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Cut and Swipe: a review of 4 mobile video editors

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October 5, 2017

In the RETN education department, we've been using iPads for videomaking for a few years. The large interface and simple controls make it easy to create, edit, and share on the same device. Lately we've seen a lot of folks using their phones to film, so we wondered, "Would it be as easy to edit on your phone as it is on a tablet?" For the past month, while gearing up for the Vermont Story Lab summit, we've tried to answer that. 

Our objective: find the best phone editor(s) that are:

  • cross-platform (so we can teach it to more folks);
  • functional offline (so we can use it in the wilds of Vermont);
  • affordable and without a monthly subscription fee;
  • as full-featured as possible, given the constrainst of cell phones in general. 

We tested them with a Samsung Galaxy 7, but we also loaded them on an iPhone without any major issues. Many iOS users will choose to use iMovie, but now there are a couple of other options. 

Adobe Premiere Clip

If you are after a quick, snappy video using just one or two shots, Clip is a great choice. Its Automatic setting cuts a longer shot into smaller clips to the beats of (royalty free) music from a small library. You can add photos or video, and have some control of photo movement, also known as "Ken Burns effects" after the well-known documentary filmmaker. The titling tool is pretty limited, though, with no adjustments to font size, and only black and white color options. 

BEST FOR: Cutting down a long shot into a video to share quickly.
COST: FREE

Filmora Go

A surprisingly full-featured editor with an interesting, mobile-friendly interface. Filmora Go is the mobile version of Filmora desktop editor. It checked all our boxes - cross-platform, offline editing, easy to use, and free, but with in-app purchases to remove the end watermark and buy additional titling and image effects, each under $3. We were able to use their in-app music or upload our own, add subtitles, and edit individual video clips for length, speed, and effect. We chose this editor for our "Show Us, Don't Tell Us" social media video workshop at Vermont Story Lab. Only drawback - photos are automatically loaded with a Ken Burns effect that we couldn't turn off. 

BEST FOR: A short full-featured video, with titles, effects, audio and music.
COST: $1.99 to remove logo, other filter packs cost $ .99 - 1.99

GoPro Quik

From the makers of GoPro cameras, this mobile editor is exactly what you want on the trail or at the skate park. After selecting clips and a theme, Quik cuts your shots together into a high-energy music video. You can make tweaks, but many of the design decisions are done for you. There is also the choice to disable the feature and trim the video yourself. The music track can "highlight" a section of the video, but you can't add other audio, so forget about interviews or other dialogue. 

BEST FOR: Music-driven action videos
COST: FREE

WeVideo Mobile

We're already fans of We Video, and the simple storyboard interface of their mobile app is a great option, more featured than Quick and Clip, but not quite as robust as Filmora Go. You can edit your video, photos, and audio, and add themes, including filters, transitions, and music (no speed adjustments). WeVideo also includes a music library, titles, and cloud storage. The gotcha - we were able to edit media that was on our phone, but were unable to complete our video until our phone could access the internet to download theme content. This can be a challenge for folks in less connected spaces.

BEST FOR: Mini-docs, where data is accessible
COST: FREE for 5 minutes and 1Gb cloud storage per month

And there you have it, our reviews of four affordable mobile editors. This is by no means comprehensive, if you find another mobile editor that fits our objectives, drop us a line at learnATretn.org

In addition to choosing an editor, making a video that is mobile-friendly requires some adaptations from traditional videomaking. We made this short video on our phone using Filmora Go. Hope it's helpful!