Edit videos with free software (New Guide 2021)

How to get started with the free, powerful video-editing software, Lightworks

free video editor

This workshop is about video-editing, not video capture. We will assume you already have some digital video footage on your computer with which to work.

If not, attach a digital camera or camcorder to the computer and copy some video files across.

Launch a web browser and go to the Lightworks website. To download Lightworks you will need to register with the site, so click the Register link in the upper right-hand corner of the page.

Type in the requested details along with the words in the security box and click the Register button. Soon after, an email should arrive containing a confirmation link – click it.

If the confirmation email doesn’t arrive, return to www.lightworksbeta.com and log into your account with the chosen username and password – this will cause the confirmation email to be sent again.

Once it has successfully logged in, click the Downloads button in the navigation bar at the top of the page, or scroll down the page and click the red Download Now button.

Now click the ‘Lightworks 2021 Public Beta’ link and then click the large Download button to the right of the page.

Click the second Download button. If the File Download Security Warning dialogue box appears, click Save and choose a location for the downloaded file.

Firefox users should select Save File to save the download to Firefox’s default download folder. While this download is in progress (or after it’s finished), click the Downloads link at the top of the page again.

Beneath the link for the file you have just downloaded, click the link in the red box labelled ‘Important’. This will launch a page of the Matrox website, where video codecs that are needed to use Lightworks can be downloaded.

At the Matrox website, scroll down to the bottom of the page and click the link labelled ‘VFWCodecs_10.exe’ to start the download of the Matrox Video For Windows codecs.

As before, if the File Download Security Warning dialogue box appears, click Save and choose a location for the downloaded file. Again, Firefox users should select Save File to save the download to Firefox’s default download folder. When both downloads are complete, use Windows Explorer to navigate to the download folder.

We will start by installing the Matrox codecs.

To do this, just double-click the file named ‘VFWCodecs_10.exe’. If Windows displays the Security Warning dialogue box, click Run.

When the required installation files have been extracted, click the Next button to continue and then click Yes to agree to the licence.

Click Next followed by Next, and then click Next once again. Wait while the installation process completes and then click OK. Now return to the download folder to start the installation of the Lightworks application.

Double-click the file named ‘setup_10.0.4_beta_full.exe’. Click Next to continue, select the option to agree to the licence and click Next. Ensure the Application option is ticked and click Next followed by Next.

Then click Next once again, type in a unique number between 1 and 2703 (this will serve as a unique identity of the current computer if video-editing is going to be performed on two or more PCs) and click the Install button.

Once the installation is complete, click Next followed by Finish.

With both installations complete, launch Lightworks by double-clicking the shortcut that has been created on the Windows Desktop.

Although the application will work on older PCs, memory is still important. As such, on PCs with less than 3GB installed, Lightworks will display a warning message indicating that more is required.

However, it is still possible to run the program – just click the OK button to continue. We advise ensuring that no other programs are running at the same time so as much memory as possible is available for Lightworks to use.

When you are asked to choose a keyboard layout, stick with Lightworks (unless you know and wish to use the keyboard shortcuts employed by either the Avid or Final Cut Pro video-editing tools). Just click OK.

The first thing to do is create a new video project. At the Projects Browser screen (which appears automatically), choose the ‘Create a new project’ option from the first dropdown menu.

From the dropdown menu alongside the ‘Frame rate’ label, choose 25fps and type a suitable name for the project in the Name field – we have called ours ‘Holiday video’. Click the Create button. Use the Notes section of the subsequent dialogue box to store extra information about the project.

A settings dialogue box will appear – click the Video tab. There are numerous options here, but for most projects all that needs to be adjusted is the Format (or screen ratio) setting. Choosing 4:3 will provide the same screen proportions as an old-fashioned TV, while 16:9 is the choice for widescreen footage.

These and other settings will depend on the video footage with which you intend to work. For the purposes of this tutorial, though, we would suggest not worrying too much about any of them and instead move on to importing some video.

In the toolbar to the left of the screen, click the ‘Create a new edit’ button – the third one down, with three blue bars.

This opens a new editing window in which to work, labelled Edit. With the workspace now visible, click the second button in the toolbar (‘Import’, a white rectangle with a red arrow) to import a video. Navigate to and select a video to use and click OK.

To import more than one clip, click Choose on the Import dialogue box and select again.

video importing

Lightworks will analyse the clip (or clips) to ensure it recognises the video format(s). If a file type is unrecognised, Lightworks will label it as ‘Unknown’ in the Content column of the Import dialogue box.

To remove a file, click to highlight it and click Remove. Otherwise, click Start to begin the import process. This could take seconds or minutes, depending on the size of the imported video files.

Once complete, the videos will be listed in the Imports window. Double-click each one in turn to display a preview window: click the third small button on the right-hand side (labelled ‘Pop out tile’) and the clip will ‘pop out’ into its own little window. These preview tiles can be positioned anywhere in the workspace – just drag and drop.

The Imports window can be minimised by clicking the button to the left of the cross in its title bar. To start working with a video clip, drag one of the preview tiles from the workspace onto the Edit window opened earlier.

Notice that a bar representing the video is added to the timeline that appears beneath the Edit window – V1 represents the video, A1 the audio, while A2 is available for adding a second audio track if necessary.

At the bottom of the screen click the back button (far left) twice, and then use these playback controls to preview the footage.

To create a compilation of several clips, first drag the red playback marker to the point at which the next clip should be inserted. Use the same drag-and-drop technique to add another of the imported video clips to the Edit window – it will be added to the current playback position.

This process can be repeated for as many clips needed. If a clip contains footage that needs trimming from the end, move the red playback marker to the relevant position in the timeline window and click the Remove button.

Each video clip is assigned a bar of a different color on the timeline to make it easier to differentiate between clips. Simple transition effects can be added by positioning the playback control between clips on the timeline and clicking the Effects button.

Choose an effect from the list and click add before checking to see how it looks. Some simple but interesting results can be achieved this way. We’ll be publishing a workshop exploring several more advanced options later this month.