September 20, 2012

Editing Videos with an iPhone

Jess Nepom

Guest

Filming with an iPhone can be surprisingly effective, as detailed in the earlier Wistia post. But what about the thousands of would-be videographers who don’t have access to a pro editing program? Is it cheating if we film with an iPhone but then edit with software that costs hundreds of dollars and takes time to master?

What if we not only film with an iPhone, but also do all the editing on the device? I decided to try out several different (free!) editing apps on the iPhone, and share the results with you all. Check out my brief reviews and overall feelings about the different apps, and watch the videos I made below. Happy iPhone-shooting!

The Background

At Knewton, we recently hosted the NYEdTech Meetup at our offices in NYC. As this was our first public meetup since we moved to the new office, I set out to film a quick behind-the-scenes video of the set up and the event.

The Filming

I used the free app Motion Pictures to take some time lapses of us rearranging chairs for the meetup. To keep the camera steady, I used the iStabilizer iPhone tripod. The reason I like this tripod is that it has flexible legs, meaning you can wrap them around anything to hold your phone in unusual positions. Those flexible legs came in handy when I set out to create my very own camera slider by attaching the tripod to a regular wheeled office chair. I rolled and swiveled my way around the office to get most of the setup shots you can see in the videos below. I was really happy with the way these shots turned out. No fancy slider necessary!

In the photo, you can also see the lens I have on my phone. It’s called the Olloclip, and it has macro, wide angle, and fisheye lenses. It’s one of my favorite accessories for iPhone photography, and now for video too! Though the effect isn’t as dramatic on video because of the cropping that the iPhone video camera places on the frame, both the wide-angle and the fisheye lenses on the Olloclip helped me get a lot more of the office into my shot.

The Editing App Reviews

Magisto

First Impression: Insanely corny intro video. This app supposedly figures out the best parts of your clips, what’s in them, how to edit it, and where and how to add transitions, and spits out a fully-finished video. Color me skeptical.

Price: Free to create your videos and get a magisto.com link or upload them to Youtube, BUT you have to pay $0.99 to download your movie to your camera roll, or for unlimited downloads you can upgrade to a more expensive premium account.

The Good: Built-in big music library or you can use your own music. Their library includes real songs, too, from Jay-Z to the Venga Boys to — sigh — Carly Rae Jepsen.

The Bad: Must create an account to do anything with your video, though you can use Facebook if you want. Absolutely no control over your finished video. Wouldn’t work at all for clips that need to go in a certain order or follow a certain plot.

The Final Word: Check out my finished video on the Magisto website. Actually, I have to say it’s pretty cool. This seems like it would be great for videos like vacation clips or family reunions or pets that have no real plot. It’s perfect for people who have no interest in video editing and just want something to show their friends. It’s not appropriate for anything that I normally do, since there is absolutely zero control, but for a quick-and-dirty montage video it found decent parts of my clips and edited them to the music pretty well. I would recommend this app to my grandmother (if my grandmother had an iPhone and understood YouTube, which she does not) to use for her next family vacation, or to a kid who wanted to make his or her first movie.

VidEditorFree

First Impression: So many ads. None of the features are enabled until you pay money, which makes for a very frustrating experience if you don’t want to pay.

Price: Free, $0.99 if you want to use still photos in your video AND to use any music or voiceover, $1.99 just to remove ads.

The Good: Decent interface. Trimming and re-arranging clips is easy. Lets you save to camera roll, email, or post it to YouTube or Facebook for free.

The Bad: You have to choose your clips one at a time, at which point it compresses each video and you can’t do anything but wait, so it’s a very slow process.

The Final Word: I’m not even going to bore you with the video I made. I didn’t want to pay anything, so I could only use the original audio (which was simply room noises), and there were no transitions. It seems as though if you shell out a few dollars for all the various features, this would be a decent video editing app. However, you need to pay at least $3 to make all the features work, and it’s just not as polished as some other apps that you would pay for as well. I say skip it.

Splice

First Impression: Starts you right off with great tutorial videos. I feel well taken care of and confident that I’ll be able to make something cool — and I haven’t even started yet!

Price: Free. No ads $3.99, sound fx/border/music packages available for $0.99 – 2.99.

The Good: Good control, good customization, intuitive interface, and absolutely fantastic free features. As far as I can tell, the only thing upgrading gets you is a removal of ads. Dead simple to add new clips or transitions. You can add many clips at once, with the option to add default transitions in between (and even choose what that default transition is!). You can even speed up or slow down your clips.

The Bad: Slightly rough around the edges. It crashed on me a couple of times, but each time restarted me right where I was without losing any work. Occasionally cuts and effects don’t work exactly like you’d expect and you have to fiddle a bit.

The Final Word: Awesome. I really like what I was able to create:

This app rivals iMovie for features and abilities, and it’s free! On top of that, it’s easy to use and has good tutorials. This is the app to use … the search is over.

The final, final word:

If I were asked to show a video to the family reunion that’s starting in 15 minutes, I’d reach for Magisto for a quick-and-dirty, but polished looking montage. iMovie has awesome features, themes, and a great interface, and does add a a bit in terms of reliability and coordination with other iOS apps and features. Taking price into account, though, Splice gets my vote as the best overall video editing app for people who want control over their finished products.

Equipment Used

Thanks for reading, and happy shooting!

Bonus Tip: Audio Recording on the iPhone:

The original Wistia post covers how to use the Voice Memo app on a second iPhone to capture audio. However, if you’re editing on your phone, it doesn’t do you much good if you can’t access the audio file from the second phone! After trying a few things, I found a way to make this work, though in iMovie only. Here’s the workaround (the phone used to film and edit is Phone 1, your friend’s phone used to record audio is Phone 2):

  1. Record a voice memo on Phone 2.
  2. From the voice memo app on Phone 2, select share -> email, and email the voice memo to your email account on Phone 1.
  3. From Phone 1, access the email, long press the voice memo, and select Open in iMovie.

Slightly cheating workaround if you don’t use iMovie: On your computer (this is the slightly cheating part, since it requires something other than a phone), open up your email and download the audio file. Add it to iTunes, then sync Phone 1 with iTunes like you normally do, making sure to add this new track to your phone’s library. Your audio recording will now be in your iTunes Library on your phone, and you can access this library from the other editing programs as a “soundtrack”. It’s not as clean, but presto! Audio recorded from a second phone can indeed be used in iPhone editing.

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