The top performers in our review are CyberLink PowerDirector 14, the Gold Award winner; MAGIX Movie Edit Pro 2016, the Silver Award winner; and Corel VideoStudio X8.5, the Bronze Award winner. Here's more on choosing software to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of these 10 applications.
Video editing software is more than simply splicing together footage. The best video editors are virtual post-production houses, complete with the ability to publish media online or author a ready-to-play disc. Video editing software is where your raw media comes together to be transformed into something greater. It's where you prepare your project for an audience. Our audiences are much larger now than they have ever been. Any video that is shared online has a potential audience of billions. But even if you have an audience of one, video editing software can help you build a video you're proud to share.
Video editing software for Windows is easier than ever to use. It doesn't matter if you've never edited video before or have rudimentary skills; these applications are increasingly intuitive and offer training and tutorials for all their tools and features. They even offer easy editing modes and automatic video creation. The best video editing applications provide you with the tools you need to make polished videos. They also educate their users and help them become better video editors.
These applications also have advanced video editing capabilities – perhaps not as powerful as those in professional video editing software – but still quite powerful. Nearly all video editing software allows you to choose between the simpler workflow of storyboard mode and the more advanced timeline mode of editing, usually allowing you to switch between the two with your edits intact. They come with a full array of preprogrammed video and audio effects, transitions, titles and much more. These tools can be useful to video editors of all skill levels. The best movie editing software helps you build your videos quickly and easily, with a minimal learning curve. It also allows you to publish your videos to online sharing sites like YouTube and Facebook. The best video editing applications even allow you to set up chapter markers, design disc menus and insert closed captions for the hearing impaired.
Some programs' tools rival their professional counterparts in terms of quality and granular control. The ability to utilize advanced features, such as multi-camera capabilities, compatibility with the latest action cameras, and customizable export options, gives you a high degree of control over the quality of the final product.
On the consumer level, the best video editor software for any person is the one they feel most comfortable using. Nearly all of the video editing applications on our side-by-side comparison chart offer a free trial of their product. Those new to video editing should try out more than one editing application to find one that meets their needs.
The best video editing software for Windows is simultaneously simple to use and offers a robust video toolset. This requires multiple editing modes. Many of the video editing applications we reviewed offer basic, intermediate and advanced editing modes. Most allow you to upgrade to premium versions that have even more tools.
You should take your own skill level into account when choosing which video editing application is right for you. If you've ever edited video before, the learning curve for any of the applications is likely about the same. If you've never edited video before but have experience in editing audio or photography, you can probably expect no problems learning even the most advanced software. But if you've never edited anything before, you could experience a tremendously frustrating learning period and would probably benefit with a program that has a basic or easy mode.
Once you're finished building your video, your export options are very important. This is one of those areas where applications must strike a balance between usability and functionality. Exported files can be configured in infinite combinations. However, a few preset options are always nice so you choose the right export setting for your project. The top video editing software allows you to export a file specifically optimized for social sharing sites like YouTube and Facebook. The best video making software can even upload your video automatically.
All movie editor software allows you to use your footage, audio clips and images to create new and unique videos. All of the video editing applications we reviewed have an array of basic non-linear video editing tools. Timelines, storyboards, effects, transitions, titles and audio editing are all common fare for each of the products we reviewed.
Likewise, they all offer multiple editing tracks in your timeline. Some only offer as few as six tracks while others offer up to 100; still, others don’t limit how many tracks your video project can have. It may seem like a trivial distinction since most small projects won't require you to use more than a few tracks – maybe even just one or two. But complex projects require more editing tracks, and more tracks give you more flexibility and precise control over what will appear on your screen and when. You may not need infinite editing tracks, but you will eventually feel the restrictive nature of applications that limit the number of tracks to just a few or a dozen.
The effects libraries of these applications are also quite important. These preprogrammed enhancements can include everything from the simple filters and transitions to particle effects and animation tools. The number of effects that come with video editing software varies. Some only offer fewer than 100 effects while others offer hundreds. There's even an application that offers more than 1,500 effects. However, an effects library that exceeds 500 objects is usually sufficient for any video project produced at the consumer level.
Ease of Use
The truth about video editing software is that you could load your footage into any of the products we reviewed and achieve roughly the same (or at least similar) results. The question for the novice video editor becomes which application best serves his or her needs. In order to answer that question, we tested each application's tools, built test projects and analyzed workflows and common tasks. We compiled data from these tests to determine the application's usability score. This simply refers to how easy it is to use the tools and features of the program to their fullest potential.
The best video editing applications have an easy or basic mode for first timers, beginners and novices. These modes are distinct from the familiar timeline and storyboard modes. Easy video editing software has modes that often reduce editing to its most basic concepts and tools.
Some applications go beyond beginner modes. Many of the video editing programs we reviewed scan your media and create a video for you automatically. This tool is great for small or large amounts of footage. The best applications allow you to manipulate your automatic video after it has been compiled.
