Video Editing Apps: Which Should I Use?

Short answer: Try a few for a month each and go with the one that works best for you. Power Director was my first consumer level editing app. You could actually sync audio to video in the app but it was manual. And it crashed quite often (this was a 32 bit app back in the day).

Then I upgraded to one of the lesser versions of Sony Vegas. Not bad, but also still 32 bit. Not quite as crashy but not exactly stable. crashes were more common when the timeline was longer than a couple of minutes. No way to live if you really want to produce content.

When I first started editing video a little more seriously, I had a look at Premiere Pro (then version 5.5) and Final Cut Pro X. At that point, I really liked how fast and responsive FCPX was but it crashed. A lot. About every 5 minutes. I don't know why and maybe it was just my particular computer at the time, but that wasn't going to work for me. So I settled on Premiere Pro, starting with CS 5.5 and kept with it up through CC 2014. Premiere keeps getting better and better. But it is sort of like Photoshop in that it is still using the same basic approach as NLEs have used for a long time. The timeline is like a table and you lay out your clips on the table. If you make an edit where you decide to pull a clip from earlier in the sequence and then want to insert it farther to the right, you have to move everything around. Or at least I never learned a better, more efficient way to do it. It might just be me.

Then I decided to give Final Cut Pro X (10.1.something) another try. They definitely fixed the instability issues I experienced on my first try. But this time, FCPX made me angry. Well, not really angry, it just didn't make sense. But I forced myself to stick with it for a full month through the trial period.

And eventually, it all clicked and made sense and saved me a lot of time when I needed to pull a clip or add a new clip from the middle of the timeline. The magnetic timeline just shifted everything over perfectly. And that included all the secondary footage and titles and everything. Rad!

The metadata and search features were nice though I believe a lot of this has been added to Premiere since I moved to FCPX. The library structure, while a little maddening at first because Apple uses different names for things (e.g., project = timeline or sequence), is very useful. I can have a library of related videos broken down into separate events. So my YouTube series on a particular topic, can all live in a single library which makes it easy to re-use clips between episodes. I always found that more difficult in Premiere, having to import an additional project or just go find the clip out on the hard drive.

Audio workflow: No, FCPX doesn't round trip audio to Audition like Premiere with a simple right click. But for short pieces like I typically cut (usually no more than 10 minutes in length, often less), I actually post-process the audio in Audition first, then bring it all into FCPX and sync to the video and then cut. So my audio post is already done. This works fine for simple pieces where you're not doing any sophisticated sound design. This inverted process works nicely for most of the corporate pieces I do.

Same goes for color grading. I pull all the raw footage into Resolve first, color it, export, then bring it into FCPX for editing. Am I crazy for doing this? It is completely backwards from traditional post workflows. I think it works fine for short pieces. But I totally see why they do it the inverse way for longer pieces. No way do you want to do all the post work on every single clip when you will eventually only use 3% of the footage.

So for now, I've landed on FCPX as my editing app of choice. But now there are more options than ever.

DaVinci Resolve 12. I cut one of my recent YouTube pieces in Resolve 12. Wow. They've come a long way even in the last 2 releases. I think that I would consider Resolve 12 a genuine candidate and for those on a tight budget, a very good candidate. The free version seemed to have everything I needed to get the job done. I was a little clumsy with it, simply because it was my first edit, but it looks really great. The only thing is that you have to have a full-fledged computer with a discrete graphics card. So this isn't going to work on your MacBook Air or a similarly spec'd PC. In many ways, Resolve 12 felt very much like Premiere to me.

There are other options of course, some of them free. HitFilm 3 Express is available for free. I simply haven't had time to dive in and assess it. There's also Lightworks. Avid Media Composer is still in wide use in the feature film and TV markets. So many options create an almost dizzying landscape for the budding video editor.

But my take is that you just have to find what works for you. Most of them have a trial period. I'd suggest you download them and give each of them a month trial to see how they fit your style.

Then make a decision and learn the ins and outs. Don't waste time endlessly trying every new version of every new NLE. I keep up on what comes in the new versions but have decided to switch no more than every 2 years or so. That's why I'm staying with FCPX for now.