If you’ve spent time on TikTok or YouTube, you’ve probably seen the hashtag “CapCut” floating around. It refers to the video editor by the same name. CapCut is an all-platform video editor for the Web, Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS, claiming to bring the power of professional studios to the palm of your hand.
Now, I did a professional apprenticeship at Bosse Studios, a small but powerful audio and video recording studio. They work with several high-profile clients, including Disney, Paramount, and Jeff Corwin. So, I like to think I’ve learned a thing or two that would make me qualified to speak on this subject.
Let’s talk about the details. Is the CapCut video editor, specifically the free version, any good for video editors? Will you get the power of a professional studio for free on your phone? Let’s examine the features that CapCut provides.
What Are CapCut’s Main Features?
CapCut has several features that set it apart from the most basic video editors. Distinguishing ones include a freemium model, video templates, ease of access, ease of use, and powerful preset video effects. Most of these features are available in CapCut’s free version.
However, CapCut locks many tools, presets, and effects behind its premium version, CapCut Pro. Features locked behind the paywall include many video effects, rich text editing, advanced editing tools, such as retouching and noise reduction, and cloud storage. Let’s examine the free and premium features.
One of CapCut’s primary features are templates. This allows you to create and load user-generated templates that individuals or companies publish to the library. Free users can use a selection of free options generated by individual users. However, many templates, especially popular commercial ones, are paywalled.
Overall, this feature is an excellent way for new video editors to get into video editing with very little skill required. They typically only require you to input various media into specific slots; the template does the rest.
One downside of the templates is that you can’t use them commercially. If your goal is to begin producing commercial videos or to begin editing videos professionally, templates are essentially useless to you. You’ll need to learn to retouch and composite videos yourself rather than have others do it for you.
Templates can also stunt your growth as a video editor. It’s easy to fall into a rhythm of doing as little work as possible using them. However, if you plan to do anything serious with video editing, you’ll need to leave templates behind eventually and start producing videos independently.
Still, users only looking to make fun videos for friends and family won’t see any negative returns on using templates. They can even up your game when making videos with casual settings.
CapCut packages hundreds of effects into its suite. These are split into several different workspace windows, including “Video Effects,” “Animations,” and “Styles.”
Animations are what it says on the tin: animations that affect the media on your timeline, typically regarding the video entering or exiting the screen. Video effects add lighting, motion, or other aspects to the whole timeline. Styles can be aspects or animations, similar to video effects.
There are many free video effects available in CapCut’s free version. However, like with templates, many effects, especially the most interesting and popular ones, are locked behind the subscription.
CapCut’s video effects and animation library are impressive and provide easy drag-and-drop access to many effects that require considerable effort to produce manually. However, they’re heavily restricted, considering most of them are pay-to-use, and the customization of these effects is severely limited.
Ease of Access
One of CapCut’s primary features is its ease of access. CapCut is available on all major platforms for both desktop and mobile, and you can log in with the same account on both versions, allowing you to share one subscription between multiple platforms.
Accessing a powerful video editor from your phone is extremely useful, especially for influencers who need to be able to edit on the go. It’s also excellent if you enjoy taking photos and videos on your phone since you can access that media directly without uploading it to your computer.
CapCut doesn’t wall any basics behind the subscription. So, you’ll be able to take advantage of all the video editing essentials packaged into the program regardless of whether you subscribe, and using it on multiple platforms sweetens the pot.
This program is also very light in terms of processing power. You can run CapCut on most computer systems, even with significantly less power than average. Laptops and notebooks can run it efficiently, and it checks your system environment to tell you whether you can run the program smoothly during its installation.
Ease of Use
Another great feature of CapCut is that it’s straightforward to use. It’s very easy to pick up and get started with CapCut, even if you have no experience with video editing. Whether you choose to use a template or get your hands dirty and start editing videos manually, you’ll have no trouble getting right in and finding a rhythm.