The availability of basic themes and templates is also important for consumer-level video editing software. They allow you to build simple as well as more advanced projects by customizing templates that cover anything from a child's birthday party to a vacation highlight reel or even mock movie trailers starring you, your family and friends. They not only produce high-quality results, but they also allow the user to learn and grow their video editing skills.
When your video project is finished and ready to share, video editing software gives you plenty of options. All video editing software allows you to export your project into a video file on your computer's hard drive. This option usually gives you the most control over the size, frame rate and other details. The best video editing applications allow you to easily export it to all the popular video file formats such as MP4, MOV, AVI and WMV. Normally, the software has presets for each of the formats. However, there is little reason to export it to more than seven or eight of the most commonly used formats.
All of the video creation software we reviewed has at least some capacity to optimize your videos to share on sites like YouTube and Facebook. The best applications even allow you to upload your finished videos directly from the program's export menus.
Since people are watching, storing and sharing videos on mobile devices, it has become increasingly important for a video editing program to have the ability to export finished videos directly to these devices. Nearly all the applications we reviewed have this ability to some degree. The best programs have companion mobile apps that can be synced with their desktop/laptop counterparts, making the transfer of data faster and more secure.
The disc authoring tools in each of these products is also essential to consider if you intend to distribute DVDs or Blu-ray discs of your video. The authoring features of these applications can be quite extensive, offering the ability to insert chapter markers, build disc menus and include extra features just like the Hollywood movies that you buy in retail stores. The best video creation software gives you a lot of options in this area.
Help & Support
No matter how simple these programs become, video editing is a difficult and time-consuming task. There will be times when you need help, especially if you have limited experience. This help can come in the form of online chat, FAQs or a knowledgebase. It could also come in the form of free tutorials. Probably the most useful tool a manufacturer can offer is a community dedicated to video editing. These are places where editors can share, learn and collaborate. The potential usefulness of these communities is significant, especially for those editors growing their skills.
Top Ten Reviews seeks, whenever possible, to evaluate all products and services in hands-on tests that simulate as closely as possible the experiences of a typical consumer. The companies had no input or influence over our test methodology, nor was the methodology provided to any of them in more detail than is available through reading our reviews. Results of our evaluations were not provided to the companies in advance of publication.
In addition to evaluating the applications' editing tools, ease of use, sharing options, and help and support, we also conducted the following tests:
Usability Test – This score was compiled by an evaluation of the software's interface and workflow. We tracked how easy it is to perform common tasks such as trimming clips; placing objects on the timeline; and adding video effects, transitions, and titles. We also tested more advanced features like the chroma key (green screen) and the video stabilizer for both usability and effectiveness. We found that most of the products on our side-by-side comparison chart can be used by anyone who is willing to put in the time to learn. However, the learning curve is much steeper for some products than it is for others.
Timing Test – Video editing is usually a time-intensive task. We timed how long it took to build and export our sample video using each product in our review. We also noted long it took to install the program, import media files as well as burn the finished project to a DVD. We found most programs take from 20 minutes to half an hour to build a project with a simple video editor. Exporting the video varied quite a bit from product to product. Some took as little as 10 minutes to create a finished video while others took nearly an hour.
Quality Test – Using each software application, we created a test disc. We then had our video experts examine the test videos, searching for any imperfections in picture and sound quality. Flaws such as pixelation, compression artifact and interlacing issues can distract from the viewing experience. We found that the best programs on our lineup produced a perfect or near perfect picture when compared to the source material. Others had significant problems that were noticeable and possibly distracting for the viewer. Each product was given a letter grade (A being the highest and F being the lowest) based on this expert evaluation.
The results of our analysis are summarized in our side-by-side comparison chart. There are many good choices. You can use video making software for years and be perfectly happy. Here is a recap of the products that came out on top in our comparison:
CyberLink PowerDirector continues to top our charts, earning the Top Ten Reviews Gold Award for striking the delicate balance between usability and functionality with precision. It has all the tools that hobbyists and prosumers want, combined with an intuitive interface for the newcomer. It also has the most robust video editing community with its DirectorZone network.
Magix Movie Edit Pro 2016 is another such product: It offers some unique features, such as object-based editing, meaning that any media type can be placed on a track. That makes this video editor one of the most flexible programs we reviewed. It also offers some fun extras like the ability to create faux movie trailers. It earned the Top Ten Reviews Silver Award.
Corel Video Studio has always been a great video editing application. The latest version, X8.5, is no exception. It offers plenty of effects, transitions and themes to satisfy casual users but also contains enough sophisticated tools, such as ScoreFitter and motion tracking settings, to allow more skilled editors make something truly special.
The best video editing software for Windows is an application that expertly walks the line between usability and functionality. They are programs that cater to users of all skill levels. Even professionals use some of these applications. All of the programs on our lineup have something positive to offer, some more than others. The real test is how well it works for your video editing projects.
For more information about video editing software, consult our learning center to help you make an informed decision.