Lightworks has long been at the top of our list for the best free video editing software† It’s powerful, customizable, with multi-track editing capabilities.
in our last Lightworks review, we gave it an impressive 4.5 stars. Here was a non-linear video editor available for Windows, Mac and Linux – and for free. Unfortunately, that free name came with a caveat, noting that while it “contained powerful tools, the tempting temptation to be free hides the fact that a necessary export option is only available in the paid version.”
So, how does the latest version of the software hold up, what has changed and is it still good enough to cut your next video?
Changes and improvements are immediately visible. The first time Lightworks launches, you’ll be honored with a new “Startup Wizard,” where you can set your preferred language and keyboard shortcuts, and choose from one of two different layouts.
Creating new projects is also simplified. Previously, you were asked to set the number of frames per second for your timeline, something experienced users would have no problem choosing, but might confuse more casual editors.
Now give your project a name and you’re done. The project takes the size and frame rate of the first clip you add to the timeline, as most modern editors do today.
Another thing we appreciated is the addition of improved little pop-up helpers that appear when you first perform an action. These dark green windows offer hints and advice for what to do next, and seem more focused on the action you’re currently taking, rather than just general information. Anyone new to editing or to the functionality of this software will likely appreciate this friendly guiding hand.
One of the big changes that happened last year was support for cloud media storage. It’s not obvious at first, but click the little ‘+’ next to Libraries and you can sign in to a host of services, including Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive. If you work with media that needs to be shared on multiple devices, this addition is certainly welcome.
Cutting a movie in Lightworks doesn’t seem to have changed since the 2020 release, although we feel like we need to adjust a statement we made last time: then we struggled to get a video clip on a second layer. without overwriting the audio captured by clips on the first. Turns out this can be done by dragging the mouse to the desired audio layers.
We can’t go back to check if this was the case then, or if this is a new addition, but either way, adding clips on multiple layers is much easier than we initially thought. other video editors automatically move the audio to the correct location, but Lightworks’ method gives you a little more flexibility for more advanced users.
One benefit introduced with the latest version (v2022) is support for Apple’s ProRes codecs, ranging from 422 Proxy to 4444 XQ. Any version of Lightworks can decode them all, leading to improved real-time editing not only on Macs, but also on Windows and Linux computers that use such files. We have the . ranked best video editing computersif you need improved performance.
You’ll also find some improved tools in the VFX section, especially focused on color correction. This includes support for LUTs (Look Up Tables – tools that allow you to save certain color gradations as templates).
Not only can you take advantage of a list of pre-baked cameras (including support for ARRI, Canon, GoPro, Panasonic, RED, and Sony cameras), you can also import custom LUTs, should the need arise.
The Vectorscopes have also been improved, but most of the benefits are not available in the free version of Lightworks. If you need more visual effects, check out the best video effects software and the best Adobe After Effects alternatives†
From free to Pro
In fact, many of the latest improvements only apply to the Create and Pro versions, so it’s worth mentioning them. Yes, Lightworks is free – at least a version of it – but if you want to take advantage of all the features this video editing software has to offer, you have to pay for the privilege.
Some of the “premium” options may sound strange, especially when it comes to exporting. You are still limited to 720p – 1080p is a paid option. It’s an odd decision, given that most, if not all, of the video editors we’ve tested over the years offer Full HD by default. Lightworks is doubtfully going against the trend.
Some of the more recent improvements that come with Create of Pro include the ability to encode in ProRes, export to select cloud storage providers (currently Google Drive, Google PhotosDropbox, OneDrive, Box and pCloud† You can now find enhanced scopes (such as YCbCr for Create and Pro, and Split View and CIE for Pro only), and end-to-end 10-bit support (a Pro feature only).
A very interesting addition for the Pro customers is Automated Quality Control, accessible directly from the editor, which “allows you to meet all major international delivery requirements without the need for a video engineer or complicated external workflows.” This is clearly a useful tool for broadcast editors and certainly provides a strong incentive to upgrade where you need such functionality.
Create and Pro come as subscriptions per user per month. You can choose an annual plan that essentially gives you two free months.
If you prefer to own your editing software rather than rent it, you can purchase a perpetual license instead.
However, there is one strong caveat: doing this will limit you to the current version (including any future minor updates), but when next year comes and another major revision is released (v2023), your upgrade window will close.
Lightworks is an extremely powerful non-linear video editor, with many tools that would satisfy most users. If you choose to pay for the more advanced versions, you will of course have access to more professional and powerful tools.
For most regular users, the free version should be more than enough, and the latest improvements and additions just make it a better, more responsive piece of software. The only real downside to the free version is the inability to export beyond 720p.