My fellow pro and hobbyist video editors and geeks alike, our prayers have been heard!
Do you remember finding yourself in a situation where you needed to simply edit a couple of clips together regardless of the format they were in? And maybe add a soundtrack, a title or two along the way, as well as do some basic color correction or time warping on the source material?
Here's how it usually goes: you get an idea, either write it down or jump straight into your NLE and get ready to bring it to life.
But then you must be sure to have a full-fledged video editing app on the computer you have access to. And even if you do say, open up your Premiere, Final Cut or DaVinci Resolve, you'll quickly realize that professional NLEs are picky about the formats you need to provide your videos in. Then you find out that you need to transcode a clip or two, save some images in another format...
Now you're questioning this sudden wave of euphoria which came with the idea, and looking for reasons not to keep going and finally...
Nope. Not worth it. I'm outta here!
And that, my friends, is exactly how ideas DIE...
Quietly... In the corners of your mind... Overtaken by a barrage of complications and tedious procedures needed before you can actually get to working on the damn clip.
Olive to the rescue
A free, open-source non-linear video editor aiming to provide a fully-featured alternative to high-end professional video editing software.
Those aren't just buzzwords. This little piece of Software delivers on its promises!
As you can probably tell, it looks extremely similar to Adobe Premiere. At least in its better years (CS6 and the earlier CC versions). And that's just the icing on the cake. The NLE feels and functions like a tad simplified, yet perfectly functional version of Premiere with neat "quality of life" improvements here and there, while lacking the subscription fees and the random crashes, of course.
Just look at all the formats I was able to import into the project and apply effects, transitions, transforms, change in-out points to, and export the final result as a finished clip!
MP4, MOV, WEBM, GIF, WMV, MPG... It feels so liberating and inspiring to know that we now have a tool capable of importing almost any media file for the purpose of simply cutting together a quick clip whenever one gets an idea stuck in the head!
To save time, both yours and mine, I'll list some of the key features of Olive as briefly as possible.
Olive video editor is:
Not just free. Open source too. If you feel adventurous or think you can contribute to the project — feel free to become the part of the devteam.
Imagine if an app with a tool-set similar to that of Adobe Premiere's took less than 50 MB on disk when zipped. Impossible? Not any more! Olive is so compact you'll want to carry it around on your thumb-stick wherever you go, especially considering that it...
Works in portable mode!
Unzip, configure, use wherever. Even regardless of the OS, because it's also...
Windows? Mac? Linux? Take your pick.
As long as there is an open-source decoder available for a format, Olive can import it into the project. I've personally tested over 10 different formats, 4 out of which were complete show-stoppers for Premiere, HitFilm and Resolve and had zero issues whatsoever in Olive.
Exports to a variety of formats
Once again — if open source decoders bundled with Olive can demux and decode the stream or your system has the necessary codecs installed, Olive can output the result into a container of your choice.
Oh yeah, it's quick with its exports too.
Olive is STABLE
Unlike another open-source video editor under the name of Shotcut, Olive is unbelievably stable even when a project contains lots of layers, effects, and different media formats. I don't want to badmouth Shotcut, but after trying to export something, anything from it three times on two different machines I gave up hope.
Intuitive (and familiar) interface
Let's be real: Olive IS a freeware Premiere.
It feels like Premiere, it looks like Premiere, but it doesn't constantly keep crashing for shits and giggles like Premiere CC 2017+.
Isn't that a dream come true?
You can easily animate values with Keyframes and refine your animations using an intuitive graph editor.
Supports nesting of the clips
Yep. Even the current alpha version can nest clips into sequences which can then be manipulated just like normal media clips on the time-line. And it works!
Supports UI customization
Just about anything can be repositioned as docked, or completely undocked to be placed on another screen. Whilst at the moment there is no way to save custom layouts, I'm sure this possibility is on the ToDo list.
Doesn't need you to create a project
Unlike Premiere, you can start editing your film right after starting Olive without having to go through the "New Project" screen with a bunch of options you're often unsure of, especially when starting a quick edit. Yet another great time-saver.
You better believe it! Olive can create and use proxies to improve time-line playback performance, especially when using heavily compressed, non-edit-friendly sources, just like any other "professional" NLE.
Supports variable clip speed control
Once again, think Premiere. Can you change clip playback speed in % in Premiere? Well, Olive can do this just as well and it's just as fast and easy.
