Lightworks Video Editor / Frustrating Headache

ByJohn Wuethrich

Lightworks Video Editor / Frustrating Headache

I needed a basic video Editor; I found lightworks and to sum it up from the start/TLDR im still looking. The free version of Lightworks Video Editor does work and offer some features. but I’m so disgusted by it that I felt the need to share my experience and maybe save others the headache. The problem isnt can it do things, its how tight do you want to grip the mouse(white knuckle) only to have an unexpected or seemingly random command, alteration or selection of what you are altering and how long do you desire to search menus or the internet for basic functions like export. 

disclaimer As with many of my posts : work in protest and needs editing. 

Most of the things or programs I use i might give a star rating but rarely review. I was bothered enough I set out to make it known but upon looking for a review site to rant at (constructively) I then remembered that:

in the alleged interest of saving women and minorities from the hell and damage of reading the occasional bigot or trolls words… just about all major online media stripped comment sections a few years ago. the perils/implications of this is probably my next article on this site. I then remembered I have this site and here we are.

Work Load/Intended Use case:

Its hard to  review or comment on anything with out a context so before digging in heres a bit about why i was looking for an editing suite and what for. Also a short bit about what I’ve used in the past/Experience level and even why I needed it.

  • I needed to compost stills of photos and screen shots on a video timeline
  • maybe video
  • audio from recorded calls or events
  • titles/text generation would be great but wasn’t even a deal breaker
  • free

I have been recording calls for 3 years because im in a situation where two people using the medical and enforcement arm of justice(police) as weapons while holding me hostage threatening to destroy all my things insisting they arnt doing that to me and police while to me constantly shifting what I must endure to even end the damage to my assets/possestions and tools let alone get them back.

Long and short is even police assume (due largely to culture) parents have some ever present always there circuit that prevents them from harming their child or children and though it varies by state, in general its a safe bet to assume legislation assumes parents are protectors and or assumes only women need defence (and sickeningly screws with concepts like standard of evidence in the process, no bias but ive known people who suffer for her word and personaly experiance things like my mother trying repeatedly to push me over a railing, she made first contact kept pushing then when i slowly walked her to corner (after feeling a foot slip on wet tile) to defuse situation she screams to me “I brought you into this world I can take you out” then to my dad “PAUL CALL THE POLICE” another time she slammed a car door on my leg for asking her to back up (she kept ggeting closer as the 3 of us talked/power move) then officer white knightington with a stature of 5’6 assured me that even this wasnt battery or assult. his partner was actualy a great example of a rational mind/upstanding officer but im getting way off topic here. Long and short is they will tell the poilice anything while they tell me things like “I own you” and threaten to destroy all of my things they currently hold if i dont do task du jour in empty apt. They got control when mold spread from their house to my last apt and between living with them for 8 months and the last 8 months of why the fuck am i bleeding on the last lease(16 total) and then lies resulting in trip to mental ward…

Being able to assemble whats said via SMS/text and in calls and highlight where they contradict as well as just showing it at all could be life or death , commitment or free at the moment.

This post isnt about them but this is relevant because It effected budget and constrains time. Its also the reason i dont have the disks or computer on which i have a legal copy of Adobe Master Collection CS4 which I paid for back in 09 while doing web design.

Back to the review at hand:

note how I didn’t even mention easy to use or learning curve in requirements?

Over the years I have produced video in iMovie, Windows Movie Maker, Adobe Premiere , Final Cut Pro, effects/tweaks in Adobe After Effects, and even real time cctv cable broadcast and or deck to deck linear editing on a video board. My first taste came in 2001.

Im by no means a video pro but im by no means inexperienced with the tools or techniques in video production or entry/hobbyist level. This might have tainted my experience with Lightworks but I think the issues go deeper.

UI Isn’t Supposed to stand for user Irritation.

This is where Lightworks Falls on its ass then gets up and smacks you in the face. Its unclear if the paid version is any better as i havent tried it. It would apeare thouhg that the level of attention paid to the UI (user interface) during development would occur if you were to contact the team right now and ask them if they undertand what a UI is; then recived “yeah we have one” as a reply.

I went to grab the version number while typing the title above and instead resorted to typing lig into my windows start menu. its Lightworks and the free edition.

It actually seemed like a win at first use.

