We started reviewing professional video editing software in 2012. Since that time, our best overall pick has not changed. Adobe Premiere Pro CC is the perfect program for users who have cut their teeth in consumer video editing software and are ready to upgrade. Its traditional timeline layout and easy-to-find editing tools mirror the workflow of the best consumer video editors. Also, your subscription gives you access to the incremental updates Adobe makes to the program.
Adobe Premiere Pro
Adobe Premiere Pro includes the tools and features professionals demand – this nonlinear editor has the power, versatility and depth to be our top pick.
MAGIX Video Pro X
MAGIX Video Pro X is a powerful, capable application. It can edit projects that hold their own against videos made with its competitors, but you own it outright rather than pay for a subscription.
Final Cut Pro X
If you’re a Mac person, you’ll love Final Cut Pro X. It’s powerful, versatile professional video editing software – plus it’s easy to pick up if you’ve used iMovie.
The basic functionality of professional nonlinear video editors doesn't change much from application to application.
They all have timelines, media bins and a multitude of tools you can use to make advanced alterations, adjustments and outright transformations of raw video, audio and image files. What separates Premiere Pro from the rest is how these features come together. Adobe understands that every editor and project has unique needs, and it created an application that is infinitely customizable to meet those needs.
Media organization is essential to creating video efficiently. Adobe Premiere Pro comes loaded with adaptable media bins and panels, so you can store your media as well as preset attributes before you drag them onto the timeline. Adobe has some great instructional videos on media strategy that can help you optimize your workflow with top-notch bin structure. Once you have a structure that works for you, you can even save a bin template to your hard drive or the cloud. This saves you loads of time at the beginning of each project by eliminating the need to manually create a bin structure each time.
Premiere covers all the bases for transforming your final sequence into a finished work. You can export it as a digital file of any size, from standard definition to ultrahigh definitions like 4K. This application can also burn videos to optical media such as DVD and Blu-ray discs. Additionally, Adobe Media encoder can create a video for any file format or codec.
Even though MAGIX Video Pro X’s price falls within the average range for the programs we reviewed, we chose it as our best value pick.
That’s because it includes the tools necessary to make professional-quality projects, plus you own the software outright. Competing programs, such as Adobe Premiere Pro and Media Composer, require a monthly subscription, putting you at risk of losing access if you can’t make the bill. Plus, you get free updates throughout the current version of the software.
MAGIX Video Pro X’s timeline is unique among the applications we reviewed – it’s an “open timeline” that allows you to handle objects such as video, images and audio with more refined precision. This is because you don’t need to convert disparate file formats before you bring them into the workspace.
One of the most compelling things about this software is it’s accessible to users who are just getting into professional video editing. The application is intuitive enough for new users who already have a grasp on the basics of video editing. This is particularly true of people who have used the company’s consumer-grade product, MAGIX Movie Edit Pro.
We would love to see this program adapted for macOS. It would be a natural competitor to Final Cut Pro X and allow cross-platform collaboration.
Best for Mac Users
In true Apple fashion, Final Cut Pro X’s interface both looks great and is highly functional. For example, you access most of the frequently used tools from the workspace’s main window.
Additionally, you can customize the interface with one of Final Cut’s preset options or organize the windows to fit your preferred workflow. This makes it a good option whether you work on a single display or multiple. Despite its simple design, this program has all the tools necessary to create Hollywood-level movies, commercials, music videos and more.
If you’re steeped in the world of Apple, Final Cut Pro X’s integration with other Apple products, such as iTunes and Photos, is extremely useful – you can access all the music, images and other elements you need to build a video with a personal touch.
Once highly criticized as being too much like iMovie, this has become a strength of Final Cut Pro X. It opens the door of professional movie making to millions of users who might otherwise be intimidated by professional software.
Final Cut Pro X is only available for machines running the OS X operating system. We would like to see Apple do with Final Cut what it did with iTunes and release a version compatible with Windows.
Best for Special Effects
HitFilm is an interesting entry in our review of the best professional video editing software – it’s a non-linear editor and visual effects and compositing tool rolled up into a single application.
Before you buy this program, understand that it is centrally focused around graphics, compositing and special effects. If you don’t generally work with these features, you’d be better served to look elsewhere and get a plugin. However, if visual masterpieces are your thing, there’s no better program than HitFilm to create them.
Best for Advanced Users
Avid Media Composer is the most popular program used by professional Hollywood editors to create movies, TV shows, commercials, music videos and much more – and for good reason.
It has everything you need to create projects as simple as instructional videos or as complicated as blockbusters like “The Avengers.”
