I often work with videos of experiments I conduct in my research. To make the videos more informative I like to add text, arrows, maybe a quick drawing or schematic insert in the frames.

I know many programs are available that can do this, but most of them (like ANVIL, Photoshop/Premiere) are way to complex for the simple things that I want to be able to do and therefore take me to much time to learn. At the moment I am using a workaround where I cut the video in frames, import them in Matlab (which I have plenty of knowledge of), edit the frames, export them and stitch them back up. This works, but is, as I said, a workaround, not a real solution.

Can you recommend a piece of software that has the capabilities I listed above, and not too much else so it is easy to learn? I don't mind paying a bit for it, but if it is freeware that would of course be a plus. OS-wise it can be Windows or Linux, but doesn't have to be both.

  • 1
    Only two and unsatisfying answers! Software developpers, there's empty space on market, grab it! Commented May 15, 2015 at 20:36
  • AVS works pretty well, and is not too expensive. I am presently using it for a scientific presentation. Not super-fancy but pretty easy to use. avs4you.com/AVS-Video-Editor.aspx
    – neuronet
    Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 20:04

6 Answers 6


Faststone capture can work for this purpose, although it is not primarily meant for it and doesn't run on linux.

Primarily Faststone capture is designed to capture screenshots and record the screen. After doing this you can edit the captured image or recording and this is where it can work as a video annotation tool as well. In the (tiny) menu bar that the program consists of you hit the screen recorder button (see below).

Menu Bar of Faststone Capture

This will take you to the screen recorder where you can choose what 'shape' you want to record and you can hit Edit to open a movie file to do some editing on. It only supports .wmv so with any other format you either have to convert it to .wmv first with a different program or you have to run the movie on your screen and use the Record button to capture the movie in .wmv format.

Screen recorder menu

Once inside the video editor you choose draw to add all the requested features: circles, rectangles, text, highlighting, arrows, even images (as shown in the screenshot below). The program will put these in the movie for a fixed length of time, which you can later on adjust to the desired time and location in the timeline easily.

Video edit options

In summary this program can do exactly the simple annotation features as requested. A downside is that you need the movie in .wmv format, but this can be overcome easily by either converting online or using the screen recording part of the software to capture the video while its running.

P.S. sorry for the crappy images but since Faststone capture is made to do screen captures it in fact refuses to capture ITSELF (and it disables the standard Print Screen function), so I had to take pictures with my phone to get the screenshots of the program itself

  • Next time you could use the free program called Greenshot to shot pictures of it :) They won't conflict each other, unless if they use the same hotkeys, which is changeable.
    – Testerhood
    Commented Dec 8, 2014 at 8:27

BB Flashback is a useful application for screencasting and tutorial videos. Sadly not free and limited in it's free version, but it does perform your named tasks very well, it's able to draw in frames. You can record videos with it and import existing videos if their containers are avi or wmv. The editor allows you to zoom in, add text, speechbubbles, icons, etc. It's worth a try if it doesn't need to be free.

enter image description here

  • There are also cracked versions on one famous torrent website. But of course, first buy the software before downloading them... Commented May 16, 2015 at 20:08
  • Downloaded --one weakness it only opens their proprietary format (fbr) files. Under tools, you can convert your vid to fbr and then do editing, but this takes time and memory. But it is very simple.
    – neuronet
    Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 17:24

I started using AVS Video Editor yesterday to edit some videos quickly on a deadline, and it worked quite well. It was very easy to use compared to all the others I tried.


enter image description here

I tried some of the others that people here recommended (except Faststone), and I found them more complicated with steeper learning curves. The closest second place was Flashback, whose main drawback was cost.

I also tried cyberlink power director, which had good reviews. It seems powerful but very steep learning curve. Not something for getting up and running quickly on a same-day deadline. Openshot was a pain for adding simple text, just annoying and wonky and not intuitive.

One thing is AVS made it really easy to add multiple captions to a single place in a movie. For some reason, a lot of programs make this really hard, but for scientific presentations, it is extremely common. Flashback also seemed to make this easy, but the pricing was high enough that I went with AVS.

One nice thing in AVS is it gave me a lot of highly customizable control over formats I could save the movie in (e.g., mp4, avi, etc). My boss works in Mac, I work in Windows, and this makes conversion to his preferred mp4 format very easy.


VSDC is a free (as in free beer) video editor that lets you draw over your video. The choice of objects you can draw is rather poor, to be honest, but it includes text, lines, etc.

enter image description here


AVS gets my vote with a single caveat: the free version places a "logo" for the entirety of the video when you chose to "produce" (export into one of the common, non-proprietary formats):

enter image description here

As far as I can tell, you cannot choose to have the AVS logo placed in any other location than the middle of the image and it is not transparent.

