Today, the video editing industry sometimes seems polarized. You’re either a 20-year industry vet adding after-effects to the latest Disney
blockbuster flop, or you’re an unemployed college graduate posting six-second Vine videos on Twitter. So much for the movie-making middle class.
But wait: there’s still hope! At FindTheBest, we know you’re tired of iPhone birthday videos and dinner parties spliced together on an HTC One. Here are some of the best entry and intermediate offerings on the market today. Lights… camera…
Best Free Video Editors
Like a shot-glass-sized sample at a coffeehouse, these freebies will provide a quick thrill, but probably leave you wanting more. Still, compared to a lot of the free drivel out there, they’re suitable starting points. Linux runs them all, while Lightworks works on Windows and Kdenlive is compatible with Mac.
Keep in mind: Almost all free video editors (including these three) are open source, meaning they are built and maintained by people all over the world, with the source code available to everyone. If you’re a closet programmer, you’ll love the flexibility. You may, however, miss the polish and customer support of proprietary alternatives from companies like Apple and Adobe.
Best Web-Based / Online Video Editors
Don’t want to bother with a space-clogging download or multi-step installation? Consider these web-based video editors, ideal for making a few extra tweaks before uploading to YouTube or emailing video clips to the family. WeVideo is light and simple, while FORscene offers a bit more complexity and a broader toolset.
Keep in mind: Cloud-based video editors come with some significant trade-offs. While convenient and easy to set up, these solutions can’t support the advanced adjustments and processing-intensive features found in downloadable alternatives. Consider these options for simple tasks like arranging clips and adding music, rather than for advanced video effects or top-tier sound editing.
Best Mobile Video Editors
You know the story. Your buddy Ross posts a sloppy, 45-second video from his backpacking trip, with gale force winds whipping up against the microphone of his iPhone 3GS.
Do him a favor and buy him one of these handy, mobile video editors (you’ll have to buy him a new phone too…iMovie for iOS only works on the iPhone 4 and later). These apps may be under-featured compared to the desktop versions, but you’ll thank yourself after Ross has subbed out the hurricane-grade noisiness with some dubbed-over narration.
Keep in mind: Mobile video editing is on the rise, but for now, it’s still the second-rate fallback. If your 10-year plan is to join the post-production team for Star Wars Episode 19: Jar Jar Strikes Back, look for a more mature, desktop-grade option. Also note that these two apps are available exclusively for Windows and iOS, respectively.
Best Intermediate Video Editors
You’ve just shot a superb film at the beach starring Max, your labrador retriever. You don’t mean to brag, but with crisp audio and three more transitions, you’d be ready to pitch the footage as the cold open for Man of Steel 2. The problem is, you’re just not ready to put the time or money into a Hollywood standard like Adobe Premiere Pro or Apple Final Cut Pro.
These three “prosumer” options are your solution. They all allow for a bit of advanced editing, but without the overwhelming complexity of Spielberg-quality software. Experts praise all three for bringing pro-level tools to novice video editors, and at a reasonable price ($100 and under).
Keep in mind: Even mid-level video editors like these have fairly extensive feature sets. Drop the $100 only if you plan to learn the full system. To help you along the way, prosumer editors will typically come with hours of tutorial content (just be prepared for an impossibly chipper rep to remind you that “the tutorial video you’re watching was edited by the VERY SAME program you’re using now!” at least 17 times.)
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So get going. Max is waiting.
Ready for his big break.
This article was written for TIME by Ben Taylor of FindTheBest.