A closer look at video editing software for the novice

There's no doubt in my mind that just about everyone reading this has some way of recording video. And if you've got video, you need a video editor, because millions of junky YouTube clips aside, raw video is not the same thing as a good looking movie or clip your audience will enjoy, whether you're a pro or an amateur.

Of course, there’s a wide range of video editing software available, including heavyweight packages such as Adobe Premiere Pro CC which will set you back £210 for a year’s subscription. However, in this article, we’re going to look at far cheaper (or even free) options which are suitable to the video editing novice.

Casual video shooters

For those who simply point their phones at the action occasionally or set their digicam to video now and then, some free options can do everything they need. PC users can download the free and excellent Windows Movie Maker 2012, while all Macs come with iLife's equally excellent iMovie. Either of these solutions will be more than fine for basic work.

If even those are too intensive for you, there are web-based options that do a minimal job of prettying up video content, if by nothing more than cutting off the junky parts at the beginning or end of your footage. YouTube Video Editor is one such basic online option you should check out.

Enthusiast videographers

These are the folks who want to get a bit more creative and involved, but without getting too in-depth and trying to become professional movie editors. There are several products that offer power with varying levels of complexity, though all try to appeal to non-pros.

Our favourite suite for keen amateurs is CyberLink PowerDirector 12 (priced at £60, and pictured above), which is fast and powerful, not to mention feature packed. Performance is particularly important when it comes to video editing, as it can be a very PC-intensive process, so a sluggish editor can mean a lot of waiting around when it comes to heavier editing tasks. In our tests, PowerDirector 12 proved to be the clear speed leader when rendering a digital movie project – in fact, its render speed with OpenCL acceleration enabled is nothing short of astonishing compared to some plodding rivals, which weren’t even close.

Another good option is Corel VideoStudio Pro X6, which offers pretty speedy performance (although it’s not nearly as quick as PowerDirector), but it also boasts a very well-designed and highly usable interface. If you want to shell out a bit less, it’s twenty notes cheaper than the CyberLink product – X6 retails at £42 currently. Adobe Premiere Elements 12 is also definitely worth considering, laden with effects and clever automated options, and Adobe’s years of video editing expertise. However, it’s a bit pricier at £78.