A slight delay in getting round to it, but here it is, the next in a series of posts on video editing apps. (the real one this time. Thanks for the heads-up Brian)

In the first post I looked at the basics you should look for and the big names that you might want to consider. In the second post I concentrated on the packages that may not have the reputation but may have what you need at a price that suits.

In this last post I’m going to look at the low/no cost option.

Admittedly, some of the apps in the last post where cheap – less than 60 pounds – so when I say low price I’ve looked in the 10-15 pound shareware cost of things. There are going to be plenty that I miss, so I hope that if you are using a a low/no option you’ll let me know.

There are a couple of low cost video editors out there. Let’s take them by platform


One of the big problems with editing on windows platforms used to be limitations in the platforms once favored video format – AVI. Now windows can handle a wide range of formats and those using pro-apps like Avid or Premier will find nor problems dealing with any format they can chuck at you – almost.

But the the AVI format lives on (in fact they are in AVI 2 now), driven in no small part by the amount of file sharing that happens on the web.

The result is that a lot of the low/no cost stuff that is out there is aimed and handling the avi format and that means an inherent incompatibility with the kind of files your video camera or video device will spit out. Get round that and you may be faced with the problem of converting any output files to another format.

A good example of this kind of app, and one that comes up again and again is Virtual Dub . Not an editor in the strictest sense, not that it isn’t a good program, but it could be a useful top-and-tail tool. It may also be handy tool to have in your start menu to handle the odd file that crosses your desk via dvd etc.

Beyond the general collection of avi joiners and DVD rippers the pickings are slim on the free front given the number of developers working out there.

A search for shareware video editng will yield millions of responses but once you weed through them you are looking at paying at least 40 bucks in shareware which takes you close to some of the apps I mentioned in earlier posts.

For free, on a windows box I still don’t thing you can go far wrong with Avid Free DV which is powerful and , given enough import and rendering time, pretty format agnostic. Not confident in Avid’s stability? Then windows Moviemaker is a better option as it takes in a number of formats and although its limited in what it spits out, at least its the more ‘usable’ wmv format. Just be prepared to stay in the essential rather than desirable column of functionality

Still, if free is where you want to go, then one to keep an eye on is Vivia. It’s a free editing app that will handle DV and looks like it may develop well. It only supports Pal DV/AVI files a the moment (sorry all you ntsc people) although development looks well structured and on-going.

The Zs4 editor is a bit of freeware created by a bunch of German creatives and musicians, t@b (thugs at bay). It’s the next step on from an original package called the Zwei-stein editor. I put this one in because it’s free and it highlights a particular path that some developer have followed in their application.

Instead of going for the pure video editor market they have gone for an editing and compositing environment that is more at home in the visual effects and post-production sphere than in broadcast-production.

Another, more refined and functional, example of this is the Jahshaka Project . The subtitle ‘powering the new Hollywood’ gives away its intent.

Those of you from broadcast who have see packages like Combustion, Shake and similar apps will see stuff they recognize in the apps above. But I would see no or limited use for this kind of app in a newsroom environment. But if playing around with video above and beyond the news ‘day job’ is something that appeals , then apps like this may appeal to you.


Now, if you are saying, ‘what the hell is linux when it’s at home?’, You can skip this bit with tidbit of info that Linux is an operating system, and my guarantee that you are missing nothing.

But if the idea of powerful and free editing apps is your cup of tea then linux is the only way to go.

There are a heap of free editing and post-production apps available for *nix based systems out there. You will need a separate computer with the right operating system, which is a challenge in itself. Perhaps it’s a challenge that may just be the way to get that errant techy on your side.

Ask them to set up a unix box for you and try some of the free software below:

There is also some commercial software available. I hear that MainActor is pretty good on a unix box.


On the Mac side of things you will be hard pushed to find anything that looks like a video editor in the same vein as FCP or i-movie – and why would you. But there are some options for the adventurous.

There are mac versions of the Jahshaka package and the Zs4 editor, although the latter is clunky, to say the least. As i said before they follow a working process that is more akin to post-production systems rather than editing. I certainly wouldn’t run them on a mac.

HyperEngine AV was originally developed by Arboretum Systems but is now free. The interface is little odd, it’s like a free-from timeline but it works and is pretty solid.

FastCut 2.5 RT looks like an interesting product. The interface is more in keeping with something like i-movie or FCP. It does have it’s quirks, you have to put the audio and video on the time line separately. But it also has a range of neat features like 3d effects and a title generator. This movie from the Fastcut website should give you an idea of the workflow.

The demo should give you an idea of how it works and give you enough to decide if you want to fork out the 20bucks for the full version.

I would call this one a one-to-watch. If you have a mac and no i-movie then, with a bit more development, this could be a could solution to having to fork out for i-life.

There is also a free app called ivideo which was shaky in its operationwhen I tried it but may be worth keeping an eye on. There is another mac video app called ivideo kicking around so maybe a name change could be on the cards for one of them.

Last, but not least, is a mention for Quicktime Pro. I know it isn’t strictly free but, as Mark Hamilton points out in a comment on the last post in this series, there is lots to explore. You can for example, top-and-tail your video. You can also cut and paste clips across from one movie to another.

There are few tutorials kicking around on the web about this, including a fun Sesame street one.

This is one I might dive in to further at another time.

Online Editors

If no budget really does mean no budget and you can’t even spring for a new computer for an edit suite, then maybe an online editor is for you.

There seem to be loads of these springing up in the fertile web2,0 world we live in.

Take a look at some of these and you will see what you can do. I havnt had time to try them out but I think that may be worth doing for another post.


So, given that the aim of this series is to look at video apps with the newsroom in mind, I have to say there isn’t much out there that can beat i-movie or Windows movie maker as a flexible free editor. There certainly isn’t anything out there that can beat Avid free DV, for all its problems.

For those looking to take a job in to a hobby or want to explore editing at home just for the fun of it(Fun! I hear some of you say. Yes. I think it’s fun.) there are plenty of places to go, especially in the growing area of post-production style applications.

I know this was supposed to be a final post but I think I have written enough for now. In the next post, the toolbox approach. Individual apps that combine to do all the little things that crop up from time to time.