Assuming this is not a deal breaker for others, continue reading...

This software is not "professional" grade, but it is EASY to use and if your needs are simple, it could be the answer for you as it looks to be for me!

My personal need: I coach a volleyball team. I want to present video to the team where I can pause and highlight where players should be in a given moment as well as show where the path of the ball is likely to be. So, I created a few simple graphics (in a different application) - a triangle to be used to show the possible path of the ball, a circle and a straight arrow.

I loaded these graphics into AVS and I was ready to go! AVS has individual channels for "special effects" (built in), graphic files, audio files, text, and voice recording for voice over! To get more than one of a given type on the screen at the same time, just right click the given channel and click the "Add line" option.

I dragged two cones to show the possible path of a hard driven ball when a blocker is in place and two circles to show where the defensive player should be within the area of each triangle (so 4 image overlay channels are used).

AVS allows editing the image (right-click on the image where it is placed in a timeline)! You can resize the image, rotate it, change its transparency and add a few built-in filters which also have their own transparency settings, change the duration that the image with appear and set image transitions. Perfect for my simple needs! [Note: if you create a .png image with the transparency you want before importing the image, you will not have to touch transparency within AVS]

I have only played with AVS for about 15 minutes, and it is the first of 4 free applications that I have test driven, but I am happy enough that I suspect I will end up paying the $40 to be able to produce finished product without the logo after reviewing the other 3! Bravo!

Should AVS be "listening", I'd suggest allowing the user to move the logo to one of the 4 corners in addition to the center and (if the important people in the company allow it) to make the logo partially transparent!


VSDC Freeware This is much closer to a full fledged video editor than is AVS and it is available as a completely free product to boot. But its power comes with a steeper learning curve which moves it beyond what I, like the original poster, am looking for. Negatives for me... 1) unable to rotate images I imported. If it is possible, it wasn't obvious to me how. 2) Unable to draw triangles (to get the cone effect of where the ball could be expected to travel (that would negate the need for me to rotate imported images, at least). 3) I didn't find the ability to change line thickness, but I am guessing this is due to me missing that setting somewhere.

I also found a couple of lightweight products with very few options, very little to learn! They allow screen shots - including video capture of whatever is on the screen. So put video full screen and capture away! Cool because? They also have very basic drawing tools. So it is possible to draw directly on top of the video. So in a live setting, you could pause a video and scribble, doodle, etc an overlay. Supposedly this can be captured while capturing video though I only verified the screen capture (.png file). Anyway, the two products I test drove:

Ink2Go: http://www.ink2go.org/download/win Trialware Basic shapes: but once placed cannot be selected, moved or rotated - and except for the arrow/line can only be placed square with the frame (no acute angles). No transparency. Does place a nice arrow that can be placed at any angle. Shaped while not transparent can be filled or outlined.

Epic Pen: https://epic-pen.com/ Freeware Sadly, this lacks the arrow drawing capability of Ink2Go. But I find it superior in every other way to Ink2Go (which I have already deinstalled). Objects drawn can be selected, moved, rotated!, and given transparency. Also the stroke size spans a larger range than does Ink2Go.

I see myself using AVS and Epic Pen as I move forward. If I ever need anything more than quick, easy markup for video and am willing to undertake the learning curve I will revisit VSDC.

  • I tried the AVS Studio. It was fine. But the huge watermark in the middle of the video was a deal breaker for me. I'm going to try FFMPEG command line tool to cut out video sections...
    – Megidd
    Commented Jul 9, 2023 at 8:07

I use openshot, the main video I place on channel 2 and my edits I place on channel 1 (so that my words and arrows and the like overlay the actual video...step through the video to make sure your arrow isn't straying from its mark in the video and make your adjustments when needed)...you can add as many channels as you like for overlays upon overlays....you can also add vocal or printed narration or mute certain parts or stick in a picture or graph (and even tell it how long you expect it to remain up in the video, you can also blank out any of the unwanted video portions or add affects, title, etc. if you need to do that.

Openshot isn't the only program that can do this by no means (off the top of my head I'm sure kdenlive also has the ability. I use openshot because it's a no-brainer (have a problem? head off to monopoly google/youtube and watch a video).

  • 1
    It doesn't have the functionality the OP asked for, only text, no easy way to do things like add arrows or other simple graphics.
    – neuronet
    Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 16:59

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