.
VERDICT / This is a unique alternative to the industry-standard applications.
Editor's note: Lightworks 12.5 is now available. The manufacturer lists the new version as offering the following features: configurable H.264/MP4 formats and exports to YouTube in 2K and 4K resolution. We will evaluate, rank and review Lightworks 12.5 when we next update the Professional Video Editing Software reviews. Meanwhile, enjoy our review below about the Lightworks 11.5.
Lightworks is a professional video editing program that’s been around longer than many of the products in the top tier of our review, but has never gained widespread acceptance by the video editing community. However, just because it lacks the name-brand status of other programs doesn’t mean you should reject it out of hand. This pro video editor has many unique features that set it apart.
Lightworks is by far the most customizable of the top pro video editing programs we reviewed. This is due to how radically different the interface is from the competition. Lightworks is a decentralized canvas of free-floating windows that users can create or dismiss at their convenience. This allows you to create a workflow that is completely customized to your needs. This is great because each video editing project is different, and every video editor has a unique style. This approach is a very nice alternative to the one-size-fits-all approach of the industry-standard applications.
Although Lightworks makes some excellent pro video editing hardware, the application itself is quite lightweight. A full installation only requires 200MB of storage space. This is a small fraction of the storage requirements of the top-tier applications. Additionally, you only need 2GB of RAM to run the software, and a scant 3GB is recommended to operate the program effectively. This means that you can install and run this application on even the most inexpensive of netbooks.
You might think that this light usage of system resources would translate to substandard tools. This is not the case with Lightworks. Almost all the professional editing tools that you find in the name-brand applications are present and just as functional in this pro video editor. There are some notable exceptions to this such as the lack of ability to create closed captions and other disc authoring tools that you’ll have to rely on a third-party application for.
A professional video editor is a big investment. All of the big names in this space offer free trials that last for a couple of weeks or a month. Lightworks, on the other hand, offers a completely free version of the application that has all the functionality of the premium version. The only difference between the free version and the paid version is that you can only export your projects in MP4 format directly to YouTube and Vimeo with a maximum resolution of 720p.
Another notable aspect of the program is it's the only professional video editing software that is available on all the major operating systems. Windows, Mac and Linux are all represented. However, at the time of this writing, the Linux version is only a port of the Windows application and the OS X offering is still in beta testing.
Lightworks is a very good alternative to the big-name professional video editing applications. Its biggest advantage is how customizable, lightweight and versatile it is. It doesn’t have everything you can find in the best pro video editing software, but you can get more or less the same results with it.