Best Free Video Editor Roundup

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MoGFX

Sorry for the long post, but if you want to use VideoPad you need to read this. I have been extensively evaluating VideoPad 3.61 and really like its featureset and intuitive editing, but it doesn't live up to the hype in a couple of key areas:

1. Since that is what this article is about: VideoPad is NOT free, it will disable the export (=render) function after a couple of uses, crippling the program. Even when you purchase it you will only get free upgrades to incremental versions (e.g. 3.74) for 3 months from purchase, after that it's $50 a pop (with discount). There is talk about completely disabling exporting in 3.7x trial versions, which makes the whole thing useless, you can't even evaluate render quality in future versions. Workaround: download 3.61 NOW, image Windows, unplug network, reinstall VP every time the demo cripples itself, reinstall image when done, plug network back in.

2. The makers seem to be of the surveillance state/always online DRM mindset: the demo incessantly tries to phone home/upsell you on their other packages, during install, in lots of GUI elements, downloads encoders on demand rather than including them (forcing you to be online and your usage to get logged), wants to report to the mothership on crashes, uninstall, demo timeout, background version check, anti-piracy measures against duplicate installs (which also limits reinstalls to twice a year) and that's just what I found during a two week evaluation and reading a couple of forum messages. Workaround: image Windows, unplug network, reinstall image when done, plug network back in. This is the single reason they have lost me as a customer.

3. They advertise with being one of the fastest, but the x264enc5.exe used for H.264 encoding for some unknown reason occasionally falls back to running single threaded (i.e. on a single core of a multicore CPU), which tremendously slows progress (can take around 10 hours for a movie sized HD project to render on a fast system with SSD storage).

4. VideoPad does not do stream copy, i.e. it always rerenders every single frame, even if you keep the resolution and framerate - at least with the targets I tested (main profile H.264 source data is either recompressed to simple profile (MPEG4) or high profile (H.264, with different CABAC settings than the source AND slightly different settings from what YouTube would like (3 vs. 2 B-frames)). This is a giant loss as on the one side it would cut down renders to seconds from hours spent recompressing every frame (even with a single SATA2 SSD at 250 MB/s, an 8 GB video with just cuts and no effects could render in about half a minute instead of several hours) and on the other side it would mean no quality loss (for YT upload the quality loss is doubled, once during VP render, once during YT rerender because of the different (fixed) CABAC/GOP settings - it also means up to several hours extra for YT to rerender and your video be available online of course). In this respect there is no reason to stick with VP compared to truly free and perhaps just as powerful alternatives like OpenShot, Blender, KDEnlive, etc.

5. It's buggy:

a) crashes regularly. This also slows down work tremendously since after a crash it usually doesn't recognize its own cache files (~3 GB on movie project) and has to rebuild them on reopening the project, blocking editing for minutes at a time. It was however not losing any editing progress, which is nice. It also has a button for deleting unused cache files, so there is no need for manual cleanup after a crash.

b) doesn't multitask very well: on rebuilding the cache, adding new clips and transitions it renders the internal low res representation for the preview in the background at 100% CPU but doesn't yield properly for continued editing or previewing, sometimes blocking the whole GUI into a freezecrash (sound keeps playing, or loops). Sometimes you can continue editing but the preview window will switch to a static 'building preview' image which never catches up in case of quick transitions. There is apparently no intelligence built in to prioritize transitions to/from and keep already rendered previews of segments you are working on, in my case I just had to wait 15 minutes for everything to rebuild after every crash before I could start editing again. If that is quickly followed by another crash things get frustrating rather quickly. Just to be clear, I had no shortage of storage and over 2 GB unused RAM left at any given time.

c) introduces stuttering in final render if you add keyframes to effects, i.e. video plays perfectly smooth if you just add a text overlay but if you make the text fade in/out the video in the background will stutter for the entire duration of the text overlay. Workaround: no effects. Stuttering can also be observed for a few instances of standard transitions like fade to white, haven't found a pattern or workaround for that. Presumably the transition adds its own keyframes which you have no control over apart from duration.

d) introduces variable framerates in otherwise constant framerate source video when adding standalone empty/text clips (e.g. average framerate drops from 25 to 24.987284), which may cause file to be rejected as malformed by online services expecting a recognizable or constant framerate. Workaround: don't add introductory text or ending credits on their own, you have to overlay everything on playing video (that includes images interspersed in the video). If you need a blank background, record a (coloured) sheet of paper at close range, or darkness with the lens capped for a few seconds, then copy paste the clip as many times as needed.

e) issues with precision: the editor timeline has millisecond resolution but doesn't force alignment to frame boundaries, like every 40 ms for 25 fps source. Workaround: you have to check every single cut/transition for frame alignment manually (both for in/out boundaries for sections you lift from source clips and for placement of those sections on the main sequence). Workaround: use an easily divisible framerate, 25 fps is a nice 40 ms per frame, so every second is always a frame boundary (but half a second is not, 480 and 520 ms are!). Yet another reason NTSC is awful (29.97 fps..).

