Creating a short film is an exciting way to showcase your cinematic storytelling abilities on a limited budget. However, realizing your artistic vision requires the right editing software to cut clips, add effects, include transitions, overlay text, and more.
Choosing the best video editing program for short films depends on your needs, experience level, and budget. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll compare the top 7 options on the market right now.
Whether you’re cutting an indie drama, sci-fi thriller, or comedy sketch, you’ll find recommendations for both free and paid software here. Let’s jump in!
Overview of Video Editing Needs for Short Films
Before evaluating specific pieces of software, it’s helpful to understand the core editing tools needed for short film post-production. Here are some of the main video editing tasks:
- Assembling shots and scenes on the timeline
- Trimming clips precisely
- Adding transitions between clips
- Overlaying text like titles and credits
- Creating visual effects like green screen compositing
- Color grading for a specific look
- Audio editing like dialogue cleanup
- Adding a soundtrack and sound effects
- Exporting the final edited video for sharing
For short films, you’ll need creative editing tools while maintaining some nuance and precision. The best software will provide a full feature set to handle these needs without unnecessary complexity.
Let’s explore the top options recommended by professional and indie filmmakers alike.
Adobe Premiere Pro
As part of Adobe’s Creative Cloud suite, Premiere Pro is the industry-standard professional video editing program for films, TV shows, and online video. Used widely in Hollywood and beyond, it offers a deep set of capabilities for polished results.
It uses a traditional track-based timeline for arranging clips, with a vast library of effects, templates, and presets. Integration with other Adobe apps like After Effects and Photoshop makes it very versatile.
Pricing starts at $20.99 per month for Premiere alone or $52.99 per month for the full Creative Cloud suite. Discounted annual plans are also available. There’s no permanent license option.
Benefits for Short Film Editing
Here are some of the advantages Premiere brings for short film projects:
- Robust timeline tools like trimming, ripple edits, snapping, and easy rearrangement
- Hundreds of professional transitions, effects, and text options
- Advanced color correction and Lumetri grading presets
- Simple green/blue screen compositing built-in
- Mixing of dialogue, music, and sound effects
- Useful editing presets and templates
- Support for up to 8K video resolution
- Integration with Audition for advanced audio editing
The main downsides or limitations include:
- Steep learning curve compared to consumer software
- No permanent license option is available
- Requires solid computer system resources
- Not designed for intuitive fast editing
Overall, Premiere Pro provides sophisticated tools needed for narrative filmmaking, albeit with a bit more complexity. The monthly cost may deter casual users, but the capabilities are hard to beat for refined short film edits.
Final Cut Pro
Developed by Apple exclusively for macOS, Final Cut Pro offers professional-grade editing with streamlined workflows. It uses a trackless Magnetic Timeline rather than traditional tracks.
The redesigned and modern interface focuses on efficiency and ease of use. Extensive improvements in recent years have made it suitable for post houses and aspiring filmmakers alike.
Final Cut Pro is available via a one-time license fee of $299.99 from the Mac App Store. There’s no subscription required.
Benefits for Shorts
Key advantages Final Cut brings to short film editing include:
- Intuitive dragging and dropping to the timeline
- Fast timeline manipulation and trimming
- Simplified transitions and effects options
- Useful organizing with keywords and smart collections
- Apple ProRes export minimizes quality loss
- Optimized performance for Mac hardware
- Affordable single purchase price
- Built-in tools like chroma-keying and color correction
Limitations to consider include:
- Mac-only software (no Windows version)
- Less robust ecosystem of add-ons and extensions
- Limited to 12 tracks for audio
- No integrated audio editor like Adobe Audition
For creative narrative editing, Final Cut packs a punch while staying accessible. The interface design lends itself well to short film projects balancing efficiency and quality. And the one-time cost makes it budget-friendly.
Originally created as a professional color grading system, DaVinci Resolve has evolved into a comprehensive editing platform combining stellar color correction with robust editing capabilities.
The Fusion visual effects toolset expands its VFX abilities. As an all-in-one video editor, audio mixer, effects tool, and grader, Resolve offers incredible value.
The free version supplies ample tools for indie filmmakers. The paid Studio version adds collaboration tools and advanced features for $295.
Why It’s Great for Indie Shorts
Here are some of the biggest advantages for short films:
- Free version ideal for solo editors
- Excellent audio editing and mixing
- Fast, fluid timeline trimming and editing
- High-quality color correction built-in
- Fusion VFX compositing integrated
- Fully-featured delivery section
- Supported by Hollywood professionals
- Available for Windows and Mac
A couple of potential cons for some users are:
- Very deep program to learn fully
- The free version lacks collaborative features
- Fewer customizable interface options
For indie filmmakers seeking affordable yet insanely powerful software, DaVinci Resolve is hard to beat. The free edition supplies robust tools, while the paid Studio upgrade caters to demanding projects. For color grading, nothing else compares.
