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Shotcut - Free Open Source Video Editor for Windows, Mac, and Linux

Shotcut Open Source Video Editor.
Shotcut Open Source Video Editor.
I've been on the hunt for a while now for the best, free, open source, video editing application out there. In Shotcut, by Meltytech, which has versions for Windows, Mac, and Linux, I think I may have found a real front runner.

This won't be a feature filled review, rather it will be my first impressions after having used Shotcut on a few of my YouTube videos so far.

One of my key criteria for a video editor is the ability to import any video format directly into the project. This may seem like an odd focus initially but having convert video to something your video editor can use is annoyingly time consuming, and it creates a new generation of footage, potentially with a loss in quality if you don't really know much about video format specs (that's this guy right here!).

Shotcut will happily work with my OBS recordings (.FLV), and .MOV, .MP4 files that I get from two different cameras. Not only that but Shotcut doesn't hold me up making lower quality versions of my footage to speed up the editing process. It just works directly with the native files. (If you're interested Shotcut can also handle 4K video files as well).

The Editor Window. Shotcut has advanced features like color grading.
The Editor Window. Shotcut has advanced
features like color grading.

My other main criteria is does the editor feel like it's getting in the way of what I want to do with my edits. Typically that happens most with video editors when it comes to adding titles and other graphics (looking at you MOVAVI). It's all very well having preset title animations that you just add your own text to but sometimes I want to make my own from scratch and still be able to edit the text in the video editor.

Shotcut gives me more control with creating my own titles and doesn't have a dedicated text track that always remains on top of every other track (again looking at you MOVAVI). Tracks are either video or audio, the way it should be.

That said, my first impression of Shotcut was, I didn't like it. It looks like other video editors I've used but it doesn't work quite the same at all. There's no nice visual tab with icons showing you all the various transitions, and video/audio filters. Instead you'll be scrolling through a lot of lists with no nice previews to check you're selecting the right thing.

However, once you run through a few of the basic tutorials, linked under the Help menu, you start to get a feel for how Shotcut does things. For the most part it's a really good workflow with quite a few advanced features like color grading and motion graphics animation.


Unfortunately there are a couple of things I don't like that are almost enough to be deal breakers.

The first is, I don't like how Shotcut handles scene transitions. Like most video editors, you simply overlap the start of one clip with the end of the previous one to create a transition. Unlike other editors I've used, Shotcut snips the length of the transition into its own clip. Which is fine until you decide you want your transition to last longer or shorter, or you want to chop a bit more off the ends of each clip for a tighter edit.

In every scenario (except for if you've just added the transition and you can undo straight away) you'll have to delete the transition clip, extend out your original clips, and overlap them again. It would be better if you could adjust the transition length just by moving the clips, and get rid of the transition by removing the overlap through dragging the clips apart (or even some other method. My main issue is that the ends of the clips are cut to create a transition clip that is no longer attached to the original clip).

That's a problem if you're transitioning into a title screen and, at a point further on in the edit, you decide to change the title (or correct spelling perhaps). Your transition retains the old clip, while the actual clip is updated. Thus you have to rebuild the transition clip from scratch too. Somewhat annoying.

My other issue is the convoluted process needed just to record a narration track directly into the timeline as you watch the project so far in playback. Most video editors I've used have a dedicated button or menu item for this often used function - you know, you've got your final edit done, and now you want to talk over the clips, being prompted visually by them as they play through.

Shotcut doesn't have any such thing and, if it wasn't for a very handy video tutorial, I guarantee you would never work out how to do it just by clicking around to see what things do. I actually find it easier just to fire up dedicated audio software to record my narration in as I'm watching the playback, then import my narration into Shotcut.


I really hope they do add in a dedicated feature for recording narration in future revisions because watching a video tutorial every time I want to do a narration is frustrating (that's why I use external audio software to do narration).
 
Beyond those two main issues, there have been a few minor things here and there, which are more about me being unfamiliar with the software than Shotcut itself.

While the free tutorials are perfectly fine to get you started there is also a complete paid video course you can take for US$29.00 that'll really get you up to speed (I haven't taken it as yet but if you really want to get your head around Shotcut it seems worth considering).

I don't consider myself to be a great filmmaker or editor at all. I've done some courses in both but I'm very much path of least resistance to get the results I need. Shotcut has been that for me. It gives me some advanced features and freedom that other home consumer video editors lack while giving me a lot of scope to really do more if I ever start to take filmmaking a lot more seriously (some of the features it has I've never even heard of and have no idea what they do!).

If you are looking for a full function video editor but don't have the budget for a paid app, or you don't like the so called 'free' editors that are actually limited versions of a more powerful editor they're hoping you'll pay the upgrade for, then Shotcut may be the video editor for you.

It will be a little confusing at first but if you take the time to go through the free video tutorials you'll be rewarded with a video editor that is, in many ways, more feature packed than some of the paid apps on the market.


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