As mobile video editing goes, there are two commonalities; it’s typically reserved for high-end phones and it’s pretty hardware intensive, whatever you’re editing with.
Whilst we’re yet to see tools that truly rival desktop-class applications like Final Cut Pro, Apple’s iMovie app for iOS does an impressive job of giving you all the necessary tools to shoot, edit and export a small-scale cinematic masterpiece, provided you’re on board with the Apple ecosystem of course.
Now Microsoft is getting in on the action with the launch of its new Movie Creator app, which packs a ton of tools and features to turn you into the next mobile Spielberg.
First and foremost is its compatibility. The development team hasn’t discriminated with Movie Creator and provided your device is running the Lumia Cyan update or newer; be it a Lumia 1520 or the humble Lumia 530 (there’s also a minimum 512MB RAM limitation too) It can run the beta version of the app that’s currently available for free.
As is often the case with turning a common desktop computing experience into a mobile one, the focus of the experience is on simplicity.
From the get-go you’re given a tutorial overlay outlining all the key screens and controls at your disposal. This help ‘layer’ is also accessible at any point should you need reminding as to where one of the app’s many tools resides.
The meat of the experience takes place in the main timeline view. Once you’ve created your project you’re dropped into a timeline with four primary options: to add footage, text, themes and music.
As you might expect, you first need to be able to place content from your Lumia into the timeline. Thankfully, the app doesn’t appear to discriminate as to the source of video, whether they’re added to or shot directly from your device to begin with. You can add up to 25 individual clips and most impressively there’s no limitation on length.
Once you’ve picked out your footage you can drop in text between any clips or fill out the pre-made title and end slate cards, which appear in every project. Themes are on hand to give your final film a certain ‘feel’ applying Instagram-style video filters and dictating the type of transitions that appear between footage. There are a handful out-the box but there’s also a theme store where you can browse and download more. Some are free but some require an in-app purchase.
The last piece of the puzzle is the music, a cracking soundtrack can help lift a video from ‘just OK’ to ‘epic’, think about how Taylor Swift’s trouble really made the screaming goat. Presently you can pick from a number of tunes included with Movie Creator or pull in songs from your phone’s music library too.
If all’s gone to plan, you should have the makings of a complete movie, but the app doesn’t stop there. There’s a wealth of fine grain control too. Long-pressing any clip in your timeline with bring up tools to edit, trash or duplicate said clip, as well as the ability to drag and drop should you wish to shuffle the chronology of your video around.
Tapping on an individual clip is where you can really tune the content of your video. You can add captions, filters, rotate, pan or zoom on a clip, trim the ends and mix the clip’s volume with your video’s soundtrack. Tapping done will bring you back to the timeline where you can watch your final film in its entirety and choose to export or share it in a range of different resolutions and frame rates. Naturally newer Lumias will be able to offer up faster frame rates and so on.
Not to end of a low, but for all the strengths that Microsoft’s crack at mobile video editing offers there are a few shortcomings that we’d like to see ironed out in future updates.
The frame rate that you dictate affects the entire video; you can’t yet choose playback speed on individual pieces of footage, so no slow or fast motion sections, yet anyway. Another blanket effect is the soundtrack; you can’t string multiple tracks so one song is all you’ll have for the entirety of your video.
Something you’ll notice, especially when trying to trim longer clips, is that the scrubbing bar is relatively small, making it difficult to make fine grain adjustments when trimming down the ends of you video.
When it comes to exporting, Microsoft still hasn’t reconciled its differences with Google (or perhaps it’s the other way around) so there’s no simply way to upload directly to YouTube should you want to. The app is also currently a Lumia exclusive so other brands will be left out in the cold.
All in all, Microsoft’s offering in the form of Movie Creator serves as one of the most powerful free Windows Phone apps you can get and one of the better mobile video editing tools out there, particularly for Windows Phone. It’s a worthy rival to iOS’s iMovie as well, oddly putting Android at the back of the pack for first-party software in this area.
By the way, here’s our finished edit:
You can download the beta version of the app from the Windows Phone store now.