It downloaded and installed quickly. They deserve a nod for not asking or presenting an already checked option box in a sea of next… The type that attempts to put any number of malware infections…erm…”bonus” programs/ at best unasked for bloat on your disk or solid state drive. This is a disease that even some huge corps tend to contract over time or sale to other entities. Anyone remember when the java wizard was retrained by an oracle? aka java updates got bloat ware packed when sun microsystems was acquired by Oracle.

The install was clean and quick. I opened the program from my start menu and at first didn’t notice the missing ui elements or the lack of windows UI conventions (menus / basic functions in expected places). I had just exported an mp3 from audacity (a wonderful and free audio editor/recording program) and was hitting windows explorer to hopefully drag and drop import. The drag and drop worked so it was looking as if this freebie was a good find.

That illusion began to fall apart when finding the timeline/getting to the timeline with media I had imported with the drag and drop wasn’t readily obvious or one try.

I want to point out that lacking User Interface (UI) elements in OS standard locations is not a knock or negative on any software. Portability is a concern for attracting a wide user base and making software more accessible to everyone and in general a good thing. The reason the two are tied( for those with out software design or coding knowledge) is that the programming libraries with predefined concepts/functions (like menus) or even language itself have been historicly bound by which OS one choses to develop for. This has largely shaped user expectations but there is a difference between not wanting to learn an interface cause its not how my OS condtioned me and just unintuitive wtf were they thinking.

Things written in more modern efforts to be cross compatible often feature menus in non standard locations or that look and operate slightly different but that in and of itself does not make them difficult and or bad.

Even eschewing conventions in relative industry (in our case video software) is fine.

what it boils down to for good or bad here is how it jives with the purpose of your program, the learning curve vs intutiveness and the overriding themes for ease of are logical grouping and consistency (which is why you might find some people get turned off when the menu doesnt look how it normaly does and why im differentiating). Lightworks has features spread haphazard and critical ones are in a tiny font hard to see its a button at the bottom of the screen but only in two of 4 main tabs. other subtabs appear in different locations while you tab through the main. absolute cluster fuck.

but once more new can be good if you offer something that enhances work flow… aka isnt just new or different to be new and different (or worse).

Worse would be making the free version such a headache usability wise…. which there is some evidence of here. The biggest sin one can make in UI development is an inconstant non intutive interface. This is optional in software ment to teach or expand the mind (as long as you can get to the lesson) but in software suposed to be a tool this is unforgivable. to borrow from Biden, consistence in UI design/implementation is “kinda a big deal”

I figured out geting to the timeline. Again ill give them a plus for drag and drop working as expected. The first video I didnt do more than throw one image on and export the audio plus image as mp4… but the next horror came when I realized…. theres no file, no save, at the top thre are tabs for “LOG EDIT VFX AUDIO”… wtf where do i even look?

Went through every tab I could see and their sub tabs that apear and not always in the same place or seeming to hold their last sub tab selection between moving tabs. nota.

i hit google “how to save or export lightworks” and end up on youtube where I see the guy go to the edit tab at the top then all the way bottom left to this little spec where he says you have to right click. I closed the video and was on my way

At the very bottom left of the screen and only visable in the EDIT or AUDIO top tab in tiny font is a slightly outlined “ALL” its easy to miss its a button or even there at all. Its also overloaded (programming term) . aka it does more than one thing depending on click. if you just left click it grays out timeline and nothing more.

if you right click you get a menu with two groups/headings and at the bottom of “sequence commands” is a sub menu for “export”.


Other sites that specialize in reviews have harped on lack of tutorials included. Thats a bit of an understatement and a learning curve is forgivable but when a function slightly different from but essentially as basic as “SAVE” is that hard to find and a user is only likely to figure this out after a time investment its like the devs use the ui to reach through the monitor and slap you around a bit for giving it a try. Im pretty sure if you close the window it auto saves but that doesn’t help you actually get the desired produced content out of the confusion window.

im not sure how much of the UI is odd to encourage upgrading or how much better/full featured pro is but I have to think they are losing would be paid customers and people would even be more likely to go the optional donate route some companies/developers use (for the free version) or pass on its existence to a friend if they made a simple change of at least putting save and export into the top bar… idk maybe under a “file” tab or drop down? lets not get too crazy here. /s

