Video Editing Software Review
Why Buy Video Editing Software?
The top performers in our review are CyberLink PowerDirector 15, the Gold Award winner; Corel VideoStudio Pro X9, the Silver Award winner; and MAGIX Movie Edit Pro, the Bronze Award winner. Here's more on choosing software to edit videos, along with detail about how we arrived at our ranking of these 10 applications.
Video editing software is more than simply splicing together footage. The best video editors are virtual post-production houses, complete with the ability to publish media online or author a ready-to-play disc. Movie editing software is where your raw media comes together to be transformed into something greater. It's where you prepare your project for an audience.
Our audiences are larger now than they have ever been. Any video shared online has a potential audience of billions. Even if you have an audience of one, video editing programs can help you build a video you're proud to share.
Video editing software for Windows is easier than ever to use. It doesn't matter if you've never edited video before or have rudimentary skills; these movie editor programs are increasingly intuitive and offer training and tutorials for all their tools and features. They even offer easy editing modes and automatic video creation. The best video editing software programs provide you with the tools you need to make polished videos. They educate their users and help them become better video editors.
These Windows video editors also have advanced capabilities – perhaps not as powerful as those in professional video editing software, but still quite powerful. Nearly all movie editing software lets you choose between the simpler workflow of storyboard mode and the more advanced timeline mode of editing, so you can switch between the two modes with your edits intact. The software comes with a full array of preprogrammed video and audio effects, transitions, titles, and much more. These tools can be useful to movie editors of all skill levels.
The best movie editing software applications help you build your videos quickly and easily, with a minimal learning curve. In addition, they publish your videos to online sharing sites like YouTube and Facebook. The best movie editing software applications give you the ability to set up chapter markers, design disc menus and insert closed captions for the hearing impaired.
Some programs' tools rival their professional counterparts in terms of quality and granular control. Advanced features such as multi-camera capabilities, compatibility with the latest action cameras and customizable export options give you a high degree of control over the quality of the final product.
Video Editing Software: What to Look For
On the consumer level, the best video editor software for any person is the one they feel most comfortable using. Nearly all the video editors for Windows on our side-by-side comparison chart offer a free trial. Those new to video editing should try more than one movie editor to find the one that meets their needs.
In addition to the free trials for Windows-based video editors, there are some totally free solutions you can check out. Windows Movie Maker is included in many versions of the Windows operating system. If it isn't, you can download it for free from Microsoft's website.
Another free option worthy of note is Lightworks. This basic video editing software lets you build the exact workflow for your individual needs. You may need to take a tutorial or two to get the hang of it, but it's a pretty good video editor for beginners.
The best video editing software for Windows is both simple to use and offers a robust video tool set. This requires multiple editing modes. Many of the movie editors we reviewed offer basic, intermediate and advanced editing modes. You can upgrade to premium versions that have even more tools.
You should take your own skill level into account when choosing which video editor software application for Windows is right for you. If you've ever edited video before, the learning curve for any program is likely about the same.
If you've never edited video before but have experience editing audio or photography, you can probably expect not to have problems learning even the most advanced software. But if you've never edited anything before, you could experience a tremendously frustrating learning period and would probably benefit from a program that has a basic or easy mode.
Once you're finished building your video, your export options are very important. This is one of those areas where video editors for Windows must strike a balance between usability and functionality. Exported files can be configured in infinite combinations. However, a few preset options are always nice so you can choose the right export setting for your project. The best movie editing software exports a file specifically optimized for social sharing sites like YouTube and Facebook. The software even uploads your video automatically.
All movie editors help you blend your footage, audio clips and images to create new and unique videos. All of the programs we reviewed offer basic nonlinear video editing tools. Timelines, storyboards, effects, transitions, titles and audio editing are all common fare for the products we reviewed.
Likewise, they all offer multiple editing tracks in your timeline. Some offer as few as six tracks, while others offer up to 100. Others don't limit how many tracks your video project can have. It may seem like a trivial distinction, since most small projects won't require you to use more than a few tracks – they may even take just one or two. But complex projects require more editing tracks, and more tracks give you more flexibility and precise control over what appears on the screen and when. You may not need infinite editing tracks, but you will eventually feel the restrictive effects of applications that limit the number of tracks to just a few or a dozen.
Video editing software doubles as video effects software. The effects libraries of movie editors are quite important. These preprogrammed enhancements include simple filters and transitions as well as more complex ones like particle effects and animation tools.
The number of effects you get with Windows video editing software varies. Some offer fewer than 100 effects, while others offer hundreds. There's even a video editing program with more than 1,500 effects. However, an effects library that exceeds 500 objects is usually sufficient for any project produced at the consumer level.
Ease of Use
The truth about video editing software is that you could load your footage into any of the products we reviewed and achieve roughly the same (or at least similar) results. The question for the novice video editor becomes which simple video editor best serves his or her needs.
