Wondershare is an established name in Mac software, and Windows users can now also sample the company's wares, with the release of its Filmora video editing software. This application offers the standard trimming, transitions, overlays, and effects you expect in this kind of software, but it lacks more advanced and modern features you find in more established competitors such as CyberLink's PowerDirector—things like motion tracking, multicam, and support for 360-degree videos. Filmora can get the job done, but only if you can make the videos you want with the features it offers.
Pricing and Starting Up
Filmora offers a free trial download, which only lets you export footage 10 times and emblazons a Filmora logo on your exported projects. When you're ready to pay, Filmora offers a subscription model (as Adobe does for Premiere Pro), but, for a bit more, you can get a permanent license. The Mac version costs $44.99 per year or $59.99 for outright purchase, while the newer Windows version is $39.99 and also $59.99 outright. That's less than you pay for market-leading Adobe Premiere Elements, at $99.99, or for CyberLink PowerDirector Ultimate, at $74.99. If Filmora meets your needs, it a offers decent value.
Paying for either type of Filmora license gets you a bunch more effects to use in your video projects, removes watermarks, and adds 24/7 technical support. New effect collections are also added every month for paying customers. This is technically a review of the Windows software, though I ran both the Windows and Mac versions of Filmora for this review, and the two versions are quite similar. The main difference, apart from subscription pricing, is that the Mac version lacks Easy mode and Freeze Frame.
Filmora sports a clear and pleasing user interface, though it's not well-suited for touch-screen use. You can switch between black and light-gray window borders; I prefer the dark option. When you first fire up Filmora, you get four entry points into four editing modes, and their names give an indication of the program's focus: Action Cam, Full Feature, Instant Cutter, and Easy Mode. Unfortunately, you can't switch to one of the other modes after entering one; you have to restart the application.
The Action Cam mode shows the tools most commonly needed by that genre, in a sensible workflow consisting of Fix, Speed, and Color. Fix tools include lens fisheye correction, stabilization, and denoise. Speed, of course, lets you apply freeze frames, speedups, slowdowns, and repeats. Color includes not only saturation, tint, and temperature, but also lighting adjustments for brightness and contrast.
You can only import one file at a time, unfortunately, and in fact, the Action Cam mode only lets you work with one clip at a time: there's no joining or even trimming of clips. The tool is really just about adjusting a clip's look. I tested on some wide 1080p footage from a GoPro Hero 3, and unnaturally curved edges were indeed straightened out. The app also had no trouble importing some 4K footage from my iPhone 6s. Content from the newer Sony FDR X3000 wasn't as well corrected by Filmora. I don't love the stabilization tool, though it does show you how much of the edges of your content will be cropped out—the more severe the crop, the more stabilization. It works, smoothing handheld camera jerkiness, but the same rubber-bandlike stretching effect I've seen in most stabilization tools is apparent with Filmora's stabilization. Products like PowerDirector, Adobe Premiere Pro, and Final Cut Pro X have moved stabilization effects past what is offered by Filmora.
Likewise, the Denoise audio tool didn't yield a natural, cleaned-up sound in my testing, but rather a muted effect with a resonance similar to speaking through a long metal pipe. But for a clip with severe background noise, it at least made spoken words less overshadowed by the background noise.
One problem with the way this mode works is that, when you import a new clip, the one you're working on goes away, with no prompt to save any effects you've applied. You have to explicitly tap the Export button before opening a new file.
After you get past a Message Center box plugging effects purchases, Filmora's Full Editor view resembles that of most video editing applications, with a three-panel layout for source content, video preview, and timeline across the bottom. It sports a clean, simple, and dark interface, with non-skeuomorphic controls. Happily, this mode didn't have any trouble loading multiple clip files as the others did in my testing. The number of tracks looks limited at first, but whenever you add another video clip below your main one, another track is added so you can keep overlaying. As with the Connected Clips in Final Cut Pro X, these added clips in new tracks move in sync with the main track above them. It's a great way to keep your effect overlays where you want them. PiP works easily, with WYSIWYG resizing handles in the preview.
A plus sign on each clip lets you easily add it to the timeline at the insertion point. In addition to the timeline view, there's a Storyboard view that simply shows clip thumbnails, with spots for transitions in between. Back in Timeline view, you can zoom tracks with a control at the right, but there's no mouse-wheel zooming option. Nor is there a way to solo or hide individual tracks, but helpfully, tracks on the timeline show audio waveforms.
Filmora offers 100 transitions, but you can't search for them by name as you can in PowerDirector and Adobe Premiere Elements, and there are only two categories: Basic and Fancy. You can, however, set those you use often as Favorites. Applying a transition with the plus sign in the middle of its thumbnail places it over the nearest clip boundary and selects the correct amount of time in the timeline so that you don't have to fuss with changing the overlap between clips yourself. You can, however still edit the amount of time a transition uses by dragging its edge.
The program enforces a magnetic timeline approach: Whenever you drag a clip onto the timeline, it snaps right to the previous clip, so there's never any empty space in the movie. You can only trim from the start or end of a clip. You can't drag a clip over another, as you can in many video editors. A scissor icon lets you split a clip, should you want to remove something from its middle. There's no trimming in the source tray, however, so professionally trained editors may not feel at home.
