There's a race on to see who'll be the Instagram of moving pictures. This makes sense, since many of our phones are clogged with video that, so far, no one is going to see. Wouldn't it be great if there were a simple app that could take our video content, edit it for us, and then publish it to all of our networks?
Both mobile and browser-based apps such as V.I.K.T.O.R. and Magisto are trying to offer simple, and sometimes almost hands-free solutions to our growing collection of raw video. We can also add Vidify to the mix, an app that seems focused on quickly generating decent edits of material you've just shot with your iPhone. I use the words "just shot" with care, as Vidify can only access videos on your camera roll. If you've deleted videos on your roll and have them in other folders on your phone (as I did), then you're out of luck.
For the purposes of this review, I had to shoot additional test footage and was silently cursing Vidify all along, but there is a certain purity in only being able to access your roll. It's as if the app is living in the moment, telling you to edit and share your videos now, while you still have them on your phone.
For my test footage, I once again went with my go-to subject—my dog, Nora. Apologies if the continual use of this dog is the equivalent of a work colleague insisting he show you photos of his new baby, but I genuinely think she's photogenic. Also, she works cheap.
For comparison's sake, I'm including in this post automatic videos generated by Magisto and V.I.K.T.O.R using the same footage. I appreciate that using such a small footage sample is not a fair test of any of these apps, but I see these posts as the beginning of a conversation between those of us who read and write at Edit on a Dime and the developer community.
As you can see from the screengrabs above, there's a simple three-step process to making videos with Vidify. Let's break it down.
First, you pick the videos you want to use. As stated above, you can only use videos that presently reside in your camera roll. This is clearly an app aimed for those who are out and about and want to create videos while they're still in the moment. In fact, one can imagine Apple copying or buying this type of technology and incorporating it right into their camera app. Imagine a "create video" button right next to the record button of your iPhone. If this does happen, I hope Apple buys a company rather than doing a Reminder on you—it's a tough world out there.
When you're at the video-picker part of the app, there's the option to select, view, or edit your clips. As the "edit" screengrab above shows, it's the standard iOS trim tool, and while I've never liked the lack of precision in this method, it is easy to use. One problem though: If you have a long clip, you can only trim the starting and end points, you can't select two sections within the clip.
Next, you pick the song. Going through the Vidify press material, it reads like they're pushing you to use your own music library rather than their own licensed tracks: "Vidify automatically edits music videos and montage videos on the fly using the footage from your camera roll and a soundtrack from your iPod library."
While I hate using most licensed tracks, the problem with using your own library is that if you want to share your video with services like YouTube, you're going to run into copyright issues. Not wanting to have this hassle, I selected one of Vidify's licensed tracks (they only have seven), "Hip Hop Instrumental" by Wendel Patrick.
There is also a settings screen with a variety of options, which you access from the home screen:
- Video length - Varies depending on length and number of source clips
- Edit speed - Slow to fast (I assume fast will make your video more cutty, but in practice, I didn't see a huge change)
- Edit mode - Either automatic or custom (not a hundred percent sure what this means, anyone out there know?)
- Video resolution - Low, medium, and high (exact resolution not specified)
- Options to fade in, fade out, and use cross-dissolves
Okay, you've sorted out your settings, selected your videos and music, and now you click on 'VIDIFY IT!' That's it. It really is an automatic video editor. In my trials, the finished video is rendered in under a minute. The video is automatically saved to the camera roll, making one wonder what would happen if you selected Vidify videos as your source material for additional automatic videos (something to do when it's particularly rainy outside, I think).
You also have the option to share your work with YouTube, email it, share on Facebook, or send it to an Apple TV. This thing should be good at parties. Would people rather party, or watch themselves at the party in which they're partying?
Alright, so we can share the video and make sure people see it, but how's the quality of the actual finished product? I've embedded the finished Vidify video below, as well as videos from competing automatic editing apps V.I.K.T.O.R. and Magisto that used the exact same source footage.
For me, the Vidify clip is the strongest. It feels most like an actual 'complete' movie, with some semblance of story. I'm really impressed on how it used the Nora P.O.V. shots and cut on the beats of the song.
V.I.K.T.O.R. did a decent job, too, but the video is slightly hampered by the music, which errs on the generic-stock music side. I liked the use of black-and-white and its use of clip audio at one moment.
I like Magisto's end product, also, though it needs to be longer. As I mentioned in my Magisto review, videos that are less than a minute, with such strong branding at the end, can come across as advertisements for a product rather than the product itself. That being said, Magisto feels like it has great potential once they let you make longer videos—and roll out an app for mobile devices. Word on the street is that there's a good chance an app will be launched at this year's CES.
- Simple, clear interface that anyone can use
- Test video produced great, fun results
- You can't preview the licensed music (another example of a push, intentional or not, to use your iPhone's music library)
- Saves to camera roll automatically without giving you the option to throw it before saving (to be fair, if we're talking about using Vidify at parties, then the fewer choices you give to the user the better)
Who's It For
Vidify is for you if you're out having a good time and want to share your experiences right away with friends and family.
Vidify works. Though, as I mention at the top of this post, these tests are really not fair as the sample size is so small. There's no question the app made a great little video out my footage. If you want to share your day out with friends through video, then Vidify is highly recommended.
Though I have no doubt that programs like Vidify will be successful helping people do something with all that video they're shooting, there's another angle to these automatic editing apps that I find extremely interesting:
Our new portable devices now have the ability to run such complex software that we will see them used more and more frequently as helpers for creators. What I'm talking about here is 'computer-assisted creativity'. Apps like Vidify can be used by filmmakers and editors to generate new ideas. Think of this process as a computerized version of Gysin's and Burroughs's Cut-Up technique. Whether using footage designed to cut together to find a different look for your edit, or combining visually and thematically disparate pieces of video to spark new ideas, we're going to see a lot of movement in this area.
It's exciting; computer assisted creativity really does feel like a new frontier.
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