The ubiquity of video content is a double-edged sword for fledgling professionals. The upside is that you can learn the craft of editing from the comfort of your own house. The downside is that with so many people using pro video editing tools, you really need to hone your skills in order to stand out from the crowd. The right program can help you do that.
Free non-linear editing (NLE) software that handles the basics is a great place to start, but if you are looking to take your editing to the next level, you should really consider investing in a program that professionals use. Not only will it improve the look of your videos, but the ability to say you are fluent in a certain program may open up professional opportunities for you as an editor. So, after looking at dozens of options, our ranking for the best video editing software programs for professionals are:
- Best Overall: Adobe Premiere Pro
- Best for Industry Veterans: Avid Media Composer
- Best for Indie Filmmakers: Blackmagic Design Davinci Resolve
- Best for Mac Users: Final Cut Pro X
- Best for Beginners: Vegas Pro 19
#1 Best Overall Video Editing Software for Professionals: Adobe Premiere Pro
- Compatible with PC and Mac
- 12-month subscription with auto renewal
- Video editing software app lets you edit for film, TV, and online content
- You can edit footage in any modern format, including 8K and virtual reality
The best thing about Adobe Premiere Pro is peace of mind. You don’t have to wonder if it can perform a certain function. Adobe built such a versatile tool that It can do just about anything you need it to. This is especially true when paired with the entire Adobe Suite equipped with programs like Photoshop and After Effects. That deep functionality is a good explanation for why Adobe Premiere is one of the most popular NLE programs among professionals.
Due to said popularity, you’re nearly guaranteed to have every prospective employer require knowledge of Premiere and the Adobe Suite as a requirement for employment. Part of the reason for this is because of the aforementioned versatility. Premiere provides the ability for an 8K or even virtual reality workflow. You can edit nearly any kind of video on it, and even mix different formats without too much of a headache.
The interface is highly intuitive and streamlined for an efficient workflow. Customizations are made easy thanks to a plethora of advanced tools such as color matching, multi-camera rendering, and an extensive list of graphics and titles. Its seamless integration with After Effects makes working with MOGRT files a snap. Pricing is a bit high, but not when you consider the caliber of professional tools that you are actually getting in return. However, speaking of price, it’s only available in a monthly subscription or a prepaid annual plan, which is a dealbreaker for some. Check out Adobe Premier Pro on Amazon.
|It has an intuitive interface that’s easy to use.
|It is a monthly subscription plan or prepaid annual plan.
|There is seamless integration with other Adobe software.
|It has professional-grade tools and features.
Best for Industry Veterans: Avid Media Composer
- Offers real-time multi-user collaboration
- Wide compatibility with other programs
- Script integration
- Dynamic media folders
- Great for all aspects of post-production work
Avid Media Composer is our top choice for industry veterans. Avid is so old school it can trace its origins back to the days of celluloid film. They were one of the first companies to pioneer the NLE (non-linear editing) system. As such they’ve somewhat been grandfathered into the Hollywood studios. Some of the smaller production companies have moved to things like Adobe Premiere or Final Cut X, but most of the big houses are still cutting on Avid. Especially if they have editors that are particularly well-seasoned.
One of the best features of Avid is the ability for real-time multi-user collaboration. Anyone who has ever had to share huge editing files back and forth with a collaborator can easily see the advantage there. Avid might be one of the best NLEs when it comes to collaboration as it is compatible with just about every program that it will bump into along the post-production chain. Script integration is another handy feature that allows you to follow along with the script as you cut. Dynamic media folders run in the background, allowing you to view folders even if Avid isn’t running.
The fact that it’s nearly twice the cost of Adobe Premiere which includes nearly all the same functionality with a more intuitive interface and interflow is significant. Frankly, it’s the only reason Avid didn’t get the top recommendation. Media Composer is a powerful piece of software that can interface with all aspects of post-production. That’s the reason it’s a staple in a lot of Hollywood post-production houses. If you’re looking to work in one someday, you should absolutely learn and become comfortable with Avid Media Composer. Otherwise, there are cheaper options with similar functionality out there. Check out Avid Media Composer on Amazon.
|It is the Hollywood industry standard.
|The interface isn’t very intuitive.
|Dynamic Media Folders are accessible without the program running.
|There is a steep learning curve.
|It integrates easily with post-production workflow.
|The program is expensive.
