A couple of days ago I published a post exploring some of the nicest and worst iOS motion graphic design. If you follow me on Instagram, you have seen that I upped my game on mobile videos there. Video is big, really big. Video is the one content category that drives more engagement than photos now. Communicating through video means communicating clearly, visually, and it’s enjoyable too. Videos can be fun, sad, thoughtful, hip, the sky’s the limit.

Well, not entirely limitless, but what story you tell in the video is free and limitless, the length, and video size is often limited by the platform used. Instagram has a 15 second limit, Vine videos are 6 seconds in length (in fact 6 seconds and a half), YouTube adapts whatever size you give it.

The Apps

Here’s a list of all mentioned apps put conveniently in one place.

Recording

Recording seems to be the most common denominator. Different from photo apps, taking videos is a lot different. The mentioned editors below, while having basic functions built in, they also don’t offer anything beyond the basics, hence why a good camera is more important. A good camera app is able to expose special functions.

Filmic Pro is a camera app that leaves almost no room for wishes. Filmic is one of the most professional video cameras out there. When you open the app, all you see is buttons. If you need anything more complicated than the built in iOS camera, Filmic Pro is the one I like to recommend.

One of the camera apps that I use for a couple of years is 8mm Vintage Camera. This app makes every recording look terribly old. There’s even a button that temorarily displaces the view to emulate old video player artifacts and errors. You can choose from a couple of camera models, ranging from the 1920’s up to the 90’s.

Special Effects

SloPro is an app that uses optical flow to slow videos down so much that the movie appears standing. Optical flow is a more intelligent way to foresee changes from one frame to the next. This helps the app to make its dramatic speed changes. Built in is a basic editor. It allows not only to set the in and out point for a video, but also speed in and out. This way the app is able to slow down only a part of a clip.

Hyperlapse and Emulsio go along a similar path. Both apps stabilize wonky shots. Hyperlapse records videos stabilized, whereas Emulsio works on recorded videos. Hyperlapse is also a lot easier to use, but Emulsio has more advanced features. It can work on x-axis stabilization only, or y, or x and y, plus a lot more.

Lapse It is an app that records time-lapses. If you are not familiar with the process, time-lapsing is a process where pictures are taken in fixed intervals, e.g. every 10 seconds. Lapse It takes all the pictures and allows to set the playback speed in frames per second. It has some helpful tools to improve the time-lapse video, and it can work on pre-recorded material too.

Editing

Let’s get to the bread and butter of video: editing. Without edit, you can only post plain and boring videos, just like everyone else. A good edit makes videos stand out.

Replay and Fly

The first two apps I’d like to mention are Replay and Fly. Replay won the Best App of 2014. To be frank, the app deserves it. Replay is an intuitive and great video editing app. The features are explorable, make sense, and the videos look phenomal. They are a tad over-produced though, but I get to that.

Replay is a video editing app that comes with a slew of themes. These themes have various animation styles in them. They can’t be tweaked, they can only be chosen. That’s the biggest disadvantage of Replay. When chosing a theme, it also adds video filters to the video. There’s no option to turn the filters off, or to turn the theme off. Totally hidden is a button to disable transitions, too. In the Trim & Crop view, is a button at the bottom that says “play this clip without cuts”.

Both apps resize all videos. Replay allows to set the view crop, again in Trim & Crop, just move the video up or down. This is a per-clip setting. Fly doesn’t have this at all.

As written, Replay does some really neat stuff. It has nice motion graphic titles, and the filters look nice. The only downside is that they are a little bit too fancy most of the time. I’d appreciate something more simple and subtle, because Replay has a nifty editor, and I would want to use the editor more for simple cuts.

Fly, as a runner-up, has some great features too. The guys at Fly have two other apps called Clips and Crop. Clips is built into Fly. Clips essentially displays all clips as a list, with ranges in them. When the video plays, this list plays from top to bottom, but only set ranges play. This is a great UI concept, and a great way to edit videos on mobile devices.

iOS Video Apps - Fly's Clips Editor

Fly adds more features though. The clips editor is pretty mindblowing, but the live-editing tool that allows to make transitions, straight cuts, and even picture-in-picture is even cooler. The editing process is fully driven by touch gestures. The downside? Once a clip is imported, this clip, be it directly imported to the Gesture Editor or a Clips editor clip, this first clip sets the length of the whole project. They have not added a function to set the length of a project after import. Fly resizes projects to 16:9.

Their Crop app is pretty impressive, too. It allows to set the “crop” of a portrait recorded video, but with the added twist, that the user can change this crop over time. This makes it possible to create more interesting from too static shots.

Pinnacle Studio

Pinnacle’s Studio app tries to be a full-blown desktop video editor, on iOS. The app was originally created by AVID, but they sold it some time ago. I really want to love Pinnacle Studio. For what it’s worth, it’s a great editor, and it’s, as mentioned, full-blown. Except that it’s not full-blown all the way through. Considering how many features this app has, it lacks some of the most basic ones, like setting a project frame size. It’s probably 4:3 or 16:9, I couldn’t figure out how to set it, and I have this app for a year or two. If you’re going anywhere non-square, then Pinnacle Studio is good. The themes look outdated, and not very appealing. Considering your ultimate goal, an engaging mobile video, here’s my recommendation: use the bare basics in this app. Add titles, do some cuts, but leave the themes alone.

