Splitting, trimming and joining video files can be done losslessly and very fast if you use good tools. Why not simply use Windows Movie Maker I hear you ask? Well, one of my friends just tried using Windows Movie Maker to remove ads from one of his TV recordings: after setting up the editing operations, it took another 30 minutes to process the file... and even then the result was not so great. So, I showed him how to do the job losslessly in less than a minute using a good standalone trimmer.
Good quality free splitters, trimmers and joiners can usually perform their tasks more efficiently than an all purpose video editor and without the need to re-encode your source videos. They're generally quicker and easier to use for any of these basic video editing tasks:
- Splitting—to chop a video into smaller pieces so as to extract or copy specific scenes or to upload to the Internet (to YouTube, for example). Each of the split files can be played back.
- Trimming—to cut out unwanted sections, such as ads in a TV recording.
- Joining—to merge video files together. This only works when the video files have a similar format (same resolution, bitrate, etc). If you have ever downloaded a long video in smaller parts (such as video01.wmv, video02.wmv, video03.wmv), a joiner will put the pieces back together again in no time.
Some of the splitters, trimmers and joiners reviewed here are much lighter than all purpose video editors and have the advantage of carrying the same codecs you have in your source video files. Although a full video editor has the advantage of convenience, in some cases it may take more time and produce poor quality output as a result of lossy re-encoding or inappropriate settings.
When recommending the free software in this category, we take into consideration the following basic requirements:
- Ease of use: convenient and precise selections, cutting out or trimming choices, keyboard shortcuts.
- Performance: fast and accurate results without re-encoding videos unnecessarily.
- Input formats: the more the better. Some freeware only accept one or two formats when others accept many more.
- Features: some tools specialize in one job, others may allow you to split, join or trim videos within a single program.
Go straight to the Quick Selection Guide
Avidemux is a free video cutting and joining software. It supports formats such as mp4, mpg, avi, ogm, mkv, flv. It is relatively simple to use as well, making it the best when splitting files in mp4 format.
Installing the software is very straight forward, so there should be no issues with that. The program has a clear toolbar on top with all the important buttons - Open, Save Video, Load / Run Project and even a Calculator. After a file has been opened, choose markers 'A' and 'B' to select portions of the video you wish to delete (deletion is done using the 'Del' key, which is very convenient). The best way to do this is to locate the beginning of the section you wish to keep and click the 'B' marker - the previous portion is then marked with blue, allowing you to delete it. And best yet, one can cut to the last second before the desired section, thereby ensuring none of your precious moments are lost. Then, just click Save Project As before you Save Video.
Here again, Avidemux has several tools to benefit its users. There are preset output formats under the 'Auto' tab - these include Apple Ipod, Iphone, Sony Playstation Portable, DVD and Microsoft Zune. But be wary, the program does have a habit of crashing, so always remember to save your project before you save the video.
Aside from these preset formats, one can also choose the video and audio format for the video from the dropdown menus on the left-hand side.
However, despite all its merits, Avidemux does have its fair share of drawbacks that should be kept in mind. One, most video formats loaded on the program open with an error message such as 'H.264 detected' and the like. But this warning is only to do with the playback within the program - it does not affect the video output.
Another problem is that in copy mode the program requires the edited video to begin on a I-frame (or keyframe). This isn't always possible, and even when one does begin on a I-frame, it may not be the frame the program requires and hence, the video will not be saved. This is a little inconvenient, because you do not always want to have to choose separate formats for both video and audio.
What Avidemux gets right is that it successfully cuts mp4 and mkv files, which is hard to find.
It also has the ability to join videos, which is convenient when there are several different sections of one large file that one needs to cut out and then put back together. But keep in mind that to join video files the size and formats of the different sections need to be the same.
AsfBinWin, the graphical user interface version of the AsfBin command line utility plus preview capabilities, is a clear winner in this category. This lightweight portable is free for non-commercial use and will cut or join wmv files very well. Better still, it can often fix and re-index wmv files that are corrupt or contain some errors.
The controls are both sensitive and user friendly: there's a primary slider to take you to roughly where you want to cut, and then a second slider allows fine tuning down to a single frame. Indeed, the ability of AsfBinWin to re-encode locally makes precision cutting possible—so you can cut the video exactly where you need to.
Although the developer's website does not specifically mention trimming, you can actually do this: just select the section(s) you want to cut away, click the "Insert" button, followed by "Invert Ranges", and then press "Cut/Copy/Join".
In addition to wmv and asf video files, this handy little portable can also cut, merge, trim and fix wma (audio) files. AsfBinWin can normally handle any video file encoded in wmv3, mp42 and mp43 video formats with precise cutting enabled (the default setting). However, if you want to use this utility for other formats, you might find you have to disable precise cutting in the Advanced Settings to avoid a scrambled result. But overall, AsfBinWin is a remarkably reliable and efficient little package which does what it just about says on the tin. See also How to split, trim and join wmv video files with AsfBinWin?
To be added...
- AoA Video Joiner is a useful tool to join multiple video clips of: avi, mpeg, mov, wmv, Flash Video (flv), mp4 and 3gp together into one large movie. The frame size is predetermined by the software. Re-encoding is often required.
- Free Video Joiner easily joins various video files and outputs to: avi, wmv, mov, mp4 and other file formats based on your selected multimedia device. Re-encoding is needed with frame size following the first video file you add.
- Freemake Video Converter is quality software to convert multimedia files from one format to another with codecs of your choice suitable for your computer, mobile devices or uploading to the Internet. Trimming and joining functions are included while re-encoding is applied.
- Format Factory, good software for converting multimedia files from one format to another. It has options for cutting or joining videos but the process is slow as a result of re-encoding.
To be reviewed:
- SPG Video Splitter, split: mp4, 3gp, wmv, mov, avi / divx, mpeg, flv, mkv, vob / mpeg2 files with same quality, preset or custom settings.
- MPEG Streamclip, cutting mpeg files and transport streams at keyframe level. Supported output formats: mp4, mov, avi, divx and dv. Required QuickTime or QuickTime Alternative.
- Free Video Cutter
- SolveigMM AVI Trimmer + MKV, trim avi and mkv files, easy to use, no encoding/decoding processes, no video/audio degradation and out of sync problem.
- VobMerge, for joining vob files.
Video Cutter and Joiner
- Machete Video Editor Lite, combines the functionality of both video splitter (cutter, trimmer), video joiner (for joining multimedia files with exactly the same formats), without the need to re-encode video or audio streams. Only supports avi and wmv files in the current Lite version.
- VirtualDub, remove segments of a video clip and save the rest, without recompressing. Video not scaled to windows on playback.
- Media Cope, incorporated SPG video splitter, joiner and other modules.
- YAMB, MP4Box UI, joining and splitting, includes other tools such as mux and extract streams. No video preview.
Tested and not recommended:
- Easy Video Splitter splits large avi, divx, mpeg or wmv / asf file into video clips as claimed. Outputing a small file in error when tested.
- Easy Video Joiner joins avi, mpg, rm, wmv / asf and other popular audio files into one file. Experienced errors in joining avi files on testing.
You might want to check out these articles too:
- Best Free Software to Cut, Split or Merge Audio Files
- Best Free Video Editor
- Best Free Video Encoder
- Best Free Audio/Video Format Conversion Program
- Best Free Media Player
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