Shotcut video editor review 2021

Edited by Nataly Bogorad

June 4, 2021

In this Shotcut software review for 2021, we’ll take a look at the free, open-source, and multiplatform video editor. Multiplatform means it works on Mac, Windows, and Linux, with regular updates from an active developer community. Shotcut video editor is packed with features that rival some of the best-paid video editing software on the market, making it an attractive option to those who don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on software or would rather not find themselves beholden to large corporations. With enough features to satisfy intermediate and advanced users, this freeware editor is still beginner-friendly, making it a good option for someone looking to get into video editing.

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Shotcut video editor review: quick summary and overall rating

Shotcut ratings:
TechRadar: 4/5 stars
PCMag: 3.5/5 stars
Capterra: 4.5/5 stars, 49 reviews

Summary

This Shotcut review will take a deep look at the features and functions of this popular software. It was first released in 2004, then completely rewritten into its current form. The intent from the beginning was to create a cross-platform video editor. For users, this means the freedom to switch systems without suffering from compatibility issues. A user could, for instance, begin a project on a Mac and finish it on a Windows machine.

Shotcut has several features usually only seen on more extensive, paid video editors. For instance, there is a full-color grading option available under the effects menu.

The install is relatively lightweight, at 237MB on a Mac, making it a good option for people working on older or underpowered machines.

For anyone familiar with video editing software, Shotcut is relatively easy to get started with.

Pros and cons of Shotcut video editor

Pros

Cons

FreeNo previews for effects and transitions
CustomizableApply effects changes, like when color grading, has lag
Includes advanced effects and tools
Accepts multiple video layers
Intuitive layout for anyone used to video editing
Lightweight install
Drag and drop functions
Full HD support

Shotcut video editor features overview

For completely free software, Shotcut video editing software is impressive. It has many options you would expect to see only in more advanced, paid video editors. The effects menu provides plenty of options for creative video making, including options for blurring, masks, color grading, and other creative effects.

The layout makes sense, and the drag and drop function makes it easy to add source clips to the timeline. For advanced edits, the timeline also supports multiple layers, which is a handy option. By setting a custom video size, you can also create square or vertical videos out of horizontal source clips, which is useful when publishing to social media or for mobile phone viewing.

The interface

The interface is functional and well-laid out. It uses a panel layout that changes depending on which view is selected – logging, editing, fx, color, audio, or player. It can be a bit confusing the first few times, as items get hidden depending on which view you’re in. The adjustable panels allow you to customize the workspace to your preference, which is a nice touch since users with small screens may have difficulty seeing some of the panels in the default layout. The adjustability means you can create a layout that works best for your workflow.

Using the editor in full-screen mode is the best way to use this editor, as some items seem to disappear at smaller window sizes.

Source files and format support

Shotcut supports all of the commonly used image and video file formats. It uses a process referred to as native timeline editing, which means files don’t need to be imported or converted by the editor. The flexible nature of its file handling means Shotcut can handle multiple file types, including raw video and different resolutions and frame rates, on a single timeline. This is a real bonus when editing a video using files from multiple cameras. Support for 4K at 60fps is also built-in.

Bringing files into a project is simple – in either the logging or editing view, simply drag and drop files into the playlist panel.

Timeline builder

Once you have all of your video and image files in the playlist, drag one down to the timeline panel in the lower portion of the screen to start editing. The source file will appear in the timeline and in the preview window above the timeline. On the far left are options to lock, mute, or hide the clip. These are helpful options when working with multiple layers in the timeline, especially when trying to isolate the source of an unwanted sound.

To trim your clip to only the portion you want to use in the video, either move the playhead (the thin vertical white bar topped by a triangle) or click within the black bar at the top of the clip. When the playhead is at the point you want to insert a cut, hit the Split button or S key. Repeat this for where you want your clip to end, then delete the unwanted portions.

Editing the clip in the timeline doesn’t affect your source video. If you make a mistake, either hit the undo button or start over by dragging the original clip into the timeline again.

Dragging a new clip to the timeline will place it at the end of your video sequence rather than placing it on a new track. To add a video or audio track, click the three horizontal stripes at the top of the timeline panel, then select Track Operations and your preferred option.

Audio features

In addition to supporting audio included in video files, Shotcut also supports standalone audio files in all commonly used formats. This makes it easy to add external audio to your videos, which can help to raise your production level.

Whether it’s a music file, a voiceover, or sound effects, the method is the same.

To add an audio track, first, click on the three horizontal stripes in the menu bar of the timeline panel. Select Track Operations, then Add Audio Track.

This will add a new track to your timeline. Now drag and drop your audio file over this track. You can move the file back and forth to sync it with the video tracks, if necessary.

Once in place, you can use keyframes to apply effects to the audio file. This will allow you to raise and lower the volume or pan the audio from left to right in certain parts of the track instead of across the entire track.

Video effects

Shotcut includes a range of effects for a video that lift it from the range of beginner freeware to a useful intermediate editing tool. The best part is that these built-in effects mean you don’t have to install plugins. At the top of this list is the color grading tool, usually only seen in high-end video editing programs.

Here’s a near-complete list of video effects available in Shotcut free to review:

  • Color wheels to correct colors in the shadows, mids, and highlights
  • White balancing eyedropper selection tool
  • Auto-rotate
  • Deinterlacing
  • Timeline fader controls for audio levels and black levels
  • Wipe transitions: bar, box, radial, diagonal, barn door, matrix, iris, gradient
  • A range of track blend modes, including overlay, screen, darken, soft light, and more
  • Video filters: alpha channel adjust, blur, gaussian blur, low pass blur, brightness, chroma-key, contrast, corner pin, crop, hue, lightness, saturation, mask, noise, opacity, posterize, time remapping
  • Visual effect filters: old film, dust, grain, scratches
  • 360-degree video filters
  • Video scopes: histogram, RGB waveform, zoom

Editing tools

Editing in Shotcut is simple. The clips can be cut using the split tool, which slices the clip at the playhead. From here, you can move the split clip to a different track, delete it, or reposition it on the timeline.

