If you're looking for a video editor there are some amazing free tools around, but they're not always the best choice. Developing a good editor is so difficult that even big-name companies often struggle, and if you're a demanding user it's unlikely that a free package will give you everything you need.
We're not just talking about the length of the feature list. Opting for a paid product might get you high-end extras like 360-degree video support, motion tracking and multi-cam editing, but that's just the start. The extra resources available to commercial projects help to refine the entire package, often bringing more accurate and configurable effects, an enhanced interface and a faster rendering engine.
With that in mind, here are the very best video editors you can buy today.
Adobe Premiere Pro is an industry-standard video editor and getting the most from it will require an investment of time as well as cash, but if you’re serious about video then it’s well worth the effort.
Premiere Pro's interface (based around panels and a timeline) is often aped but rarely bettered. Unlike other apps, however, Premiere Pro is highly customizable. Once you've mastered the basics, you can tailor the interface to suit your own workflow.
Whereas previous versions of Adobe Premiere Pro required users to switch to different apps for some parts of post production, the latest edition tucks everything into one neat interface, including captions and audio editing.
It's hard to do justice to all of Premiere Pro's features, but there's a vast assortment of stackable audio and video filters, support for 360-degree and VR video, native support for a huge number of raw file formats, and the ability to work collaboratively with others. You can even start editing your videos before they've finished importing.
Adobe Premiere Pro is available as an individual subscription, or as part of the Creative Cloud suite (a better investment if you want more than one of Adobe's apps). If you join CC, you'll benefit from easy transferring of project files and other resources between Adobe apps like After Effects.
This kind of power doesn't come cheap and the monthly or annual subscription fee adds up, but the lack of a large initial outlay makes Premiere Pro surprisingly accessible. It's worth downloading a trial of the other video editors here before making a decision, but Premiere Pro is extremely versatile and the cloud-based model means you won't have to pay for upgrades as they're released.
Platform: Windows, Mac
Price: From US$19.99, £19.97, AU$28.59 per month
- Buy Adobe Premiere Pro
Vegas Pro Edit (formerly owned by Sony) is the smaller brother of MAGIX Vegas Pro. It’s one of the most accessible premium video editors for new users, which is an impressive feat for a fully featured, professional quality editing suite.
Vegas Pro 15 includes a huge set of filters and effects, which you can extend even further via plugins. You can chain effects together, then fine-tune with impressively granular controls. Every filter is highly customizable, but every option is clearly labelled and easy for even beginners to understand. For example, clicking the ‘Video FX’ tab above the timeline gives you a convenient animated preview demonstrating each preset before you apply it.
Every aspect of Vegas Pro’s interface and toolset has been carefully considered with accessibility in mind; for every advanced control, there’s an automatic or preset equivalent.
Vegas Pro Edit is also one of the most affordable premium video editors available; at the time of writing it's available for a one-off fee of US$299 (£224, AU$399). Other payment options are available.
Vegas Pro Edit is only available for 64-bit Windows systems, but that’s pretty much its only drawback.
Price: US$299/£224/AU$399 (one-off payment, one PC)
- Vegas Pro Edit
If Adobe Premiere Elements and Vegas Pro Edit are overkill for your video editing projects, take a look at CyberLink PowerDirector.
Although PowerDirector is a premium, feature-packed video editor, it's also very forgiving, and offers a gentle introduction to post production that won't faze complete beginners. The Magic Movie Wizard is the ultimate example, paring the task of combining and optimizing videos down to a few clicks. You'll achieve better results by spending a while in the timeline editor, but for anyone who just wants to quickly piece something together to publish on Facebook, it's ideal.
That's not to say that CyberLink PowerDirector is dumbed down, though; far from it. The software also offers a standard post production interface based around control panels and a timeline. It sometimes takes a little while to drill down to the finer controls, but every filter and option is extremely flexible once you start exploring.
Perhaps most impressive of all, CyberLink PowerDirector makes video editing fun. If you're relatively new to post production but want something more flexible than free software, PowerDirector is the tool for you.
Price: US$59.99, £49.99, AU$62.99
- Buy CyberLink PowerDirector
HitFilm Pro is a premium video editor that's a firm favourite with fanfilm makers – and with good reason. It's packed with tools for creating stunning special effects, but is accessible enough for home users.
One of HitFilm Pro's biggest selling points is the ability to tackle pretty much every aspect of video post-production within the editor. Animations, titles, audio editing and color grading are all accessible with a couple of clicks, but the interface is intuitively designed and never feels cluttered.
Effects can be queued, and drilling down through the software's advanced options is a straightforward process.
Unlike the other video editors in this roundup, HitFilm Pro supports importing and animating of custom 3D models, complete with simulated 3D cameras, custom shadows and dynamic lighting. There are also impressive particle effects, and superb chroma-keying to minimize annoying spill.
HitFilm Pro will be overkill for beginners, but if you have a creative filmmaking project in mind then it's a fantastic choice.
Platform: Windows, macOS
Price: US$422.45, £373.85 (about AU$540)
- Buy HitFilm Pro
Although the free version of Lightworks is excellent, if you're editing video on a regular basis and want a full breadth of output options, take a look at Lightworks Pro.
Lightworks isn't as beginner-oriented as CyberLink PowerDirector, but its interface leads you through each step of the editing process with clear explanations that help new and experienced users find their way around.
There's an excellent set of effects and transitions – all easily customizable. Lightworks' color-correction tools are particularly strong, and its impressive multi-camera editing technology earned developer Editshare an Emmy last year.
Low-res proxy editing for 4K video is another excellent feature, enabling you to work with extremely high resolutions without slowing your system to a crawl.
Lightworks Pro is available for a one-off fee of US$437.99, £249.99 (about AU$560). That's a significant early outlay, but there are also subscription plans available on a monthly or annual basis.
TechRadar readers can get 40% off a monthly Lightworks Pro license using the voucher code TECHRADAR_LW_PRO_MONTH_2017. Find out how to use your discount voucher.
Platforms: Windows, macOS, Linux
Price: US$437.99, £249.99 (about AU$560) – outright license, one device
- Buy Lightworks Pro