Filmora – Best for Beginners
Filmora is a popular consumer-focused video editor made by Wondershare. It emphasizes usability and intuitive drag-and-drop workflows.
While not built for Hollywood blockbusters, Filmora provides a solid set of tools for basic short film editing needs. And the affordable one-time payment makes it accessible for new editors.
Pricing starts at $49.99 for the standard version. The Filmstock plan adds stock media access for $79.99 first year.
Pros and Cons for Short Films
Some of the advantages Filmora offers for short film editing include:
- Easy-to-learn interface
- Storyboard view for planning shots
- Good selection of transitions and effects
- Audio editing capabilities
- Chroma key tool for green screen work
- Affordable perpetual license
Potential downsides to consider:
- Fewer advanced tools like color grading
- Limited to 6 video/audio tracks
- Smaller ecosystem of add-ons
- May still be complex for total beginners
For new filmmakers looking to learn the fundamentals of creative video editing, Filmora is a solid choice. While not built for Hollywood-level work, it can produce great results for shorts on an indie budget.
VEGAS Pro – Best for Flexibility
VEGAS Pro is a professional-grade NLE originally published by Sony Creative Software. Magix now develops software, which combines a traditional track view with flexible editing.
Alongside fundamental tools, VEGAS offers advanced features like visual compositing and effects sequencing. It balances power with an intuitive layout focused on creativity.
Pricing starts at $399 for a permanent license. Discounted upgrades and subscription options are available.
How It Can Help for Shorts
Some benefits VEGAS delivers for ambitious short film editing include:
- Flexible timeline for easy rearranging
- Comprehensive audio editing tools
- Robust effects package with keyframing
- Multi-camera editing support
- Practical interface for quick edits
- GPU acceleration and native ProRes support
Downsides to note include:
- Fewer tutorials/resources vs. Premiere
- Somewhat small user community/following
- No integrated stock media options
- Interface less modern than competitors
For advanced editing capabilities in a customizable package, VEGAS Pro is a compelling choice. The track view timeline enables creative freedom. Paired with solid tools like compositing and audio editing, it’s great for shorts on a budget.
iMovie – Best Free Option for Mac Users
Apple’s iMovie comes included free on Mac devices, offering basic NLE functionality in a streamlined package. The easy drag-and-drop interface makes it accessible for beginners.
While designed for consumers, iMovie still provides essential tools for short film editing fundamentals. Users can cut footage, insert transitions, adjust audio, and export in up to 4K resolution.
Creative filters, green screen effects, and text overlays expand the built-in options. For free software, iMovie is surprisingly capable. The simplicity does come with some limitations for films though.
Caveats for Shorts
Benefits of iMovie for editing shorts include:
- Completely free with any Mac
- Intuitive timeline-based editing
- Handy tools like split, trim, instant replay
- Themes and filters for quick styling
- Simple titles, transitions, and effects
Limitations to note:
- Few advanced features like color grading
- No Multicam or compositing capabilities
- Limited control over audio editing
- No third-party plug-ins or extensions
- Simple exports with few format options
While perhaps not robust enough for complex projects, iMovie provides a free way to start learning editing basics on Mac. For ultra-low-budget shorts, it can get the job done.
Shotcut – Open Source Freeware
Shotcut is a fully open-source, cross-platform NLE available completely free. It can run on Windows, Mac, and Linux machines.
The community-driven project includes 4k resolution support along with a wide range of video, audio, and image formats. While not quite as polished as paid options, Shotcut supplies more than enough functionality for basic short film editing needs.
The simple interface uses a timeline for arranging clips, with compositing, filtering, and text tools for basic effects work. For freeware, it’s surprisingly fully featured.
Useful Tools for Shorts
Shotcut offers the following benefits for cutting short film projects:
- Totally free and open source
- Available on Windows, Mac, and Linux
- Supports 4K, ProRes, and many formats
- Intuitive timeline video editing
- Audio effects like equalizer and compressor
- Basic filters like chroma key
- Export to common formats and codecs
Missing Advanced Capabilities
Potential limitations include:
- A smaller selection of creative effects
- No color grading or color correction
- Limited titles and text options
- A small community for help/support
- No integrated stock media library
- Fewer features than paid software
For entry-level editing needs, Shotcut provides plenty of functionality given its free price. While not overflowing with flashy effects, it can handle fundamental short film-cutting needs.
