Which Is the Better Free Video Editing Software?

There are probably many video editing enthusiasts or YouTubers who use Apple’s iMovie to create their content. It is a beginner-friendly software with many useful features and easy-to-use tools.

While convenient, should iMovie be an editing software for beginners? How does it compare to another free editing system, like BlackMagic Design’s DaVinci Resolve 18? We’ll see.

the interface

Starting with the interface, iMovie is very basic, with most of the tools and features on the same page. They can be operated by clicking on small icons at the top right of the window.

iMovie does not have the conventional editing tools that normally appear as icons on the screen. Instead, you can use the clip trimmer or precision editor to cut and align media.

iMovie interface screenshot
Free Video Editing Software

DaVinci Resolve has a sequence of tabs, each designed to perform a specific editing function in a convenient, easy-to-follow order, from media selection and timeline compilation to export and delivery.

  • iMovie Summary: It is a minimalist design, which is suitable for beginners.
  • Resolution Summary: Simple, yet complex, with many useful features and easy-to-access tabs.

Import and storage access

iMovie can search the computer’s file directory and connected drives, though it appears as a pop-up window. iMovie requires a library to be built for each project, which means that the storage location can fill up quickly. You can reset and delete your iMovie library to fix this problem.

Resolve accesses the device’s file storage system through the first tab. The window remains on screen while the media pool is created.

DaVinci Resolve Media Browser Screenshot
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It is capable of searching through local drives on the device itself, attached hard drives, and even some cloud-based storage systems, such as DropBox. A library is also created for each project, so it’s worth keeping an eye on your device’s storage capacity.

  • iMovie Summary: There is a complete file search system, although it appears as a separate window.
  • Resolution Summary: The file system is also complete and integrated like the first tab in the center.

iMovie has a single timeline where you can drag and drop videos and titles to compile your edit. The editing functions themselves are a bit limited and rely on keyboard shortcuts for the function. The screen is fairly simple, which would help beginners not feel overwhelmed, but is disappointing for veteran editors.

Resolve’s timeline, by contrast, is much more detailed and has a timestamp. Resolve allows for multiple audio and video tracks, which reduces the risk of losing clip alignment and aids in precision editing.

DaVinci Resolve Timeline Screenshot
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The Edit tab in DaVinci Resolve features an excellent selection of useful editing tools, such as slice edit mode and sheet edit mode, and insert, overwrite, and replace clip options.

  • iMovie Summary: There’s only one timeline, so the overlay of videos and graphics is a bit clunky, since they’re attached to the main timeline.
  • Resolution Summary: The timeline overlaps more effectively with multiple video and audio tracks.

Scale of colors

iMovie features limited color correction tools. The first option is the color balance which allows a color match between the selected clips, a white balance and a skin tone balance. There is a basic slider to adjust the contrast, saturation, and temperature. Suitable for beginners, although far inferior to the Resolve variety.

Color grading is what DaVinci Resolve is known for. Even without the studio version’s advanced grading tools, there’s an impressive range to use here. A particularly impressive feature of the free version is the ability to create masks (called windows) and isolate objects in degrees of color, with the help of keyframes.

Screenshot of the DaVinci Resolve color grading tab
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  • iMovie Summary: Limited options that do not allow detailed color grading.
  • Resolution Summary: Though lacking compared to the Studio version, there are more than enough options for beginning colorists.

Animated graphics and VFX

Unfortunately, the visual effects part of iMovie is missing. There is the option to create basic titles, backgrounds and transitions. They are easy to use and suitable for hobbyists.

Resolve has a more extensive set of tools and options for customizing parts of video and creating motion graphics. Using nodes within the Fusion tab, it’s very easy to link effects to media. See our guide on how to use nodes in DaVinci Resolve for more information on this.

Although Resolve offers more features than iMovie, the user interface feels a little less user-friendly than some of its competitors, like Adobe After Effects. There are a number of fantastic guides on YouTube that can really help speed up your familiarization with the system.

  • iMovie Summary: It lacks visual effects options, although the presets are useful for beginners.
  • Resolution Summary: More tools and features, though less easy to use than some competitors.

Audio

iMovie has three main audio settings; the overall clip volume, background noise reduction, and equalizer. The presets that iMovie offers are, again, effective enough for beginners.

Another cool feature that iMovie has is that if you have more than one track, there is an option to lower the volume of other clips. There is also a slider to increase the effectiveness of the tool.

Screenshot of Audio Editor for iMovie
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DaVinci Resolve has a fantastic array of audio tools, effects, and customizations. The ability to have tracks soloed, muted, and locked to assist in playback and editing is useful. The range selection tool and edit selection mode are convenient for making precise audio cuts. The list of effects and EQ have a wide variety and customizable options.

  • iMovie Summary: The presets are enough for beginners.
  • Resolution Summary: A staggering amount of customization for a free system.

export options

iMovie is again a bit lacking here. There are four main export categories; email, YouTube and Facebook, image and file. The email export option has a maximum resolution of 1280×720, although the resulting video file will most likely be too large to send anyway.

The most customizable option seems to be the archive option, which supports a 1080p resolution (as long as the source clips are the same), a compression quality option, and a priority option for compression speed or quality.

For a free system, Resolve has a large variety of export options that can be easily customized. Listing all the supported codecs, file formats, and resolutions would be a bit exhausting, so the key feature to remove from the Export tab is the ability to upload videos directly to YouTube from within DaVinci Resolve 18.

Screenshot of an export option in DaVinci Resolve
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  • iMovie Summary: More formatting support would be ideal, though at least there are no watermarks.
  • Resolution Summary: A varied list of export options and supported codecs/file formats. It’s also nice to have the unique feature of uploading directly to YouTube.

Which free video editor is right for you?

iMovie is great free software. It is basic and easy to use and has enough features for hobbyists and novices to practice.

The highlight of using iMovie is the presets, especially the transitions and graphics. While other editing platforms have more customization, iMovie has a good basic range of presets that are easy for beginners to use.

DaVinci Resolve has an amazing array of features and customization for a free editing system. It feels professional to use, and the standout feature is the ability to upload directly to YouTube from the Export tab.

There is a paid premium version of DaVinci Resolve that has even more to offer. However, the free version is definitely worth a look if iMovie isn’t enough anymore.

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