Lightworks NLE Free Version – A Review: Part 2

By Jeremiah Hall (doddleNEWS)

I am taking a look at EditShare’s Lightworks, the free version of their classic NLE, recently updated and available now for Windows, soon for Linux and Mac. In the first part of the review, available here, I looked at installation, project settings and importing video. Now it’s time to look at Lightworks’ toolbars, and how the program organizes projects.



Lightworks' project settings.

There are three different bars on the screen. The top shows the project name and the Room number. I’ll get to Rooms below. Clicking the arrow next to the project name brings up the project’s settings, including the frame rate, creation date, location of project files, and any notes you may want to type in yourself. Beside that is Video settings, Audio settings, Film settings, and Miscellaneous settings. I covered these settings in Part 1.

Lightworks Rooms.

Next to the name of the project, in our case Project Test, is a menu that says Room #1.  Every Room has the same toolbars, but different racks and bins. Think of it like walking through a post-house. Every project has at least one edit suite. Sometimes large projects require more than one. Every project gets at least one Room. A project can have as many Rooms as needed. For the sake of argument, let’s say we’re cutting a movie. I might decide to split up different sections of the movie into different Rooms. The first Room would be where I keep the first act, the second Room would be where I kept the second act, and the third Room would be where I kept the third act, etc.

Editors can name each room, so you are not locked into Room #1, Room #2, etc. It could be Act 1, or The First Murder, or whatever you want to use to differentiate.

Room creation is straight-forward. Click the arrow next to the Room name. A menu appears with a tile of each Room. At the bottom is an empty tile that reads New Room. Click it and you now have an empty screen, save for the toolbars, that is named Room #2. Once again, editors can call it whatever they want.

Clips and edits are organized into bins. You create a bin when you import by giving the import window a name. This will give you a bin with all of your material in it. Maybe you would like to have one bin with a-roll, the other bin with b-roll. Hit the Create Bin button on the toolbar, and you have an empty bin. Drag-and-drop clips from your first bin into the new bin, and give it a name.

By giving it a name, you make the bin permanent. There are two types of bins and racks: permanent and transient. If you make a new bin, add things to it, and close it without naming it, that bin is a transient bin and will no longer exist. Give it a name, and it is permanent. You can see your permanent bins by right-clicking the Create New Bins button. A menu appears. Click List Permanent Bins. All the permanent bins appear in a list in a new window. From here you can highlight one and open it. You can highlight several by control-clicking them, and open them. They appear in a new Rack.

Racks are used to organize bins, sync groups and other racks.  A rack can hold up to fifteen items, so you could have up to fifteen bins in one. Or you could have a rack holding up to fifteen other racks, each one holding the bins for specific scenes. Racks give you the freedom to organize in whatever way makes sense for you. Like bins, naming a rack makes it permanent.

A clip can be in more than one bin.

Bins and racks can be destroyed by going to the appropriate Create tool, right-clicking it, and choosing List Permanent. There is the option to highlight a permanent rack / bin, and delete it. Deleting a rack or bin does not destroy the clips from the hard drive, just the rack or bin itself.  Clips can be in multiple bins.  To copy a clip control-drag a clip or multiple clips from one bin to another.

To move a bin to a rack you have to minimize the bin, which leaves you a small black strip with the bin name.  You can drag this into a rack.  You can’t drag an enlarged, i.e. open, bin into a rack. I thought that was a little counter-intuitive until I started working with large numbers of open bins and racks. It is easy to have bins/racks overlap each other, so this protects you from dropping something into a bin you didn’t mean to.

Editing toolbar.

At the bottom of the screen next to a shark are edit controls including five transport controls, in, out, clear, replace, insert, delete, and remove. I have no idea what the shark is for, but my eleven-year-old daughter thought it was cute.


The main toolbar is located on the left-hand side of the screen. The top-one is to direct-record new clips from a device.

Direct record controls.

