What Should I Consider When Buying Video Editing Software?

Brad Cole

Computer video editing, sometimes called digital video editing by professionals or home video editing when it comes to hobbyists, can be a very exciting area of interest. In order to get started, a person will need to select which video editing software package they want to use. This is one of the most important choices a digital video editor can make, as the video editing software is the primary tool when it comes to computer editing. But what should a person consider when buying video editing software? The following are a few areas that should be considered before purchasing video editing software in order to ensure that the correct program is chosen.

Professional video editing software can drastically improve the look and feel of the footage in some cases, but it is unnecessary for home movies.
Professional video editing software can drastically improve the look and feel of the footage in some cases, but it is unnecessary for home movies.

First, the prospective buyer should consider her skill level – both currently and in the future. Those that are not proficient with video editing software should consider buying software that is easy to use (user-friendly). User-friendly video editing software, however, is sometimes not as powerful as other video editing programs.

The prospective video editing software buyer should consider her skill level – both currently and in the future.
The prospective video editing software buyer should consider her skill level – both currently and in the future.

The prospective buyer should also consider how much additional work she is willing to put in to learn the new software editing package. If she is willing to buy additional books and spend hours learning the program, then a more powerful but less user-friendly piece of software might be considered. The prospective buyer’s skill level vs. the user-friendliness of the software is one of the most important aspects to consider when buying video editing software, as a piece of video editing software that is too difficult for the buyer to use will simply gather virtual dust when it is not used.

Second, the prospective buyer should consider what format the videos she will be editing will be in. Not every video editing software package will edit every file type, so prospective buyers should check to make sure that the file type she will most commonly use is supported by the editing software.

Third, the prospective buyer should consider what format she wants to save videos in. Similar to the second point, not all video editing software packages will save their files into every video format. For instance, if the prospective buyer wants to make a large number of videos in the 3GP format for her mobile phone, she should make sure that her video editing software can save files in 3GP. Because video format converters are relatively common, this isn’t as much of a problem as some other aspects – but it is still something that should be considered prior to software purchase.

Fourth, the prospective buyer should know the general price range she is willing to spend. Professional-level video editing software can cost thousands of dollars, while home user versions cost a fraction of that. Home user versions are usually scaled down, and have fewer features than their professional-level counterparts. While the additional features of professional-level video editing software are interesting, they should not even be considered if they are significantly out of the prospective buyer’s price range.

Fifth, the prospective buyer should consider the abilities of the editing software in terms of what she wants to do with it. Does the software have the ability to create special effects such as blue/green screen? Can the color balance be easily altered? Are there a large number of transitions? Can plug-in programs be added to make the software more powerful? What additional aspects will be needed, and what can be ignored? These questions can be hard to answer for new users, but the general rule of thumb is the more options, the better.

Sixth, the prospective buyer needs to know if the software requirements match their current computer. In other words, does the prospective buyer’s current computer have enough RAM, processing power, hard disk space, and the correct operating system so that the editing program can run properly? If the prospective buyer’s current computer can not run the software and she is not willing to upgrade her system, then the software should not be purchased.

Seventh, the prospective buyer should find out if the company that produces the software properly supports it. Does the company quickly produce software patches for bugs found in the software? Is there a way to get technical support if the prospective buyer has a question?

All of the previously mentioned aspects are important to consider when purchasing video software. Still, there are additional things a future video editor might try. For instance, most people don’t realize that many operating systems already have free video editing software installed on them. Windows® XP and many versions of Windows® Vista come with a video editing program Windows® Movie Maker. As well, there are many freeware video editing programs available. Finally, the makers of most major retail video editing programs offer free trials or walk-throughs of their software on their websites.

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Discussion Comments


@KoiwiGal - It's easier to use professional video editing software, but it's not impossible to use free software, and some people might simply have no choice. I've made perfectly serviceable videos using a combination of GIMP and Windows Movie Maker and those are both free.

I wouldn't want to be using them if I was on a deadline, but for a hobby they aren't bad.


@croydon - There are some decent free packages out there, but free, or even cheap video editing software is never going to be able to handle the same kind of workload that professional software can. And video tends to become tricky very quickly.

I occasionally make short videos for Youtube and I used to use free software but it's much more clunky and slower than a decent version. Often the only way the free software is any good is if they put a watermark on the finished product, or restrict it some other way.

It's just not the kind of thing that people will put out for free. If you're editing video in any kind of quantity, you really need to shell out for a decent editor to work on it. And a decent computer setup while you're at it, because it takes a lot of processing power as well.


If you aren't buying on behalf of a company, the first thing you should consider is that there are plenty of really good video editing software programs available for free. Unless you're planning to make a living from video there's no real need to spend hundreds of dollars on buying the latest software. Even the programs that come with most computer packages tend to be enough for the casual editor and there are online versions that will do most basic tasks.

I would definitely try one of these first, before jumping into an expensive purchase.

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