Top Alternatives to Premiere Pro in 2020 — Free and Paid
Hesitant to throw down $50 a month to pay for an Adobe membership? Here are all the NLE alternatives that you have available to you — both free and paid.
While Adobe may be the top choice of NLE for most indie filmmakers, DIY production houses, and beginners (and even the choice for large scale productions such as Gone Girl), the steep $50 per month subscription charge is enough to drive some people away from the highly-rated editing suite.
There are a plethora of choices out there that are either free to use or require an up-front cost. Tons of creators are turning to these alternatives when looking for their preferred NLE. So, today we’re going to dive into all the choices you have on the market — their pros, cons, and price — so you can decide for yourself if you want to make the switch.
I’m starting off with DaVinci Resolve because this is my absolute first choice for a free, incredibly powerful, and intuitive NLE. There’s a big shift going on in the indie circuit when it comes to Resolve. We’ve seen a huge uptick in creators switching over to Resolve due to its availability and reliability.
One of DaVinci’s biggest draws is its color correction and grading platform. It’s by far the top choice for professional color graders for correcting and grading footage. The software also beats out Adobe’s Lumetri Color by a long shot.
With recent updates, it’s upgraded both Fairlight and Fusion VFX — their audio and VFX tabs within the program. Their edit page isn’t too shabby either. It’s a full stop edit suite that can get down and dirty with a complicated timeline. It’s also a one stop shop for a professional edit, and has most (and in some cases, more) features than all of the Adobe suite programs combined.
If you want to learn more about DaVinci Resolve and get to learning it, download the program for free and follow along with our multiple tutorials by Lewis McGregor to get yourself acquainted.
- Incredible industry-standard color correction and grading software within the program
- Gives you all the tools you need to make a professional edit in one program
- No monthly subscription or upfront cost
- Steep learning curve, and sometimes hard to understand UX
- VFX program does not match up to After Effects
Ahh, Avid — the one NLE that editors love to hate. I trained in Avid in college, and as much as I hated slogging through the textbook and the antiquated features of the program, I grew to love it in a weird way. It’s incredible at handling feature-length projects, and the organization tools inside of the program are hard to match. It won’t blink at high resolution video, or shy away from a monster timeline. It’s the workhorse of all of the NLEs out there.
It’s still the overwhelming choice of NLE for most Hollywood-level productions due to its enterprise and project-sharing abilities. And, I will say, after the upgrades in the recent update it looks a lot friendlier and modern compared to the blocky grey blob it used to be. If you are serious about becoming an editor for a post house or grinding your way to entering the ACE guild, Avid is the right choice.
- The choice of NLE for major productions and union editors
- incredibly powerful software that can handle feature-length projects
- New, updated UX that is cleaner and easier to understand
- Incredibly difficult learning curve (seriously, you might have to buy a textbook)
- Not as user-friendly as the other NLEs
Price: $23.99 Monthly Subscription
Final Cut Pro X is historically Premiere’s top competitor in the indie NLE market. I was brought up in the editing world during the heated battle between Final Cut and Premiere users. It was a gruesome battle between editors — I even almost got fired from a gig early in my career for arguing with my boss about using Final Cut over Premiere. Even though I may be committing a cardinal sin amongst Premiere users for suggesting Final Cut over Premiere, I’m going to write this with as little bias as possible.
Final Cut is a solid, simple editing platform. It may be joked about as being “iMovie Plus,” but it’s actually got some serious horsepower behind its simple, friendly exterior. One of my favorite parts about Final Cut is its ability to take complicated editing tasks and condensing them into an incredibly easy to use, drag and drop effect. I started doing a few projects within the program this past year, and there were times that I was able to use effects that took me thirty seconds which would have taken me five minutes in Premiere to execute.
They’ve really put the work in to make it a professional-level NLE, and it’s motion and audio editing platforms within the program are easy to use and incredibly clean. One of the main problems I have with Final Cut though is its organization flow. The project and clip window is a mess to me, and hard to organize. But, for a small project, it’s by far the fastest way to get a clean edit.
- Easy to learn and pick up for beginners
- Incredibly clean and intuitive UX
- Great for getting out a project fast
- Only available on Mac
- Untidy organization for scanning through clips and for large scale projects
HitFilm Express is probably the closest program to Premiere that you are going to find. It’s simple, extremely intuitive, and best of all, it’s FREE.
HitFilm Express is the go-to choice for a lot of editors that like the simplicity of Premiere, but don’t want to pay the monthly tithe to Adobe. It’s got some serious punching power for a free program, and it’s also pretty great for a simple edit. It may not be at the level as the other programs on here, but it’s one of my first recommendations for an editor just getting into the game who doesn’t want to drop a bunch of money on an editing program, or doesn’t have the time to get acquainted with Resolve.
HitFilm also offers their pro version for $299, which offers a plethora of extra effects and programs. If you want to learn more about HitFilm, they have an extremely active YouTube channel with tutorials and walkthroughs of their program.
- Free to use, fun editing program perfect for beginner editors
- Ability to do some really interesting and professional looking effects with guided walkthroughs from FXHome
- Not as professional-grade as the other programs, not very applicable to corporate or post-house level editing
- Pro version costs as much as some other high-caliber editing programs
Price: Free for Express / Pro version – $299
Vegas has always been the scrappy little brother in the fight for the top NLE. It’s never really taken a chunk out of the market share, but it is still loved and adored by its hardcore fans and users. What I’ve found with NLEs is that you usually stick with the one that you learned on. For most folks who were editing Call of Duty screen captures for Youtube in the early 2010s, Vegas was the editor of choice.
Now Vegas is a fully fledged NLE with all of the features that you would need. But, to be honest, even with their new update it still looks like it’s stuck in 2015. The UX is clunky, and the design of the program looks a bit outdated. Still, it’s used around the world as a go-to editor. The price point is pretty steep for a smaller program (especially when you have Resolve available for free), but it’s still a solid option when shopping around for your new program.
- Great program for legacy Vegas users
- Intuitive color grading programs
- Clunky, outdated UX
- Not as feature-heavy as the other NLEs in its category
- Steep price point
Price: $399 for Basic Edit Package, $599 for Pro
Cover image via Antonio Guillem.
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