I heard you on Lex and Terry and thought I’d check out your site. I just bought an HD camcorder and will be editing a 5 minute, short film. What editing software do you suggest?

–Anthony Abbate

There are two kinds of people in the world, Anthony.  The ones who LOVE to sit at their computer and edit video, and the ones who don’t.

Me?  I haven’t edited my wedding video from 20 years ago.  Relatives still ask about it, and I still tell them I’ll be getting to it soon.  (Yes, editing IS part of a director’s job, but fortunately for me it’s the part where you tell someone else they’re doing great and would they mind trimming that clip by three frames? And not the part where you actually do the work.)

For most people, the best editing software is the one that you can download free or comes with your computer. Remember that editing video is functionally the same as editing a document.  The basics are cut, copy and paste. You’re going to:

  1. Output your video from your camera to your hard drive
  2. Cut the technically bad and boring parts out
  3. Maybe copy or paste a couple of things into a different part of the video, maybe not.
  4. Output as a digital movie to share.


Any free video editing software can do that.

If you use your free software enough so that you either a) get good at it or b) start to realize its limitations –then you’re ready to step up. At that point my advice is the same as it is for cameras— you’re going to have to try them and see what suits your style and interests.

As with cameras, ignore the marketing bells and whistles when you buy video editing software– the silly wipes and swirling dissolves, the sepia color and mirror-mode are all there to attract buyers.  There’s a reason you’ve never seen a Marvel movie shot entirely in sepia.  It’s stupid.  Just focus on an easy to use, intuitive interface that you can afford.

Have you heard the new audio version of How to Shoot Video that Doesn’t Suck You can sample it, buy it, or get it free here.

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  • Ed Mixon says:

    Steve: Just started reading the book…WOW! I have played with video using my regular camera in the video mode all the way to using 360 spherical camera, and drone. At this point, all I can say is that I still have a loooong way to go. Your book is really well done, even I can understand it…..THX

  • Ed Lopez says:

    Adobe Premiere Elements is about $60 to $70 and works on both PCs and Macs. It has lots of functionality and can be learned through various courses, such as the ones on Lynda.com. There are some good videos on the software on YouTube as well. It's not free, but the price is reasonable and well worth what you get in return.

  • Mark Johnson says:

    From the very beginning I along with me professional editing team are using Adobe Premiere pro for this purpose. I have tried FCPS, Vegas and a few other but the UI and key features in Premiere are just AWESOME !!

  • Thalia says:

    Wow, that's scary Steve you just reduced my whole career down to four steps!
    I'm one of those people who loves sitting at my computer editing video, not the other kind (like you) who loves going out and filming.
    I'm starting a blog on video editing, I thought about including tips on filming but I might just refer everyone back here instead. Great stuff!

  • Saad Chisti says:

    I dont know much about video editing softwares but my favorite one is windows movie maker. i always use this when ever i need to. Though it is just for basic work but for me it has everything i need. Best of everything is that this one is free :)

  • Andrew Zoll says:

    I picked up Hitfilm 2 Express back in November for free. It's not bad. Though for simple stuff, I prefer iMovie on my iPad. Though you can't beat spending $199 and getting Final Cut Pro.

    By the way, Steve, I LOVED your book. Best $18.00 I have spent since I started working with video two-and-a-half years ago. If you haven't read "How to Shoot Video that Doesn't Suck," buy it now. Right now. Seriously. Stop reading, go to Amazon.com and buy it.

  • ABDORNE says:

    hi,Mr Steve thanks for your good work,What is the best free video editing software existing at present?

  • John Thiel says:

    The first software I used was iMovie on my iPad. It's a good, basic program if you want to just string bits of video together and add background music, but it only gives you two tracks–one for 'source sound'–the sound the camera recorded when you shot the video–and one other track to record narration or add music–not both.

    So then I tried Pinnacle Studio, which they also make for the iPad. It simply has more features and more options.

    Industry standard is Final Cut Pro by Apple. As soon as I can get an iMac I plan on becoming a Final Cut Pro expert.

  • David Rout says:

    Hi Steve, I fall into the love editing category, I have started using Corel Videostudio only cost about $100 and does a good job. Simple to add voice overs mix in music etc.

  • Matt says:

    I love using Power Director . Its cheap like a hundred bucks ,easy to use and works awesome . I have been able to do just about everything I want to do with it . I haven't realized it's limitations yet and have been using it for about 1 year . I had to many problems with the free software .

  • Mark says:

    I have been editing my photos on Windows Movie Maker. I'm primarily using the storyboard. I have tried to use the timeline, but I am a little intimmedated. I eventually want to try doing video. Should I stick to using the storyboard, or use the timeline?

    • steve says:

      Your preference, Mark. But to develop that preference, you need to play. Don't be intimidated by a mere editing program. Load a video in, and start poking at the program until you figure out what's going on. If you keep a backup copy of the video there's nothing you can break or ruin. It's all just pixels, and you can make more.

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