With the increasing power of personal computers, video editing software lets budding filmmakers and YouTube entrepreneurs produce studio-quality videos right from their homes. The best software offers advanced editing features like motion tracking, image stabilization, and color balancing as well as transitions, impressive video effects, titles, and audio synching.
We looked at over a dozen video editing platforms and chose the best based on features, ease-of-use, access to advanced filter and sound libraries, and more. Here are our top picks.
The 8 Best Video Editing Software of 2021
Best Overall: Adobe Premiere Pro
Based on offline video editing software ReelTime that was developed in 1991, Adobe Premiere Pro is a professional-level digital video editing program that has been used to edit major feature films, including Deadpool, Gone Girl and Terminator Dark Fate. We chose it as the best overall because it offers the most powerful HD editing features and is an essential tool that anyone seeking a career in video production needs to learn due to its wide industry use.
Premiere Pro is an impressive editing tool that offers advanced video support for 360 VR content and 4K and HDR video. It features the Lumetri Color tool, which lets users adjust and manipulate colors on par with Photoshop. Premiere Pro offers easy integrations with other Adobe Creative Cloud products like Photoshop for image editing, After Effects for special effects, and Team for cloud collaboration.
Premiere Pro makes it easy to import from just about any video format, including tapes, cameras, DSLR, GoPro, or iPhone. It can handle any number of video tracks and even edit multicam sequences using its clean non-linear editing interface.
Premiere Pro makes it easy to edit and sync audio, add sound effects, and “duck” music or ambiance during dialogue with a single click. Users can also add polished and professional titles, graphics, and animations that were previously only available in After Effects.
Premiere Pro is available for Windows and Mac computers and comes with a seven-day free trial. Pricing is subscription-based and costs $20.99 per month with an annual commitment, or $31.49 per month for a monthly plan. A subscription comes with free version upgrades, 100GB of cloud storage, Premiere Rush, Adobe Portfolio, Adobe Fonts, and Adobe Spark.
Runner-Up, Best Overall: Adobe Premiere Elements
A scaled-down version of Adobe Premiere Pro, Premiere Elements is tailored to novice editors and consumers. We chose it as our runner-up since it offers many of the bells and whistles as Premier Pro but is a little easier to use for editors trying to gain experience quickly.
Premiere Elements offers a clear and simple interface along with a host of automated video editing features including motion tracking, smart toning, and video stabilization. Beginners can take advantage of the software’s Guided Edits, which literally walks them through quick edits and advanced projects.
Premiere Elements includes a library of 50 musical scores and 250 sound effects and automatically remixes any music file to match the length of a movie. Users can also add motion titles, cinematic styles, and effects that move with the action to give their videos effects that pro filmmaker pop.
Finally, Premiere Elements makes it easy to make animated social posts and upload movies to YouTube, Vimeo, or a website. Movies can be exported directly to export iPads, 4K and HD TVs, and more.
Premiere Elements is available for Windows and Mac computers and comes with a 30-day free trial. Adobe offers Premiere Elements for a one-time purchase of $99.99 or bundled with Photoshop Elements for $149.
Best for Beginners: Corel VideoStudio Ultimate
Released in 2004 by Ulead, a developer of digital imaging software, VideoStudio was purchased two years later by the makers of CorelDRAW. It has since grown into a sophisticated video editing product that competes with Adobe. We chose it as the best for beginners because of its simple and well-designed interface that helps new users get started right away.
VideoStudio Ultimate makes it quick, easy, and fun to make videos without complex controls and tools. Despite its ease-of-use, it packs in a lot of features normally found in more professional video editing software. These include multicam editing, 4K and 360-degree VR video support, music and sound effects library, audio ducking, image stabilization, and over 2,000 effects and filters.
Users also benefit from VideoStudio Ultimate’s LUT (lookup table) profiles that make it easy to add advanced cinematic color effects and match footage from one color space to another. The software offers access to premium effects from other platforms, including NewBlueFX, BorisFX, and proDAD.
VideoStudio Ultimate is available as a download for Windows computers at a cost of $99 and comes with a 30-day free trial.
