iMovie versus other low cost (or free) Mac video editors

Apple gave iMovie a bit of an overhaul in 2013, how's it compare to some of the other options out there?

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  • 1 iMovie iMovie
  • 2 Cute CUT Pro Cute CUT Pro
  • 3 iOrgSoft Video Editor iOrgSoft Video Editor
  • 4 Jahshaka Jahshaka
  • 5 MediaEdit 3 Media Edit 3
  • 6 VideoBlend VideoBlend
  • 7 VideoPad VideoPad
  • 8 Wondershare Video Editor Wondershare Video Editor
  • More stories
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iMovie

Apple may make it look effortless, but designing a video editing program is far from easy. A lot changed with iMovie when a new version was released in October of last year. Many features disappeared or were scaled back and people thought it was the iMovie ’07 debacle all over again. It’s true that iMovie is transitioning once more, and there appears to be a synergy between its iOS counterpart and Final Cut Pro X, with iMovie squarely in the middle of this family.

But iMovie is still a very easy app to work with. Selecting the portion of the clip you want is a simple matter of dragging the cursor over its preview strip, then clicking on the highlight’s ‘+’ button or dragging it to your project. This lets you create a rough cut in record time.

You have access to a handful of unalterable effects, of which you can only choose one per clip, including animated titles and transitions, along with more powerful features like altering the speed of your clip, impressively simple colour correction and colour matching, and fancy, yet foolproof image stabilisation.

When it comes to exporting your work, there’s Theatre mode which uploads it to iCloud so you can see it on any of your Macs or iOS devices, but you can also save it as a file on your Desktop or upload it to YouTube, Facebook, Vimeo or CNN iReport. For its price, and considering it comes free with every new Mac, it’s a serious piece of kit, even if it isn’t as powerful as it used to be.

Price: £10.49
Version Tested: 10.0.3
Available on App Store: Yes

Read our iMovie for Mac review

Learn how to use iMovie by following these iMovie tutorials

Read next: Best free & cheap Mac video editing software

Next »

Next Prev 1 iMovie

Apple may make it look effortless, but designing a video editing program is far from easy. A lot changed with iMovie when a new version was released in October of last year. Many features disappeared or were scaled back and people thought it was the iMovie ’07 debacle all over again. It’s true that iMovie is transitioning once more, and there appears to be a synergy between its iOS counterpart and Final Cut Pro X, with iMovie squarely in the middle of this family.

But iMovie is still a very easy app to work with. Selecting the portion of the clip you want is a simple matter of dragging the cursor over its preview strip, then clicking on the highlight’s ‘+’ button or dragging it to your project. This lets you create a rough cut in record time.

You have access to a handful of unalterable effects, of which you can only choose one per clip, including animated titles and transitions, along with more powerful features like altering the speed of your clip, impressively simple colour correction and colour matching, and fancy, yet foolproof image stabilisation.

When it comes to exporting your work, there’s Theatre mode which uploads it to iCloud so you can see it on any of your Macs or iOS devices, but you can also save it as a file on your Desktop or upload it to YouTube, Facebook, Vimeo or CNN iReport. For its price, and considering it comes free with every new Mac, it’s a serious piece of kit, even if it isn’t as powerful as it used to be.

Price: £10.49
Version Tested: 10.0.3
Available on App Store: Yes

Read our iMovie for Mac review

Learn how to use iMovie by following these iMovie tutorials

Read next: Best free & cheap Mac video editing software

 

Cute CUT Pro

This app originated on iOS and you can feel that throughout the interface as there are few keyboard shortcuts - you can’t even start and stop playback by hitting the spacebar, for instance - and everything is very mouse-centric. Also, it looks at first sight as if you can only access clips from specific areas, like your Movies, Pictures and Music folders, but if you can find the clip you wish to use in the Finder, you can drag it straight from there to the timeline.

As you'd expect with any video editing app worth its salt, you can work with multiple layers of video, allowing you to create more complex movies, and making editing easier to manage since you don’t have to keep reordering clips all the time: you can just put one on top of the other to cut to it, and then go back to the original clip if you like. Simple. Cute CUT Pro deals with layers in an unexpected way though: you need to put the clip on the layer beneath the existing clip in order to cut to it, which is opposite to the way most other video editing apps work.

