If you are like me, you have dug through a huge amount of information trying to figure out the best video editor for your production. Perhaps you have even downloaded a few free trials to find out what software works best for you. There is a huge range of possible options and you not only must assess your current video editing needs, but also your future needs for editing video.
I have used all but one of the most popular video editors (or NLEs which stands for “Non-Linear Editors”) on the market and feel strongly that the best one to use for most independent video productions and film productions is Adobe Premiere Pro. In this post, I will outline why I believe this is so.
I feel I should note that I am a producer/director who likes to edit her own movies, but I do not consider myself an “Editor” per say, as I have not been hired specifically for that job, but have had jobs where the skill of video editing is expected to be in my repertoire.
(Side Note: The one major editor I have not used is Avid and I have a reason for that which I will get into in a bit.)
In the process of researching this post, I tested/used, Final Cut Pro 7.0 and 10, Adobe Premiere Pro, Davinci Resolve 11, iMovie and Lightworks.
Adobe Premiere Pro
If you had asked me a decade ago what video editor to use, I would have said Final Cut Pro. Final Cut Pro 7.0 was a dream to use and was the first pro video editor I used. It took me a few days to get up and running with the software but after a week or so I was spitting out multiple news packages every week at the news station I was working for.
Unfortunately, when the new version, Final Cut Pro 10, came out, they changed the interface into a hot mess that sent most pro editors looking elsewhere for video editing software, including myself.
Luckily, Adobe Premiere Pro had a similar interface to Final Cut Pro 7.0 and the transition to Premiere was relatively easy.
And Adobe has kept the interface, which affects the way one edits, nice and clear, which makes it easy for the beginner to learn, and fast for the advanced user to use.
Good Exporting Capabilities
Once you get used to the way videos export in Adobe Premiere, you will find that it is relatively easy to do at any stage of your editing. What I love about Premiere Pro is that you can add your videos to an export queue and continue to edit while the export is running. This will speed your work up considerably if you are editing a project with a number of tiny episodes.
This past summer I did a 90 Day Video Challenge in which I was posting a video about filmmaking and video production every day. I got into a routine in which I was batching the recording and editing of videos I would post for the week, which really streamlined the exercise.
But I started off editing in iMovie because most of the time I just needed to trim the heads and tails (beginnings and endings) of the videos and Premiere seemed excessive for that.
Also, I was recording this 90 Day Video Challenge on my cell phone and discovered that video from a cellular phone has a variable frame speed. Most video cameras stick to one frame speed and most editors are only familiar with a constant frame speed, so bringing my Galaxy 8 footage into Premiere Pro took a bit of time to research while iMovie, which is built to adapt to a variable frame rate from cell phones, took my video easily.
The problem came when I exported.
iMovie would allow me to continue to edit while exporting, but MY GOODNESS did it slow down the export. This is not my biggest beef with iMovie (there are many) but this was a big deal.
I would take the time to get a drink and take my dog out to pee while waiting for the export to finish before working on the next clip.
On my Mac Mini, Adobe Premiere Pro did not seem to lag at all when I continued to edit while exporting to the queue.
A not about Davinci Resolve… I found that my exporting un-synched the audio from the video so that everything was a second or so off. It made the export unusable. I spent several days trying to fix this but was never able to do so, so despite the fact that Davinci Resolve can do so much in one program is moot if it cannot export properly.
So Premiere Pro definitely is the definite winner here.
I am going to start by saying I HATE subscriptions to software because I freelance in a lot of different creative areas and often put down software for sometimes years at a time.
I barely used Adobe Premiere Pro during a 3 year period when I was deep into visual effects compositing, opting for more VFX focused programs like Nuke, After Effects, Softimage and Maya.
Luckily at the time, the software had a one-time buy option, but that is not true anymore.
Premiere Pro is now called Adobe Premiere Pro CC and the “CC” stands for “Creative Cloud”. You get a subscription to Adobe’s storage cloud with your Premiere Pro subscription, which is handy if you are always on the go or working with a team.
If you are not, it is a rather expensive way to store video in the cloud, especially if you are like me and put the software down for months at a time.
And then, if you need to access a clip 6 months after you have let your subscription lag, you have to reinstitute your subscription just to access that clip. It is frustrating.
I know it sounds like I am slagging the Adobe Creative Cloud and I suppose I am.
“Then why do you recommend it?” you ask.
This is a post about my favorite and most highly recommended video editing software and despite the subscription frustration, this is still my favorite editor. This is still the editor that I work fastest in and that is the most flexible (yet clear) when loading footage and exporting the edit, two areas that can get tricky, even when the editor (me) knows what she is doing. And for beginners, it is relatively easy but still a huge leap in flexibility from the other editors out there that are free or lower cost.
Adobe Premiere Elements
If you are not thrilled with the idea of being forced to participate in the creative cloud subscription, you can always get the simplified Adobe Premiere Pro Elements which is $99, but the annual update is $79/year. The thing I have found, though, is that I did not update my software for several years with the old Premiere Pro software, so I think that is a reasonable way to get started with Adobe software without breaking the bank, as long as you don’t mind giving up some control (well… a lot of control) to get the precise effect you desire for your movie.
Of the multitude of editors I have explored over the years, I still love Premiere Pro and it is my go-to video editing software. I think it is a reasonable price point at $19.99/month as long as you make sure you use it. It is easy enough for beginners to get going fast but flexible enough for pros to get exactly the look that they want. I have used Premiere Pro for both documentary and narrative filmmaking, news packages, YouTube videos with cellphone footage, and other tiny and not so tiny projects and it has been a good choice for all of that.
Finally, I must add that I am constantly trying new or upgraded video editors so if you have one you really like, feel free to send me a message and I will check it out. I want my readers and my students to have the best information about making movies and will update this page if I discover a better editor.
But Adobe Premiere Pro has been my top choice for almost a decade so right now I highly recommended it if you are looking for excellent video editing software that has proved itself over the years.