To answer that question, we tested each application's tools, built test projects, and analyzed workflows and common tasks. We compiled data from these tests to determine an application's usability score. This rating simply refers to how easy it is to use the tools and features of the program to their fullest potential.
Simple video editor programs have an easy or basic mode for beginners. These modes are distinct from the familiar timeline and storyboard modes. Easy video editing software has modes that often reduce editing to its most basic concepts and tools.
Some movie editing software goes beyond beginner modes to make the process easier. Many of the programs we reviewed scan your media and create a video for you automatically. This tool is great for small or large amounts of footage. The best video editing software for Windows manipulates your automatic video after it has been compiled.
The availability of basic themes and templates is also important for easy video editing software. You can build simple as well as more advanced projects by customizing templates for topics such as a child's birthday party, a vacation highlight reel, or even mock movie trailers starring you, your family and your friends. They not only produce high-quality results, but they help you learn and polish your video editing skills.
Once your video project is finished and ready to share, Windows video editing software gives you plenty of options. All applications export your project into a video file. This option usually gives you the most control over the size, frame rate and other details.
The best video editing programs for Windows easily export your film to popular file formats such as MP4, MOV, AVI and WMV. Normally, the software has presets for each format. However, there is little reason to export it to more than seven or eight of the most common formats.
All the video creation software we reviewed has at least some capacity to optimize your videos to share on sites like YouTube and Facebook. The best applications upload your finished videos directly from their export menus.
Since people are watching, storing and sharing videos on mobile devices, it has become increasingly important for a video editing program to export finished videos directly to these devices. Nearly all the movie editing software we reviewed has this ability to some degree. The best programs have companion mobile apps that you can sync with their desktop counterparts, making the transfer of data faster and more secure.
The disc authoring tools are another essential feature to consider if you intend to distribute DVDs or Blu-ray discs of your video. The authoring options can be quite extensive, such as inserting chapter markers, building disc menus and including extra features just like the Hollywood movies you buy in retail stores. The best video editor software for Windows gives you a lot of options in this area.
Help & Support
No matter how simple these video clip editors become, video editing is difficult and time-consuming. There will be times when you need help, especially if you have limited experience. This help can come in the form of online chat, FAQs, a knowledgebase or free tutorials.
The most useful tool a manufacturer can offer is a community dedicated to video editing. These are places where editors can share, learn and collaborate. The potential usefulness of these communities is significant, especially for editors refining their skills.
Video Editing Software: What We Tested, 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 companies in our review had no input or influence over our test methodology, nor was the methodology provided to any of them in more detail than is available through reading our reviews. Results of our evaluations were not provided to the companies in advance of publication.
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 users of the video editing software we reviewed are not professionals. So, it’s important that all the tools and features be accessible, understandable and learnable for the average user. In our usability test, we evaluated the interface of each product and tracked how easy it is to perform basic tasks. We found that all the products in our review are relatively simple to use, given the proper time to learn their specific workflows.
Timing – Creating videos can be a very time-consuming process. We used each of the programs to create an identical test project. We timed how long it took our video editor to complete this task. We found that once you learn how each program works, it should only take you 10 to 20 minutes to edit 30 seconds of video using any of the editing programs on our side-by-side comparison chart.
Quality – The quality of your finished video should be as crisp and clear as possible. 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. Others had significant problems that were noticeable and distracting to the viewer. Each video editor for Windows was given a letter grade (A being the highest and F being the lowest) based on this expert evaluation.
Our Verdict & Recommendations
The results of our analysis are summarized below. For more detailed information, read each application's review so you can make an informed decision.
There are many good choices. You can use simple video-making software for years and be perfectly happy. Here is a recap of the programs for Windows that came out on top in our comparison:
CyberLink PowerDirector continues to top our charts, earning the Top Ten Reviews Gold Award for striking the delicate balance between usability and functionality with precision. It has all the tools that hobbyists and prosumers want, combined with an intuitive interface for the newcomer. It also has the most robust video editing community with its DirectorZone network.
Corel Video Studio has always been a great video editing program. The latest version, X9, is no exception. It offers plenty of effects, transitions and themes to satisfy casual users but contains enough sophisticated tools, such as ScoreFitter and motion-tracking settings, so more skilled editors can make something truly special.
MAGIX Movie Edit Pro is another such product: It offers some unique features, such as object-based editing, meaning that any media type can be placed on a track. That makes this movie editor one of the most flexible programs we reviewed. Plus, it offers some fun extras like the ability to create faux movie trailers. It earns the Top Ten Reviews Bronze Award.
The best video editing software for Windows is an application that expertly walks the line between usability and function. These programs cater to users of all skill levels. Even professionals use some of these applications. All the programs in our review have something positive to offer, some more than others. The real test is how well it works for your video editing projects. For more information about home video editing software, consult our articles to help you make an informed decision.