Video editing software cuts across a wide range of price points, all the way from thousands of dollars down to absolutely free. Of the countless number of products on the market today, which ones are the best deals for aspiring movie-makers at the beginning and intermediate levels?
With some exceptions, such as Microsoft’s Windows Live Movie Maker and Apple’s iMovie, free and ultra-cheap products in this category are rarely real bargains. In lots of cases, they aren’t even worth the time it takes for a download, due to their meager feature sets, bugginess, and/or poor performance. In refreshing contrast, many video software packages in the double-digit dollar range combine ease of use and software stability with advanced feature sets rivaling what you’d get in much costlier packages aimed at video pros.
Here are our top picks for the best values on video editing software packages in the $29.99 to $99.99 bracket, with links to full reviews that will give you more product info. Prices given here are MSRPs. Discounts and free trials are often available., too. So why wait? Get started on shopping around!
The call was very close, but Adobe Premiere Elements gets our nod as number one in this space. A mature product that’s been popular for many years, Premiere Elements is well known to be simpler to learn than some of its competitors, and more stable and crashproof than some others.
Premiere Elements doesn’t support 3D video editing yet, and its performance isn’t all that fast, comparatively speaking. Yet its rich feature set gives you everything you’d want or need for producing a slick-looking video, up to and including Chroma key, for compositing or layering two images or video streams together. If that sounds mysterious, Adobe throws in a very helpful tutorial about how to use the product.
The recently released Premiere Elements 10 adds new tools for perking up the colors in video clips, as well for creating lively videos from still photos. Unlike the other products on our list, which run on Microsoft Windows only, Premiere Elements is available for both Windows and MacOS.
Priced at $99.99 for a standalone edition, Premier Elements is also sold in a bundle with Adobe’s Photoshop Elements photo editing package for $149.99. A sweet deal, indeed!
Our number two pick is Corel VideoStudio Ultimate, a product that’s leapfrogged over rivals in its latest release. X5 adds features unavailable in any other software package in this price bracket, including a built-in Screen Capture tool, pro-level Boris FX and Mercale filters, and HTML 5 authoring, for creating Web videos containing clickable links to other Web pages. Also in X5, it’s easier to find and use the Instant Project templates that can give a movie a big jumpstart.
For improved responsiveness and faster video rendering times, Corel has also added new “advanced multi-core acceleration” which takes advantage of the multi-threading capabilities of mult-core processors such as Intel’s x5 and x7 and AMD’s Fusion.
Some of VideoStudio Pro’s menu items might be tough for beginners to fathom, and help is only available by signing into an online community. Yet if you already know the basics of video editing, Corel’s video editing ticket is well worth the $99.99 cost of admission. Beyond that, the MSRP is only $79.99 for a non-“Ultimate” edition, which includes everything in Ultimate except for the “Special Effects Value Pack” containing Boris FX, Mercale, and other high-end filters.
Read the full review of Corel VideoStudio Pro X5 Ultimate.
On the other hand, Muvee Reveal X, our number three selection, seems to beat about just about everyone else in this price league for ease of use.
Designed to do “creative decision-making” automatically, Muvee lets you avoid time-consuming video editing tasks. When the program launches, three large green block areas show up, labeled as (1) Add photos and video; (2) Choose a style; and (3) View your muvee.
The pre-defined “styles” that come with the package integrate transitions, special effects, and background music. After you’ve chosen a style, Muvee uses its built-in smarts to “analyze” your video for highlights and automatically apply video edits. If you’re not pleased with Muvee’s results, you can always go in and make adjustments.
Once your video is ready, it’s easy to share what you (and Muvee) have created by uploading the flick to either YouTube, Facebook or Muvee’s own cloud. Pricing is $59.99 for a single license and $99.99 for a family license with four keys.
LoiLoScope 2, our fourth choice, combines a sleek and streamlined, game-like UI with tons of capabilities for trimming and resizing videos and adding graphics, sounds and titles. Special effects run the gamut from scrolling text to time re-mapping. You can even write on the screen using a pen tool.
LoiLoScope’s essential ease of use is self-evident right from the opening screen, where LoiLo presents you wiith a list of possible steps you can perform ranging from starting a new project to opening an existing project, choosing an output format, and finishing the video. The software’s audio editing capabilities, though, aren’t quite as intuitive.
Like some other products, such as Sony Vegas, LoiLoScope now uses GPU acceleration to speed up transcoding, or conversion, of video into different formats. This, however, is a capability generally better suited to desktop than notebook PCs. Yet at $79.99, LoiLoScope 2 gives you a great bang for your buck, anyway.
Nero Video 11, pick number five, is the least expensive product on our list, priced at merely $29.99 as a standalone item. If you’re not a total beginner at video editing, and you don’t want to go with costlier software, Nero is a very reasonable alternative.
Like most video editing products, Nero Video centers on a timeline which can be switched from an “easy” mode displaying thumbnails of each clip to an “advanced” mode that gives you access to individual video and audio tracks.
Nero’s advanced mode comes with a number of intriguing high-end features, including roll and slip tools for trimming video clip end points, audio level changes over time, and even a tool for automatically removing TV commercials from captured video. Video transitions extend far beyond the usual wipes and fades to unusual choices such as Kaleidoscope and Quicksand.
For $79.99, you can purchase the Nero 11 bundle, which combines Nero 11 with ten other software components, including Nero Burning ROM, NeroBackItUp, Nero RescueAgent, and NeroSoundTrax. Invest another $30, and you can get Nero 11 Platimum, a package which adds large libraries of templates through the Nero ThemePacks. Now that’s a real bargain!