CapCut’s robust presets offer many customization options to tweak the effects to suit your exact vision. While the free version won’t give you access to all the effects in the library, many essential effects are free. So, you’ll have a good selection whether you subscribe or not.
The free version also doesn’t put any walls in place to make the program harder to use. Some actively make their programs more unwieldy for free users, but CapCut is essentially the same whether you subscribe or not.
Is CapCut Free Version Good? Does It Provide Professional-Level Quality?
One of CapCut’s main claims to fame is that it provides professional-level video editing quality for free. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. While CapCut’s editing suite is robust in terms of preset effects, it lacks much of what a professional editor would associate with their suite. Let’s examine what makes CapCut less powerful than a professional editing suite.
Reliance on Presets
CapCut’s only method of adding video effects is through presets. While these effects are impressive, a professional editor needs more. Professional editors sometimes need to be able to make their own effects through keyframing and compositing. CapCut does not have a compositor suite. So, many effects an expert could produce through compositing are unachievable.
Additionally, CapCut’s presets can only be customized to some extent. While most preset video effects can only be customized as much as the original creator allows, some programs like DaVinci Resolve enable users to modify effects on a compositor level using the program’s native compositor, Fusion.
The ability to modify a preset someone else produced allows users to get their vision down in the program without sacrificing anything. While it does mean that users have to learn to composite videos manually, using Fusion specifically, access to a compositor is a powerful tool many video editors pay through the nose to have in their arsenal, bringing us to our next point.
Lack of Compositing
CapCut does not have a compositing tool. Compositing is defined as “combining two sources into a single product.” In video editing, this can be achieved in multiple ways. One of the most common ways to blend two videos is through chroma keying or green screening.
When you chroma key two videos together, you change the opacity of pixels to remove certain color values from the image. When the background of one image is all the same, this removes the background and composites the images. However, this technique can be used on any image with enough finesse.
Compositing tools are also used by visual and motion effects engineers to produce stunning graphics, much like the ones you see in blockbuster movies and music videos. Without a compositing tool, all of their work is meaningless. They can only interact with CapCut by working in an entirely separate software and putting that rendered composition into CapCut as a standalone video clip.
Another downside of CapCut is the subscription model. While software-as-a-service is more popular than ever, many software options exist for people who want to pay once and own the software forever. Options like DaVinci Resolve and Avid Media Composer offer free suites for video editors to download and use for life.
With more powerful free options on the market, there’s no comparison with CapCut. Why would I pay for a subscription to use certain effects when I could create my own effects using DaVinci Resolve or Avid Media Composer’s free suites?
The timeline in CapCut is also rather unwieldy, coming from a background of using professional-grade video compositors. Now, I primarily use the Android version of the app. I don’t use Google Chrome. So, I can’t use the app’s web version at all. The Windows version of CapCut is a definite improvement over the Android version regarding the user interface.
However, regardless of which version I used, the timeline elements don’t interact as expected. In some cases, this disparity is an improvement. In others, it is a detriment.
For instance, effects in CapCut get their own “layer” in the timeline. I liked that to some extent, as it meant I could change the effects on a single clip more efficiently or have a single effect seamlessly integrated over multiple clips.
However, that also meant my timeline was chock full of stuff. There were tons of extra “layers” as I added more effects to achieve my goals. Ultimately, my timeline was huge and hard to navigate because of everything in it.
CapCut also felt extremely restrictive to me as a video editor. Clips have a minimum size that is larger than one frame; keyframing is a feature that was only recently added and is far more restrictive than a typical system; curves and color grading simply do not exist, and the list goes on. Let’s examine some of the restrictive elements in-depth.
Minimum Clip Length
Clips in CapCut cannot be shortened past a certain length; if they’re too short, you cannot add transitions. Ultimately, the minimum length restriction means that certain effect outputs are unachievable.
While, yes, shortening some transitions or effects by speeding them up would make them invisible or distort them, sometimes this distortion is the ultimate goal. The minimum length restriction only ensures I cannot create certain effects and timelines because the clips would be too short.
