YouTube has grown a lot over the past 20 years, and with it, so have the opportunities it provides its users. What began as a simple video-sharing website has grown into the world’s second-most visited website, a platform off of which many have built their own brands, educated the masses on skills from welding to finance, and shared comedic experiences. Anyone can start a YouTube channel for free, but producing content that people will want to watch can be a challenge for beginners, and that’s where video editing software comes in.
Good video editing software for YouTube beginners should take into account the price of the program, variety and effectiveness of features, ease of use, and available training resources. Some of the highest-rated options for new creators are Adobe Premiere Elements, Lightworks, and Shotcut.
Video editing software is accessible to all consumers but can be hard to understand as a newcomer. While not every video editing platform has free trials or built-in training materials, there are many which can be useful to beginners.
Adobe Premiere Elements
Adobe Premiere Elements is the pared-down version of Adobe Premiere Pro, the most advanced video editor Adobe offers, often used by professional filmmakers. Compatible with Adobe-enabled systems, Premiere Elements is the version best for beginners; its simple and intuitive interface makes editing video a much less intimidating task to new creators. Premiere Elements also includes guided edits, a wide knowledge base to draw from, and phone and email support.
While the Elements version doesn’t include some tools that the Pro version has, like more advanced audio editing and more complex color correction features, it is strikingly easier to use. The extreme-precision tools that come with Pro also require extreme-precision understanding, which can end up just frustrating novice users. Premiere Elements has similar (though simpler) templates and tools that still allow for expertly polished videos, just with less of a learning curve.
Premiere Elements also costs less than the pro-version. Because its capabilities are predetermined, you can buy the whole program only once for $99.99. Premiere Pro in comparison is a subscription-based product, which starts at $20.99 per month. That can get pricey very quickly, especially if you are uncertain of your long-term needs for video editing.
Lightworks is marketed as “Hollywood-strength editing for everyone,” and has been used in movies such as The Irishman, Jerry Maguire, and The Wolf of Wall Street. Though there are three different versions of this software you can choose from, only two are recommended for beginners: Lightworks Create and Lightworks Free.
Lightworks Free is the unpaid version of this product and is free for non-commercial project creators, forever! It includes creative tools such as basic importing formats, built-in effects and transitions, audio mixing, and access to a stock music and video library. It also has built-in social media presets, making sharing content as easy as the press of a button. While this version can only export up to 720p, it is great for beginner content creators, students, and anyone who needs to cut videos together for a smooth final product.
Lightworks Create is intended more for use by gamers and YouTubers, people who want more function than cutting clips together, and is also easy to use. While it has access to all the same features and libraries of the Free version, Create also has advanced titles, BRaw clip settings, additional social media settings such as Instagram and Vimeo, and exports up to 4k. This version costs a mere $9.99 per user per month and is the highest recommended option for YouTube, whereas Lightworks Pro is intended more for moviemakers than short-form videos.
Both suggested options for YouTube users are easy to use once you understand the program and are incredibly rich in features and tools. Detailed instruction videos on the company’s YouTube channel, as well as guides, documentation, FAQs, forums, and tutorials for specific effects can be found on their website, making it an especially great option for true beginners.
Shotcut is another program that offers users a free version and is available on computers that support Windows, Linux, and macOS. This video editing software works well with those who use webcams and includes wide format support and a good range of basic features for beginners.
While some functions aren’t incredibly intuitive, such as the confusing export window, Shotcut is a great video editing software for self-taught beginners or people who don’t want to spend a lot on a quality editing program. With the free tutorials, documentation, and video training available on their website and forums, navigating and producing videos quickly becomes easy.
Adobe Premiere Rush
Another Adobe product, Premiere Rush was designed for YouTubers and social media content creators specifically. Essentially, Premiere Rush is the mobile version of Premiere Pro, with only the features most useful to streaming video editing. This product is great for cutting together clips, adding titles and color correction, and some audio editing, and is enabled to export content directly to whichever social platform you use.
Because it is also powered by Adobe Sensei, all files made in Rush are cross-compatible with the full Premiere Pro desktop version. The only downside to this is that Premiere Rush offers no free version and is a subscription product. However, a free trial is available to new users, along with tutorials and a users guide to help orient new creators.
This video editing software is a great low-cost option for creators who want the high-quality editing benefits of a paid program without the heavy hit to their wallets. CyberLink PowerDirector is a low-cost subscription software with a wealth of features and learning resources. Available to both macOS and Windows devices, some of its offered features include split/merge, speed adjustment, brand overlay, green screen capabilities, and a vast media library.
Starting at just $19.99 per month, PowerDirector is also easy to use and has a fast learning curve, and is good for creators of every skill level. Their website also holds a wealth of training material with feature and platform-specific filters for tutorials, making it one of the most accessible to new creators. For those who want to test the waters before making the big jump to purchase, a free 30-day trial is available.
VideoStudio is another good option for creators looking to grow their skills over time. With up to 4k video support and multi-cam editing, this video editing software produces high-quality products at an affordable cost. It is also packed to the teeth with cool effects and tools like video stabilization, text overlay, a huge music library, color correction, and drag-n-drop editing to name a few. 3D video editing and collaboration tools are also available in this program.
Equipped with direct to social media sharing and a large knowledge base, how-to guides, phone support, live chat, and a help desk, VideoStudio has plenty of resources to help you learn quickly. The downside to this program is that it is only available on Windows devices. Bad luck to Mac users.
HitFilm Express is a great video editing software for aspiring YouTubers with a more cinematic side. Recommended for filmmakers, artists, and video editors, some of the features available to users include a personalizable workstation, creating and setting custom video masks, voiceover recording, and 3D compositional features. This program makes it easy to trim clips and edit professional-looking videos. It is able to export footage in any video formatting.
HitFilm Express also comes with the benefit of being accessible to both Mac and Windows users. While there is a free version, some features need to be purchased for use, like the 3D Camera Projection and Audio Hard Limiter. While the website may not include such in-depth training as some others, it does offer an FAQ section, question-asking forums, and basic training videos to begin with. However, a warning from frequent users is that it can sometimes crash during long-usage periods, so frequent saving is a good idea.
This video editing software option is for Mac users only and comes already loaded on mac products—for free! iMovie’s simple interface and drag-n-drop templates make it easy to learn and offer quality video creation and editing to its users. iMovie is a good editing option for empowering students or familiarizing new creators with developing quality final products.
While it does produce good quality videos that are easy to share, you might want to make the upgrade to a more complex or paid interface if you get more serious about your content. There is also not much of a training model for iMovie, so a quick search of YouTube tutorials may be a good idea for those completely unfamiliar with video editing software.
Additional Learning Resources
Even with the best video editing software, getting your video production to a high enough quality for YouTube can be a challenge for complete beginners. Learning platforms like Udemy and Skillshare are paid programs through which experts in any field share their knowledge in paid lessons. Both of these websites offer classes on general editing and content creation, as well as software-specific training to help you become the best creator you can be.
And of course, YouTube itself is ever a pinnacle of free learning. Videos which offer tips on building and creating channels, as well as video editing, are available in abundance. Take advantage of the platform you plan to become a part of and join the community of creators!