5 Low Cost (or Free) Tools For Creating Great Web Videos

by Matt Byrom on 25 May 2012

Still using Windows Movie Maker? It’s time to upgrade! Here are five ideas for alternative free (or low cost) video editing programs.

Platform: Mac/PC

Jing is designed for people who want to capture short screencasts without any editing. It’s often used by teachers and IT technicians to create quick ‘how to’ videos. Capture time is limited to five minutes, but that should be plenty for a screencast. Note that you can’t insert fades, titles and fancy effects; if you need a little more power, you’ll need to use one of the other products in the Techsmith suite.

One great feature with Jing is the upload to Screencast.com. Everyone can claim a small (but adequate) amount of hosting space on the site - handy if you quickly need to upload a video for someone. Simply click the Upload button in Jing and copy the custom URL with a single click.

If you enjoy Jing, TechSmith’s low-cost editing tool, SnagIt, is worth considering too.

Browser (all platforms), iPhone

If you have a library of mixed media files - such as a folder of photos and videos from a holiday - Animoto is for you. Using the clear interface and easy-to-use web interface, Animoto allows you to combine media from different sources into one smooth video presentation up to 30 seconds long. It’s entirely browser-based, so it’s compatible with most operating systems. There’s also an iPhone app.

Animoto is marketed to non-techies; it includes a range of automatic effects and transitions and does a good job of smoothing out rough edges in the edit.

Animoto allows you to import media from a wide range of social media sites. The list is impressive: pull in pictures and movies from Facebook, import your Instagram stream or use videos and photos uploaded to Flickr. Animoto comes with a music library, but you can also add your own mp3s.

Once your video’s done, output it automatically to Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites. We really like the fact you can export your video directly to Pinterest.

Browser (all platforms, including Safari on iPhone)

Much like Jing, Screenr is a simple screencast capture tool that also allows you to add a voiceover as you record. It runs as a Java browser plugin and you can record for up to five minutes per screencast.

It’s important to note that Screenr can capture your entire desktop: it doesn’t just capture the contents of your browser. Simply drag and resize the frame to choose the area you want to record. The fact you can pull the frame entirely outside the browser makes Screenr a really useful tool. Once your screencast has been recorded, it’s saved on the website and you can also instantly publish it to Twitter, email, LinkedIn, Facebook and more (no Pinterest sadly).

Screenr has been recommended by some of the biggest tech sites on the web, and the key to its success is undoubtedly in its simplicity. It’s a service well worth bookmarking - you never know when you might need it.

Free to try, £213 for Windows / £71 for Mac

Camtasia is a popular screencast tool which is affordable enough for most small businesses to purchase. Camtasia is easy to use s it’s intended to be primarily a tool for training and education videos rather than competing with full-on video editing software. It also integrates nicely with Jing and SnagIt, and the export options include pretty much every format, resolution and codec you could ever need.

When purchasing Camtasia, bear in mind that the Mac and Windows versions are very different. The Mac software is far more basic, and switching between the two can be a frustrating experience. Even though the Windows version of the software costs more, it is worth the investment if you have the option of using it.

Free to try, $99 to buy
Mac only

Screenflow is a Mac capture tool that resembles Camtasia, although at $99 it’s a little bit cheaper. It’s a step up from screen capture tools, as it also allows you to record from a video camera attached to your computer; the feature set is a little bit more pro with a wider range of transitions, titles and editing tools.

Output formats are limited to QuickTime, Flash and Windows Media which is a shame, and social media publishing can only be achieved through YouTube or Vimeo. Next to some of the lightweight browser alternatives, Screenflow looks a little dated, but if you don’t like Camtasia, it’s definitely worth a try.

Do you have another video editing tool you’d like to recommend? Let us know in the comments.

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Matt Byrom

Written by Matt Byrom

My name is Matt, I'm Managing Director of Wyzowl. That means I chat with customers and make sure everything is running smoothly in the office. I love our business and hope you enjoy our blog! :)