Apart from that, Cute CUT Pro has very simple tools. It does a great job of letting you apply transitions and customise them to suit your needs, alter the speed of a clip, change its transparency so part of it can show through another clip above it, or create picture-in-picture effects, but that’s the extent of your compositing tools.

The export process is quite simple; just choose its destination (email, Facebook, YouTube, or Dropbox, for instance), select a few options and you’re good to go.

Price: £20.99
Version Tested: 1.5
Available on App Store: Yes

 

iOrgSoft Video Editor

When you launch iOrgSoft’s Video Editor you’re given the option of selecting a basic or advanced interface, but there are so many problems with this app, it’s hard to decide which interface is worse.

If your main video camera is your iOS device, you’ll find that once you’ve imported your clips, they’ll all appear upside down. You can’t do anything about that in the basic setup, but thankfully, you can rotate each and every clip manually in the advanced section.

But that’s only the beginning of your woes. You cannot resize the interface - it’s stuck in its default dimension of 690x1100, but even that locked size doesn’t show all the tools you need. There's a section just above the timeline which obviously partially displays tools which can’t be selected. This is frustrating because it seems to also be the section where you can drag the playhead and see different parts of your movie. Without access to it, video editing is pretty much useless.

To make matters worse, there's no keyboard shortcut to navigate the timeline, no spacebar to start and stop playback, and no arrow keys to move one frame or one edit point at a time.

You can choose from forty effects to apply to your clips, but they’re all represented by the same blurry flower or crystal (it’s hard to make out what it is) so you have no idea what each does until you’ve applied it to your clip.

I could go on, but you get the picture. Avoid.

Price: $39.99 (£25)
Version Tested: 4.0.1
Available on App Store: No

 

Jahshaka

Jahshaka is a great idea: provide powerful tools to edit, composite and animate your clips. It’s open source, which means it’s free and will remain free, and it’s compatible with practically every desktop operating system out there: Linux, Windows Xp, Vista, Windows 7 and 8, and Mac OS X.

There are a lot of innovative features and perhaps my favourite is the virtual desktop which acts as a traditional light table: import all the clips you wish to use to it then move them around into groups to see which would work best together. It’s a great and flexible idea, and other video editing apps could easily get inspired by it.

Sadly, if you’re looking for a simple application you can just pick up and go, Jahshaka isn’t going to be for you. It’s clearly aimed at geeks who love to tinker, not consumers who just want to edit and move on to their next task.

For instance, loading clips into the interface involves a trip to OS X’s UNIX underbelly as opposed to the traditional load window you would be used to. That’s not a big deal in and of itself, but what’s worse is that you can’t preview the clips from the load window, so all you’re faced with are file names which may or may not represent what you’re looking for. You therefore have to load each clip one at a time, or use the load window in conjunction with a Finder window to find the exact clips you need. Hardly efficient. And just like iOrgSoft’s attempt, it sees iOS clips upside down.

It may be free, but it’s definitely not for the rest of us.

Price: Free
Version Tested: 3.0
Available on App Store: No

 

Media Edit 3

There seems to be a running theme with third-party video editors: this is the third one which shows clips taken with an iOS device upside down, but any other clip taken from any other camera will appear as expected. The downside here is that MediaEdit has to render any changes you make to a clip before you can carry on editing, which makes using iOS clips a useless endeavour with this app. This feels very much like an editing tool from over a decade ago and is out of place with apps that can make use of the latest technologies to give you a useful preview instantly and enable you to carry on editing. Having to render every change curtails your will to experiment and find the exact effect to use since even an alteration of a parameter by a single digit will force the whole clip to render again.

MediaEdit 3 allows you to work with multiple layers, and just like Cute CUT Pro, placing a clip on a lower layer will make it appear above those on the upper layer. You can split your clips to only select the parts you need, extract an audio layer so you can alter it and move it independently of its video layer. The effects are versatile and the Paint feature, which allows you to draw directly on the clip can be fun.

When finished, the export option leads you to QuickTime’s old export window, which gives you a lot of control over the file format, but isn’t ideal for people who just want to send their movies to YouTube quickly and easily.

