cheapy but goody video editing software?
May 21, 2020 1:32 PM   Subscribe

I am in the market for a cheap, easy-to-use, non-iMovie video editing software program. Does this even exist?

Hello friends.

13 years ago, I was a freelance video editor and an expert in Final Cut Pro. Life got in the way (the rent was too damn high and I needed more money) so I switched career paths. That being said, I have been tasked with a cool video project during my COVID-19 unemployment and I want to know if there is a free or inexpensive video editing software that I can obtain to do this project. (It's low-budget and low-stakes - we're not making a feature film here.) I no longer have an editing rig (sold years ago). I do have a MacBook Air.

I could use iMovie, but frankly I kinda hate it (I edited my best friend's wedding video with it and it was a nightmare). Final Cut Pro has fallen out of fashion (and I wouldn't be able to use it with my MacBook Air anyway).

The video is going to be filmed using phones (it's basically a sample video for a friend who is offering remote music lessons). The phones are both the most recent iPhone that is known for having a good camera. So these video files are going to be delivered to me via email.

I don't need anything particularly sophisticated but I would love to
a) not use iMovie
b) not use an Adobe product (the learning curve is too high for me and honestly the cost is not worth it for what the project is)
c) have something low cost with a low learning curve so I can just bang this out for him in a few days

If iMovie is my best bet, I will grudgingly accept that. But if there's something better out there I'm not aware of, I'd love to hear suggestions.

posted by nayantara to Technology (10 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
It's not for the Mac platform but VirtualDub is free and pretty powerful. Luckily since you have an Intel Mac, you could install Windows on it via Bootcamp and just boot into Windows when you wanted to edit video. I've used it myself for various basic things and it works well and the learning curve isn't too steep.

On the Mac side of things, I've heard good stuff about KdenLive but can't personally vouch for it.
posted by signsofrain at 1:39 PM on May 21 [1 favorite]

I haven't used Shotcut on a mac and it's probably on the simplistic end of the spectrum, but it's worked decently enough for the things I needed. I had zero editing experience and found it mostly intuitive and quick to learn. Lack of experience also means I can't really compare to other software, though. (ETA: it's free, open source, and cross-platform.)
posted by trig at 2:08 PM on May 21 [2 favorites]

DaVinci Resolve is the free version of their full-fledge Studio product, but it can still do a lot. Scroll down to the bottom of the page for downloads. Available for WIndows, MacOS, and Linux. May be demanding on your hardware, but its free so you can try it out.
posted by Animus at 2:24 PM on May 21 [8 favorites]

Came to suggest DaVinci, If you've messed with video editing before the learning curve should not be bad, and the company seems committed to providing a free version that's basically the pro version minus corporate features.
posted by sammyo at 2:31 PM on May 21 [1 favorite]

Yeah, if you were a Final Cut Pro 7 expert I can't imagine you'll have much trouble adapting to Resolve. It has its quirks, but there are a lot (a lot) of helpful forums and tutorials, assuming you have reasonably good Google fingers for troubleshooting purposes. My biggest complaint is the system for titles -- you can do simple titles quite easily, but if you get into anything even mildly complicated there is a big learning curve in my experience.

If your MacBook Air has trouble chugging through your full-quality video files, Resolve has a built-in proxy system that generates "Optimized Media" for you to work on in real time and then conforms to the originals for output. It's pretty slick.

Another thing to consider might be that Final Cut Pro X has a 90-day free trial. I mean, a lot of people hate FCP X, but also a lot of people use it every day, and it's gotta beat iMovie. Also: 90-day free trial.
posted by Mothlight at 2:42 PM on May 21

Just wanted to add to the above ^^^: Final Cut Pro X is obviously optimized for Mac hardware, so if performance is a consideration it might be the best way to squeeze the most responsiveness from your MacBook Air, so I might try that first.
posted by Mothlight at 2:47 PM on May 21

DaVinci Resolve (mentioned above) is what the fanvid makers are currently recommending to newbies - the free version has a good set of features. They warn that it's got a somewhat steep learning curve, but there are some tutorials.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 4:33 PM on May 21

I'm using Kdenlive to make a movie with my grand kids. I find it easy to learn and use. We are shooting it with low tech Sony Mavica floppy digital.
posted by JohnR at 5:49 PM on May 21 [1 favorite]

Realizing that Adobe products were off limits in your original ask, Premiere will probably feel more like the old FCP you were used to. I used FCP for about 13 years before moving over to Premiere four years ago, and the learning curve wasn't that bad. It looks like Adobe offers a free 30 day trial, or if you want to "subscribe" to it on a month to month basis, it's about $30/month.

I have a lot of great things to say about FCPX, but it is absolutely nothing like the old FCP.

Also, I'm right there with you on iMovie. Years ago a friend asked me for help using iMovie and it kind of broke my brain. :)
posted by bstreep at 7:32 PM on May 21

Filmora from Wondershare is very inexpensive and should be able to do what you need,
posted by davidmsc at 10:31 PM on May 21 [1 favorite]

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