Special Effects and Color Editing
As mentioned earlier, it's easy to create PiP effects, and you can move and resize PiP windows right in the video preview by clicking on the appropriate timeline clip, dragging the cross-hairs in the middle of the edges and corners. Chroma Key worked very well and automatically.
The program comes with tons of filter effects, including a set that mimics those in Instagram, even using the same names, such as Amaro, Brannon, and Hefe. These can add drama to your video just as they to do still photos. Distortions like mirror and water ripple, as well as a set of light leak and film style overlays are also included, but you don't get motion tracking like that offered by Corel VideoStudio and others.
The Color section offers even more nifty effects like 007, B&W Film, Batman, Cool Film, and Walking Dead, among other popular show looks. You can also use LUT and CUBE plugins, though the latter may be hard to find. A paid subscription for Filmora gets you more effects and objects, including movie templates, and more color filters.
Filmora includes a good selection of well-designed text templates, with cool animations. Even the highly designed title templates are editable right in the video preview window. If you want even more customization, the Advanced Text Edit dialog lets you change the animation, font, and color fill for your text. One frill missing is PowerDirector's and Premiere Elements' ability to use video fill in your text characters, but you can use a photo, which is pretty cool. In addition to text, you can choose from a good selection of objects and shapes to overlay onto your movie.
Music and Audio
Filmora's Music section includes 22 background songs, which you can augment by downloads or by adding your own music files. They're organized into categories like Young & Bright and Tender & Sentimental. But there's no auto-fitting capability like you get in Premiere Elements. There is, however, a full audio mixer that lets you adjust each track's volume and panning. You can't just drag the timeline's audio waveforms up and down to easily duck audio. You also don't get acoustic effects that simulate concert halls and other environments like those in PowerDirector.
You do get a Denoise checkbox, as mentioned in the Action Cam section, but that's not as powerful as the audio tools in Adobe and CyberLink's products. On the plus side, one handy sound tool, a microphone button right below the video preview window, lets you easily record a voiceover.
This mode is very simple, with but one purpose, as its name implies. You can drag multiple clips onto its window, but only if you've selected its Merge sub-mode. The Trim mode is just for trimming the ends of a single clip, and its interface doesn't even show more than one clip in the left-size source tray. You can Add Segments, which means creating a new clip based on your trimmed original, but you can't explicitly split a clip.
Switching to Merge mode removes any clips from the source tray that you were working on in Trim mode. I tried importing a GoPro MP4, but got an error saying it wasn't supported, even though the same error box specifically said that Action Cam MP4s were its intended media. In fact, every file I tried to add into Merge mode popped up the same error.
Easy Mode really lives up to its name. You can simple drag a few video clips or digital photos onto it, choose a theme, select music, and boom: Motion picture art! Included with the default installation are just six themes: Simple, Happy, Sport, Love, Travel, and Old Days, but you actually have to download content to use all but the first, and several of them are marked Beta. There's even less choice in music soundtracks. There are, for example, only five choices for the Happy theme, but you can add your own music files, too.
The themes add sugary text overlays and transitions. Finally, you fill in your opening and closing titles, choose an output file format, and render just like in the main editor. The result was amusing: My clips were drastically cut to prevent boringness, and some fun effects were applied. I would like to have tweaked the edits, but the output is fun if not polished. Unfortunately, you can't open what you created in Easy Mode into the full editor.
Filmora felt snappy on my test PC, an Asus Zen AiO Pro Z240IC running 64-bit Windows 10 Home and sporting a 4K display, 16GB RAM, a quad-core Intel Core i7-6700T CPU, and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 960M discrete graphics card. As with Corel VideoStudio, by default, GPU acceleration is not enabled. This is easy to change in the Settings menu, however.
For more formal analysis, I test render time by creating a movie consisting of four clips of mixed types (some 1080p, some SD, some 4K) with a standard set of transitions, and rendering it to 1080p MPEG-4 at 15Mbps, H.264 High Profile. The clip's audio is MPEG AAC Audio: 192 Kbps.
The test movie, whose duration is just under 5 minutes, took Filmora a respectable 2:41 (minutes:seconds). For comparison, the speed leader Pinnacle Studio took just 1:56 to render the same project, and PowerDirector came in at 2:34. Corel VideoStudio took 4:55, Nero Video 4:50, and Adobe Premiere Elements trailed the pack at 5:18.
Sharing and Output
Filmora offers most of the output options you could want, including AVI, FLV, MKV, MOV, MP4, and WMV. There's even an animated GIF choice. When outputting to one of the many supported file formats, you can choose quality settings of Best, Better, and Good. There are also buttons for creating and uploading Facebook, YouTube, and Vimeo movies, as well as DVD burning, but you don't get DVD menu screens and chapters as you do with many other video editors. 4K is supported, but the newer, more efficient H.265 codec is not.
Filmora, or More?
Wondershare Filmora sports an eye-soothing interface and offers lots of nifty effects, text tools, and filters along with basic video cutting and good output options. Its single-purpose tools are less useful than the full editor mode, but rendering speed is not at all shabby. Users who just want to do some basic cutting and editing will should be fine with Filmora, but those who really dig into various effects like denoise and stabilization will wish they'd spent a bit more for more advanced software. The software is reasonably priced, but I still recommend our slightly more expensive Editors' Choices, PowerDirector and VideoStudio, because of their fuller toolsets, better effects, and more extensive support for new techniques and formats.