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“Best of the Worst” Video Editing Software 2014 Countdown:
Unashamed Reviews of Freeware and Free Software for Video Editing

Among video editing software, free video editing software has infamy for being the worst Freeware or even FLOSS (Free "Libre" Open Source Software). Even among free software (including GPL software) in general, free video editing software also has infamy for being the worst in this broader category. The lack of good free and (especially GPL) video editing programs has always been a major roadblock to independent video editing and even to the adoption of GNU operating systems. As a video editing enthusiast who doesn’t have thousands of dollars to throw way, and a GPL fan, I have struggled with this lack of good software, and even more with the sheer quantity of horrible software that is just a tease. I have tried many free (including GPL) programs and they have not worked for me. As far as commercial software, I initially used to use Ulead MediaStudio starting in about 1996, before Ulead changed to the "crippleware" software development model (releasing stripped-down versions of software that used to be better, and offering [some of the] additional features or programs for a higher price).  Around 1996 there was MediaStudio and the wonderful Video Paint whose last (ever) version does not run on modern OS’s. I tried to stay with MediaStudio so I could keep my old projects, and even bought new versions, including the last version on eBay after new versions stopped being made. However, some versions of MediaStudio will just stay blank when opening certain projects, or when resaved result in projects that can’t be opened by any version, so I have given up on it because of lost work (it is a zipped xml format so making an open-source reader is feasible). Then Corel bought MediaStudio, supported it from 2006-2009 without updating it, then discontinued it--which demonstrates why proprietary closed-source software is a tragic abuse of copyright (other examples include termination of Lightscribe by HP, purchase and termination of Caligari trueSpace by Microsoft, purchase and termination of Winamp by AOL [now owned by Radionomy who has to remove code licensed to previous owner, and there have been no releases or new information for years], and termination of 845 chipset driver by Intel before Windows 8 support was added [making many laptops unable to play most major games after upgrading to Windows 8 due to lack of OpenGL]). Currently use Sony Vegas Movie Studio, and when coerced, the unresponsive Adobe Premiere (Elements 10). However, I have still been constantly hoping for and trying free and open-source, especially GPL video editing software, so I have decided to share the results of my search for the “Least Worst” video editing programs. These ratings are from an end-user’s perspective, so they are unashamedly low where usability, accessibility to new users (including installation), and functionality is low. If all you need is Windows Movie Maker or iMovie, by all means, use them. I have ignored them in this countdown because they do not have compositing, and I have also pointed out which of the programs I am reviewing do not have compositing. This countdown is for those who need something more (especially compositing) and are still hoping for free/open-source/GPL software, but have trouble navigating or even persevering through the frustrating maze of alpha/beta software and “dub” (non-compositing) programs.

HERE COMES THE DIRTY LAUNDRY!

#1: “Most Worst” Video Editing Program: VLMC0.2.0!
The website is probably as far as you'll probably get, so a screenshot of the website is an appropriate screenshot:

0.01/10 (0.1%)
See for yourself (requires linux)

Pros:
  • Uses almost any video format (if you can get the program to run)
    • I have used the VLC player for years and it is mostly great and works great for DVD (mpeg2)
Cons:
  • Based on VideoLAN aka VLC Media Player, so presumably has the same glitches:
    • h.264 streaming block glitches on certain random videos for unknown reasons, or when jumping to a frame
    • innaccurate goto-frame functionality (at least for most common video formats)
  • In Ubuntu, you can  drag videos to Media Library that are not compatible--I think--I couldn't tell why nothing would play in the preview
    • Fails to load files that work fine in VLC
  • Non-working? In Ubuntu, no matter what I dragged to the timeline,  the timeline remianed blank (though more time on it became highlighted)

  • No stable releases (you have to download the code and compile it, so you basically have to be a programmer to use it)
    • You may not even be able to download compilable code, because the program's GIT repository has a sync warning:
      Warning: Can't synchronize with repository "(default)" (GIT backend not available). Look in the Trac log for more information.

#2: Vidiot 0.2.6

0.01/10 (0.1%)
See for yourself

(Couldn't find any pros, since still couldn't figure out how to do anything after several minutes--see full explanation under Cons)
Cons:
  • When program starts, all panes of the window are blank
  • You have to do File, New, then an untitled folder appears in the “project” pane, then you have to right-click it, Add, “File(s) from disk”
    • cannot choose mts HD Video camera files (you can use Handbrake to convert to MP4)
  • Non-working? After managing to get a video file into the “untitled” folder, I was unable to do anything. I couldn’t left click or right click to do anything in the “details” pane, the “Preview” pane, or the “Timeline” pane, which all remained blank. I was not able to drag the video to any of the other panes. Also, nothing in the menu allowed me to add anything to any of the panes. Double-clicking the video also did nothing.