Cute CUT

The hidden contender, that ranks high in the App Store charts, is Cute CUT. The app has a free and pro version. I recommend the pro version. Cute CUT allows to set the project frame size even after the project has been created. I know it sounds like this shouldn’t be something I’d have to point out, but with Cute CUT, you can start a project in 16:9, and when you realize it doesn’t work out for YouTube, you can make it square and upload to Instagram instead.

The editor itself is more enjoyable than Pinnacle Studio. Cute CUT has a basic concept of keyframes. For every element, video, photo, text, drawing, you can set a transition. A transition essentially transitions all parameters set at the beginning, and interpolates the changes to those set at the end.
If you want to make the video fade in, set it too 100% transparent at the beginning, and 0% transparent at the end. If you also want to make the video fly in from the bottom. Just move the video out of the frame at the beginning, and make sure it’s in the frame at the end of the transition. Cute CUT will animate the changes over the set duration. Basic transitions, like fade and move, are built in.

iOS Video Apps - Cute CUT Transition Editing

Cute CUT has more features. Like mentioned there are more clip types that one can add to a project. Text is probably the most common one, but you can also draw on top of a graphic or movie. The app is by far not the most beautiful, but the features that are present knock out the other apps. For example Cute CUT has a neat way to set the drop shadow for an object more intuitively. There are some other niceties about this app, too.

Tools – Making It Square

Because all the video editors don’t allow much control over the crop of a video, you need an app that does just that. Video Crop, as the name implies, allows you to crop the video to any aspect ratio. It starts with custom, but you can choose 1:1, 4:3, and 16:9. As banal as that sounds, Video Crop is so useful for mobile video. It also has a basic trim editor on board, so you can eliminate unwanted parts at the very beginning of your editing process. Trimming also works inside the standard iOS Photos/Camera app.

I’d like to mention that the developer of Video Crop also has more apps, all of which are free with no in-app purchases, to rotate and flip video clips. Jin also has an app to do basic trimming only.

Mobivio, the creators of Cute CUT, also have an named Video Toolbox. The app is new, and it looks new. From what this app currently does, I suppose we see where Cute CUT will go. Video Toolbox potentially also is the app that would do things like rotate, flip, and crop, but it doesn’t at the moment. It does other nice things, though, like masking and chroma keying.

Video Sizes and Encoding Help

  • Instagram:
  • Video Size: 640x640px; 1:1
  • Video Length: 15 Seconds
  • Timebase: 29.97 Frames/Second
  • Audio Sample Rate: 44100 Hz
  • Vine:
  • Video Size: 640×640
  • Video Length: 6.5 seconds
  • Video Codec: H.264 (.mp4)
  • Audio: Mono

What I’d like to point out here is the fact that while Instagram videos are longer they are probably about the same download size as Vine content. The Instagram app compresses videos more after the upload. A quick test with a 10 second video:

  • Video stream:
  • was 5.42 MB encoded at 4,645 Kbps
  • shrunk to 3.87 MB encoded at 3,367 Kbps
  • Audio stream:
  • was 195 KB encoded at 165 Kbps
  • shrunk to 75.0 KB encoded at 64 Kbps

Here you can view the whole media info of the two videos, if you are curious.

Sadly I was unable to confirm similar techniques with Vine, because the app doesn’t save uploaded videos again in the Camera Roll.

Desktop and Mobile

As professional you might want to up your social video strategy even further. For example, the screencasts that I have on my Instagram profile show MindNode running on a Mac. How did I do that? I don’t want to get too technical here, but let’s just say that I record my tutorials in Instagram-native resolution (640×640), and then do all the fancy editing on a desktop as well. I export my movie and upload to Dropbox or something else, then import to the Camera Roll and upload to Instagram.

When I want to create a video this way, I’d like to use my normal artillery of tools. Final Cut Pro X for the main edit, but I find that I use Motion more. For videos as short as these, Motion does all I need. I’m surprised that I don’t use Final Cut more often, as I would naturally. I use Sketch a lot these days. ScreenFlow is nice, but the new version gives (poor) mixed results. For the pure basics, though, it’s good enough. My current favorite screencast recording app is still Claquette.

To plan dialog I’ve gone from a complicated setup to a more bare one. I like to keep things as simple as possible these days. MindNode is not just an app that I love to show to people, it is also the app that I use to plan my things. Most often, for a short 15 second video, even this simple app is a little bit too much. If I’d plan a social strategy though, I’d pick MindNode in an instant.
For the script, I’m also more inclined to use a simpler solution. Fountain is a Markdown-inspired screenplay format. The beauty is it works in every editor. It even works in an editor that is not made to write Fountain. All you need to know is the syntax, and you can write your screenplays. Their website has a section specially dedicated to Fountain editors, plugins, and viewers. I tend to use Highland on a Mac.

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