In the age of automatic video editors and all around software-assisted creativity, how can a humble blogger help people master a program if said program does all the work for you?
This isn't a theoretical question, dear reader. In the old days (you know, like two months ago), a tutorial post on a new editing app would have lists of tips on such topics as trimming clips, color correction and the proper use of ripple edits. But said tips and tricks aren't relevant to Magisto, an automatic video app introduced this September that lives in YouTube Create. Magisto does everything for you. I'm not joking here, all you do is upload your clips, pick a soundtrack from a fantastic collection of licensed songs—that may or may not be licensed properly (see below)—and wait for an email alerting you that Magisto has done its magic.
But the question of course, is, does it work? For the purposes of this post, and other upcoming reviews of similar apps, I've used my iPhone 4 to record video of my dog Nora running up and down the sidewalks of Los Angeles, as well as some shots of my running after her in a most futile manner. Let's see if Magisto can turn this almost random footage into something fun and possibly actually worth watching.
You have but three choices to make when creating a Magisto video:
- What you want to title the video.
- What clips you want to use—you can upload up to 16 clips, with a total running time of not more than 15 minutes and combined file size of 600mb.
- Pick a soundtrack from one of many supplied, or upload your own.
- Once you've selected a soundtrack, Magisto emails you when it's available on YouTube for viewing.
The process was as simple and painless as you'd expect from such a small decision tree, but there are some issues:
- Magisto doesn't give you any granular controls for what's published on YouTube, so right away your video is made public. I appreciate simplicity is the key here, but the option to make a video private first so it can reviewed is an important one and I'd advise Magisto to sort this out soon.
- The app tells you it's going to email you when you video is ready to view, but there's no indication of how long the processing is going to take. I know we're drowning in information, but you feel as if you've dropped your video into a black hole.
- Now this is a biggie. I selected one of the supplied tracks, Intergalactic by the Beastie Boys, as I thought its pounding beats would go great with shots of my dog running around in LA, and I was right, it did look great. But I can't show you the video as according to YouTube, the music group EMI is not down with the track being used and therefore the video is blocked in 238 countries. That's right, the only place you can watch the video are places such as Saint Barthelemy, the Aland Islands and the West Bank (places I assume haven't signed onto whatever series of legal agreements that give EMI the option to block this material). So what's going on here? Why would Magisto offer all this great music only to have it be improperly licensed? I've emailed Magisto's PR office about the issue and will update this post if I get a response. The result of this music problem has been a lot of wasted time uploading clips for a video that can't be used.
After a couple of failed attempts with the Beastie Boys, I decided to try a different track, this time a version of one of the great theme tunes from '60s television, Lalo Schifrin's Mission: Impossible, (let's be honest here, I'm trying to give Magisto a leg up by selecting tracks such as Intergalactic and Mission: Impossible, both so catchy as to make any video with movement work).
As the above test video shows, Magisto actually does work. Though I don't find the footage of myself limping around with a cigar in my mouth very exciting, for the most part the app picks out footage that cuts well on the beat of the Mission Impossible track. This is the kind of short video that people would spend ages on in iMovie and Magisto does it with aplomb all by itself. I'll use the exact same footage of yours truly and Nora when reviewing other automatic editing apps such as Vidify and V.I.K.T.O.R. in the coming weeks.
One thing to note in this automatic editing space is the time saving nature of using a mobile app instead of the web. When you use your mobile device to edit, all the source material is already available so there is no time spent uploading material to a server somewhere. This is a distinct advantage apps like V.I.K.T.O.R. and Vidify have over web based solutions such as WeVideo and Magisto. I contacted a Magisto PR rep to see if there's a mobile app coming and in fact there is. Look for its launch at CES 2012 in the next couple of weeks.
- Absurdly easy to use.
- End results are fun and would work great at parties and other social events.
- All videos are made public on YouTube by default.
- There's no indication of how long it will take for Magisto to process your video.
- Videos can't be rotated to compensate for positioning your camera on the wrong axis.
- Can't select length of a video; at one minute your clip can seem more like an advertisement for Magisto rather than a finished product.
- Music licensing problems, which may mean re-uploading your video clips several times so you can find music that works.
Magisto is a great idea that errs too far on the 'let us do everything for you' scale. That being said, I bet the grandmas out there will love it as you can upload tons of Jr. crawling on the floor footage and it'll spit out videos that look like you spent real time on iMovie. Or, when the Magisto mobile app is available, imagine using it for a night of partying, where instead of posting numerous photos to Facebook, you can just upload one action packed video for your friends to watch and share. Once Magisto solves the music licensing and video rotation issues, I'd recommend it for just that kind of thing.