#3: ffDiaporama 2.2

0.1/10 (1%)
See for yourself
Note on this rating: This program caused me the most frustration out of any of the programs for one clear reason: there are many things to try, and nearly all of them either cause unexpected results or failure. I have more to say about this program’s problems than any other, and it only gets more than the other programs because this program works somewhat (though it is very close in quality to the nonworking programs which I rated less than 1%).

Pros:
  • Based on Qt
 Cons:
  • When adding files, can't type location
  • Initially only the “File” menu is is shown, which doesn’t allow you to add videos--to add videos, you have to click “Project” tab, then “Add files”
  • Add file dialog and file browsing is very slow
  • Crashed on first use
  • Doesn't seem to have an active community
  • Doesn't have any way to use mouse to change cut-in, cut-out, or position of videos
  • Default transition is random (gaudy star wipes galore)
  • You can't click a transition to change type of transition (that just selects the destination clip)
    • you have to right-click on destination clip, then click "Edit object transition"
    • A simple dissolve is hard to find
      • You have to change drop-down box from "Luma-Clock" to "None and basic" then click the one that looks like a fade (transitions have no names listed, and tooltip for each just says "Allows you to select a transition."!)
    • Doesn't have any way to use mouse to change transition length
      •   you have to go to "Edit object transition" then choose a duration from a list: "0.5" "1.0"
  • Seems to not use threading--every action (especially "Add files" or clicking any folder in "Add files" dialog) seems to cause "not responding" message
  • The timeline is actually just a Sceneline, with no timing marks or visible way to change timing
  • Apparently there is no way to split clips or whatsoever
  • Confusing/ambiguous terms “Edit slide” “Edit object transition”, “Block information”, that don’t do what you expect: for example, I tried to do “edit slide” on a picture that was after a video, and cropped it spatially, but when I pushed OK and play, the picture was not cropped, and now the video moved off the screen starting from the beginning, being completely off the side at the end).
  • Most functions are done by typing a value into a Text Box in a huge list of text boxes labeled with strange/ambiguous terms
  • Runs five installers which each have to be uninstalled separately, as if you tried to throw away a dirty diaper, but the filth inside made it stick to your hand:
ffDiaporama has four uninstallers for various components


#4: Zwei-Stein (a.k.a ZS4) 0.958

1/10
See for yourself

(Could not find any pros, since couldn't figure out how to do anything after several minutes)
Cons:
  • Does not load mts or mp4, and double-clicking an iPhone MOV file in “File” mode does nothing (just switches to video tab of “Import” mode which remains blank).
  • Single track (there is some kind of strange “MediaMixer” pane that looks similar to Jashaka’s desktop and that may help with compositing, but there is still only a single track)
  • File tree with obscure “\” folder which must be clicked (NOT double-clicked) to show all of your drives, and sometimes doesn’t even expand when you click because a  icon-sized preview of the folders (which is way too small to read anyway) gets in the way of clicking, or doesn’t expand randomly, and a copy of the mouse arrow is left behind temporarily.
  • “Import” mode of source pane does not have any buttons (just audio and video tabs which are empty) and does not seem to do anything--dragging an iPhone MOV file to it does nothing
  • Has its own widgets, so buttons and other widgets do not look like your other programs no matter what OS you have (some look like Gimp 1.0 with Motif Window Manager), and (at least on Windows)often there there are different cursors under the standard mouse cursor arrow, such as a huge double-ended arrow when you are resizing panes.
  • Dragging within the track pane with either button causes the pane to float around and produces a warning, “Use Shift Key for Dragging” (then if you do it again, it punishes you by saying “Use Shift Key for Dragging (Again!)”) , however, using shift key and dragging it does exactly the same thing except without the warning.
  • If you didn't make a desktop icon, finding the program is a guessing game and is two-deep in folders--it is in the t@b folder under Start, "All Programs," then under the t@b ZS4 Video Editor folder

#5: Jashaka 2.0

3/10
See for yourself

Pros:
  • Many effects, including 3d rendered effects
Cons:
  • Have to click Edit to go to timeline
  • Couldn't find a play button to show a preview of the video
  • Couldn't figure out how to add anything on the timeline
    • Desktop is initially hidden in "Edit" (timeline) "mode"
      • Clicking "Get Desktop" still does not allow dragging files from Desktop to the timeline
    • Even right-clicking timeline then add causes the causes video to appear on the Jahshaka "Desktop"
  • Import does not show .mts HD video camera files (does show and play MP4, so you must use Handbrake or other software to convert to MP4)
  • Slow mp4 preview

#6: AviTricks 1.63
3.5/10

Compositing:No
Pros:
  • Has many effects
Cons:
  • Can only open AVI
  • Cannot open DV AVI (the dvsd FOURCC)
  • Seems to be only one track--though the program teases with a tree that has “video track” under it, I could not find any way to add another
  • Every click becomes an access violation (sometimes an infinite number of access violations--see recreated screenshot) after you try to add a video, if you first right-click and Open With on the video to preview it.