If you choose this program, keep in mind that it will take a long time to learn how to use it to its full potential. If you jump right in without training, you’ll likely get lost very quickly. We recommend learning the basics in a different program first. Media Composer has a free version that’s ideal for getting your head around the interface and workflow.
|Product||Price||Overall Rating||Design||Editing Tools||Media Management||Export & Production||Interface & Workflow||Skill Level Required||Windows||MacOS||Enhanced Timeline||Sequence Nesting||Color Correction||Masking||Video Stabilizer||Stereoscopic Editing||Closed Captions||Dynamic Media Folders or Bins||Multicam Support||Automatic Content Analyzer||Automatic Audio & Video Sync||Export as File||4K Support||DVD & Blu-ray Authoring||Export to Web||Export to Mobile Devices|
|Adobe Premiere Pro CC||View Deal||5/5||5||5||5||5||Excellent||Intermediate||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Final Cut Pro X||View Deal||4.5/5||3.5||5||5||5||Excellent||Intermediate||✖||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Media Composer||View Deal||4.5/5||4.5||5||4||2||Good||Advanced||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✖||✓||✓||✓||✖||✖||✖|
|HitFilm Pro||View Deal||3.5/5||4.6||3.6||2.5||3||Good||Advanced||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✖||✖||✓||✖||✖||✓||✓||✓||✖||✓||✖|
|MAGIX Video Pro X||View Deal||3.5/5||2.5||4.5||4||5||Fair||Basic||✓||✖||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✖||✓||✓||✖||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|EDIUS Pro||View Deal||3/5||4.6||5||2.5||4||Good||Intermediate||✓||✖||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✖||✖||✓||✓||✓||✖||✖|
|VEGAS Pro||View Deal||3/5||2.5||5||2.5||3||Fair||Intermediate||✓||✖||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✖||✖||✓||✓||✖||✓||✖|
Why Trust Us
Since 2012 we’ve been evaluating the best video editing software on a periodic basis. In that time, we’ve spent hundreds of hours researching, rating and ranking each program. We’ve conducted hands-on editing tests as well as reached out to professional video editors to find out what they look for in the programs they choose.
Richard Dutcher, an independent film director from Salt Lake City, has produced eight feature films including “God’s Army,” “Brigham City,” “Evil Angel” and the upcoming “The Boys at the Bar.”
As we discussed his editing experience, he said, “I learned on Avid, used that until Final Cut Pro X came out,” then added that he’s been using it ever since. He also noted that editors should find what works best for them. “Because of the learning curve and limited amount of time, once I learn something I pretty much stick with it.”
When asked how people new to using professional video editing software can learn to work with the application proficiently, he said, “Classes are great if they’re available and affordable. If not, buy the manuals that are not published by the software companies, such as Final Cut Pro X for Dummies - written by actual users in the language that’s more accessible.”
We also reached out to Drew Tyler, a digital media instructor at Weber State University. He teaches both Adobe Premiere and Final Cut Pro X to beginning classes. When the class was over, he estimates his students chose Premier over Final Cut at about 65 percent to 45 percent.
He said there are “Two major considerations – does it fit your ecosystem, how much do you want to grow into the software.” Tyler added that you should choose a program that will fit your needs as your skills grow. “Look for something that has the ability to stretch. It might be overkill for what you’re doing now but you don’t want to run into a wall.”
How We Picked the Best
The top editing applications make your job easy and provide the tools you need to make a flawless final cut. We evaluated video editing software based on the following criteria:
We evaluated each program’s interface and workflow to determine the skill level required to use it: basic, intermediate or advanced. We also considered how well each step of the editing process flowed into the next and whether it is customizable enough for editors to adapt it to their personal preferences.
We evaluated each program’s timeline tool, looking for features that make it easy to arrange and enhance your footage and other elements.
In addition, we checked for features like color correction tools, which adjust the tone, hue, and saturation in your shots so they match and look as vibrant and beautiful as possible. Another feature we looked for was stereoscopic editing, which allows you to create the illusion of depth in your video.
The best professional video editing software is compatible with whatever camera, media type and file format you happen to be working with. In our evaluation, we found that every program can import and export all popular video file types, including proprietary files found on cameras and in software.
We also looked for smart media bins that can automatically analyze and sort your production elements. Additionally, we checked for content analyzers that examine your video footage and organize it by shot type, generate metadata, detect faces and recognize speech. Further, we made note of which programs can analyze a video file’s raw sound and match it to a corresponding audio file. This feature alone saves a great deal of effort and frustration by automating the syncing process.
Export & Production
Every product we reviewed can export a video as a stand-alone file on your computer. Any video editing program should be able to export your movies as popular file formats such as MOV and MP4, and the best can export videos in a dozen or more formats.
