There’s a reason why so many video editors choose to work with Apple products and face this iMovie vs Final Cut debate. For one, the ease-of-use is parallel to none. You simply open up your Mac device straight out of the box, turn it on, and start video editing.
In the world of iMac computers and Macbook laptops, Mac users know Apple offers plenty of useful features. Plus, no matter where you fall in regards to iMovie vs Final Cut, creators will be quick to tell you that once you go Mac, you never go back.
However, when we start looking into the world of video editing, there are actually some decisions that haven’t been made for you in regards to which program you might choose to use.
Today, let’s explore the differences between editing video files with iMovie and Final Cut Pro, both of which are powerful NLE programs great for video editing. But there are also different pros and cons that video editors should consider before settling on one program.
Now, without further ado, let the iMovie vs Final Cut debate of the best video editing software for Apple users begin!
A video editing software showdown
When I was first starting out as a video editor, Final Cut Pro was considered the industry standard software to edit videos with. (And while Adobe Premiere Pro might be the slightly more popular option today, after a few down years Final Cut Pro has returned to nearly the same level.)
However, for those starting off as a video editor for the first time, the appeal of working with a more direct (and already installed) program like iMovie is certainly understandable.
Over the years, Apple has made strides to make both programs solid options for filmmakers and creators with different video editing skills. However there are certainly some features that might be better for a video editor with different experience levels and needs.
In short, iMovie is often thought of as the easier-to-use yet less sophisticated option, ideally for creators just starting off with video editing and who might be OK with sacrificing higher end controls for keeping things more simplified.
Whereas Final Cut Pro is considered the more sophisticated option that requires a bit longer of a ramp-up process in terms of learning all of the functions and controls, yet offering more advanced features and tools which experienced editors might desire.
Are these preconceived biases true though? Let’s explore this iMovie vs. Final Cut debate a bit more in-depth below.
iMovie for video editing
First released all the way back in 1997, iMovie — with its familiar clapboard logo — has been a signature program included with the vast majority of Apple products since its inception.
It’s easy to think of iMovie as the professional video editor equivalent to GarageBand, which itself is meant more to be a fun introduction to music recording and mixing rather than an industry standard software.
However, over the years, iMovie has really made great strides in terms of form and function. While it’s not going to beat Final Cut Pro (or Adobe Premiere Pro) in terms of features and controls, it’s actually not as far off as you might think.
For a free program that comes pre-installed with your Mac computer or smartphone, iMovie is actually great for capturing, editing, and sharing video content. It’s streamlined for syncing with your Mac devices to easily pull in files or footage you might have shot on your iPhone. And it gives you plenty of controls tailored for making professional-looking cuts without much work.
- Extremely easy-to-use with little ramp-up time to become proficient.
- Streamlined for seamless use with other Mac devices.
- Built-in customizable templates to help quickly edit videos.
- Solid introductory features for editing clips, adding transitions, recording voice-over, performing color correction, and adding basic visual effects.
- Designed to easily export and share your content to social channels or other Mac devices.
- A bit limited in functions and controls.
- Tricky to open and share files or drafts with other NLE programs or non-Mac devices.
- Built-in templates lock you into certain styles and looks which can become repetitive after a while.
- Introductory features are great for learning, but will ultimately leave you wanting more when trying to create truly new and unique edits and looks.
- Limited in terms of higher-end export settings for anything greater than sharing videos on social channels.
Price: Free for Mac users
Final Cut Pro for video editors
Moving on to the other end of the spectrum (to a degree), we have Final Cut Pro which offers a more professional-level NLE software for those working in the film and video industry.
As we mentioned above, there was a time when Final Cut Pro was the leading video editing program. However, in part due to Apple’s controversial decision to make Final Cut Pro more beginner-friendly, Final Cut Pro fell out of favor for professional editors against Adobe’s Premiere Pro which went for more advanced features and perhaps less ease-of-use.
Still, Final Cut Pro has had a renaissance of sorts as Final Cut stepped up its game and is once again a true contender for any video editing job up against Premiere Pro and Blackmagic Design’s DaVinci Resolve.
Final Cut Pro is similar to its counterparts as a sophisticated yet still easy-to-use magnetic timeline based editor perfect for professional video editing projects that require a variety of third party plugins.
However, while it might never rival some advanced compositing and VFX programs like Adobe After Effects or Blender, Final Cut Pro brings a solid balance of Apple’s penchant for intuitive design combined with sophisticated-enough features for most video editing needs.
- More advanced features than iMovie.
- Easy-to-use thanks to Apple’s unique approach to design.
- Offers a full range of features for its magnetic timeline-based editing with complete control of audio, video, transitions, and basic effects.
- Streamlines workflows with other Apple products like Logic Pro.
- Exports high quality videos for a variety of uses, especially web-based uploads.
- Supports third-party plugins for other technical features and controls.
- Ramp-up time is longer than starting out with iMovie or other beginner programs.
- Slower editing tool compared to iMovie which prioritizes speed and ease-of-use (mostly because it is often performing more advanced functions).
- Lacks higher-end compositing controls and isn’t quite as compatible with VFX programs like Adobe After Effects.
- Doesn’t include a mobile video editing app option, although you can get creative with transferring files to other mobile-friendly programs.
- Expensive compared to free options (and against Adobe’s Creative Cloud subscription which includes many other programs).
Price: $299 (Free trial offered)
Which is better to edit videos?
Now that we’ve gone over the pros and cons in this iMovie vs Final Cut debate, we can get to the crux of the question at hand: Which program is better for editing videos? The answer is going to come down to a few factors — namely, what kind of videos are you looking to edit?
It would be easy to make a blanket iMovie vs Final Cut statement that Final Cut Pro is the superior (if admittedly less accessible and more expensive) option, or that iMovie is the lesser (but easier-to-use and free) option.
But instead of doing that, let’s go through a few different examples of types of projects and see which program might be better for these different editing scenarios.
- Basic YouTube videos: iMovie
- Vlog-style content: iMovie
- Twitch streaming or podcasts: iMovie
- Smartphone-shot videos: iMovie
- Commercial or corporate videos: Final Cut Pro
- Wedding or event films: Final Cut Pro
- Music videos or creative shorts: Final Cut Pro
- Narrative films (shorts or features): Final Cut Pro
As you can see, a trend begins to emerge when you look at how both iMovie and Final Cut could be considered great video editing program options on a case-by-case basis.
Basically, anytime you’re going to need more professional results (and you have time to learn more advanced editing features), it will make sense to invest in Final Cut Pro.
However, don’t knock iMovie for its simplicity as a basic video editor. For many YouTube or online-focused types of video content, iMovie still offers a way to create high quality videos. There’s really no reason to abandon iMovie just because you’re told it’s “for beginners.”
And since it’s free and already installed on Mac devices, if you’re already using an Apple computer then it never hurts to try out iMovie and see how it works for your own video editing needs and workflows.
Other video editing software and resources to consider
As we mentioned above, outside of iMovie and Final Cut Pro there is a whole world of other free, easy-to-use, and much more advanced options to consider as well. So, before you make your decision, it might be helpful to do a bit more research into comparisons between options like DaVinci Resolve vs Premiere Pro, or Premiere Pro vs After Effects.
From there, if you’d like to dive even deeper into the world of video editing, including other breakdowns and tutorials, check out these additional articles from the Soundstripe blog:
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