It’s hard to argue against the importance of video content. It’s estimated that online videos will comprise 80% of all consumer internet traffic by 2020, and that’s not entirely down to Netflix. YouTube is the world’s second-biggest search engine, home to everything from TV series and music videos to marketing content from companies of all sizes. Boasting far higher engagement and message retention than written forms of communication, video marketing has become a key driver of revenue and brand awareness.
However, producing a video is much harder than writing an article or blog – not least since few people have video editing software pre-installed on their tablets or computers. And while a podcast only requires a decent microphone and a suitably quiet environment to record in, video footage exponentially increases these challenges. There’s lighting to consider, backdrops to choose, and ambient factors to embrace or isolate. Then, once you’ve captured the raw footage which will comprise your clip, it needs to be edited together.
Every picture tells a story
Video editing is usually carried out on a PC or Mac since it requires considerable processing power. Nonetheless, some packages are compatible with mobile devices, for editing on the move. Raw footage is typically uploaded into a database of video segments and still photos, before being edited together to create a seamless narrative. Background music and captions are added during a process known as post-production, adding polish and professionalism. Nobody expects Spielberg slickness from a YouTube clip, but nor do they expect glitches where shots haven’t been linked properly, or illegible captions presented in the same color as the background.
Fortunately, numerous video editing programs are available. Some have a one-off $50 cost to acquire, while others require this sum every month to maintain a subscription. Perhaps surprisingly, there are also plenty of free editing programs available to download. These are some of the best free tools for editing and publishing short films, adverts or marketing reels:
Lightworks. Platforms: Linux, Mac, Windows
Lightworks is a heavyweight editing package which really needs a large monitor to display its numerous windows effectively. The premium version incurs a $25 monthly fee, though the free editor should be sufficient for most beginners. It supports a variety of different formats, exporting 720p output straight to YouTube and Vimeo. A portfolio of tutorials also helps rookies get started.
iMovie 11. Platforms: MacOS, iOS
Apple’s iMovie offers an impressive assortment of editing tools across Macs, iPads and even iPhones. It offers full 4K compatibility, but the ability to edit 1080p HD footage at 60 frames per second is arguably more significant, delivering very smooth footage. Users can add picture-in-picture or globe effects, or create a trailer from 29 templates accompanied by copyright-free scores. Clips can be stabilized, color-balanced or given special effects.
Blender. Platforms: Linux, Mac, Windows
Blender is an open source video editing suite, compatible with all three main desktop operating systems. It excels at 3D animations, since this was its originally intended purpose, though it’s also a fairly accomplished video editor. It offers 32 slots for video, audio, images, and effects. There are also live preview, vectorscope and histogram displays, while video masking is one of the more advanced functionalities available.
HitFilm Express. Platforms: Mac, Windows
Although it’s free, the Express version of HitFilm does require a social media status update before the download commences. Fortunately, the package’s sophistication justifies this unusual request. HitFilm supports green screen effects, compositing tools, and layers, alongside a variety of filters for video and audio. And while its complexity might initially seem daunting, there are plenty of tutorials on offer.