What’s The Best Non-Linear Editing Software On the Market
There is no doubt that Adobe has a dominant foothold in the world of editing software and post-production, but many editors have a love-hate relationship with Premiere Pro. With high subscription rates and a history of bugs and unstable updates, many have decided to break away from the brand entirely, making use of more affordable alternatives that work just as well.
Non-Linear Editing (NLE) software is the most common way of editing videos. A form of offline editing where the original file is not modified, allowing instant access to any part of the video at any time. It allows for ultimate flexibility in the editing process and keeps your original files intact.
Aside from Premiere Pro and the extensive Adobe suite, many sectors within the production industry have grown to love the functionality of today’s rising stars. Hollywood and high-end TVC production companies have had a long relationship with Avid, for example. Despite its on-and-off relationship with both pro and amateur editors, Apple’s Final Cut Pro still remains in the mix. But what’s right for a professional editor?
If you’re looking to hone your editing skills and improve your ability to tell stories visually while requiring a professional level of functionality, here is our list of some of the best non-linear editors (NLEs) you should know about and explore.
Avid’s Media Composer
A long-time leader of the NLE race, Avid is a favourite in Hollywood and has been around since the nineties. What sets this software apart is its ability to keep processes on a professional level while remaining easy to use.
Built around the terminology and methodology that experienced film editors are most accustomed, it offers a robust kit of editing tools that are loved by industry professionals and freelance editors alike. What’s more is that it allows for multi-user collaboration in real-time, reducing the time it takes to transpose and compare edits between large teams of editors – invaluable in times of tight deadlines. Needless to say, this software is not for the faint-hearted amateur.
Adobe Premiere Pro
Okay, so everyone knows Adobe, and this is a list of alternatives, but not mentioning Adobe would be a crime. There’s nothing innately bad about it, it’s a very versatile piece of software and has been at the top of the league for years among both professional and amateur editors alike.
As one of the most flexible and useful tools out there, it is both easy-to-learn and hard-to-master. It offers tight integration with other Adobe programs but can only be accessed through a Creative Cloud subscription, making on-the-go or offline editing more complicated. It’s also a hefty piece in software in terms of program size, taking up a large amount of hard drive space – something increasingly problematic in the current era that sees a transition from supersized HDDs to small-sized SSD hard drives.
Apple’s Final Cut Pro X
In 2011, Apple changed the playing field forever. It’s not the first time that they tried to reinvent the wheel, and it’s probably not the last. Aligned with Apple’s smooth and elegant aesthetic, the program is easy-to-use and slick in every way.
High-speed processing and a fully immersive creative interface define the program. Still, any seasoned professional NLE may find it difficult to re-learn some of the basics when transitioning from other software. However, the new interpretation of how editing should work has inspired many editors to rethink their own processes, giving way to brand new ideas, styles and takes that are often outstanding.
Although free editors rarely make an appearance in such a list for professionals, DaVinci Resolve is a notable exception. Vastly evolving and improving over the last two to three years, it has emerged as a tremendously powerful non-linear editor that can easily compete with the other’s on this list.
With over two million users and growing, it is becoming the software of choice for many TV and short-video editors thanks to its feature-packed offering. At Moonji Production, we use DaVinci Resolve for color grading and we have even integrated it into our media asset management system workflows which allows for easy and seamless collaboration efforts across teams.
Lightworks joins Avid as one of the older, more resilient non-linear video editors out there. Professional video editors have used Lightworks for over 25 years and even had a moment of fame in the Hollywood world after making appearances in the credits of movies such as The Wolf of Wall Street, Pulp Fiction and The King’s Speech.
A well-established NLE, its most latest updates support 4K timelines with proxy workflows that speed up the editing process but expect a slight learning curve when migrating from other more intuitive software options. It even has a free version for those looking to test the waters before investing in any annual subscriptions or one-time-purchase options.
Which is the Right NLE For Me?
Editing a video is an art. The tools of the artist may not define their skills, but they do help in creating the piece of art they’re looking for. Imagining software as a paintbrush or a piece of charcoal, a loose analogy can be drawn. Both work for different situations, so it may never be possible to choose the best editor of them all.
What is possible if you choose an editor that fits your needs. As a professional editor, taking the time to practice and refine your skills with one program is usually more beneficial. Not only does it ensure you know how your tool works inside and out, but it also speeds up your process, improving efficiency and comfort along the way.
As more software enters the market and the video editing world becomes more and more mainstream, this list may offer an insight into what we think is the best non-linear editing software in 2021. Still, it is far from extensive and certainly not definitive. In fact, at Moonji Production, we utilise a range of software to ensure the best results for our clients every time – explaining the best elements depending on what vision is being brought to life.