No Color Correction
There is also no in-depth color correction in CapCut. Color correction is the adjustment of color values in an image to create a uniform color scheme over multiple images or to bring the color values of an image closer to what you would see in real life.
This effect is achieved by adding or subtracting colors from the high, mid, and low tones to darken blacks, brighten whites, and overall change the image colors. CapCut has an adjustment tool that allows you to adjust the hue, saturation, and temperature of the clip. However, this is not a suitable replacement for a color corrector.
In a full-fledged studio, color correction is done by colorists. These engineers are often conscripted to use the software that their studio prefers, but some allow their engineers to use the program of their choice. Regardless, no colorist is using CapCut because it has no color correction feature.
Limited Color Grading
Color grading is different from color correction. Color correction makes footage appear more realistic, while color grading makes footage appear more stylistic and vibrant. Footage will typically go through color correction and color grading during production.
We color-correct footage so that all the colors look the same when we put the footage through color grading. Color grading is typically achieved using a “look-up table” (LUT), a massive table of numbers that tells the computer how to modify the colors in an image.
We want to color-correct the footage so the LUT modifies all the colors uniformly over multiple clips. We often use these to create a vibrant look and mood over a video, and we might use multiple color schemes to distinguish moods between different scenes. Thus, the lack of color correction in CapCut also limits the ability to color grade in the program.
No Plugin Compatibility
One of the most essential features for most video editors is the ability to load plugins and presets from other sources. Most artists will tell you that collaboration is how greatness is born. It stifles the collaborative effort significantly if you can’t get effects, LUTs, motion graphics, and other presets from alternative sources.
Hundreds to thousands of plugin packs for video editor suites, mainly Final Cut Pro and Adobe Premier Pro, have reigned supreme in video editing for years. DaVinci Resolve takes it further by allowing users to save natively and export DaVinci Resolve presets in the program.
The truth is you can’t rely on a single company to produce everything you need in art. Collaboration between companies is crucial for advancing software and art in general. Unless CapCut starts partnering with plugin companies to develop plugins for the program, it will likely never achieve a mainstream foothold in professional video editing outside of the influencer sphere.
What Are the Best Alternatives for CapCut?
CapCut is powerful and free, which can be enticing for the uninitiated. However, there are many better options out there that provide more overall features, with a slightly steeper learning curve. Let’s examine those options.
DaVinci Resolve is my home workspace of choice. It has two options, the free version and DaVinci Resolve Studio, a single payment version that includes access to all updates and future versions.
The real power of DaVinci Resolve is its flexibility. It packages three programs into one workspace: DaVinci Resolve, Fusion, and Fairlight.
DaVinci Resolve is a video timeline editor for cutting, splicing, and reordering clips. Fusion is compositing software for creating visual and motion effects, color correction, and grading. Fairlight is an audio post-production workspace for modifying or even recording audio.
The free version of the program includes access to all three programs. The only thing barred off in the Studio version is some effects. You can also download presets and LUTs from other sources, and there are tons of free options for people who want to continue on the $0 price point.
Avid Media Composer
Avid’s Media Composer is another excellent free video compositing suite. It’s a critically acclaimed suite that’s popular amongst professional editors who like to use plugins because it’s compatible with many.
If you like Media Composer, you can consider going up a tier and paying monthly for their advanced color management, more video and audio tracks, and unlocking the native toolset. Their subscription is more expensive than CapCut but provides much more.
Unfortunately, a full Media Composer suite with plugins can be pretty expensive. It doesn’t have the massive suite of free plugins that DaVinci Resolve does. You’ll have to pay for each plugin you want to download.
Additionally, Media Composer doesn’t come prepackaged with an audio workspace. Avid also produces the Pro Tools workspace for audio editing. However, like the Media Composer, it has a free version with slightly less overall power.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©PrinceOfLove/Shutterstock.com.