7 Best YouTube Editing Software [Windows & Mac]

Even the simplest modern editing tools are powerful applications. If you want to edit your own videos, expect to spend some time learning how to use your tool of choice. If you’ve ever worked with Word or PowerPoint, for example (from the Microsoft Office suite), you may recall that you spent some time learning how to use that program. 

Let’s be honest: Most people discover new features and new ways of doing things in these programs all the time.

To edit a video, you need to get familiar with the software and some foundational editing techniques. In this article, we will introduce to you the best YouTube editing software.

How To Choose YouTube Editing Software

Editing programs are sophisticated tools for content creation with a lot of powerful features. The best way to approach them is to first read about the basics, or you may take a class to get started. Then just dive in and complete a project. Most people become comfortable using their chosen editing tool during the first few days.

The first item to consider when choosing editing software is your existing operating system on your computer. In other words, if you use Windows, you need editing software for Windows; if you use a Mac, you need editing software for the Mac.

YouTube Editing Software on Mac

The selection of editing tools on the Mac is somewhat smaller than on the PC, but that isn’t necessarily bad news, because of the high quality of Mac-based programs:

Apple itself provides two industry-leading editing applications: 

  • iMovie: Entry level
  • Final Cut Pro: Professional level

Adobe, the market leader in creative software, offers a full line of tools for the Mac.

1. iMovie

If you have a Mac, you already have iMovie. This powerful little editing application comes preinstalled on every new Mac. We highly recommend this for your YouTube video editing because it is very easy to use.

Upgrade to the latest version of iMovie, if you can. If your version is older, you can buy the current edition online at the Apple App Store. It’s more than worth the price.

iMovie covers virtually everything you need for normal video editing, and it comes supplied with helpful templates for impressive titles and neat visual effects.

The main drawback of iMovie compared to professional-grade applications is that it can deal with only a single video track and a single track of background sound. You can use background music and a voice-over narration track at the same time, but using more elements isn’t possible. This restriction isn’t a big deal for most videos, though it can be limiting on ambitious productions.

A good companion product for iMovie is Garage Band, which comes preinstalled on Macs as well. You can finish up your visual edits in iMovie and export them right into Garage Band. It lets you put together soundtracks for your videos and provides some useful background music tracks that you can use immediately. 

Be sure to check on the copyright for any existing or canned background music tracks you pull from the Garage band. Your video monetization may be affected when using tracks with existing copyrights.

2. Final Cut Pro

Final Cut Pro is the professional-grade editing application from Apple that covers most capabilities that an editor needs. It’s used by many professionals, including such legendary editors as Walter Murch (The Godfather, Apocalypse Now).

Final Cut Pro is a major upgrade from iMovie. Its user interface is quite similar to iMovie, and old iMovie projects can be imported directly. It offers much more flexibility, such as unlimited video and audio tracks, many more visual effects, a feature-rich footage management system, and sophisticated audio editing.

If you’re going with Apple editing programs, start with iMovie and then upgrade to Final Cut Pro X when you run into limitations.

3. Adobe Premiere

Apple’s primary competitor on the Mac platform is Adobe and its Premiere editing programs — note the plural form here. You have a choice between two Premiere products:

Premiere Elements: The entry-level Adobe editing program, Premiere Elements, is an application designed for consumers and business users.

The advantages of using Premiere Elements over the free Apple iMovie program are that it:

  • Supports multiple videos and audio tracks
  • The additional power is useful if you edit more complex projects, such as footage shot with multiple cameras simultaneously
  • Offers a more sophisticated way to organize large collections of raw footage
  • Provides more flexibility in dealing with photos and other images

Premiere Pro: The Adobe program for professional video editors, Premiere Pro offers all the same professional features of Final Cut Pro. Some editors like it better because:

  • Its user interface is optimized for a professional editor’s typical workflow.
  • It has broader support for the file formats that professional and consumer-level cameras produce. It allows you to work with files natively — no transcoding needed.
  • It integrates the workflow as a one-stop — you can take a project entirely through the Adobe Creative Suite, including color correction, motion graphics, and audio finishing.

YouTube Editing Software on Window

Dozens of editing programs of all sophistication levels are available on the Windows PC platform. The following five sections describe a few of the most popular.

1. Windows Movie Maker

Much like iMovie on the Mac, the free editing tool Windows Movie Maker covers basic video editing needs. It lets you quickly import footage and pictures, arrange and trim clips, add music, and apply basic visual effects and titles. If your Windows PC doesn’t have Movie Maker installed, you can download Movie Maker for free at this Microsoft website: http://windows. microsoft.com.

Movie Maker is a helpful way to get your feet wet with video editing. Most people working on advanced video projects quickly run into its limitations, such as having only one background audio track, one video track, and limited visual effects. Furthermore, its particular way of handling the start and stop points of clips isn’t ideal for precision editing.

2. Adobe Premiere

The people behind Photoshop also provide their video editing program, Premiere, for Windows PCs. The Premiere version you need depends on your goals.

Premiere can work with multiple video and audio tracks, which allows for the easy arrangement of footage and complex narrative structures. That’s an important advantage over the free Windows Movie Maker.

Here are your Premiere choices:

Premiere Elements: A strong editing application for consumers and business users, Premiere Elements improves upon Windows Movie Maker by packing in a ton of features that let you edit your videos in a much more sophisticated way. It organizes footage more intelligently, it can stabilize shaky footage, and it comes supplied with a huge selection of transitions and visual effects. It can even handle green-screen effects and animated graphics.

Premiere Pro: We discuss Premiere Pro, Premiere Element’s larger sibling, in the earlier Mac section “Premiere Pro.” The Windows version is largely identical, and it’s a highly respected tool for professionals.

