Video editing is the invisible magic that holds together the narrative of any film, television episode, or commercial. When the best video editing software meets the most skilled editors, videos become opportunities for effective storytelling. Think about a movie or video you watched recently. Think about the story and how it made you feel. Think about the scenes, the music, the sound effects, the graphics: that is the work of a video editor.
Video editors piece together elements to create a story using footage, audio, music, sound effects, and graphics, but their individual editing strategies may be completely unique. Just like how artists use different tools to create their work, editors use different technologies to create a video.
There are a handful of different editing softwares out there, and though some may be better than others, it ultimately comes down to what software the company uses, or what the editor is most comfortable using. To help you better understand your options, we’ve compiled a rundown of the most popular video editing softwares.
Avid Media Composer
Avid Media Composer is the Hollywood preferred software because it was primarily the first. Released in 1989, Media Composer has evolved to support 2K through 8K, stereoscopic 3D and HDR, green screen composites, motion effects, correcting color, and designing graphic titles and animations. Due to its head start, Media Composer captured the Hollywood market and kept them there.
While editing the movie Baby Driver, editor Paul Machliss said “Media Composer’s AMA function allowed me to give Edgar near-instantaneous feedback to a take. Seconds after he yelled ‘Cut!’ I would have the shot in the timeline, judgment would be pronounced and he could move on.” Feature films edited with Media Composer include Wonder Woman, The Beguiled, Dunkirk, Atomic Blonde, and Spider-Man: Homecoming.
Adobe Premiere Pro CC
Adobe Premiere Pro CC is another editing software as part of Adobe’s Creative Cloud. Released in 2003, Premiere Pro syncs up with all of Adobe’s programs like Photoshop and After Effects, making it easy to integrate elements like photos and motion graphics into your video. This software caters to a larger audience because it can be used on a Mac or PC. There is a monthly subscription to the Adobe Creative Cloud, but they do offer discounts for university students. Adobe also released Premiere Rush CC in 2018, which is an app to edit video on your mobile devices.
We use Premiere at Green Buzz Agency, and feature films edited with Premiere include Deadpool, Gone Girl, and Pete’s Dragon.
Final Cut Pro X
Final Cut Pro X (FCPX) is Apple’s varsity version of iMovie. Released in 2011, FCPX allows users to pay a flat fee in order to fully take advantage of all the features, including color grading, motion graphics, audio editing, multicam editing, and more. The catch is that this software, like iMovie, can only be used with a Mac computer. FCPX is used to edit documentaries, TV shows, and feature films, including The Social Network, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and 500 Days of Summer.
However, it is not as widely accepted as Avid Media Composer. There are many factors as to why this is, including it’s late release, it’s initial opposite editing techniques, and it’s inability to work on any other computer besides a Mac. FCPX’s predecessor, Final Cut Pro Classic, was actually a dominant force in the Hollywood industry due to it being significantly cheaper than Media Composer at the time. But when Apple launched FCPX in place of Final Cut Pro Classic, people were unhappy with the new version and many abandoned it. We initially used Final Cut Pro Classic at Green Buzz Agency, but made the switch to Premiere a couple months after the release of FCPX, following the massive shift of people who weren’t pleased with the initial software. Since 2011, FCPX has been slowly working its way back into the heart of Hollywood.
Accredited Hollywood editor Josh Beal, known for his work on Counterpart, Bloodline, and House of Cards, spoke at the National Association of Broadcasters conference about why editors should utilize FCPX.
Now, if you’re really starting from scratch, iMovie is Apple’s free editing software that comes with your Mac computer. Released in 1999, it is very user friendly and can achieve basic editing capabilities, including the ability to support 4K video. It even has built-in music, sound effects, color correction, green-screen effects, and animated maps. iMovie also can be downloaded as an app on your iPhone for basic on-the-go editing. Even though it isn’t used frequently in the professional editing world, it is a cheap alternative for those working on a tight budget, and it may help you to explore your passion with video.
In 2005, a feature-length film was edited entirely with iMovie. The film Tarnation premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, and won Best Non-Fiction Film from The National Society of Film Critics Awards.
Here’s What Our Senior Video Editors Say
“I started out using Final Cut Pro Classic around 2008, but when FCPX came out, a lot of people like myself were figuring out where to go because they quit updating Classic. FCPX was missing a lot of features, so tons of people like me went to Adobe. They tried to ease that transition and created a Final Cut keyboard option because they knew people were coming over from FCPX. All editing softwares have similar tools that have pros and cons. Ideally, I would like to know both Premiere Pro and FCPX and have the option to work in both.” – Nate Priest
“I started editing with Final Cut Pro Classic, then I used FCPX when it launched because I was a loyalist to the software, but it felt very clunky, amateur and the layout reminded me of iMovie. The professionalism of Adobe Premiere Pro reminded me of Final Cut Pro Classic, and that was what I was used to so it was an easy switch for me. I’ve been using the Adobe Creative Cloud now for the last 7 years. I think Adobe is great, but I will be diplomatic and to each their own. Whatever works best for you and your projects is the best software.” – Orlando Suazo Jr.
Video Editing Resources
Lynda.com is an online learning platform that helps anyone learn business, software, technology and creative skills. Powered by LinkedIn, Lynda offers tutorials in all the video softwares listed above. BONUS, it is normally free if you’re enrolled in a university!
YouTube is also a great tool because it’s free, easy to use, and has extensive resources on video editing. Some great channels include:
No matter what your background of video editing is, there are different softwares and resources to help you launch your career, or find your new hobby!
Updated on February 12, 2020.
Lucy Wolfe, Marketing and Communications at Green Buzz Agency. Emily Herman contributed to this post.