Export & Production
Help & Support
Best PC Video Editing Software
What’s the Best Video Editing Software?
We spent more than 155 hours researching and testing the best video editing software available, and CyberLink PowerDirector held its position at the top of our charts. It strikes the delicate balance between usability and functionality with precision. In addition, it has all the tools hobbyists and prosumers want, and its interface is easy enough for a newcomer to navigate. It also has the most robust video editing community with its DirectorZone network.
Our value pick is VideoPad. You can get a free version of this software from NCH’s website – it’s only for personal use, but you get a lot out of it. The paid version is only $39.95, which is a fraction of what the competition costs, but there are some tradeoffs: The interface looks antiquated and the workflow is clunky. It’s also missing some features like a slideshow creator, automatic videos, and themes and templates. It’s a basic program for basic projects.
Wondershare Filmora is specifically designed for those who don’t have much knowledge or skill in video making. And while it doesn’t have all the features found in our top pick, it has enough for beginners to cut their teeth and learn. The software’s most useful feature is its templates, which cover commons video themes. This program is great if you are starting a YouTube channel, making a highlights video of a family trip or sporting event, or just want to make something fun.
What to Look for
The best video editing applications are simple to use and offer robust video tool sets. As you search for the right software for your projects, think about the basic and advanced tools each program offers, its export and production options, and the help and support the company provides.
All the video editing programs we reviewed can help you blend your footage, audio clips and images to create new and unique videos. They also all offer basic nonlinear video editing tools. Timelines, storyboards, transitions, titles and audio editing are all common fare for the products we reviewed. These applications also have video effect libraries. The number of available effects varies from program to program; however, a library with more than 500 effects is usually sufficient for any non-professional project.
The truth is, you’ll get roughly the same results from all the programs we reviewed when you just use their basic tools to edit your footage. As such, it’s most important to focus on usability. We tested each application's tools, built test projects, and analyzed workflows and performance in common tasks. We then compiled the results and assigned each program a usability score to indicate how easy it is to use the software’s tools and features to their fullest potential.
Simple video editor programs have an easy or basic mode for beginners. This is distinct from the familiar timeline and storyboard modes and often reduces editing to its most basic concepts and tools. Some applications make the process even easier by scanning your media and creating a video with it automatically. The best video editing programs let you manipulate the automatically generated video after it has been compiled.
Easy-to-use applications also come with basic themes and templates you can use for both simple and advanced projects. You can add your footage to these templates and customize them with themes that are appropriate for a child's birthday party; a vacation highlight reel; or even a mock movie trailer starring you, your family and your friends.
Once you’ve cut your teeth with the basic video editing tools, you can move on to using the more powerful ones. The best editing software is compatible with all the latest video and audio technology on the market today. For example, they can import, edit and export at ultra-high-definition 4K resolution. This makes your videos crisp, clear and enjoyable on today’s large, ultra-HD televisions.
Another advanced tool worth noting is a multi-cam editor, which combines videos of the same event taken at multiple angles on different cameras. It even automatically syncs them so you can smoothly switch angles.
The best video editing applications have tools that allow you to capture, edit and produce videos recorded by action cams like GoPros and Drift Innovation’s Ghost-S. These tools are generally as good as or better than the ones in the software that comes bundled with the cameras themselves. You can use them to stabilize shaky video, correct fish-eye distortion, enhance color, and pan and zoom around your footage. They can even slow down and reverse the video.
Even though 360-degree video is in its infancy, there are a few consumer-level cameras that can capture video in this advanced format. The best video editing software helps you build a compelling story out of your 360-degree footage that makes your audience feel like they are standing in the middle of it all.
Export & Production
The best video editing programs for Windows make it easy to export your film as popular file formats such as MP4, MOV, AVI and WMV. Normally, the software has presets for each format. Some programs we reviewed allow you to export into less common formats. While this is useful in some cases, for the most part, the most popular formats will meet your needs.
In addition, all the video creation software we tested can, in some capacity, optimize your videos to share on sites like YouTube and Facebook. However, the best applications let you upload your finished videos to social media directly from their export menus.
Since people now watch, store and share videos on tablets and smartphones, it is important for video editing programs to be able to export to these devices. Nearly all the products we reviewed can do so to some degree, but the best ones have companion mobile apps you can sync with their desktop counterparts, which makes transferring faster and more secure.
Disc authoring tools are another essential feature to consider if you intend to distribute DVDs or Blu-ray discs of your videos. Authoring options can be quite extensive; for example, you may be able to insert chapter markers, build disc menus and include extra features, just like in Hollywood-produced movies. The best video editor programs have a lot of authoring tools.
Help & Support
Even though these programs make the task much easier, video editing is difficult and time-consuming. As such, there may be times when you need help, especially if you have limited experience. This help can come in the form contacting the software developer by online chat, reading FAQs and knowledgebase articles on its website, or watching free tutorials.
The most useful tool a manufacturer can provide is a community dedicated to video editing. These are places where editors can share, learn and collaborate. The value of these online communities is significant, especially for editors refining their skills.
Video Editing Software: What We Tested, What We Found
In addition to evaluating each application's editing tools, ease of use, sharing options, and help and support, we conducted the following tests:
Usability – Most people using the programs we reviewed aren’t professionals. So, it’s important that the tools and features are accessible, understandable and learnable for the average person. In our usability test, we evaluated each product’s interface and tracked how easy it is to perform basic tasks. We found that all the products are relatively simple to use, given the proper time to learn their specific workflows.
Timing – Editing videos can be very time-consuming, and the program you use shouldn’t make the process even longer. So, we timed how long it took our in-house video editor to create an identical project with each program as well as how long it took each one to export our finished project. We found that once you learn each product’s workflow, it shouldn’t take you too long to create and export your work, depending on how complex you video is.
Quality – Finished videos should be as crisp and clear as possible, so our experts examined videos created by each product we reviewed. The best video editors produced a perfect or near-perfect picture compared to the source material. However, some software created significant problems that were noticeable and distracting. We gave each video editor application a letter grade, from A to F, based on this expert evaluation.