Best for Intuitive Use: Filmora9
Launched in 2015 by Chinese technology company Wondershare, Filmora9 is one of the new kids on the block in the world of video editing. However, it has steadily climbed through the ranks and proven itself as one of the simplest high-quality video editing platforms available. We chose it as the best for intuitive use since it offers an optional drag-and-drop interface with plenty of features for novice users.
Filmora9 offers many of the standard trimming, transitions, overlays, and effects found in most video editing software. Users looking for more professional-grade features like motion tracking, multicam, and 360-degree video support won’t find them here. However, Filmora does offer 4K editing, color tuning, and social importing as well as an impressive title tool. It also features a small library of royalty-free music.
Filmora9 has a fun “easy mode” drag-and-drop editor for creating simple videos quickly. Users simply upload a video or photos, select a theme, and choose or upload background music. The software will automatically create transitions based on the theme and import the video in one of a dozen formats.
Filmora9 is available for both Windows and Mac systems and offers a seven-day free trial with three pricing plans:
- $39.99 per year for Windows ($44.99 per year for Mac)
- Free updates
- Videos not watermarked with Filmora logo
- Free Tech Support
- $69.99 (Windows and Mac)
- All Annual Plan features
Annual Bundle Plan
- $99.87 per year for Windows ($104.87 per year for Mac)
- All Lifetime Plan features
- Unlimited downloads from the Filmstocks Standard Library
- New effects every month
Best Features: CyberLink PowerDirector
PowerDirector was released in 2001 by Taiwanese multimedia software company CyberLink, which has often been ahead of trends in professional video editing software by supporting new formats and technologies, including 4K and 360-degree VR video. We chose it for the best features because it offers more native capabilities than any of the software we reviewed while still remaining accessible to beginners.
PowerDirector gives users all the advanced editing features found in pro editing software, including image stabilization and video correction tools, professional effects, multicam editing, motion tracking, audio scrubbing, and more. Users also get access to new design packs and music and sound effect clips every month, something other platforms offer as extra add-ons.
Although PowerDirector has all the features serious video editors need, it provides tutorials for beginners and an Express Projects tool that makes it easy to create professional videos with premade templates complete with effects, titles, and transitions. Finally, PowerDirector offers lightning-fast rendering and imports and exports just about any format for fast and fun editing.
PowerDirector is available for both Windows and Mac systems and offers two one-time licenses and two subscription pricing options, all with a 30-day free trial:
PowerDirector 19 Ultra
- Cloud storage: 25GB/1 year
- Basic video editing
- Premium plug-ins & effects: 5 pre-loaded packs
- Background music & sound clips: 50 pre-loaded tracks & 100 clips
- Third-party plug-ins & effects: 2 packs
PowerDirector 19 Ultimate
- All PowerDirector 18 Ultra features
- Advanced video editing
- Professional format video import
- Premium plug-ins & effects: 6 packs
- Third-party plug-ins & effects: 5 packs
- $69.99 per year
- Unlimited premium plug-ins & effects
- Unlimited background music & sound clips
- Automatic version updates
- Priority customer support
- Cloud storage: 50GB
- Advanced video editing
- Professional format video import
- Third-party plug-ins & effects: 5 packs
Director Suite 365
- $129.99 per year
- All PowerDirector 365 features
- Cloud storage: 100GB
- Access to PhotoDirector 11 Ultra, AudioDirector 10, and ColorDirector 8
- Third-party plug-ins & effects: 8 packs
Best Price: Nero Video
Launched in 2010 as a video editing software with both express and advanced modes, Nero Video focuses on creating DVDs and Blu-ray discs from movie projects. We chose it as the best price since it offers many advanced and professional editing features for less than any of the products we reviewed.
Nero Video makes it easy for users to get started by importing videos and image files from their mobile devices, external hard drives, USB sticks, camcorders, and cameras. Everything is then stored in the Nero MediaHome media library or archived in OneDrive for on-demand access to save PC storage space.
Nero Video’s 1-Click Video Story feature makes it easy to create movies and slideshows using over 1,000 templates complete with music and easy sharing. Users can quickly add effects, like tilt-shift, old film, slow-motion, titles, transitions, audio filters, animations, and more.
Although Nero Video doesn’t offer certain features like motion tracking, 360 support, or exporting to social media, it does offer 4K video support and rendering speeds on par with those of other pro software. Users can also burn movies straight to DVD and Blu-ray discs and create high-quality menus complete with chapter selection.