I did notice today that there apears to be a option to log into youtube and post automatically but its grayed out by default and I didnt export today because i was done, I was just done with this program. im not sure if setting that up is a pay feature or if one finds the menu if and only if they commence in assembling a coven of old priest young priest, scared alter-boy, virgin mac user and summon the ghost of Alan Turing; thats probably more likely to give you a quick answer than expecting a logical layout and or looking on your own.

as a side note on good UI: I once toured the Delta Airlines Repair Hanger at MSP. This included geting to explore a plane/all the areas you dont normaly see or cant if you are on a trip/flying. A walk through a big ole bus (airbus). I forget the model number but it was large enough to have an under cabin crew rest area (340?, 360?, soixante neuf? hon hon hon). When It came time to assend the flight stairs for this portion of the tour, I was at the front of the group. As I entered the plane I realized a lot of people were about to try to stumble through hallways only lit by outside hanger light. I glanced behind me and saw the tour guide was at the back of the line/not even foot on the stairs yet.

Above the seat flight attendants seat (for the first and last part of any flight. jump seat?) I noticed what might be a LCD in power save mode, a faintly glowing gray rectangle. This seemed like an odd place for entertainment as the galley wall would prevent pas angers from watching it, maybe its for cabin functions….

I Walked over and touched it. Maybe 5 more people cleared the door to enter the plane as I switched the cabin lights on. Ive flown quite a bit but had never noticed/seen this system. Probably because its in the galley/part you only walk through on plane and deplane. It was a total mystry/black box as I tapped thinking it might control things like lights. Good UI design produces this level of usablity. If as a developer you at all care about building a user base, it should be what you strive for (second only to design requirements but if its your pet project not a clients program… its shooting yourself in the foot to implement tons of functions when the basics and or all of them are convoluted and or require an instructional video to find.

Of course a user must present with half a brain/some logical constructs but thats outside the scope of this rant.

Watching the delta guy who was at the back of the group while everyone climbed into a plane only lit by hanger lights through airline windows then double take when he got to the top and found a bright plane was also amusing but I digress.

The Next Biggest Issue: User Input Accuracy

this could be exagerated as im using a touch pad, i will however say I hate pointer nubs but its EXTREAMLY rare I cant be productive on all but the cheapest laptop touch pads. Touch pads usually dont phase me. I mention it because it probably plays a roll but their coding is likely the main issue. In a program with a Graphical user interface objects get thumbnails or symbols and usually in some sort of square you can click and then manipulate or click with other button and select more specifically how/what you are doing to it. The concept of clicking on an internal element and expecting a result like being able to hold the button down and drag or manipulate one still image on the timeline vs the one next to it comes down to “hotspots” or “action areas” on the symbol representing something one wishes to manipulate. In video editors and timelines conventions like selecting a tool to drag a clips duration or to move the clip to a different point on the time line is somewhat standard. There are also examples of hotspots on the edges that mean click and drag there you dont need to select the stretch tool. Lightworks tries for that but its accuracy is miserable. Worse yet it seems to get stuck on which element you have selected. my first respnce a few min ago was hit escape maybe that unselects… nope. wait sedcond time i hit tildi and it apeared to now ill right click the other element and select “slide” as that pictograph apears to be what i want despite odd title. to my horror the wrong still pic is still being manipulated.

I had noticed there is a TXT generater barried in the seemingly perpetualy shifting VFX main tab but after 5 min of frustration trying to set how long a still image was on the screen and which order they appeared in (with only 3 images on the time line above 5min of audio) I just gave up and exported it. Then came here.

the accuracy of detection of intent as it relates to where a user is clicking is so bad that a lot of times i was some how dragging the symbol on the audio part of timeline below and even attempting to hid/lock the audio portion it would end up selected or right back to the wrong one above. sometimes it would only work dragging in the smaller direction and I couldn’t select move vs stretch or what ever (not worth my time to even look up) label they gave these functions.

I may post a screen recording demonstrating this in the future.

Any Better Options?

I know linux has some great editors for free. I highly recommend dual booting ubuntu and just hit their app manager/store and you will be on your way. Ive done this in the past and the result was a basic editor that just works. Also an editor that if you have used only iMovie or Windows Movie maker in the past you will still be on your way with no to minimal learning curve.

If my SSD wasnt getting a bit more full than I want it to be or if i could finish the 4 drive 8tb raid 6 array on my floor (i have 3 drives and a controler)I would go that route myself.

In the mean time im going to find something else as imho Lighworks doesnt deserve another user and I dont need the addition to my headake.

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