Best for Indie Filmmakers: Blackmagic Design DaVinci Resolve
- Professional video editing program
- Perfect for colorists
- Features 8K editing
- Compatible with Mac, Windows, and Linux
- NLE editing tools
- Compatible with Resolve Studio 16
If Avid is the past, Blackmagic Design DaVinci Resolve might be the future. You’ve probably heard about DaVinci from one of its many recent converts and devotees. Although, it is unclear how much of the hype is due to the product’s popularity among editors, and how much is due to reviewers chasing clicks because of its popularity with algorithms. While its future status as an industry standard remains to be seen, one thing that is undeniable is the quality of the product.
If you are a colorist first and an editor second DaVinci Resolve is absolutely going to be the program for you. Developed by Blackmagic Design primarily as a color correction tool, DaVinci Resolve soon evolved into a full-fledged non-linear editor. Its extensive toolkit and inexpensive entry point, there is a basic version for free, soon made it popular among YouTubers, vloggers, and guerilla filmmakers. Blackmagic kept stacking it with features and before long this color corrector could go toe-to-toe with the best professional video editing software programs in the world.
Resolve has some standard features like an 8K workflow and multicam editing function. However, DaVinci also has a few unique features such as a tool that allows you to tweak your audio while simultaneously adjusting the visual effects. It also has facial recognition technology and a wide range of collaboration tools. The universal timeline feature keeps things consistent when a project changes hands and the built-in chat feature allows communication throughout the entire post-production process. The free version is surprisingly stacked — especially with color tools — and the pro version is reasonably priced. Check out Blackmagic Design DaVinci Resolve on Amazon.
|It includes top-of-the-line color-correction tools.
|There is a steep learning curve.
|It supports 8K workflow.
|There is a free version available.
Best for Mac Users: Final Cut Pro X
- Learn how to use Final Cut Pro X from an Apple Certified Trainer
- Explore importing, editing, finishing, and exporting the final cut
- Enhance your projects with color correction, effects, transitions, audio, titles, and more
- Discover how to edit in the magnetic timeline so you can easily make changes
Final Cut Pro X is another program like Avid Media Composer that has been around for a while, and as such, has a legion of devotees. While Avid developed digital NLE editing for Hollywood, Apple revolutionized the industry by bringing professional editing software to the average consumer with Final Cut Pro X. This professional-grade editing software soon became the standard NLE for the prosumer market. Stacked with slick features and an intuitive interface that made it easily accessible to editors of every skill level, Apple opened up a market that birthed a slew of competitors. Indeed, if there were no Final Cut, there would be no Premiere or Resolve.
True to form for Apple, the software is optimized to work perfectly with its own proprietary hardware. The integration of the Metal engine provides the capability to work with big complex projects while minimizing lag. Even some of the more basic models of Apple will be able to accommodate a 4K workflow with minimal issues and surprising speed. This proprietary efficiency (also, true to form for Apple) is a double-edged sword. It is designed to work perfectly with Apple computers, but won’t work, not even imperfectly, with PC computers.
Final Cut has most of the capabilities that one would expect from a modern prosumer NLE. Audio and video-noise reduction, 360-degree VR editing, advanced multi-cam editing, and even a decent set of color correction tools are included. One of the biggest plusses is that no subscription is required. Final Cut is available as a one-time purchase and is comparably priced to DaVinci Resolve. Check out Final Cut Pro X on Amazon.
|It is optimized to work with Mac hardware.
|You can only use it on a Mac.
|There is no subscription required.
|Motion tracking tools are subpar.
|It has a user-friendly interface.