Nero Video is only available for Windows computers for a one-time price of $49.95 and comes with a 60-day money-back guarantee.
Best Exclusively for Mac Users: Final Cut Pro
Developed by Macromedia and purchased by Apple in 1998, Final Cut Pro gained a following among hobbyists and independent filmmakers in the early 2000s and soon replaced Avid, which was widely used by film and television editors. We chose it as the best for Mac users because of its familiar Mac interface, powerful editing, and seamless integration with Apple Photos and iTunes.
Final Cut Pro has many of the features you’d expect in professional editing software, including special effects, intuitive audio editing, multicam syncing, smart color balancing, and fast rendering. Users also get full 360-degree support including motion graphics and VR headset playback.
Final Cut Pro offers innovative grouping features so that individual or bundled clips can be rearranged with no synching issues. The software makes it easy to import stock images, video, and audio; collaborate on projects; and apply closed captioning using a variety of third-party extensions.
Final Cut Pro is only available for Mac computers for a one-time purchase of $299.99 and comes with a 90-day free trial.
Best Free Software: Apple iMovie
It would be wrong to end this review without a mention of an app all Mac users are familiar with. Although it’s been included free on every Mac or iOS device since 2013, iMovie is a great stepping stone for editors wanting to move into more professional software. We chose it as the best free software since it offers more editing features than any other free software with an easy-to-use interface to boot.
iMovie is very simple to use and lets users shoot video on their iPhone, edit it on their iPad, and transfer it to their Mac wirelessly using AirDrop. While the software lacks some advanced features like multicam editing and motion tracking, it does offer high-fidelity filters, green screen, chroma key color correction, snazzy titles, and 4K video support.
Users get access to 80 soundtracks that intelligently adjust to match the length of any movie as well as integration with iTunes and GarageBand for customizing music and sound effects, all for free.
What Is Video Editing Software?
Video editing software lets beginners and professionals create anything from fun, personal video stories to studio-quality films by adapting and combining pre-recorded video and photos. Users can add background music, special effects, titles, and transitions and export their movies to a variety of formats.
Finding the right program is all about the needs of the user. Software with basic editing features is sufficient for fun personal projects, while more professional platforms offer advanced editing, audio syncing, color correction, and effects for cinema-ready productions.
How Does Video Editing Software Work?
Video editing software can take a film from beginning to end using raw video footage and photos from nearly any source, including digital and video cameras and stock footage. Film editors can trim and assemble clips any way they want, create consistent colors and lighting, add titles and effects, stabilize images, and even sync and adjust audio.
Quality and production are key in video editing software. The best software offers HD and 4K editing capability, fast rendering, and compression and exporting to any number of video formats for easy viewing.
How Much Does Video Editing Software Cost?
Most popular video software offers subscription-based pricing ranging from $40 to $120 per year. Others are one-time purchases with pricing ranging from $100 to $300. Subscription-based software often comes with automatic upgrades and access to new features and add-ons that typically need to be bought separately with one-time-purchase products.
The difference between lower- and higher-tier product pricing usually comes down to the sophistication of editing features. Lower tiers are more basic, while higher tiers offer effects, filters, and advanced editing for studio-quality productions.
Is Video Editing Software Worth the Cost?
While there are many good free apps and software for editing simple family projects, those looking to produce videos regularly (YouTube influencers, wedding videographers, and businesses shooting promo videos), as well as filmmakers, will definitely need to invest in one of these platforms.
It’s important to note that tools, interfaces, and controls can differ greatly from software to software. That’s why it’s important for users to choose one that has all of the features they need or anticipate needing so they won’t have to learn a new system if they switch.
How We Chose the Best Video Editing Software
To find the best video editing software solutions available, we looked at over a dozen different systems, including many of the most popular and widely used platforms, to give readers an idea of what to expect from these industry giants. We also made sure to include software for beginners who might be daunted by the complexity that can come with video editing. Finally, we tried to present the best options specific to Windows and Mac users as well.
Because most of these platforms were priced similarly, cost was not a huge consideration. Instead, we focused on software that was easy to use, could import from and export to multiple formats, featured high-quality effects, and offered access to a library of audio and video files.
iSkysoft. "Filmora Video Editor v9.4." Accessed May 27, 2020.