Has a decent title editor
Whilst not as powerful as Premiere's, Olive's labeling abilities are sufficient enough for basic edits.
Supports in-editor audio recording
A feature which is immensely convenient for doing commentaries or tutorials over an edited sequence. Created wave files are conveniently placed next to the project file on disk and imported into the project item list.
Can maximize any panel with a hotkey
Another vital option when editing and previewing, is to be able to temporarily maximize any panel. Be it a Preview or Effects — just press a hotkey and the panel under the cursor will fit the whole window of Olive. Press it again to restore the normal layout.
See it in action below:
Uses ORANGE accented UI elements
Remember what Adobe did to CC Suite apps back in 2015? They changed accent colors from well-readable orange to that awful blue/cyan.
Well, Olive devs are apparently human and relalize that the user base are not to be tortured because "muh corporate style", and kept the orange accents which are well readable and are easy on the eyes.
Thank you, Olive devs!
Olive is FAST
Even on mediocre hardware Olive is really performant and once again — surprisingly stable for an early alpha release version.
Now, I know what some of you are thinking...
But Olive is not the only freeware NLE in existence!
Sure. Let's talk alternatives!
Before we do though, please keep in mind that in this particular case I'll only look and compare several specific abilities and properties Olive provides out of the box to those of other freeware NLEs:
- Performance on medium-tier hardware. You won't always have access to your powerful PC and might need to edit a couple clips on the go on a laptop with an underpowered or outright integrated GPU.
- Ability to import and export various video and audio formats and containers. That's what made me fall in love with Olive right away: it imports pretty much anything you throw at it. If you have any experience editing videos you know how picky NLEs can be in this regard. It can struggle with 4K material, but you really should edit those high quality recordings in professional NLEs with maximum color precision anyway.
- File size and portability. The former being small can let you quickly get your hands on an installer and start drafting ideas ASAP, whereas the latter would allow you to carry a configured instance with you anywhere you go.
So, please, put down your pitchforks, swords and torches and let's take an honest look at whether your favorite NLE can compete with the tiny Olive.
Why not DaVinci Resolve?
Installer size: 1.3 GB (Editor version 16, requires you for fill in a registration form before downloading)
Portability: none (that I'm aware of)
Format support: limited ("pro" formats mostly, no MKV, WEBM container support)
Resolve is a real power-house and the tool-set you get access to for free is absolutely amazing. Although free, the basic version of DaVinci Resolve is still a proprietary piece of software. And just like with any proprietary product the owners can at any moment change their minds and the licensing model and retroactively make all installations of the Software no longer usable due to licensing restrictions.
Editing in Resolve can feel tedious (at least for me) when compared to Final Cut, Vegas or Premiere and as with most "professional" NLEs the list of supported video and audio formats and containers is pretty limited, so get ready to transcode those weird and funny videos you found on the internet before you can import them in for cutting.
Besides, to me, DR feels more like a limited trial version than a truly freeware product. While using it I keep stumbling upon effects and panels disabled in the free version, but taking up valuable space in the UI, which is done deliberately to draw attention and remind the user that a paid pro (or a "Studio") version is available if you wish to unlock those functions.
The Software has very high GPU requirements. So high in fact, that I wouldn't recommend trying it out unless you have at least a good mid-range GPU. Otherwise you'll only experience frustration and constant crashes. The reason is simple: I believe at least half of this NLE relies on GPU without any actual CPU fallbacks. Don't forget: DaVinci Resolve grew up from a very specialized color-grading piece of software which was just several years ago one of the most resource-intensive ones on the market and wasn't even guaranteed to run at all, unless you had like 2GB of GPU and 8GBs of system memory minimum. BlackMagic have done a terrific job optimizing DR since then, but it's still very picky when it comes to hardware.
On a mid-powered PC with 8GB system RAM and a GPU with 1GB of RAM where Olive, Premiere CS6 and even HitFilm were able to function normally, DaVinci Resolve 16 kept crashing for me and running out of RAM, even causing Windows to bring down lots of other apps with it. It really is a serious editing app and it absolutely requires a beefy PC with a decent dedicated GPU to work on.
Having said all that, I do encourage you to try out DaVinci Resolve for yourself (it's free!) and not to rely entirely on my ramblings. And if you are a happy user of the editor — stay happy, and realize that people can have opinions that are different to yours. Shocking, I know.
Why not Blender?