Best for Beginners: Vegas Pro 19
- Edit formats up to 8K with GPU acceleration
- Features advanced HDR color correction, chroma keying, and AI-assisted tools
- Live stream directly with VEGAS Stream
- SOUND FORGE Audio Studio allows you to edit and enhance your audio
- Compatible with Windows PCs
Vegas Pro 19 now comes with a collaboration feature called Notes which is pretty much what it sounds like. Users can leave notes on parts of the project for future collaborators. Another unique feature is scene detection. If you have a piece of video that has already been edited, Vegas will separate it by cut so that a large piece of video will become precut pieces that could be easier to rearrange or delete if needs be. Standard features like audio, color grading, and image upscaling are all included.
Whether you prefer the subscription or one-time purchase model you are in luck. The program is a flat fee but Vegas also offers online subscriptions that include services like cloud storage and stock video, audio, and images. If you hate subscription fees you can make a one-time payment to access these services. Or, if you don’t want to pay a lump sum upfront, you can pay a monthly fee. Check out Vegas Pro 19 on Amazon.
|It is easy to learn.
|Some tools require a subscription.
|The software is cheaper than some other options.
|It is for PC only.
How to Pick the Best Video Editing Software Program for Professionals: Step-by-Step
When choosing a video editing software program, there are four main considerations for most professionals.
- User Interface
- Media Formats/Compatibility
Let’s review each of these criteria in more detail.
A familiar interface can make video editing a smooth, carefree experience. An unfamiliar interface can lead to countless frustrations. The program you invest in may have a lot to do with the interface you are familiar with. If you aren’t overly familiar with any of them, you may want to consider purchasing the program you want to use in the future and grow into it. If you are headed to Hollywood, you should seriously consider Avid or Premiere. It’s worth knowing that most NLE interfaces are similar, with Avid being the exception. If you choose any of the other four on this list, you should have little problem learning the others quickly.
If you are going to be working with a certain file type, you need to make sure that the NLE you choose can handle it. You don’t really need to worry about this aspect if you will be working exclusively in H264. If, however, you think you might need to have a seamless 8K RAW workflow, you might want to make sure the software you buy (and the hardware you buy, for that matter) can handle that kind of file.
Compatibility is also a consideration. If you are planning on using a Mac for life, by all means, get Final Cut. On the other hand, if you are PC only, you will want to avoid it. Final Cut and Vegas are the only programs on the list that aren’t cross-compatible. They work with Mac OS and Windows OS respectively.
Obviously, the features you specifically need will inform your decision. If you need the best color correction tools, you should go with DaVinci Resolve. The MOGRT capabilities of Premiere will make that program your best bet if you need a lot of motion graphics. If you are a Mac user, Final Cut might be optimal for you. If you are looking to break into the feature film industry, consider Avid’s workflow, and if you are a beginner who needs a user-friendly interface, consider Sony Vegas or Premiere.
Of course, you can only get a program that is within your budget. That aside, when considering price, you should keep updates in mind. Looking at the financial commitment of a subscription, you may be tempted to go for a program with a one-time fee. However, the benefit of a subscription-based program is that you are always assured to have the latest version of the program. This means it will always be compatible with the latest plugins and file types. Also, subscription services often make it easier to jump from machine to machine. None of that may matter to you, but if it does, it’s good to keep that in mind.
What to Know Before Buying a Video Editing Software Program for Professionals
If you are looking to invest in a program that you will grow into and use for the remainder of your career, price should only be a small part of your equation. The fact remains that knowing only Avid will only get you certain jobs. Premiere and Final Cut are extremely common job requirements on modern job boards. DaVinci Resolve seems like it will become more and more common in the future. The investment you make should reflect your professional goals.
Using Video Editing Software Program for Professionals: What it’s Like
If you’ve been using only one video editing program for a while, then you might be a bit surprised by what the other programs can do. Competition has made everyone improve their products in the hopes of becoming the new industry standard. Almost all of these programs have color correction, advanced audio capabilities, extremely sophisticated motion graphics, and advanced special effects tools. Each one of these five programs is user-friendly but could be complicated to learn based on the countless features and functions. Ideally, you should learn a bit of all of them if you can, then pick one program that is designed for your specialty.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©DC Studio/Shutterstock.com.