DebugMode Wax 2.0e

3.5/10
See for yourself

Pros:
  • Can be used as a plugin for other programs
  • Can use VirtualDub plugins and some other types of plugins and presets
Cons:
  • Does not support MPG, MP4, MTS, or MOV files, only AVI (you have to install AviSynth and write an AviSynth script in Notepad to load any other format), even though all of those formats (presumably *.*) are displayed when File Open dialog is on the default "All supported media files"
    • Does not load DV AVI files (the dvsd FOURCC)
  • Dragging a video file from a folder to the timeline says “Not a valid wax project” instead of trying to import the video file
  • Does not work with Sony Vegas Movie Studio, only Sony Vegas Pro (when Wax was invented, Movie Studio did not even have an SDK).
  • Not actively developed and not open-source, so plugin version may not be compatible with new versions of Vegas or Premiere, and probably never will be.


Dubedit 0.5.2

4/10
See for yourself

Pros:
  • Good dub application (probably great for editing single files if you need to do advanced enhancement or repair but not make a multi-file movie)
Cons:
  • Timeline is frame-based
  • Not multi-track
  • Cannot open mts or mp4 files
  • No way to drag files to Timeline
  • Seems to be for editing only one video file, so it is not really a video editing application, but more of a “dub” application like VirtualDub, for enhancing and trimming single video files
  • GUI does not match the SourceForge "Open Source Requirements" in Dubedit's words, so only backend code is hosted on sf.net--program is on http://dubedit.free.fr/Download/
  • Has a web installer, and it says "(Not Responding)" while it downloads and installs the required libraries, and the required libraries are downloaded and installed in a separate window that may get hidden behind somethine else, leaving you with an unresponsive window until you find the right window.

Blender 2.7’s built-in Video Sequence Editor

4/10
See for yourself
(Blender is a 3D Modeling and Animation program, but has a Video Sequence editor panel that can be loaded, and has a Video Editing layout that, if you choose it instead of Default, automatically opens a Video Sequence Editor panel, a preview panel, and other panels related to video editing)

Pros:
  • Great effects
  • Loads most formats (including mts and mp4 containers)

Cons:
  • To move a clip you have to right-click and drag, then it will stick to the mouse until you left click, and audio doesn't come with it by default (audio and video then become desynchronized) and there is
    • No snap to clip, which makes the problem of audio and video moving separately worse
  • Have to add a preview window by splitting current view or choosing the video editing preset from a drop down list (change from Default)
    • If you mess up the preset, you’ll have to reset the whole program to factory defaults and try Video editing preset again
  • drag and drop functionality is limited
  • There is apparently no way to use the mouse to change cut-in and cut-out time of clips, or split clips
  • Apparently no snapping
  • Apparently no preview of clips
  • You have to manually set the project to a certain framerate (default is 24fps), and clips are not automatically adjusted to play at correct speed, so they probably won’t when you first try

Novacut 14.04

4/10
See for yourself (requires linux; see also novacut.com that has been saying "coming soon" for years)

Pros
  • Multi-user interface
  • Responsive drag and drop editing
  • Sources panel can be arranged (like Jahshaka desktop, except Novacut's works and you can drag from sources panel to timeline)
Cons:
  • Has a sceneline instead of a timeline
  • Still very much in its infancy, but makes wild claims of its own benefits--also, version number should be less than 1.0, not 14.04--they are just matching the release schedule of Ubuntu so they are using Ubuntu's version number.
  • Has to run a service to work (dmedia), and services seems to run in background constantly (kept having outdated package errors even after closing Novacut, and crashed while the packages were being upgraded)
    • I was greeted with a crash on first use after clicking New Account--dmedia Server did not work until I got the latest updates to Ubuntu manually (had a huge list of packages that dmedia saidwere outdated). Even after update, dmedia service remained stopped, and opening Novacut again apparently did not start dmedia automatically, and many of the widgets in the program to be blank (such as, after opening a project, the Dmedia project drop-down was blank) and not do anything. I then rebooted Ubuntu. Problem remains
  • Dragging a video to Novacut caused the video to play and take up the whole window, then right-clicking it brings up a web page properties menu ("Download Video," "Inspect Element" etc--this is apparently because couchdb player is used by novacut for showing previews)
    • All buttons went missing, so I could not get out of the preview and had to close Novacut (I tried again and tried Esc, f, Alt Enter,  and every F-key but nothing let me get out of it!)
 

