Video Editing Software Buyer's Guide - What To Look For When Buying Your Video Editor

Best Video Editing Software
Top 10 Video Editing Software (Prosumer)
If you wanna edit videos, you'll end up belonging to any of these two tribes:
  1. The amateurs
  2. The professionals
Okay. Before going into the software tech talk lemme give you this analogy:

I bet you always knew someone who had all the right conditions on his side. Maybe he came from a wealthy family, he had the good looks and was always popular. Things used to fall in his lap. And you envied the guy - you wished you were him.

However, as time passed by, this dude didn't amount to much. In fact he didn't amount to anything. He's always high, unemployed (living of his parents money) or working odd jobs without a sense of purpose or direction.

Meanwhile, you're doing something you love, you have great friends, financial independence and, above all, you're happy to be yourself. And you know you can overcome a lot more obstacles than the guy you used to envy.

What does this have to do with software? - I hear you asking.

Think about this: you'd rather be the guy who does a lot with a little than the guy who has everything in his favor and blows it.

Seriously, who would you rather be? The guy who's at ease with himself and delivers value or the rich dude who has all the toys but can't do anything productive?

Well, I see this obsession people have with the best software. They all want the best software but lemme tell you a secret: the best program won't get you anywhere. It is your content, the creative way you shoot and the way you edit - these will bring you views on YouTube (or whatever measure of success you have), not the software.

As you can tell, I'm biased towards frugality and hard work and I believe only good things can come out of it.

Amateur or pro?

If you ask me, I think I'm somewhere between the two but the truth is I'm still an amateur. I use consumer software and small cameras (occasionally a DSLR from a friend). This works very well for me but maybe because it's my nature to not over complicate things. And yes, I get paid to do videos for clients and I get cool sponsorships from gear and software companies.

Consumer programs are easy to use, yet they provide a range of features that can easily make your videos look professional. So my focus is on the content (footage) - I do my best to capture an interesting subject, then I simply edit the material on music beats. Clean cuts with no fancy effects or silly transitions.

So what I'm saying is to judge your need for an editing program trough the eyes of the amateur first. I am that amateur so if you need to ask me questions, just drop an email or a tweet (I reply to every message I receive).

But isn't free software good enough? 

Yup. It is but if you're here, you're probably already frustrated with freeware.

Hell, let me give you a cold shower: you will be frustrated even with paid software. Yup - some crash a lot or they just may not be good enough according to your standards. Relax though - they all come with a 30 days money back guarantee so don't fuss over it.

Also, computer hardware is a thing to consider: some programs won't run very well if your machine is old (or maybe they won't run at all). That's why you need to check the software's system requirements before you buy one. From my experience, I know Adobe Premiere and Sony Vegas won't run on my 2008 Dell laptop. Magix does so that's how I decided to buy it.

Take decisions based on practicality.

Who is this for

First step is defining why you need it.

If your intention is to edit holiday videos, vlogs or you simply want to make a few cuts on your raw video, then you'll be set with any in the top 10 prosumer software.

Please note that most of these editors work with the popular video formats that you might get from your device (phone or camera): MP4, MKV, MOV, MTS (AVCHD), 3GPP2, etc. So you don't need a video converter. You simply import your vids onto the timeline and start editing (that's what's gotten me to use Magix Movie Edit Pro Plus).

Stuff you can do:
  • Picture in picture (overlay media elements onto each other)
  • Slow motion
  • Time lapse (speedy playback with footage or with photos) 
  • Reverse playback
  • Using key frames (gradually applying effects to a scene) 
  • Alpha masks (applying an effect only in certain areas of the shot. example: only the upper half in back and white)
  • Chroma key (shooting with a green screen background)
  • Cropping the video (re-framing your subject by cutting out the undesired part of the shot)
  • Cropping the audio from the footage (say you have a video interview and want to convert it to MP3 so you can listen it to your iPod - I do this a lot)
  • Color grading and secondary color correction (having only the selected colors in full brightness and black and white for the rest of the image)
Advantages of using amateur editing software
  • Affordable. Yup, the lowest price is $49.99 for VideoPad and the highest price is $129.95 for Sony Movie Studio Platinum. PowerDirector (No. 1) is about $99.
  • You don't need too much hardware, even for editing HD files. I edit with Magix Movie Edit Pro Plus (ranked No. 4) on Dell 1525 Inspiron laptop - I also use a laptop cooler to prevent overheating when exporting the final version of my clip. 
  • Easy to use. The interface of most programs is fairly intuitive: a timeline, a few tabs (Import - Effects - Transitions - Titles) and 3 major workflow tabs (Edit - Burn - Export).
  • They work with most file formats
Cons for using prosumer programs
  • You won't be cool enough... Yeah, dude! If you're using Final Cut Pro (for Macs) or Adobe Premiere, you instantly rise to a high level of coolness. By the way, you'll like if you're on a Mac. 
  • You won't be able to use the premium plugins like Twixtor (for slow motion - creating extra frames with the footage) or ProDad Mercalli (for digital image stabilization). While prosumer software offers slow motion it's based on the actual frame rate of the footage - so you need high fps to render slow motion smoothly.
  • You don't have all the features like motion tracking or image distort (make wide angle footage look straight), etc.
Wanna be a pro?

Professional Video Editing Software
Professional Video Editing Software
Now, if you're serious about editing and wanna do this professionally, you might as well start with pro tools and pro software.

The learning curve will be steep indeed but once you get the gist of it, you'll be up there with the exclusive community of pros who bathe in glory (and of course they get all the hot girls...).

If I were to outline the most important reason to be working with professional programs is to have a common ground and a common language with the rest of the pros. You can't be dabbling with consumer software if you're working elbow to elbow with a pro.

You need to be able to exchange files, templates and you have to model your workflow to match your mentor's style. (You gotta get yourself a mentor if you wanna be a pro.)

The second reason would be to get the maximum out of the footage. I'm talking about dynamic range and color grading, or creating those ultra slow motion sequences with Twixtor, etc.

You can shoot a boring looking scene in a forest with your Red Epic camera (dude, you rock if you have access to that kind of gear!) and make it look like a fantastic and mysterious place by adjusting the colors in Adobe After Effects.

Wrapping up

Getting hung up on the best software is silly.

You need to ask yourself this: Do I wanna be a pro or just an amateur? Decide and act accordingly.

Either way, you'll find joy in the creative process: scripting, shooting, editing. You then publish, share and the glory comes as a byproduct (regardless of the software).

So get on with it. Create awesome content and tell your story. That's what we're all waiting for.

Drop a link to your YouTube channel in the comments and let's connect.

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  1. i've seen good work done by amateurs. your videos are awesome for an amateur.

  2. You have provided great information in this post. Thank you. I currently use Windows Live Movie Maker. As of late, I've been doing a lot of cutting of videos and moving parts around. In doing so, I've had to deal with no sound, no video, and a not saying files are missing. This has become frustrating, putting me in the market for another program. Also one where I can crop out parts of the video.

    I'm interested in the Magix program you mentioned. What is the difference between the regular and the Plus version? Thanks for any help you can provide

    1. Hi Julia!

      I've only been using the Plus version for Magix Movie Edit Pro so I can't speak for other versions.

      This is how you can do video cropping in Magix. Also check out my full list of Magix tutorials here.

      Let me know if this helps. Cheers!


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