Free video editing apps for Android: Top 5 for 2013/14
Wednesday, 6 November, 2013 3 comments
Smartphones are becoming scarily powerful these days – anyone with a new phone but an old laptop or netbook probably has a faster CPU in their pocket than on their desk. The exciting thing for mobile app developers is that such advances in hardware make new smartphone functionality only a well-designed app away. One area where this is currently most evident is with video editing apps – completely unfeasible a couple of years ago and now maturing into yet another capability of the average mid-to-high level smartphone.
Along with recent rapid advances in mobile processing power and the advent of the camera-phone a few years ago, the other crucial hardware development here is in the growing trend for larger screens due to the post iPhone preference for touchscreens. Anyone who has ever edited video knows that a large monitor is paramount and, while 4.3″ to 4.8″ is hardly a monster screen compared with a 28″ desktop display, it is nonetheless enough to do some basic video editing – given you can find the right app.
Below is a round-up of my top 5 picks for video editing on an Android handset in 2013/14. These are the free apps which are currently taking best advantage of the impressive hardware specs boasted by your average smartphone to make basic video editing a completely reasonable thing to do on a phone. As someone who has used pro desktop editing software a fair bit (both Avid Media Composer and Adobe Creative Suite) I’m here evaluating apps mainly on their functionality, performance and the ease of use given the limitations of a 4.something inch touchscreen display.
This is probably the best of what’s currently available. It’ll run reasonably well on anything roughly equivalent to a Samsung Galaxy SII or better. The main upside is the interface which balances accessibility and functionality. It’s based on a ‘timeline’ view (i.e. your entire sequence) and offers basic editing functions like trimming clips, changing their order, and inserting transitions in an obvious and logical manner.
Rendering and exporting works reasonably well, although rendering can take quite a while if editing a longer sequence (anything over a couple of minutes). The main downsides of the app are that it can sometimes be slow (you do need to tolerate some lag) and the advertising which supports it – while free from the interface itself – is annoying when it starts opening pop-ups elsewhere.
This is the other stand-out performer. The functionality is slightly better than Andromedia Video Editor although I find the interface (especially when using the ‘timeline’ type sequence) to be slightly inferior. Performance is fine again and the big upshot is that the advertising is nowhere near as annoying as with Andromedia.
AndroVid does also make it easier to trim middle sections out of a clip in your sequence (which you can do with Andromedia as well – although in effect you do this ‘manually’ with a workaround by creating two versions of the clip before taking the start of one and the end of the other in order to keep both these bits but remove the middle).
The other advantage with AndroVid is that there is a pro version (£1.59) for which the functionality in terms of max clip length and effects becomes really staggering considering we’re working with a smartphone.
Absolutely excellent assuming you don’t want to be combining clips into a sequence. In other words, if you just want to edit an individual clip (without combining it with others) this is your best bet. Free, very clean interface, decent performance and convert to audio. Beyond that however, you’ll need either to pay for the Pro version or look elsewhere.
Again, like VidTrim, this one isn’t an all rounder. Instead think of it as the instagram of video editing – allowing you to apply all sorts of filters and effects to your clips with absolutely minimal effort. Not versatile for making sequences but very good as a ‘post-production app’ for applying general filters and effects to a sequence you’ve made in another app.
This one, like the first two, is an all rounder – albeit one which is slightly more buggy than Andromedia and AndroVid. A decent interface although one which falls slightly into the trap of trying to offer too much (considering we’re not on a 21″ desktop monitor) giving both a sequence view and an output review pane on the screen at the same time – great for a Galaxy Note with a screen upwards of 5″ but less so for anything closer to 4″.
Ultimately, bear in mind that this is a maturing app sector for Android apps and that there isn’t currently a perfect AND free app available. However, what is currently available is still more than adequate for anyone wishing to edit the videos they post online – either by combining clips or by enhancing individual clips with effects and trims.
So, if you want the best timeline interface (which I think is crucial) go for Andromedia. If you want the best performance (i.e. fast without crashes and bugs) try AndroVid. If you have a very big screen, try Video maker Pro Free. Finally, if you want to apply overall effects to your clips as a ‘post-production’ stage, try Magisto. Don’t forget that there will also be some variations regarding what works best on your own handset so be sure to try one or two to find what gets the best results.
The bottom line is that, whether you’re creating vines or short films for your Youtube channel or even simply posting amusing footage from a night out in town and wanting to enhance it a little bit, the Google Play store now has some seriously decent free apps for helping you achieve this. Windows Phone and Blackberry will have to wait a little longer in order to have this degree of decent apps – while iOS is way ahead of all three in terms of excellent video editing apps (although there’s not much you’ll get for free aside from Cinefy).
All in all though, video editing is one exciting app sector which illustrates just how quickly things can change, with advancing hardware combined with some decent programming now turning an average smartphone into a pretty powerful tool for producing fairly sophisticated short videos – all for a lot less than the price of your average professional editing suite software (which can often require upwards of £500). This is where the next generation’s Spielberg or Kubrick will start to learn his or her trade…