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In my previous Mobile Apps for Artists article, I described how the introduction of the first Apple iPhone in 2007 forever changed how consumers, including many artists, created photographs. But perhaps even more dramatic are the changes that mobile digital imaging has brought to video production in the past several years.
Fifteen years ago, consumers were still buying camcorders, cameras that focused on capturing video instead of still photos. Back then, there were four types of camcorder: MiniDV tape, MiniDVD, hard drive–based camcorders, and flash-based models. Each had its own method of recording video onto media—and its own pros and cons. For instance, MiniDV tape cameras captured video footage on an audiocassette-like tape. If you wanted to edit that footage, you needed to transfer it from the tape to your computer. That meant you had to connect the camcorder to a computer, then boot up your video-editing software, and start capturing the video from the MiniDV camera with your video-editing software—which it did in real time! In short, the process took a lot of time, and you needed very robust computer hardware to do it.
Camcorders that recorded video onto MiniDVD discs were also less than optimal. These could be “finalized” and then played on a DVD player or DVD drive on your computer; the big problem was that MiniDVD discs were quite glitchy and sometimes wouldn’t play at all. The video on MiniDVD discs was also challenging to edit.
At the time, almost all consumer-level camcorders captured standard-definition video. But in 2006–2007, the makers of camcorders began to introduce a new, higher-resolution video format to the marketplace, in camcorders like Sony’s HDR-HC1. Purchasers of these new, high-definition camcorders needed to upgrade their hardware and software (since none of the software was cloud based) in order to handle the new, larger files. Even then, editing video footage remained a difficult and cumbersome task.
This all quickly changed, though, over the next several years as software companies began to produce much more flexible video-editing software, which would soon be based in the cloud. This coincided with dramatic changes taking place in the camera world: Interchangeable-lens cameras—namely, DSLRs and mirrorless models—with the ability to capture high-quality video would soon ship.
But it still took some time for video mobile apps to hit their stride. True, there were apps like iPhone’s iMovie, which appeared on iPhones in 2010. Another, KineMaster, was introduced on Android devices in 2013, but its iOS-version camera came out only in 2016. Fast-forward to 2015 and 2016, and you have Adobe and GoPro introducing their video-editing mobile apps. Even then, Adobe’s app was, at first, only for Android OS. So it’s really just in the past several years that we’re now seeing robust and versatile video editing on mobile devices.
Today, there are many video-editing mobile apps available. Below, I outline five that I think are well designed and offer artists a lot of ways to get creative. All but one app are compatible with both iOS and Android mobile platforms; Apple’s iMovie is compatible only with iOS. Generally speaking, the five apps function similarly in that they have a timeline and a way to access video, photos, and other media. Each lets you edit by adding, splitting, changing, and deleting both video and audio.
Note: All apps were tested on the iPhone 12, and all demo images of the video-editing apps in this story were created on the iPhone 12. All video-editing apps (except Apple’s iMovie, available only on iOS) should operate in a similar fashion on Android phones, although they may look slightly different.
1. Adobe Premiere Rush (iOS & Android)
Adobe introduced this video-editing app in 2018, calling it the company’s first “all-in-one, cross-device video editing app that makes creating and sharing online content easier than ever.” It’s called “cross-device” because it stores all projects in Adobe Cloud. When artists want to access them, they can do so easily from any location or device, which is great if you’re away from home.
Premiere Rush also lets you capture video, edit, color-correct, record, and clean up audio; customize animated titles; and publish straight to social media. And since projects are saved in the cloud, the changes are reflected across all your devices through automatic project syncing. On both the mobile app and the desktop app, you can select media, trim elements, and rearrange clips in your project timeline.
Pricing: For an individual plan, the app costs $9.99 per month (there’s also a free version, which limits you to three exports and 2 GB of storage). The app is also included for free in Adobe’s Photography Plan, also $9.99 per month, which includes Lightroom, Photo, and 20 GB of cloud storage. Note: In addition to the mobile app, you can download desktop apps for MacOS and Windows.
2. GoPro Quik (iOS & Android)
This wasn’t GoPro’s first video-editing mobile app, but in this latest version, which was introduced in only March of 2021, it actually becomes two apps in one: First, you can use it to control your GoPro camera and settings and to transfer media from your GoPro to your phone or tablet. Second, it functions as a very cool, easy-to-use video editor that lets you create an edited video not just from the recordings on your GoPro but from any video and photo you have on your phone or tablet from other cameras—even DSLRs or mirrorless cameras.