Installer size: 133 MB (Editor version 2.83)
Format support: outstanding (imports almost anything)
If you can deal with Blender's UI or need an editor with powerful compositing tools, go for it. It's has a decent NLE as a part of the bundle. Otherwise, I'm not an expert on Blender so I'll let you try it out and decide for yourselves whether it's a good editing tool.
Why not HitFilm Express?
Installer size: 403 MB (Editor version 16.01, requires you for fill in a registration form before downloading)
Portability: none (that I'm aware of)
Format support: limited (no MKV, WEBM container support)
HitFilm Express is a cool NLE (in concept), since it's part NLE and part Special Effects Software. There are a couple downsides I discovered while editing a bunch of videos in it:
- it requires you to register an account and re-activate the program on a new PC;
- it can be horrendously slow with hi-res (2.5K+) videos;
it doesn't support HEVC videos at all. HitFilm version finally 16 introduced HEVC/H.265 support with both software and hardware decoders. And a lot of other cool stuff as well, including the ability to record voiceover audio directly in the App and a whole bunch of bug fixes;
- the list of supported formats is limited, you will need to transcode or re-mux some of your clips and sources;
- it can feel clunky and lacks important hotkeys as well as some essential functionality like panel maximization;
- it is fundamentally incapable of playing back the clip when HitFilm is not in focus or when any changes take place of the Timeline or in the interface during playback. Developers say that it was done specifically to avoid crashes and race conditions when playback is being performed on an ever-changing stream of data. Which raises questions, since most NLEs are perfectly capable of doing just that without any serious issues;
- Time warping and especially freezing can be very unintuitive and tedious.
It's a neat free NLE, but it can feel quirky and gimmicky at times, which can make or break your incentive to finish the project. Still, wouldn't be fair to note that in spite of all its imperfections the mere fact that it's free for both personal and commercial use, is actively maintained and improved and can run on systems where DaVinci Resolve crashes almost instantly is a giant, giant advantage of HitFilm compared to the competition.
And since it's free, you can always just try it our for yourself and see whether it suits your needs. In fact, I insist you try it out, since it's also a jack of all trades and, as an actual NLE, it can do more than Olive, albeit does require on-line activation. But it's free, at least at the moment, so there's no reason not to give it a whirl.
Installer size: 86 MB (Editor version 21.12.3)
Portability: partial (creates files in Appdata/user folder)
Format support: very good (imports almost anything thanks to FFMPEG)
OK, it's 2022 and things are really starting to change. If this post wasn't about Olive, it might be entirely dedicated to another open-source editor — Kdenlive. And, oh my, is it good! Available for Mac, Linux and Windows it is a very capable NLE with a fair amount of effects, high performance, support for a wide variety of media formats both for importing and exporting, more or less intuitive interface that is completely customizable, it even comes with a Premiere-like keyboard shortcuts scheme.
It supports proxy clips, caching and in general feels like a very capable (and very stable!) video editing suite.
There's one big fat ugly caveat though…
The one thing I didn't care for at all were the constant attempts at contacting some server on the web! Here's a sample of the log from the sandbox environment I was trial-testing Kdenlive in:
Almost any action in the program – be it adding an effect, changing program settings or opening a Render window – was immediately followed by a bunch of connection attempts! I guess it's for usage data collection and analysis, but upon starting the Software I wasn't asked or at the very least informed about this. It's infuriating that I wasn't able to disable this via Preferences! I don't know about you, but I consider such behavior completely unacceptable. I do know what kio is and what KIO slave libraries are used for. But nowhere in the manual was I able to find out what server the app is trying to connect to when I'm not calling any web-related functions which still somehow triggers the NLE to try and ping a server somewhere. Maybe I missed something? Please let me know if I did.
So to answer my own question: "Why not Kdenlive?" — as much as I would love to recommend you Kdenlive, I simply can't overlook the fact that the NLE constantly contacts some server on the internet and doesn't allow you to customize this behavior.
Olive is love. Olive is life
To summarize in a couple words: Olive reminds me of a piece of Software called REAPER from the world of Digital Audio Workstations: it's light, performant, intuitive, customizable and just a pure pleasure to use.
Except unlike an app of that caliber Olive doesn't (yet?) have all bells and whistles you can find in "professional" NLEs, but...
Does it really need to?
For me, in its current form Olive is an amazing and free idea-drafting tool or a meme-making machine if you're into that kind of thing. Something to carry on a thumb-stick or quickly download whenever you need a no-nonsense video editing app "on the spot".