Video editors are on your PC, on the web and on your phone and tablet. Which is the best and what are the pros and cons? Roland Waddi love investigates
It was not so long ago that when you wanted to edit a video clip or produce a movie, you had to use a video editor running on your PC. These days you have a lot more choice, and it’s possible to shoot, edit and share videos on a mobile phone or tablet, which is super convenient and no PC is required. Everything is done on a gadget that fits your pocket, but do these apps have sufficient features?
If you want to edit videos at work during your lunch hour and you’re not allowed to install software, if you have a Chromebook laptop without the ability to install software or if just like working on the web, you can use an online video editor that runs in a browser. How easy is it, though, and what are the drawbacks?Let’s take a look at the different ways you can edit videos and produce movies with five programs for PC, five for mobile devices and five online tools. You don’t have to choose one and stick with it of course, and you might want to use a PC for certain tasks and your phone or the web for others.Although videos can be edited on your phone or tablet or in a web browser, the large size of the files you have to work with prevent all but the smallest of projects. When you edit video on a PC there are no problems working with videos that are hundreds of megabytes. Video clips that are being edited can be any size and movies can be output that are more than a gigabyte. Some people go so far as to have a second disk drive that is dedicated to storing video because of the space requirements.Video editing software on PC offers more features than are available with cloud-based and mobile editors, and they’re often packed with special effects that enable you to invert the colors, convert to monochrome, apply fake thermal imaging, pixelate, ripple and turn them into sketches, among other things. They also contain tools to correct problems with the video such as brightness, contrast, sharpness, saturation and tints.
There are some excellent video editing programs such as Adobe Premiere Pro, but it costs over £200 a year, which puts it beyond many people’s budget. Premiere Elements is more affordable at £64.81, and CyberLink PowerDirector and Corel VideoStudio are in the same price range.Rather than revisit well-known applications, here are five cheap or free lesser known video editors for your PC that are worthy of space on your hard drive. Some of them are very good considering their low or zero price, and you should try them before digging deep into your wallet for pro software. If you are running Linux, you might also want to look at Openshot (openshot.org) and LiVES (lives-video.com), two open-source video editors that you can install in Linux or run from a live CD/DVD.
Serif gives away older versions of many of its programs, and if MoviePlus X6 is beyond your budget at £61, MoviePlus Starter Edition (serif.com/free-video-editing-software) is one of the best free video editors for Windows. It’s surprisingly full featured and easy enough for novices to use. Movies and photos can be imported into a project, and thumbnails appear in the Media panel on the right. Clips and images can then be dragged to the bottom of the window to set
The video is assembled using storyboard or timeline views. The latter shows overlay, video, audio and music tracks. Items can be dragged and dropped to move them around, double clicked to trim them, transitions can be applied, the audio volume can be adjusted, movement effects applied to static photos and much more. There are many predefined formats for the finished movie output, including normal and widescreen, 720/1080 HD resolutions and YouTube formats.VideoPad (nchsoftware.com) is available in three versions, and you can choose from free, Home Edition (£33.55) and Masters Edition (£53.68), depending on the number and range of features you need. The freebie is very good and has a lot of features, so try it and only upgrade if you need something more powerful.The top-left panel shows video clips, photos and audio files, the top-right panel previews media files, and the bottom half of the window is where the movie is assembled. There are storyboard and timeline views, and the latter has two video and two audio tracks. Videos, photos and audio can be dropped in the timeline and dragged around, and effects can be applied. The range of effects is good, with crop, mirror, motion blur, sepia, cartoon, fisheye and many more. There’s even green-screen, which is unexpected in a budget editor. Text can be added, you can record narration and much more.Kate’s Video Toolkit (fakewebcam.com) is now up to version 7 and it’s a bit primitive compared to some video editors, but if you find some of the other tools too complicated, then it’s worth a look. The editor has an unusual interface that is unlike regular video editing software, and it’s more like a collection of tools.Select the Play tab and you can open a video clip. The Cut tab can then be used to trim the start and end points and rewrite the clip. The transition tab lets you select two clips and a transition effect, then outputs them as a single file. The Join tab lets you join several clips together and save the resulting movie. The Mix tab lets you mix movies and music, and the Convert tab converts one video format and size to another. The interface makes the process of creating a movie from several clips harder than it should be.If you aspire to become a professional video editor, Lightworks (lwks.com) is one of the applications you should definitely get to know, because it has been used by some of the top people in Hollywood. It was used to edit The Wolf of Wall Street with Leonardo DiCaprio, for example. Yet this pro tool is free of charge. You would not expect Hollywood, with its mega movie budgets, to use free software, but it’s true.
Lightworks is powerful enough to edit a two-hour commercial movie destined for the theatres, but the price of all this power is in usability. Initially it’s confusing, and it even looks under powered and over complicated, but if you spend an hour or two watching the video tutorials on the website before your start, it will ease the learning process. There are some very clever and very powerful features in this video editor, but it has a steep learning curve that might put you off.