Price: £6.99
Version Tested: 3.2
Available on App Store: Yes

 

VideoBlend

VideoBlend offers a lot of interesting ideas. For one thing, the traditional timeline, where all your clips are added in a continuous sequence that extends forever to the right, is non-existent. Instead, you stack your clips one over the other in the “Split” section. You do this by dragging them from the Finder onto that section (and yes, iOS clips will appear upside down again).

Trimming a clip is relatively straightforward, yet cumbersome: select the start frame by dragging the lower left playhead then click on ‘Split’. Repeat the process for the end frame, and you’ll be left with three layers of video representing your original clip. Delete the two parts you don’t want and you’re done.

There is an effects section and tools you can use to apply some basic colour correction or rotate your footage, but you must drag your clip from the Finder to that section in order to make use of those tools. You then have to save your file and drag it once again to the Split section to add it to the film you’re making. It’s far from efficient. There’s no way of accessing the clips you’ve already added in Split from those other areas.

The app also allows you to download YouTube and Vimeo videos, which you can drag back in after having located them in the Finder to trim them, apply effects to them, etc (watch out for copyright issues). When done, click on ‘Save’ to export your film. Leave the default settings as they are, to make it as simple as possible.

Price: Free
Version Tested: 1.3
Available on App Store: No

 

VideoPad

VideoPad has everything you would expect from a traditional video editing application, including being able to see iOS clips properly. You can work with multiple video layers, split clips, resize them, even have multiple sequences for a single project, just as you would expect with a professional program.

If this feels too complex, you can change the Timeline section to a Storyboard, where your clips will appear as tiles of the same size irrespective of their lengths. This makes it easier to reorder clips and see how many you’re working with, but you cannot play with multiple layers in that layout, and any clips you added above the first layer in Timeline mode will not appear in the Storyboard, although you will be able to see them when previewing your project.

Adding transitions and effects is quite easy as you can do all of this straight from the Timeline or Storyboard: each clip has a star button (to add an effect) and a lined square button on the opposite side (to add a transition).

You can add multiple effects to a single clip and even alter that effect over time with the use of keyframes, which is great if you enjoy customising the look of your effects.

VideoPad makes it easy to export your finished work - small icons, top right of the interface let you share your film directly to FaceBook, Twitter, Google+, StumbleUpon and LinkedIn, but there’s also a ‘Save, Share or Burn Video’ in the Sequence menu which offers you more options, including sending your film to YouTube. It’s a nice full-featured, powerful app, but it doesn’t look that elegant.

Price: $60
Version Tested: 3.34
Available on App Store: No

 

Wondershare Video Editor

Wondershare Video Editor is a good looking program with powerful features, but suffers from some puzzling omissions which make editing a little difficult. The most glaring one is the absence of a playhead over the timeline. You can add as many clips as you like there, but how do you navigate from one to the other? The answer is, with the playhead in the preview window; when it’s set to ‘All Clips’, you’ll be able to preview your film in its entirety. The problem is, there are no visual clues to tell you when a clip ends and the other begins. Those clues are in the timeline, but there’s no playhead there to tell you where you are. It can get confusing and frustrating pretty fast indeed. Plus there’s the usual upside down iOS clip problems, although at least it’s an easy thing to rotate them in this app.

The rest of the app is very well designed. It has a series of good effects which you can add to your clips with ease (although only one per clip), and the same goes for the Titles (except you can only apply them to a single clip in its entirety and they can’t overlap multiple ones), and the transitions, which are among the best in this list of apps. There also are a handful of animated intro and credit sequences which would add a bit of panache to your project.

When it comes to exporting your work, you have various options open to you, from Facebook and YouTube, to converting it to a specific device, like your iPhone, PSP, or generic Android device.

Price: $49.99
Version Tested: 2.9.0
Available on App Store: No

You can read more iMovie tutorials over at our iMovie Topic Zone, plus:

10 amazing iMovie tips

Apple iMovie 10 versus Adobe Premiere Elements 12 comparative review

Apple iMovie for iPad, iPhone v2 review

Apple iMovie for Mac version 10 review

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