3. Sony Vegas Movie Studio

Sony’s aggressively priced Vegas Movie Studio editing software is an interesting alternative to Adobe products, positioned between Premiere Elements and Premiere Pro. It offers features that are comparable to some of the best editing software on the market. If you’re looking for the most bang for your buck, Vegas is worth a serious look.

4. Pinnacle Studio

This product is significantly more sophisticated than Premiere Elements.

It boasts unlimited video and audio tracks, animated titles, broad format support, sophisticated audio editing, and a ton of professional-level special effects.

The price is reasonable, and the product even comes with a green-screen backdrop and software for Blue-ray disc authoring. Pinnacle Studio is a good choice for people who want to do frequent, sophisticated editing and are willing to endure a bit of a learning curve.

5. CyberLink PowerDirector

Another tool competing with Premiere Elements is CyberLink PowerDirector, priced similarly to Premiere Elements. The PowerDirector feature set is comparable to other products in this market segment, but its performance tends to be somewhat faster, and its user interface is nice and clean.

The drawback to using PowerDirector is its somewhat weaker media organization functionality, which can be a problem for people with a lot of footage. But thanks to its speed, it’s one of the best programs on the market.

Where to Get Started with Editing

At first, the task of editing a video may seem confusing and somewhat scary. The process has many technical expressions to understand, many software features to use, and many concepts to grasp. The best way to deal with this complexity is to simply dive in.

Attempting a test project

After some preparation, there’s no better way to get up to speed in video editing than to simply try it. Select a topic for a test project, and try to put together a simple video about it. This gives you firsthand experience with the editing software before you try to create your first real video.

If you have some video footage from your last vacation or family event, that’s a good place to start, because your family can then enjoy a watchable, well-edited video. Or if you want to dive right into marketing-oriented videos, shoot some quick footage about your business and use existing pictures.

Avoid overthinking your first project. Your goal isn’t to produce a masterwork of cinematic storytelling — it’s to explore the features of your editing tool and experience the basic process of editing.

Your first project should follow these guidelines because you find these elements in most serious video projects:

  • Import, view, and organize multiple clips of raw video footage.
  • Use pictures and graphical elements, such as a logo, in your video.
  • Experiment with different title styles.
  • Try variations of background music to see how music can influence the mood of a video.
  • Explore basic visual effects, such as transitions between scenes.
  • Record a voice-over narration track.

Make a short video first, maybe a couple of minutes long. Don’t forget to share the video with a friend for feedback; you’ll be surprised at what you notice when you’re sharing a project.

Handling file formats, resolution, and conversion

Video used to be supplied on magnetic tape. Though it was available in several formats, such as VHS and Betacam, figuring out what you had was fairly simple. 

The digital world has brought about a dramatic cost reduction (video professionals no longer have to own a VCR for every cassette format), but it also brought about more complexity. Dozens of different digital video file formats are now used in the industry.

Fortunately, modern editing programs handle much of this mess for you. Almost all editing tools handle the most common dozen or so formats. But if you work with video footage shot by someone else, you still may occasionally encounter an exotic format. That’s why you should understand the basic principles of using video file formats.

Sorting out the file formats

Digital video produces extremely large files. These files would be even larger if not for the heavy compression that’s applied to the original video signal. Video compression uses some fancy calculations to squeeze high-quality moving pictures and sound into files that are as small as possible. To give you an idea, your video files would be between 5 and 50 times larger without compression.

The compression process is managed by a coder/decoder or codec. This piece of software squeezes the video into a smaller digital format when it’s recorded and decompresses it again when it’s being watched. Because a codec typically isn’t compatible with other codecs, you can’t watch a video recorded via codec A on a device that supports only codec B.

Some of the most popular video codecs are

  • Apple ProRes
  • Digital Video (DV)
  • H.264 (a more modern version of MPEG-4) ✓ MPEG-4
  • Windows Media (WMV)

The data generated by these codecs is stored in a file that contains additional information, such as the title and description of the video, synchronization markers that sync audio and video, subtitles, and more.

You see these file formats, or container formats, on your PC or Mac. These container formats and their file endings are the most popular:

  • Flash Video (.flv)
  • MP4 (.mp4)
  • MPEG (.mpg)
  • QuickTime (.mov)
  • Windows Media (.avi)

Don’t let yourself become confused: Container files can contain several different codecs. For example, a QuickTime file can contain a video in Apple ProRes, DV, or H.264 format. Each format can be matched with a number of audio codec formats, such as AAC, AIFF, or MP3.

In other words, if someone asks you for the format of your video files and you respond “AVI” or “MOV,” the person doesn’t know much more about the format than before he asked. Any container file type can contain any of dozens of different codecs.

The only way to determine what you have is to open the video file in a player application, such as QuickTime Player or Windows Media Player. Then use the menu command that shows you details about the file. In QuickTime, it’s Window ➪ Show Movie Inspector. In Windows Media Player, it’s File ➪ Properties.

Converting formats

Modern editing programs can work with the most widely used video file formats. However, if you use the footage in a more exotic format — material provided by someone else, for example — you may encounter roadblocks. Your editing application may not be able to work with unusual formats directly.

In this case, convert these files to a more standard format by using a video conversion program. Your editing program may even have one already.

You can find many free or inexpensive conversion programs. If you have to deal with an exotic video file format, the time savings are definitely worth the price. 

On Windows PCs, AVS Video Converter (www.avsmedia.com/AVS- Video-Converter.aspx) and Any Video Converter Pro (www.any-video- converter.com/products/for_video) are good choices. 

On the Mac, AVCWare Video Converter (www.avcware.com/) and Wondershare Mac Video Converter (www.wondershare.com/pro/video-converter-pro.html) are recommended products.

Learn more about how to edit your YouTube videos.

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