VideoPad 3.43 (free version discontinued and removed from site May 31, 2014)

4/10
See for yourself

Pros:
  • Video files can be dragged directly from a folder to the timeline
Cons:
  • "Free version is a limited new release offer and will be removed after May 31." -NCH Software. <http://www.nchsoftware.com/videopad/> 5 May 2014
  • Not open-source
  • Not multi-track, at least in free version (there are move track up and down operations in the menu which are always grayed out, and there is no way to add new tracks)
  • Pay for premium features, and has survey on exit

Lightworks 11.5.1

4.5/10
See for yourself

Pros:
  • Great if your have done film cutting: Interface will look and behave in a way that is familiar to experienced filmcutters and other Hollywood professionals who may consider the interface 10/10.
  • Has been used for several major Hollywood films
  • Capable of using premiere plugins
  • Now available on Linux and Apple
  • Open-source version is promised after complete code audit is finished (the type of the source license has not yet been announced)
  • You can render and manipulate masks derived from chroma keyed footage (but you have to render a mask and reattach it to the footage for chroma keying to work, which is a con)
Cons:
  • Drag and drop functionality is limited: Cutting, adding effects, and most other common operations require several steps and training just to know where to click.
  • You have to create a timeline in order to edit anything (you have to click the create timeline symbol before it appears), and there can be multiple timelines (again, filmcutters and other Hollywood professionals may be more familiar with the arrangement and consider this a pro).
  • It is "Freemium" (it is free, but features require signing into a paid account)
  • Sometimes when program starts your “free license has expired” so you have to sign into your free account again.
  • In order to make chrome keyed parts of footage transparent, you have to render a mask and then reattach it to the footage

Cinelerra

5/10
See for yourself (you'll probably have to start your computer from an ArtistX liveCD to even get it to install--however they also have a company website)

Pros:
  • Good for industrial strength video editing--does powerful effects quickly on high-resolution video if hardware requirements are met.
Cons:
  • Heavy on required software components, so will probably never come to Windows--didnt even install properly on Fedora as of 2010 because of using alternate versions of libraries (package conflict errors prevented install)--often running Cinelerra has required running an alternate spin of linux such as ArtistX.
  • Annoying auto-cutting in timeline when you drag videos too close, like Adobe Premiere but even less clear (no visual warning before you drop)
  • Heavy on hardware requirements
  • Buttons and other Widgets look much like "Gimp 1.0" (with Motif Window Manager) and simple widgets such as drop down choices and restore may not look or work in a way that is familiar or that follows Gnome/KDE user experience guidelines.

Movie Masher 3.2.30

5/10
See for yourself

Pros:
  • Interface appears very usable and clear
Cons:
  • Online only
  • You have to make your own server and host it in order to use it

Shotcut 14.05.02

7/10
See for yourself
Comments: If the Timeline (and additional tracks) were shown by default and you could drag to it, the program would be 8/10.

Pros:
  • Very stable and functional timeline editing (after you figure out how to add files to it--preview a file then push down arrow)
    • Snaps to clip by default
    • Drag and drop to move video through timeline or change cut-in or cut-out time
  • Based on MLT Video Editing Framework therefore has:
    • Support of many formats
    • Responsive scrubbing (drag along video progress indicator back and forth to preview different times)
    • Responsive and stable preview
    • Accurate splicing
Cons:
  • Timeline is initially hidden
    • multi-track view of timeline is initially hidden--even after you add new tracks, you can only see the latest one unless you drag the splitter to make the timeline pane bigger:

  • No drag and drop: Can only add files to timeline by opening video in the preview, selecting the track, then pushing the down arrow
    • Attempting to drag from preview to timeline sometimes crashes program




And Finally, the Very Least Worst
(and therefore the very best Freeware or FLOSS program)...


OpenShot 2.0

9/10
See for yourself

Pros:
  • Based on MLT Video Editing Framework, therefore has:
    • Support of many formats
    • Responsive scrubbing (drag along video progress indicator back and forth to preview different times)
    • Responsive and stable preview
    • Accurate splicing
  • Uses Blender as a backend for 3D effects (in a completely integrated way--for example, you can just add 3D text without knowing Blender)
  • You can drag and drop to move videos through timeline
  • Razor tool is the method for cutting clips (it is very easy), and "razor tool" is an intuitive name
  • Installation on Ubuntu is simple via software center or apt-get (OpenShot is in the Universe repository so that just has to be enabled)
  • In Ubuntu you can drag and drop videos from a folder to the sources panel (then you can drag them from there to the timeline)
  • Support for multiple chroma keys (after dragging effect to clip, click the C that appeared on the clip then set color on left)
Cons:
  • Few effects
  • Has suffered at times from "one developer syndrome" (but hopefully that situation is improving): initially had few releases, minimal features, development holdups during refactoring (such as switch to QImage), and few blog updates.

EDIT (Sep 21, 2016): re-reviewed OpenShot 2.0 on Windows, since in 2014 1.4.3 was the current version (on ArtistX)