VideoMeld (videomeld.com) is by GoldWave, a company the is better known for its audio editing software. This video editing software is sort of free, in that you can create videos of up to five minutes in length. Five minutes may not seem long, but nearly all videos shared on Facebook are under this, and a large proportion of YouTube videos are too. A one year licence is cheap at $19 (£12).Video and audio tracks are displayed in a timeline in the lower part of the window, and it copes with multiple tracks. Several video clips at a time can be selected, and then they can be dragged and dropped in the order they’re to play. The start and end points can be set, and a variety of video and audio effects, filters and overlays are available. The brightness, contrast, saturation and other attributes can be adjusted. All these items are on a toolbar above the timeline and can be dragged and dropped onto clips.There are several problems with editing videos online in a web browser, and the obvious one is the size of the files involved and the time it takes to upload them. If the clips are on your PC, then a PC-based video editor has a clear advantage, because it can load files directly. If a video is on a phone or tablet, then the same applies, and you can load it in seconds.A video that is to be edited online must be uploaded, and the time it takes to do this depends on your internet speed and the server speed. On a good internet connection, you may be able to upload at 1MB/s, so it’s possible to upload HD video reasonably quickly. In 10 minutes, you could upload enough to edit down to a three- or four-minute movie, which is a common length for video sharing sites like YouTube.
The upload speed is just one factor, and with each video upload, the server will typically process them and convert them to its own internal format. This introduces another delay before you can begin to make an edits to the clips. If there are a lot of people on the website uploading and editing videos, the server might slow down.Video editing requires a lot of processing power, a lot of bandwidth, a lot of disk space and a lot of memory. Some websites have tried it but closed, and several that used to offer online video editing have disappeared from the web. Replacements are a bit thin on the ground, but there are some.
Shotclip is an interesting online video editor that builds videos from storylines, and each of these is made up of one or more scenes. And after uploading a video clip for the first scene of the first storyline, you can add more scenes or go to the next storyline and upload a clip for each of them too. Titles and notes can be entered for each storyline and scene to make organising them easier.
Scenes can be dragged and dropped to rearrange the playing order and the start and end points trimmed. There are no special effects, and the only extra is the ability to add a sound track. Where this online editor stands out is the collaboration features. You can invite friends to contribute to the movie and add their own storylines and scenes. The finished movie can be output as 480p, 720p or 1080p, with the lowest resolution being free. Shotclip is very limited, but templates to get you started and collaboration with friends makes it fun.Video Toolbox (videotoolbox.com) is exactly what the name implies: a collection of tools that can be used to process videos. The interface is very unusual and not in a quirky good way as some are. The home screen is a file manager, and you can upload video clips and store them online. Files are kept for one month, and the storage space is 600MB, which is fair enough considering this is a free service.
After uploading several clips, you can select one or more and then choose an action from a menu, such as cut/split, merge, crop, add audio, add subtitles and a few more. The functions are primitive, and when splitting a video, for example, you enter the time without being able to see a preview. Video Toolbox’s best feature is the file format conversion, and it supports a long list of formats and devices. You can upload a clip in one format and download it in another.
Magisto (magisto.com) is like a web version of the sort of fun app you might get on a mobile phone. It’s very basic, very easy to use and has few facilities, but it’s good fun. The browser interface is attractive, and the site takes a simple step-by-step approach. You first select up to ten video clips on your computer and up to ten photos. There’s 1TB of online storage, and videos of up to 15 minutes in length can be created.You then choose an edit style. These are predefined templates, and you have no control over the editing. You just select the one you want, such as Let’s Party, Just Chillin’, Traveller, Adventure Sports and many more. Next you select the music, and you can upload your own or select from the library of featured tracks. The finished video can be downloaded or shared on various social media sites. Magisto is like handing your videos and photos to an expert and getting back your finished movie complete with special effects, fantastic edits, titles and more.
WeVideo (wevideo.com) is a great demonstration of what is possible with online video editing, and the editor in the browser is modelled on desktop software. It’s greatly simplified, as it has to be running in a browser, but it has the fundamentals you would expect of a video editor. For example, there’s a media browser, and you can upload multiple video clips and photos. You can also record directly into the editor too.The lower half of the editor is where you assemble the video clips and photos. It’s a story view rather than a timeline, so clips are shown as a single frame thumbnail, and they’re dragged and dropped into order. The start and end of clips can be trimmed, and there’s a limited but useful selection of special effects like monochrome, sepia and even image stabilisation. The audio volume can be adjusted, music and narration added, video and audio fade in and out and more.
JWPlayer Editor (bit.ly/1fERjYr) is another online editor that mimicks offline ones, and it does a very good job too. It’s like a lightweight and simpler desktop editor with not quite so many features. The free version lets you create only 30-second videos, and it costs $49 a year to make 15 minute ones. However, you do get some reasonably good features.