The app itself is a little different from what you might expect. When GoPro launched it, the new app wasn’t meant to replace a comprehensive software video editor. Instead, GoPro intended it as a fun and easy-to-use mobile app that allowed you to produce videos really quickly and to create a highlights reel of the media you had on your phone.
To create these videos, you initially add your favorite videos and photos to the Mural section of the Quik app, which GoPro says acts as your own private feed within the app. I find it functions like a playlist on a streaming music service, but with events instead of songs, with each event containing multiple photos and videos. To add media, simply share the photo or video clip to an existing event, or create a new event. From there you can create short videos comprising highlights of your videos and photos within the various events. It’s very automated, which might not appeal to everyone’s taste, but you can customize those automations as well.
Key features and benefits of this app include the above-mentioned ability to import photos and videos from any phone or camera, including GoPros and DSLRs. Subscribers get unlimited cloud backup, with every photo and video you post to your Quik Mural feed backed up at its original quality. Another key feature is the ability to quickly create music-synced videos by simply selecting photos and video clips you want to use along with a song from the included library, which comes with GoPro original music, or you can add music from your own library. You can adjust exposure, contrast, color, and vibrancy as well as change the speed of the video project (you can make it run faster or slower). In short, there’s a lot to like on this app.
Pricing: There are three pricing levels: a free or trial version (which gives you limited access to features), a Quik subscriber tier, which costs $1.99 a month or $9.99 a year, and a GoPro camera subscriber tier, for $4.99 a month or $49.99 a year.
3. Apple iMovie (iOS only)
Apple iMovie has been around for quite a while, and it still does a great job, allowing you to do granular edits on video, photos, and music clips while still being easy to use. And with its recent updates, it now comes with some cool new filters—Comic, Comic Mono, and Ink—that turn your video into a cartoonlike recording.
It includes lots of other easy-to-use features, such as eight different themes with matching titles, transitions, and music. You also get 13 video filters and 11 animated titles (with the ability to change fonts, colors, size, and location). You can also add solid, gradient, or patterned backgrounds to your movies, and, as with other apps, you can slow down or speed up any video clip. You can select from more than 80 soundtracks that automatically adjust to match the length of your movie, and you can add sound effects, songs from your music library, and your own narration.
It’s also easy to transfer projects between your iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch using AirDrop or iCloud Drive. You can also experiment with Hollywood-style trailers, which are like very short movies or videos.
Pricing: Free with iPhone, iPad, or Mac laptop or desktop computers.
4. PowerDirector (iOS & Android)
Cyberlink has offered video-editing software (and other multimedia software) for quite a few years now. Its suite of software isn’t as well known as Adobe’s Cloud Suite, but Cyberlink software works well and is quite affordable. That’s why it wasn’t all that surprising when Cyberlink introduced a mobile app version of its video-editing product at the beginning of 2020 and made it compatible with iOS and Android.
Overall, Cyberlink’s PowerDirector app does not disappoint, offering many different types of digital tools and effects. You’ll also find a variety of transition effects and templates so you don’t need to create everything from scratch. In addition, the app has a large stock library filled with more than a million royalty-free photos, videos, and music tracks from Shutterstock. You have access to a timeline, like what you’d find on traditional software, and you can add extra audio layers. Plus, if you’re new to the app, you can go to the website and check out Cyberlink’s helpful tutorials.
Pricing: There are three pricing tiers—$5.99 per month, $9.99 per quarter (three months), and $34.99 per year. There are some discounts available on a yearly subscription when you buy Cyberlink’s Director Suite software.
5. KineMaster (iOS & Android)
KineMaster was introduced in 2013 for Android and in 2017 for iOS. Right from the start, the company aimed to feature lots of tools that might appeal to professionals, including a multilayer interface, green screens, key-frame animation, animated handwriting, overlays, visual effects, and more. In essence, the app lets your mobile device cut, order, transition between, and export video clips into more finished movies.
As with most video-editor apps, you can import video, images, and audio from your device and then arrange, composite, and transition between your videos and images. You also have access to color-grading presets, blending modes, and color-correction adjustment tools as well as effects, overlay graphics, and text. If you want to draw directly on your video with handwriting layers, you can do that too. KineMaster lets you export your project at up to 4K and 60fps, which is a powerful feature.
Pricing: KineMaster is free, but its premium version removes the watermark. KineMaster Premium costs $3.99 per month or $23 per year. According to the company, you can use one KineMaster Premium subscription on up to five devices, but they must be either all Android or all Apple devices.