We also looked for programs let you upload your projects directly to sharing sites like YouTube and Vimeo. This is a great feature because the software also optimizes your video for those specific platforms. Additionally, we checked whether each program can author DVDs and Blu-ray discs to take your project from start to finish without needing additional software.
Other Considerations in Choosing Professional Video Editing Software
Will It Run on Your Computer?
Before you spend hundreds of dollars on professional video editing software, you should make sure your computer is equipped to handle it. Start by checking your computer’s specifications. You can usually find them in the control panel’s home screen if you operate a Windows machine. If you’re on a Mac, you simply select “About This Mac” from the Apple Menu in the top left corner of your screen. Then, look up the system requirements of the application you’re considering. These can usually be found somewhere on the software’s official webpage. If you have trouble finding them on your own, simply Google the program’s name and “system requirements.” You can then compare what you find against what your computer has."
Programs like Avid Media Composer use a lot of resources. And even though your system may have the minimum requirements to run the software, you might still have trouble. Such programs are designed to work with specialized hardware with far more processing and rendering power than your average Windows or Mac machine. If you want to experience the full power of a professional video editing program, you may need to invest in a computer that is specifically designed for editing video and other highly intensive tasks.
Many professional video editing programs are becoming more and more accessible to the average user. But editing video is still complicated and time-consuming, and it takes months or years to become proficient at it. Before you select your video editing software, you should take some time to research the training resources available on the internet. Luckily, there are tons of free training videos on sites like YouTube that are made by professional video editors and targeted at users like you. Some software publishers, such as Adobe, partner with learning services like Lynda to provide in-depth training courses that show you how to use all the tools and features in their software. You have to pay for courses like these, but it’s worth the investment if you’re serious about becoming a professional video editor.
Do You Need Professional-Grade Video Editing Software?
In many cases, you can save a lot of time and money by opting for a consumer or prosumer editing program instead of a full-fledged professional application. Think about your project and consider your editing skill level and how much time it will take to learn to use the software you choose. Chances are that if you’re new to editing or have limited experience, programs like PowerDirector, VideoStudio and Pinnacle Studio have enough tools and features to meet your needs. They cost much less, have many of the same tools found in their professional editing counterparts and can produce more or less the same results in many cases.
How Much Does Professional Video Editing Software Cost?
The professional video editing programs we reviewed can cost anywhere from $200 a year with a subscription to $600 to buy outright. The average among the programs we evaluated is about $400. A major consideration should be if you want to pay yearly or monthly or buy a program outright. Subscription programs are advantageous because you get the latest updates immediately. On the other hand, when you buy a program outright, you eliminate the risk of losing access to your work if you fall into hard financial times and can’t pay the subscription.
Professional Video Editors for Free
If you’re making a small- or medium-size project, you may not have to shell out big bucks to buy editing software. Many of the programs we reviewed offer free trials or have free watered-down versions. For example, Adobe Premiere Pro has a 30-day, unrestricted trial period. This is plenty of time to finish post production on a moderately sized project or to at least get a rough cut done before you must pay for a subscription.
The same applies to Final Cut Pro X – it has a 30-day free trial before you have to purchase the software outright. One of the great things about FCP X is you can import iMovie projects. This means you can take your time making a rough cut in iMovie, then activate the FCP X trial, import your project from iMovie and use FCP X’s powerful tools to fine-tune for a month. This is a great strategy if you’re a Mac user who’s working on a budget.
Other programs we reviewed have watered-down versions you can download and use absolutely free – HitFilm Express and Lightworks Free are two examples. You may find these programs have everything you need to complete your videos. In fact, these programs will likely suit your needs in most cases. Even if you’re editing a feature film that will be seen by large audiences, it’s advisable to see if a free program is good enough before you spend money on a paid version. Additionally, these free programs are an excellent place to learn the ins and outs of professional video editors that cost hundreds of dollars.
How to Become a Professional Video Editor
To become a professional video editor, all you have to do is become proficient in the craft. Having a college degree may help you land a job easier, but it’s not a necessity.
You can learn everything you need to know about editing videos for free online. On sites like YouTube, there’s endless content that teaches you both the theory of video editing and the practical use of individual applications. If you’re willing to put in the time to learn, there’s nothing to stop you from mastering all aspects of video editing.
Since your body of work will be the primary way potential employers and clients judge you, it’s critical that your work shines as brightly as possible. A strong reel and completed projects will far outweigh a degree in most people’s eyes. Getting that takes a lot of time and practice, so if you’re forgoing formal training, you’ll need to work at the craft every day until you’re proficient with video editing software.
You should also consider becoming certified in as many editing programs as possible. Adobe offers a certification exam for Premiere Pro, and Apple has an official certification for Final Cut Pro. Certifications enhance your resume and are great augments to a strong demo reel, especially if you don’t have a college degree.