Macs and video editors have long been up a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G. Professionals were editing in Avid back in the late 1980s, and iMovie debuted in 1999 alongside the FireWire-enabled iMac DV.
Today’s Macs are much more powerful than their ancestors, and that means even free apps are capable of doing some amazing things with video. It’s surprising how much you can do without spending any money: in some cases the only difference between free apps and their extremely expensive siblings is a handful of features only pro editors will need. That’s a smart business strategy; the tinkerers of today could be the pros of tomorrow.
There’s one editor we’re disappointed not to include: VideoLAN Movie Creator(VLMC). It’s based on the VLC editor – one of our must-have apps – but it’s still in alpha, which means it’s not reliable enough or finished enough for prime time just yet.
If you want a video editing software that you can use even if you don’t have much experience (and you plan on growing as a video editor while using it), then Final Cut Pro X is well worth your consideration. It may take a few tutorial videos to really get yourself ready to start doing much, but once you get your feet wet, you can do basic editing and learn more and more advanced tricks over time.
While Final Cut Pro X is a professional video editing tool, it’s approachable enough for hobbyist videographers to get on board with. And it has a bit more reasonable price than some of the other serious pro video editing software. As a pro software, it comes packed with handy features to help you realize your vision.
The latest version of Final Cut Pro X has the multi-track timeline needed for editing but brings in the future of video and pro features. It supports 360-degree video, graphics, and effects. You can edit together video from multi-cam recording setups and easily switching between multiple angles. And, you can create HDR content. That’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Apple offers a free trial so you can see if this one is up your alley before you dive all the way in.
Most Accessible Apple editor: Apple iMovie
If you really just want to get started editing videos on your Mac, or even on your iPhone or iPad, then the easiest way is to get Apple iMovie. This is Apple’s free video editing software, and it runs on both Mac OS and iOS platforms, so you can do you video editing just about wherever you go.
For hobbyist and amateur filmmakers, Apple iMovie will have approachable tools to help you easily take your footage and edit a video with a clear flow. You’ll be able to combine multiple video files, layer different video and audio tracks, and add title screens to your video without much fuss. It even includes video filters and some special effects, including picture-in-picture.
The latest version of Apple iMovie keeps up with the trends in video, supporting 4K video editing. So, all that 4K video you capture on your iPhone can be turned into a movie in iMovie. If you haven’t done video editing before, this is a good place to get started before moving on to more serious software.
Best for Pros: Adobe Premiere Pro CC
Adobe’s Premiere Pro CC (Creative Cloud) software is a powerful video editor for professionals putting out movies, short films, and the like. Of course, it’s also a viable option for hobbyists looking to sharpen their teeth on a video editor that gets used in professional positions. If you’re not trying to go professional with your editing quite yet, you may want to check out the next pick.
Adobe Premiere Pro CC is a constantly evolving video editing software, as Adobe rolls out updates over time. Rather than buying a single edition of the software, you pay for a subscription as long as you’re using it. An added perk is that the software isn’t exclusive to Mac, so you can switch between different computers with different operating systems if you need to.
That subscription gives you access to Premiere Pro for editing all sorts of video, from 3D and even 8K. You’ll also be able to handle audio tracks, add graphics, manage light and color, and effectively put together whatever video you can imagine. If you use Adobe’s other software, like Photoshop or Illustrator, then Premiere Pro will be a great option for easily integrating different workflows.
Easiest-to-Use Cross-Platform Editor: Adobe Premiere Elements 2018
Adobe Premiere Elements 2018 is almost exactly what it sounds like. It’s a stripped down version of the pro Premiere software. This does make it a little less capable, and new features aren’t constantly rolling out to it, but it works as an easily approachable video editing software for those just getting started. And, without a subscription model, you can pay for the software once and you’re set.
If you’re an amateur just getting started with video editing, and especially if you’re not planning on going pro, then Premiere Elements 2018 will be an excellent pick for you. While Premiere Elements does give you plenty of tools for putting together multiple video, image, and audio files into one complete video, it also has some tools to help you make a better video if you’re not a savvy editor already. Plus, the software is available on both Mac and PC.
Premier Elements 2018 helps you organize the files you’ll be using in your video, and it can guide you through the editing process from beginning to end. It will also let you add in some fun little effects to spice up your video. And, in keeping with the times, it supports 4K video.
Best Open-Source Software: Shotcut
Shotcut is highly versatile free video editing software available on Mac and PC. Once you get past the somewhat steep learning curve, you’ll find you can do quite a lot with Shotcut. And, since it’s a free software, you have the option of seeing whether or not you like it without having to pay a cent.
Shotcut is a multi-track editing software like any other serious software, and you can readily rearrange the workspace to suit your editing needs. Shotcut supports a wide variety of file types for both input and output, including 4K video. Plus, you can edit audio, color, and lighting effects in Shotcut.
Though Shotcut isn’t the easiest software to just pick up and start editing videos with, the nature of being a free software means plenty of people are using it and making incredibly helpful tutorial videos or guides on how to use it. And, if you want a readily portable option, Shotcut is it, since you can run it directly off an external storage drive.
Best Starter Freeware: Lightworks
Lightworks blends the offerings of a free editing software with a paid one. Compared to Shotcut, it has an easier learning curve, but some of the features that you’ll want may be part of the paid Lightworks Pro version, such as the ability to export your final product in more video formats and higher resolutions.
Whether or not you need the free or paid versions is a question you can answer for yourself later on though, as either will let you import a wide range of file formats, easily edit together multiple files, manage your audio, add titles, and tweak your visuals.
The free version of Lightworks will be a fine option for anyone who isn’t concerned much about video resolution, as you’ll still be able to output web-ready 720p videos. But, if you try out Lightworks, like how it works, and want to stick with it as your video editor of choice, you can upgrade to the Pro software and start putting out high-quality video. Plus, Lightworks is available on Windows, Mac, and Linux, so you’ll be able to stick with Lightworks even if you stop using a Mac later on.
Best Freeware: DaVinci Resolve 15
If you’re ready to get started editing all kinds of videos and putting out the final product in a high-quality, 4K format without having to pay a cent to do so, then DaVinci Resolve 15 is a great option. While there is a paid Studio version, you’ll really only need to go with that if you’re planning to do some collaboration or want access to a few of the software’s more advanced tools and effects.
For the most part, DaVinci Resolve 15 is going to give you plenty of functionality to take your footage, organize it with data to help you find what you need, and edit it all together. Once you’re done, you can output in just about any format you need, whether you want the highest quality or something that’s ready to upload quickly to YouTube.
If you want a video editing software you can get serious with, then DaVinci Resolve 15 fits the bill. It’s just a bonus that the free version is so capable because it’ll give you a chance to try it for yourself and see if it feels like something you can really use.
Best for Tutorial and Presentation Videos: Camtasia
Camtasia is particularly handy if you’re planning to make videos that will use footage captured from your computer screen. That’s because it’s a screen recorder and video editor built into one product.
With Camtasia, you’ll be able to record the screen and audio of your computer or even your iOS device. If you’re putting together tutorial videos, this capability will be incredibly useful. Plus, you have the option of adding webcam footage on top of the screen-captured video.
Beyond screen-capture, Camtasia also gives you multi-track timeline editing and tools for transitions, animations, audio and video effects, and annotations. If you want to make a presentation video, you can also add in a PowerPoint. So, whether you’re an educator, business professional, or just trying to put some tutorials up on YouTube, Camtasia offers tools you can use to capture and edit the video you need. A free trial will give you a chance to see if its tool and features a good fit for you.