Video is an interesting thing. Unlike photos, which have come a long way from gathering dust in albums, videos — especially longer ones — are still a bit hard to share. To start with, they’re sometimes too large to send using our usual communication channels, and even when they happen to be short and sweet, they’re not always very inspiring or interesting.
Let’s say your cat is being absolutely hilarious, and you must share it with the world. You can either start shooting with your phone and catch the whole thing, at which point you’d be left with a long video that’s unshareable, and most likely includes too many boring parts; or you can shoot 10 short videos of the same scene, hoping one of them will be good enough (and short enough) to actually share. Of course there are ways to edit and optimize videos, but more often than not you don’t feel like sitting and editing, you want to get it out there or forget about it.
No matter what you think of Instagram videos, they have the right idea. Letting you start and pause capture to create an action-packed 15-seconds video is definitely the right way to go. But what if you want to share videos in other ways? That’s where automatic video editors come in, taking a long and boring video, or several short ones, and creating a fun-to-watch clip complete with a nice soundtrack, and even some effects. And the best part? It requires almost no work from your side. Does it really work as advertised? Let’s find out!
Magisto [Android, iOS, Web]
Magisto is a relatively free (what does that mean? You’ll soon see) way to create short, fun movies from clips you already have on your phone, or from videos you shoot through the app. Creating videos requires an account which you can sign up for on the spot, or, if you’re too lazy, use your existing Google/Facebook account.
Magisto’s creation process couldn’t be any simpler. If you shoot a video on the spot, well, then you have your video. If you want to use existing ones, Magisto lets you find them either in your gallery or Google Drive and choose as many as you want. It bunches similar photos and videos together, so scrolling through your huge gallery is quick.
Keep an eye on the total video time on top, and remember that Magisto will cut this time down significantly if you choose too many videos, but that you should add at least 45 seconds of footage for best results.
Next, you’re going to choose a theme for your video such as Summer, Love, Street Beats, Happy Holidays, etc. Each theme comes with its own collection of music choices, but keep in mind that there are not offiically licensed to use on YouTube, as explained on Magsito’s FAQ. You can also choose music from your device or Dropbox folders.
Once all’s chosen, Magisto sums everything up for you, giving you a chance to change your mind. You can also set your video’s final length, but with the free version of Magisto, you can’t choose the longest version possible. No worries, though, the longest version you can choose is optimized for sharing.
That’s it. Now sit back and wait for your movie to be ready. You can access your movies online on magisto.com, and share them in different ways through the app or Web. What you can’t do with the free version is save your videos in any way. For that, you’re going to have to cough up $0.99 for one video, $4.99 for a whole month of videos, or $17.99 for a whole year of videos. This will also let you save movies to Google Drive, upload more videos, create longer videos, etc.
Boring details aside, you must be dying to know what Magisto videos actually look like. I didn’t have too many exciting videos on my device, so I chose some of my cat playing. For the first video I chose all the footage I had, and for the second one I chose those I thought were best. The videos were both ready within minutes, so by the time I was finished writing my first impressions, they were already waiting for me. So without further ado, here are the results!
The first video came out cute, and definitely better than anything I could make myself, but a bit boring all the same. I blamed the footage on this, and created the second video:
All in all, I liked the result, although the effects are a little tacky at times. I also wasn’t completely happy with the way the music was cut off at the end, but you can’t ask too much from an automatic video editor.
Pros: Creating videos is free; works on Android, iOS and Web; very easy to use, no knowledge needed whatsoever.
Cons: Can’t save your videos with the free version (but if you share the app with a friend who opens an account, you both get a free download).
Final score: A-
HighlightCam [Android, iOS, Web]
Right off the bat, it’s obvious that HighlightCam is nowhere near as polished as Magisto. On the other hand, you do get one free month of Premium subscription before you even know who’s who, and you don’t have to mess around with creating an account in order to start working (although you should create it to access additional features).
HighlightCam lets you choose from videos and photos in your gallery, or shoot a video on the spot. Unlike Magisto, it shows you every single photo and video you’ve ever taken with your device, including screenshots, so browsing through this mess to find my cat videos took its time. You can, however, filter the media to show only videos, and sort it to show only a specific date range.
HighlightCam shows you how long your total footage is, and recommends that you choose at least 5 clips for best results. Personally, I find the recommendation a bit weird, as a video can be anything from 5 seconds to 5 minutes or more, so why would they recommend 5 clips?
At this point, if you’re signed in, you’ll get access to the “Edit Clips” feature, which lets you arrange the clips in the order you want them, and add text slides in different colors.
Next, you can choose your theme and focus. As you can see, many of the themes are Premium only, which you don’t care about right now, but you might when your free trial runs out. You can also choose the final product’s focus: will it revolve around people, action, voice, or balance them all? According to your focus, HighlightCam will attempt to cut off parts that are less interesting. For example, if you focus on people, it will try to use parts with faces whenever possible.
When it comes to soundtrack, HighlightCam makes it easy to choose a song from your device, but doesn’t really provide anything else. The Online Store option failed to connect when I tried it. In addition, not all the music on my device was displayed, for some reason.
Then it’s on to choosing the length of your video: 30 seconds – 1 minute. Everything else is Premium, but you can enjoy it for now. Here, again, you’ll get some extra features if you’re signed in, such as video quality control, audio level adjustments, move orientation, etc.
HighlightCam will then start creating your video, which is a long process stretching over more than 20 minutes (and this for a minute-long video). In the mean time, I tried creating an account to check out other features, but was told my video upload will be cancelled if I do.
As with Magisto, the first video is comprised of all my footage. For the second video, I wanted to preview my clips before choosing the best ones, but found that I can’t do that with HighlightCam, so I couldn’t do what I did with Magisto, and simply tried remembering which ones are best. Here are the results:
The second video was created when I was already signed in, so I had more control over the final product. This is what I got:
It’s hard to decide about HighlightCam. On the one hand, it does let you fine-tune your final product more than Magisto does, provides a free month of Premium features, and it does have many features, although many of those are really hard to find, and I only managed to track them when I was making my third or fourth movie. It’s also more social, and comes with a feed where you can view videos others have uploaded. On the other hand, it’s slower, clunkier, and much more annoying to use.
Pros: Good control over final product; one month of free Premium features; more options.
Cons: Clunky interface; slow video processing; features are hard to find.
Final Score: B
Note: in case you’re wondering how much you need to pay to stay on Premium, so did I. I couldn’t find any mention of this anywhere in the app or the website, so my guess is, this is why you get it for free. Premium is probably not set up yet. In other words, I don’t think it exists, and if it does, it’s very well hidden.
First of all, please excuse the uninspiring video names and not-so-perfect music. I had better videos made at first, and then realized I cannot post videos with commercial music since we don’t have the rights. I had to make the video again with music I could actually use, and ended up with a result that’s a bit less inspiring. Nevertheless, I hope it’s enough to give you an idea of what these apps are capable of.
If all you want is quick satisfaction, and don’t want to mess about with anything, stick with Magisto. It works, it’s easy to use, and you’re going to love the results, even if it takes a few trials. If you don’t mind working a little harder, but want to get more control over your final product, give HighlightCam a spin. Either way, you’re going to produce fun videos to share, and maybe even longer videos for birthdays, presentations, and other events. Your imagination is the limit!
Which video-editing app is your favorite? Do you have opinions to share about either Magsito or HighlightCam? Tell us everything below.
Image credit: Smartphone image via Shutterstock