Choosing the Best Video Editing Software for Your Short Film
When selecting an editing program for your short film project, consider factors like:
- Budget – Pro options like Premiere and Resolve offer free versions. iMovie is built-in for Mac.
- Learning curve – Apps like Filmora and Final Cut balance power with ease of use.
- Platform – iMovie for Mac vs. Shotcut’s cross-platform support.
- Advanced features – Effects, color grading, compositing, and audio.
- Hardware requirements – Processing power and GPU demands.
- Ecosystem – Available templates, presets, add-ons, and community.
Ideally, choose software that fits into your existing creative workflow rather than having to adapt fully to new tools. The right program should enhance your editing process rather than hinder it.
Prioritize capabilities that support your vision artistically and technically over flashy effects you may not need. Optimize for streamlined editing workflows that bring efficiency to short film post-production.
Recommended Video Editors Based on Budget
Here are quick recommendations based on budget constraints:
Free: Shotcut or iMovie
Under $100: Filmora or Final Cut Pro (education discount)
Under $300: Final Cut Pro or DaVinci Resolve Studio
Over $300: Adobe Premiere Pro or Vegas Pro Suite
Keep in mind discounts and free trial options to get started with pro-grade tools for less. For example, you can often find dramatic discounts on software like VEGAS Pro and get a perpetual license under $100.
Take advantage of bundles or suites that pack in additional software like stock media libraries and effects plugins.
Final Tips for Choosing the Best Video Editors for Short Films
As a final recap, here are some closing tips:
- Try before you buy. Download trials to test drive software.
- Comparison shop bundles, upgrades, and discounts for deals.
- Make sure your computer meets minimum specs for performance.
- Prioritize usability and workflow integration over unnecessary tools. Start basic.
- Check forums and communities to learn from other users firsthand.
- Consider scalability if you plan to expand to longer films and different genres.
- Don’t underestimate free software like DaVinci Resolve and Shotcut.
- Invest time in tutorials and training resources to learn editing properly.
- Give yourself ample time to get comfortable before starting actual projects.
- Stick with 2-3 top contender programs rather than jumping around constantly.
By identifying your budget needs, skill level, and artistic goals with these tips in mind, you can land on the ideal video editing software for your upcoming short films.
The programs covered provide options across the spectrum of free tools for beginners through unlimited power for professionals. Whether cutting your first narrative short or an ambitious indie featurette, using software tailored to your abilities will ensure editing success.
Frequently Asked Questions
What do you use to edit a short film?
For short film editing, the most common programs used are Adobe Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro, and DaVinci Resolve. These provide robust tools for cutting footage, audio editing, effects, and color grading at a professional level. Free options like iMovie or Shotcut can work for simple shorts as well.
What software do most film editors use?
The most widely used software among professional film editors is Adobe Premiere Pro. Other popular options are Avid Media Composer, Final Cut Pro, and DaVinci Resolve. Premiere dominates for commercial, TV, and online productions while Avid maintains a stronghold in Hollywood feature films.
How do I edit a short film video?
Import your footage into your editing software, then build out scenes on the timeline. Use cuts, transitions, text, and basic effects to assemble shots. Refine with color correction, and audio levels, and export in a high-quality codec like ProRes or H.264. Share via YouTube, Vimeo, or film festivals.
Which video editor is best for shorts?
For short films, the best editing software options are Premiere Pro for advanced capabilities or Final Cut Pro for efficiency focused on narratives. DaVinci Resolve is incredibly powerful for the price. iMovie can work for ultra-simple shorts.
How long does it take to edit a 5-minute short film?
For an experienced editor familiar with the footage, editing a 5-minute short film may take 10-20 hours or more depending on complexity. Beginners should budget even more time to get comfortable with the tools and workflow. Allow ample time for revisions and refinements too.
How much should an editor charge for a short film?
Professional short film editors typically charge $40-$75 per finished minute, so $200-$375 for a 5-minute short. Adjust based on experience level and project scale. Negotiate creative or profit-sharing deals for low-budget projects.
What film editing software is used by YouTubers?
The most common video editing programs used by YouTubers and online content creators are Premiere Pro and Final Cut Pro. Other options include DaVinci Resolve, iMovie, Filmora, or HitFilm Express for affordable desktop programs. Mobile editing apps like InShot or KineMaster are also popular.
What video editing software do most content creators use?
According to various polls and surveys, the top editing software used by most YouTube creators and content producers is Premiere Pro followed by Final Cut Pro. Many also use Apple iMovie as an entry-level option, DaVinci Resolve for free robust editing, and mobile apps like LumaFusion.