Outside of tech blogging, my background is mainly film, and my main gig is primarily as a video editor and producer. If you, like me, have spent more than 15 years in front of a computer pulling your hair out trying to fix problems, you’ll probably end up accruing a go-to list of problem-solving programs to install on every computer you use.
Interestingly, these tend to be free, probably because most of the common problems are universal, and that usually means someone has thought of that already and gotten mad enough to fix it. And if someone on GitHub or an obscure video encoding forum has not solved the issue, there’s some great shareware software out there that won’t break the bank.
So here are the programs that have saved my bacon in one way or another over the years and that I would recommend to any experienced (and some aspiring) video editor at the drop of a hat. It is by no means an exhaustive list, and there is always room for improvement, so feel free to tell me your own favorites in the comments.
Cost: Free, $295 for DaVinci Resolve Studio
Blackmagic’s DaVinci Resolve is the best value of any non-linear editing software out there, period. If you are going to start editing software today, just download DaVinci Resolve. Do not mess around with Sony Vegas; they changed the pricing structure, and it isn’t worth the money now. Do not mess with Final Cut Pro. For the love of god, do not cut your teeth on iMovie, have some self-respect. You may have to mess around with Premiere in a professional context, but understand that, like most Adobe software, it sucks and crashes all the time.
DaVinci Resolve has a fairly robust version that is free to download, is intuitive, works better, and will be the only editing software that you need because it’s the only retail product made remotely well outside of Avid. As of last year, there is an iPad version, too, and I have heard very good things!
Out of the box, Resolve just works better than Premiere and is infinitely more enjoyable to interact with. It has some of the best tools around for editing, it has a powerful and flexible node-based motion graphics suite that isn’t constantly crashing like After Effects, it has a fairly competent DAW built into it that will make audio work very simple, and you cannot get a better piece of software when it comes to color grading because that is what it started as even before it was a Non-Linear Editor.
The full version, DaVinci Resolve Studio, is 295 bucks, and you pay for it once, which is the way I would prefer people sell me software. There are a handful of differences between the free and paid versions, but the main limitation is if you want to edit frame rates higher than 60fps and resolutions over 4K. There are also a handful of limitations on multi-GPU processing, color grading in HDR and a bunch of plugins and tools, but the vast majority of users will not need this. I have the full version, and unlike with other software tools, they have yet to harass me to pay for cloud features I’ll never use or upgrade my existing license to a new version of the software. It has just been a steady stream of very good quality-of-life updates since I redeemed the key.
You will often just need a basic audio editor and recorder, and Audacity does the job. It’s not complicated, but it’s free, competent, and it works. Nothing too complex there, and most people will never need to go beyond that, but you can do a lot of basic editing in Audacity, too, if need be.
Cost: $60 (individual); $225 (commercial); 60-day free trial
I would also like to recommend REAPER, an audio workstation and MIDI sequencer, because even though most people will never need to use it, it’s a very robust piece of software to the point of being very overwhelming, and I just generally like and respect them as a company. They are also fairly generous with their evaluation period, so it is a no-brainer to poke around and try. Their software is basically 60 bucks for most normal people, and the license covers a fairly high number of updates. They’re cool and worth supporting.
So many people do not know the correct way to download a YouTube video, and that’s really a shame. It doesn’t have to be this way — there is software that does this. Namely YT-DLP.
YT-DLP is a fork of youtube-dl (which made the news a while back for getting DMCA’d). Like FFmpeg, you can use the command line to download videos, and also, like FFmpeg, the code for this is embedded in a bunch of other software natively. There are tons of front-ends for this.
4K Video Downloader
Cost: Free for limited version; $10 for one-year license; $15 for personal version, $45 for pro version
If you don’t want to deal with that or get too granular, 4K Video Downloader will do the trick for most people. In fact, I use that most of the time because it is fairly good and also because I am lazy. You can also throw them some cash for additional features, but out of the box, it does what most people want it to. There is apparently an Android app too, but I haven’t used it.
To download videos from Twitter, I like using the TwitFix extension or one of the various TwitFix forks, which just lets you right-click a video and download it instead of annoyingly tagging a bot to tell it to download a video for you. Either way, it beats the hell out of using a website called something like “downloadyoutubevids4free.malware.”
Sometimes you don’t have time to use YT-DLP. Understandable! If you are on an iOS device like an iPhone and want a fast and easy way to download videos from YouTube or Twitter instead of screen recording, cropping and trimming, shortcuts are your answer. (As an aside, if you have not messed around with what shortcuts can do, I highly recommend it. I have a dedicated button on my screen that just plays various NTS streams.)
JAYD (Just Another Youtube Downloader) and HiRes Twitter allow you to download YouTube and Twitter videos directly to your phone by simply copying and pasting a link. They can be a little wonky at times, but it beats the hell out of tagging a bot to download it for you.