Lightworks Free Verison – A Review: Part 4

by Jeremiah Hall (doddleNEWS)

I’m reviewing EditShare’s Lightworks, the free version. In Part 1 I looked at installation and importing clips. In Part 2 I looked at the toolbars and the Room/Rack/Bin style of organizing clips for editing. In Part 3 I looked at editing. And now let’s look at exporting the movie as well as my final thoughts.



The Export tool in Lightworks is located toward the bottom of the toolbar. Opening it gives you your choices for export. You can choose the content to be exported, and how you want it exported.  You can choose a lightworks archive backup, interchange formats like EDL, or media files. The paid version has other choices, such as MPEG-4, AVCHD, P2 AVC-Intro, Blu-Ray, DVD and XCAM EX.

I did some experimenting. I had problems with AVIs exported in DVCPro HD. DiVX Player could play them. So did Windows Media Player. The DiVX Plus Converter could not. I found the easiest file format to export from in the free version for me was an AVI YUYV. I could open the resulting file in Premiere Pro, Adobe Media Encoder, After Effects. . . all my usual suspects. I had problems with AVIs exported in DVCPro HD. DiVX Player could play them, but DiVX Plus Converter could not.

Here’s what the test movie looks like. The final YUYV file for 17 seconds was almost 2 GB. I converted it to H.264 for upload.

I did run into a problem. One night as I shut down the program, I had done a hit-the-x instead of shutting down the room and returning to the program manager. The program screen went blank and I could not get out of it save for force-quitting in the task manager. On re-open, everything was fine. I had lost no information. Over a week in and that’s the only force quit I’ve had to do.

There is a learning curve to the editing style in Lightworks. I kept trying to drag-and-drop things that I could have in other NLEs. I had to think about what I was doing, up until I changed my shortcuts to those I was comfortable with. This is not cutting with Adobe, or Avid or Apple. There is no razor icon to make a quick cut with. I can’t immediately export my timeline to After Effects.
You can see Lightworks’ pedigree off the bat. It feels like you should be cutting film on it. I really noticed this in the toolset, with an entire panel in settings directed at film, as well as defaulting to frame numbers instead of VITC. It also comes through in their online store. For a software program that has a Pro version for sale for $60.00, seeing a $2800.00 edit controller for it felt strange. The online store also carries a $2995.00 site-support option., a $4500.00 I/O 3D board. I’m not complaining about price, pro gear costs. But you don’t often see such accessories for a program being sold for $60.00 per year.

Cutting with Lightworks is different. I would love to try it with a giant touchscreen. Something about the interface makes me think it would work beautifully. I would also love to try it with one of their edit controllers.

When I started this review, I wanted to kick Lightworks’ tires. I wanted to see if it was possible to use a free video editor and get good results. I now understand why so many top Hollywood editors work with it. This is a powerful piece of software. If you edit for a living, at least download the free version and give it a spin.

If you are working on a movie and have no budget for editing software, Lightworks is for you. Take a look at the codecs the free version supports, then look at the Pro version’s codecs. I think most editors would opt for the pay-version.

Many of my projects require me to work in After Effects. This will not be replacing my copy of Adobe CS6. It will, however, keep a permanent place on my toolbar.

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.