iMovie (Mac) – iMovie is a free video editing software that comes pre-installed on Mac computers. It has a simple and intuitive interface that makes it good for beginners. With iMovie you can import video clips, photos, and audio to tell your story. You can rearrange and trim clips, add titles and transitions, add filters and effects, and include a soundtrack. The free version allows you to export your finished projects in standard formats like MP4 that can be shared online. A few limitations are that it only supports up to 4 video tracks and you are limited in customization options compared to paid software. For basic digital storytelling needs, iMovie is a great free option for Mac users.
Windows Movie Maker (Windows) – Similar to iMovie, Windows Movie Maker is free video editing software that comes pre-installed on Windows computers. It has a basic but easy to use interface for importing, arranging, and trimming video clips and adding titles, transitions, photos, and audio. You can also apply basic color and visual effects. Projects can be exported in common formats like MP4. The main limitations are that it only allows 2 video and 2 audio tracks simultaneously and has fewer customization options compared to paid software. It is still capable for basic digital storytelling and is a good free starting point for Windows users.
Adobe Premiere Pro/Elements – Adobe Premiere Pro is a professional grade video editing software with powerful, flexible options for advanced editing and filmmaking. It has a learning curve and subscription model that may not make it suitable for beginners or occasional users. Adobe Premiere Elements is similar but stripped down version of Premiere Pro that retains many of the core features in a simpler interface. Elements has more tracks and customization options than free software while being more approachable than Premiere Pro. Both allow advanced cutting and combining clips, layering graphics/titles, color grading, and special effects. Elements in particular could be a good intermediate option for aspiring digital storytellers looking to step up from basic software.
Final Cut Pro (Mac) – Considered the gold standard for Mac video editing, Final Cut Pro is focused, powerful, and widely used by professionals. It comes with a one-time purchase price of $299 making it more expensive up front than other options. Where it excels is in its tight integration with other Apple software and hardware as well as third party plugins/effects. It has a clean interface and many advanced tools for video/audio/graphics manipulation. While it has a learning curve, Final Cut Pro allows virtually any type of project to be created and is worth considering for serious Mac-based digital storytelling.
Shotcut (Free, Windows/Mac/Linux) – Shotcut is a free, open source, and cross-platform video editor. It has a basic timeline interface for importing, arranging, and editing video/audio clips. You can add titles, transitions, and basic color adjustments. While not as fully-featured as paid software, it provides more capability than Windows Movie Maker or iMovie with additional tracks, nesting abilities, and keyboard shortcuts. Projects can be exported to common formats. Shotcut strikes a nice balance of being capable yet also free making it a good choice for budget-conscious users across operating systems.
Lightworks (Free for non-commercial, Windows/Mac/Linux) – Lightworks is a professional non-linear video editor with a history of being used in Hollywood films. The free version supports 1080p resolution with 2 video/3 audio tracks allowing basic editing. You get access to advanced editing tools like color correction, compositing, masking and more. Finished projects can be exported to various formats. While the interface is more involved, Lightworks is very capable. For hobbiest digital storytellers on a budget, it provides Hollywood-caliber features without the high price tag for non-commercial use.
Those are some good options to consider for creating digital storytelling projects. I hope these details on capabilities and learning curves help you determine the best editing software for your needs. Most important is picking software you can learn and be creative within. While free options like iMovie, Windows Movie Maker or Shotcut are great starting points, intermediate users may benefit most from stepping up to Adobe Premiere Elements, Final Cut Pro or Lightworks for enhanced creative control. Let me know if you need any other recommendations!