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How to edit videos for free

Video editing
(Image credit: Unsplash)

If you haven’t done it before, editing videos can feel a bit daunting. Instead of editing a single photograph, you will be taking on an entire recording—trying to make it look perfect frame by frame. As more and more organizations pivot to a media-oriented approach, however, video editing is a skill you may need to have. But don’t worry! This guide will show you how to make picture-perfect clips using the best free video editing software (opens in new tab) currently available. 

 How to edit videos for free: Preparation

Video editing

First, create a new folder (Image credit: Microsoft)

Before you proceed, take a moment to consider the type of video you will be editing. A full-length movie will require more powerful tools and effects than a much shorter vlog. Choosing the right software for your video will help manage expectations and minimize frustration later on in the process. 

Video editing is a resource-intensive task and will also require a decent desktop or laptop. While you can get away with editing more casual vlogs or social media clips on a smartphone or tablet, a proper computer is still highly recommended.

Once you have taken note of these considerations and provided that you have a decent computer setup to power your video-editing process, you will also need a recording. The recording is like a rough draft to your final clip. It may contain issues like awkward pauses, jarring transitions, or ambient noise, but this can all be fixed. 

What you will want to do next is create a new folder on your desktop. This folder will contain all the files relevant to your current video-editing project. Go ahead and add your primary recording to this folder. Then, you’re ready to get started.

Step 1: Download a free video editor

Video editing

Lightworks is the best free video editor in the market right now (Image credit: Lightworks)

Needless to say, a free video editor will not have all the bells and whistles that come with a paid one. However, if you choose wisely, you can still find a decent editor that includes all the basic functions and even comes with a few powerful features. 

Techradar recommends Lightworks (opens in new tab), which is the best free video editor in the market right now. It supports multi-track videos and non-linear editing, boasts a highly customizable interface, and even comes with custom effects that can help spice up your video. There are other options too, of course, such as Shotcut, Movie Maker Online, and Hitfilm Express. 

Once you have picked the right video editing software for your project, head over to its website and download the necessary installation file. After that, install the video editor on your computer by following the on-screen prompts as required.

Step 2: Populate your media bin

Video editing

Put the necessary assets in your project folder (Image credit: Microsoft)

A good video editor, even a free one, comes with a decent collection of effects, filters, and elements that you can add to your video. However, in order to make your video look professional, you will also want to have some elements of your own. Consider preparing some background music to add to your video, as well as clip art and other assets that you can use to make it look distinctive. 

Put all of these assets in the folder that you created earlier. Now, you’re ready to launch your video editor and start making changes to your footage.

Step 3: Import the necessary files

Video editing

Import files from the project folder to your editor (Image credit: Lightworks)

Since all your assets are already organized neatly into a separate folder, this step will be quite easy. Just launch your preferred video editor and create a new project using the options provided.

Depending on your software of choice, you may be prompted to choose an output resolution and frame rate at this point. Generally speaking, anything higher than 1080p looks good enough on TV, and any video over 720p is fine for mobile devices. As for frame rate, you can either choose the automatic option if your editor has one, or set the framerate manually to either 30 or 60 FPS. Once that’s done, import the primary recording as well as the secondary assets to your video editor.

Step 4: Make the required edits

Video editing

Add effects, filters, transitions, and vectors to make your footage stand out (Image credit: Lightworks)

At this point, you will want to use all of the assets available to you to make your video look as good as possible. The first thing you should do is remove any unnecessary parts in your recording. Try to get rid of any awkward silences, sudden transitions, or camera shaking. 

You can also make use of the assets you put together earlier, as well as any that come pre-installed into your editor, to make changes to your video. In addition, you can add animated transitions to smoothen the parts in your clip where the scene suddenly goes from one to the other. You can also add filters to make the colors stand out more.

Another thing you can do is add assets like clip art or vector graphics directly into your video frame by frame. This process is a little more complicated, but it can go a long way towards making your footage look attractive. Also, remember to save your project at every step so that you don’t lose any changes you’ve made.

Step 5: Export your video

Video editing

Export your video as an MP4, AVI, or MPEG file (Image credit: Lightworks)

When exporting your video to a preferred format, you can choose options like MP4, AVI, or MPEG. This is largely dependent on the kind of systems and video players that viewers will use to watch your video, but generally speaking, MP4 is good for most devices and operating systems. 

If you didn’t do this earlier, you may also be prompted to choose a resolution and framerate for your video. Don’t be tempted to export your video in the highest quality available, such as 4K. Instead, try and pick one that has the right combination of file size and display resolution to suit your use case.


So, that’s it. You’ve just successfully edited your very first video! Feel free to now share the video you have created using the social media or streaming platform of your choice. If you are looking to do this on a professional basis, remember to pick the right hardware by checking out TechRadar's top picks for video editing computers in 2020 (opens in new tab).

Ritoban Mukherjee is a freelance journalist from West Bengal, India. His work has been published on Tom's Guide, TechRadar, Creative Bloq, IT Pro Portal, Gizmodo, Medium, and Mental Floss. Ritoban is also a member of the National Association of Science Writers.