If you can live with the frequent crashes, unplugged network, long renders and limitations outlined above, it's still a fantastic editor, I really do like it. Shame there is no Linux version.

Personal opinion: Vegas should be avoided because of Sony (string of evil that ranges from rootkits on music CDs to manufacturing chips for the optics of guided bombs that have been dropped on women and children in Gaza). Lets not even mention Microsoft.

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TheRyGuy

Thank you, Ben! This really came in handy. I used the VideoPad to apply a high-pass filter. You rock!

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Shalbatana

I too was surprised and impressed with both the cheaper version of Vegas and Lightworks. For the latter, I didn't expect that much pro content out of a free system. Agreed that the online only restriction is overkill. After using it, I almost bought the full version just to get the added features, which once one gets used to the goofy project structure could rival FCP, Avid and Premiere for most work.

Vegas on the other hand is perfectly capable and competent.

I will certainly give videopad a try. Don't think I've ever even heard of it. Having a real semi-pro backup edit system, especially a free one that you can install on any machine (because it's free, is a great thing.

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jtrpop

A good resource for Vegas training is Bill Myers https://www.youtube.com/user/guerillabill
He has nice short topical tutorials. Even if you have a different version of Vegas, or the tutorial is for Vegas Pro, most of the features overlap another so it's not totally version specific.

The other thing that impresses me with Vegas is it's selection and quality of renders. I've played with so many different converters, codecs and settings, and the ones Vegas has dialed in make for fantastic quality renders. In the pro-sumer realm, only Adobe trumps it.

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dgrmouse

Good link. Thanks for sharing.

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maxeeemum

Thanks Ben!

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Rebel_X

VirtualDub + FFmpeg/mp4/mkv plugins (to be able to save in mkv container format) is the best imo.

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gamingwithnetbooks

You failed to mention that Movie Maker on Win7 completely ignores your video bitrate settings and instead does whatever the heck it wants for H.264 videos (which it can export).

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RUSENSITIVESWEETNESS

This article couldn't have come at a better time—I need something that can remove camera shake from videos. Something that could remove the original ambient recorded sounds would be great, so music added later doesn't have competition. The ability to add text would be a plus. And simple effects, such as transitions, would be swell.

By the way, I hate when you guys pimp Microsoft products, listing them first. You're probably contractually obligated to do so, but it's so obvious, consistent, and undeserved.

You forget to mention that M$ gimped Movie Maker that only the Windows 8 version has any worthwhile features. Try removing camera shake on a Windows 7 machine.

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jtrpop

It's best to pay the $40 or so and get Sony Vegas Movie Studio Suite. I've used & own expensive editing software too for personal & professional use, but for the money this is easily the best editing & disc authoring package around. http://amzn.to/1pa3JcZ

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dgrmouse

100% agree, jtrpop. Lightworks is tremendously capable, but the annoying online-only DRM (even in the free version) is a huge deterrent.

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CantankerousDave

Sony also has frequent deals on Vegas Pro, its big brother. I bought a combo with several companion programs from NewEgg for $200 or $250 last year, which ain't bad at all for Premiere's closest competitor.

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jtrpop

I have considered going to Vegas Pro for a while now, and that is indeed a good deal. I know Vegas Pro has some compositing , but not sure how it compares to After Effects (which is a spectacular product). Do you know how Vegas Pro's compositing compares to After Effects?

I like Adobe Premiere & After Effects, and while they are superior products, they are very cost prohibitive, and can have a steep learning curve. If anyone wants to get into video editing, Vegas Movie Studio is the perfect piece of software for the price whose techniques can carry into more advanced suites such as Adobe's.

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RUSENSITIVESWEETNESS

The Suite is $108. Platinum is $56. Studio is $30.

The Education/Nonprofit version of the Suite is around $54.

Which version are you talking about?

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jtrpop

Did you click the link I provided? Sony Movie Studio Platinum Suite 12 (full retail boxed) $39.99. The newest version is 13, but 12 is still spectacular and at a great discount. I still run version 10 and did a professional side project just last month with it.

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RUSENSITIVESWEETNESS

No, I did not. Thanks.

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AFDozerman

No Kdenlive?