Video clips and photos are uploaded to your online library, and then you can drag thumbnails to the story timeline at the bottom. This shows the play order. Text such as titles can be added in an editor, and there’s a small number of graphic filters like tints, sepia, negative and so on. There are lots of unusual graphical, cartoon-like transitions that are fun, and 17 animation effects, which are useful for photos. Movies can be downloaded at 400 x 300 for free or 640 x 480 for $3. If it did not cost so much, this would be a good online editor.The range of video editing apps for phones and tablets and the choice you have is amazing, but should you edit videos on your mobile device or transfer them to the computer where you can use heavyweight and feature-packed applications?A lot depends on what you intend to do with the video, and many video clips are both shot on a mobile phone and viewed on it. For example, you might shoot a short clip of something funny or interesting and then share it on social networks like Facebook. Your friends can then view it on their mobile phones. This is frequently done without any video editing or minimal editing at least.
There are different types of video editor on phones and tablets, one of which is the serious type, such as iMovie on the iPad and iPhone. This is more like a desktop video editing program, and you can assemble a movie from multiple clips, apply special effects and transitions, add music, remix, re-edit and save it. The other type of video editor is just for fun. You select a video, choose some music, pick a theme or template and output a fun movie. You have little control over the creation process, but the finished videos are impressive and they’re perfect for sharing.Here are five video editors you should try on your phone or tablet, which is really just a tiny sample of what’s available.This app is available on both iOS and Android, and it has some great features. It definitely belongs in the fun category rather than trying to be a serious editor, but you can create movies without effects if you want to. You capture or load previously taken video clips and the start and end points can be trimmed. Each one is then added to a tray at the bottom of the screen and when you have added all the clips you need, you move on to the next step.The video can be saved as it is and exported to the phone’s storage or shared on various social media services, but there are a lot of fun effects that can be applied to the video. There are themes that apply a whole series of effects throughout the video, adding graphics overlays, music, sound effects, visual effects and more. There are cartoon stickers, filters like hot, autumn, old film, sketch and more and transitions.
This is another great video editing app for Android. There’s an iOS version, but it’s simpler and does not have all the excellent functions and effects of the Android version. You start by selecting the videos and photos you want to add to the movie, and they can be rearranged by tapping and dragging. A collection of themes is provided like Nature, Cinema, Birthday, Baby and so on. These add graphical overlays, zoom to photos and background music. There are filters like sketch, sepia, emboss, HDR, old booth and music too. One tap and a theme, filter or effect is applied.
The Pro upgrade adds clip editing, subtitles, stickers, transitions, drawing, narration, 4k video support and more. The extra features are really worth it, considering it costs just £2.32. If you don’t want to put much effort into video editing, the free version is fine, but if you want more features, then upgrade to Pro.Cute CUT on iOS appears to be different to CuteCut on Android, but they both have high ratings and are worth a look. The iPhone version is interesting, and most of the screen is occupied by the timeline. There’s the time across the top and videos, and photos are added to separate tracks. You build up the movie by adding extra ones for clips and photos.The start and end points for clips can be edited, and there’s a small selection of transitions to place between clips and photos. The position and duration is adjustable. The transparency of a clip or photo can be set, which enables some interesting effects to be created. The speed of a clip can be adjusted, it can be rotated, the volume lowered and it can be split. Some of the controls seemed a bit unresponsive or unintuitive, or maybe it’s just fat fingers on a small screen that’s the problem. It does have some good features, though.
CyberLink video editing software for PC is well known and is excellent. The Android app, PowerDirector, is very good too, but iOS users will be disappointed by the lack of an app. The timeline is displayed across the bottom of the screen, and you can browse the videos, photos and music in the top part of the screen. Tapping an item adds it to one of the tracks in the timeline. Markers are placed between videos and photos, and tapping one enables you to choose from a wide range of transition effects, over 20 of which are provided.There are 20 special effects too, such as Bloom, Delay, Drain and others – meaningless names, but fun effects. Text titles can be added, but these are themed rather than being plain text, and they’re intended for use at the start of the movie, Hollywood style. The audio level of the background music track and the video’s audio can be adjusted, which is useful.Vstudio is a video editing app for the iPhone and iPad, and there isn’t an Android version. It doesn’t have themes, stickers and similar items, but it does have a good range of editing features. There are numbered boxes at the bottom of the screen, and you select each one and add a video clip or a photo. They are placed in alternate boxes, and the ones between are for transitions, of which there are eight.Video clips can be trimmed at the start and end, and the brightness, contrast and saturation adjusted with a simple slider control. Voice-overs can be recorded for clips, and you can add your own music from the phone. Some extra features can only be unlocked by giving a five star rating (surely wrong), and there’s a Pro version with more features. When you’ve finished, the video can be saved to the phone or shared on Instagram, Vine, Facebook and other places. It is simple but has all the features you need.