At the top of the record window, as with most windows in Lightworks, is the settings menu for that particular function. Clicking it gives you access to genlock settings for the device, and audio-only recording settings. From here you can also delete a device if you no longer want/need it. Beneath that are transport controls for the deck or camera. There is a drop-down menu to choose what device you wish to use, as well as a way to add a new device. Clicking Add New Device brings up a pop-up menu asking you to give the device a name, and specify what type of device it is. Options run the gammut from ADAT to Umatic SP, with a mix of modern and older equipment in between. There are even settings for live feeds, either audio and video or audio only.  Below the transport controls are the clip settings, by format, compression, file type, and destination. The final one is type of recording. At the bottom are two buttons – Standby and Record.

The next tool down in the toolbar is Import. I covered this in Part 1.

Third down is Create New Edit. Clicking this brings us a new timeline and edit viewer. I’ll cover this in Part 3.

Searching in References.

Fourth down is Search. The Search function in Lightworks is powerful. You can search Logs, Groups or References. Logs include searching clips, subclips, syncs, prints and edits. A green light pops on next to each type selected. Clips gives you the option of looking in clips that have picture, don’t have picture, or both.  Also included are the same choices about sound.  If you know the clip you’re looking for is audio-only, why waste the time having Lightworks search through everything?  And what can you find? When searching logs, you can search for works in name fields, scene fields, shot fields, who fields, description fields, reel fields, notes fields, by timecode, by creation date, or by location. Any time you add notes to a clip, an edit, a subclip, etc., Lightworks can search those for keywords. If you choose Groups, you can search by names of bins, racks, or sync groups.

References let’s you search the current edit for items.  This means you can search in name, reel, scene, shot, who, description, notes, audio reel, 24 frame reel, cam reel, lab roll or rushes roll. We’re going to call those X. The next parameter lets you specify what to do with that search term. Those choices are equals, as in Name Equals search tern; contains, as in Notes contain search term; is not, as in Reel is not search term; and doesn’t contain, as in Lab Roll doesn’t contain search term. You have the option to create a separate bin of the search results or create an edit of the matches. At the bottom of the search window is the option to match whole words only, and the actual button to start the search.

When working in a bin, you can view your material either as a tile, or as a list. In List view Lightworks defaults with each clip having cells for name, reel, tracks, start time, end time, scene, shot, who description and notes. Most, save tracks, start time and end time, can have information changed or added, giving editors that much more information to search for when they try to find a clip.

I found searching in Lightworks to be user-friendly. Editors can, or editors can have their assistant editors, add in quite a bit of information to clips, edits, bins and reels for later searching. If a field has info in it, Lightworks will find it.

Fifth down is Create New Bin, followed by the sixth down which is Create New Rack.

Seventh down is Create New Sync Group.

Eighth down is the disc manager. Here you can see how many volumes and how much space you have left. You also have the option of using the system drive as a usable drive for material.  Lightworks defaults to not allowing the system drive to be used for a video drive.

Nine down is Video Analysis. This gives you a vectorscope and a waveform monitor.

Ten down is a timecode calculator. Eleven down is the Create film cutting or change list, with options for generating a cutting copy or a list for the negative cutter.

Twelve down is Play Out to Tape.

Thirteen down is Export. Export lets you choose to backup the Lightworks archive; export an EDL, AAF (paid version only) or OMF; export media files such as AVI, image sequence, MOV, MXF, WAV, MPEG-4 (paid version only), or Quicktime Movie (paid version only). In the paid verison, called the pro version, you can also export to AVCHD, P2 AVC-Intro, XDCAM EX, DVD, or Blu-Ray.

The last three are Make All Desktop Tools Topmost, Editor Preferences, and Exit the Current Project and Return to Project Browser.

Next time, I’ll make some edits and try exporting. Until then, happy cutting.

About Jeremiah Hall

I am a videographer living in the Cincinnati, OH area. I have over fifteen years experience, with my name on a couple of Emmys and a Murrow or two. When I'm not in front of After Effects or teaching editing techniques, I like to play with camera equipment and as much tech as I can find the time for.


  1. nick Uram says:

    I don’t have the bottom bar, or all of the tool on the left side. Can anyone help?