You can toggle the snap tool on and off. Snapping is useful when you need to get a cut moved to a specific time marker. Having the toggle turned off, with the timeline zoomed in, will give you finer control over where the clip is placed. This is especially useful when trying to sync a video clip to an external audio clip.

Filters

Filters in Shotcut work a bit differently than in other programs. In Shotcut, all video effects are listed under the Filter menu, rather than separating effects, like masks, from filters, like blur. That said, the program includes an impressive list of filters and effects for being freeware. The included filters allow for creative options that can take your videos to the next level.

Keyframing

The ability to add keyframes makes Shotcut a handy video editor for creating nuanced, creative videos. By adding keyframes to filters and effects, you can introduce subtle or drastic changes across the timeline. You could, for instance, slowly increase the blur on a clip or pan the sound from one speaker to the other as a car goes by. Keyframes are also helpful in adjusting the contrast or brightness for scenes that move from interior to exterior, along with a wide range of other creative uses.

Transitions

A tasteful transition can contribute to your video storytelling and improve the flow of your video. Shotcut has several built-in transitions that you can easily and quickly apply. When editing on a tight deadline, these built-in Shotcut transitions can be pretty helpful.

Applying a transition is slightly different in Shotcut, as the transitions aren’t found in the effects menu. To create a transition, first, make sure the Ripple button isn’t selected in your timeline menu, then drag one clip over the other. The amount of overlap determines the length of the transition. After you release the mouse button, a shape will appear between the two clips indicating a transition. By default, this will be a dissolve. To select a different transition, right-click on it, then choose Properties. A panel will appear to the left of the timeline. In this panel, you can make changes to the transition.

Exporting a project

To export your completed edit, first make sure you’re in the Editing layout, then simply hit the Export button in the top menu. By default, export is H.264 AAC. If you want to export using a different preset option, select it from the list on the left. There is also an advanced export option, which Shotcut warns may create errors depending on the chosen options.

System requirements

Shotcut works on Mac, Windows, and Linux computers. It’s a lightweight program, so it doesn’t need a dedicated editing or gaming machine to work well.

Is Shotcut good for beginners?

If you’ve never edited a video before and want a simple editor for a quick project, Shotcut probably isn’t for you. You would be better off with a more straightforward and more basic editor with less of a learning curve that gives you a shortcut to a finished video. However, if you’re looking to get into video editing and plan to do many videos, Shotcut is an excellent option. There is a learning curve to get over at the beginning, but once you figure out the basics, you’ll be well-positioned to start experimenting with the more advanced features to make creative videos.

Shotcut alternatives

Movavi Video Editor Plus

4.7/5 stars, 24 reviews

Adobe Premiere Pro

4.5/5 stars

Blender

4.5/5 stars, 167 reviews

Best for:
Beginner and intermediate editors looking for a user-friendly video editor with advanced features

Best for:
Advanced users and professionals with powerful computers

Best for:
Advanced users looking to Creating 3D animations in addition to editing

Movavi Video Editor Plus comes with features like built-in intros and backgrounds for quickly creating polished videos. Tools like noise removal and stabilization make it ideal for cleaning up less than the perfect source material.

Adobe Premiere Pro is among the best video editors on the market. It integrates well with other Adobe products and is capable of producing polished, professional videos.

Blender is best known as a 3D modeling and animation tool. It does, however, also have a video editor. This makes it a good tool for 3D illustrators who occasionally need to edit a video.

Nataly Bogorad

Nataly Bogorad is a seasoned content creator and web text editor with 7 years of experience in commercial writing and website UX. In 2012, she graduated from Universität Kassel with a bachelor of arts degree in English and American studies and art criticism. At the same time, Nataly had worked as a project assistant for Regionalmanagement Nordhessen GmbH where she wrote and managed the content of the company website. An advanced speaker of English and German, she specializes in writing SEO-optimized and user-friendly content.

* The free version of Movavi Video Editor Plus has the following restrictions: 7-day trial period, watermark on the output videos, and, if you’re saving a project as an audio file, an ability to save only half the audio length. Learn more

Frequently asked questions

Is Shotcut better than iMovie?

Shotcut is different from the iMovie app but not necessarily better. Both are good programs that approach video editing in different ways. Shotcut has some features that iMovie doesn’t, such as color grading options, but both are equally capable video editing solutions.

Is Shotcut really free?

Yes. Shotcut really is free to download and use. It’s built as an open-source project by developers who believe software should be free to share. The developers have made an effort to ensure there is no malware in the release, so if you’re wondering, “is Shotcut safe,” then the answer is yes.

Is Shotcut good for beginners?

Yes, but you need to be willing to put in some time to learn the software. Figuring out the basics of loading source video into the program and making basic cuts can be picked up fairly quickly with the help of a how-to-use-it-style video on YouTube.

Is Shotcut without a watermark?

Shotcut does not put a watermark on exported videos.

What can Shotcut do?

Shotcut is an advanced video editor for making creative, exciting videos from multiple video and audio files. Effects and filters allow you to give the finished product a unique look. Custom options allow for creating a square or vertical video, in addition to the standard 4:3 or 16:9 format.