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Video Editing Comes to the iPhone

Good news for iPhone 3GS owners not content with simply writing, casting, storyboarding, shooting, and scoring on their iPhones. Thanks to ReelDirector ($7.99), the latest app from the folks at Nexvio, you can now EDIT video on your iPhone as well.

Ok, before we get started… I have to ask one question. Why isn’t the app called ReelEditor? Ok… with that out of my system, let’s begin.

Before using ReelDirector, you’ll need some something to edit.  You can use the iPhone Camera app to shoot some footage, or you can use the saved output of other video apps (like Nexvio’s Slowmo or ReelMoments). We went to the local nursery to shoot some footage (using the OWLE Bubo iPhone Grip).

When you’ve got your footage, launch ReelDirector and make a new project. You’ll be asked for additional information, including the project’s title, default transition, and quality level (normal or High Quality). It’s worth noting that once you start adding clips to your timeline, you can’t change the quality level. You can choose to add superimposed titles to the beginning, the ending, or both. Your titles can appear in one of 4 styles. You can position the text in any of 9 locations. The beginning and ending credits can have separate styles applied. One drawback here is that you can’t alter the duration of the titles, and by default, they’re pretty quick. In the next version, we hope this becomes an editable property. We’d also love the ability to add multiple title cards anywhere in the edit.

Once you’re happy with your settings, you can add clips from your iPhone’s internal “Camera Roll.” When you select a clip to add, ReelDirector allows you to trim the in and out points. With traditional non-linear video editing, you can change a clip’s in and out points at any time.  However, with ReelDirector, you must trim your clip BEFORE dropping it into the timeline. And once it’s there, its duration can’t be altered. Of course, you can delete the clip from the timeline, and re-add it with new in and out points.

It’s possible to trim a clip in the Camera App even before bringing it into ReelDirector, but we don’t recommend it. Since ReelDirector lets you trim a clip when you import it, you might as well well start with all available footage. And since ReelDirector only trims a COPY of your clip, your original footage is left untouched. This means you can import multiple clips to the timeline from one source clip. I’m sure that sounded unnecessarily complicated, but trust me… it’s a good thing.

The app is much faster at importing clips when working in a high quality project. I’m guessing that’s because it doesn’t have to re-render low-res versions of the clips.

With the clips now in the timeline, you can reorder them simply by dragging them around with your finger. You can delete unwanted clips as well. Below the timeline is a movable play-head. Slide that around to see what’s happening at any point on the timeline. ReelDirector automatically adds the default transition (the one you picked in the project settings) between clips. You can leave them as-is, or alter each individually.

You change transitions my selecting any clip, and then clicking either the incoming transition or outgoing transition icon. You can pick from a list of 27 elegant transitions… and thankfully, not one heart-wipe in the bunch. Unfortunately, you can’t alter the duration of the transition. Maybe we’ll see that in version 2.

Currently, there’s no way to add a background soundtrack. You are stuck with the audio from the clips. If nothing else, we want to see that feature added to version 2.

Unfortunately, you can’t watch your movie in real time while you edit. To view your masterpiece, you’ll have to hit the CREATE button, and wait while the app renders the finished clip. One minute of footage comprised of 10 different clips took us 4 minutes to render at normal quality, and a little under 8 at high quality. If you’ve got the time, and the storage, stick with high quality. It’s a significant improvement. You can see normal and high quality examples below.

With your movie finished, you can choose to SAVE it to the internal camera roll, or SHARE it via email. If you’re planning on emailing your movie, you’d be much better off working in a normal quality project. Our one minute test at normal quality was just under 10megs. That’s the cutoff size for several email servers.

After using ReelDirector for a few hours, we found ourselves bouncing between “Wow!” and “Darn.” It’s got some impressive features, and a few minor drawbacks. That said, the finished movies look great.

ReelDirector is the first of its kind. If you want to edit video on your iPhone, you’ll want this app.  It’s a solid performer that I enjoyed using.  I’m sure it will be living on my home screen for a while.  Make no mistake, there’s a lot of room for advancement here, and based on Nexvio’s track record, I think we’ll be seeing great things from this app.

Normal Quality Test Video

High Quality Test Video

This app has been removed from the App Store


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3 Responses

  1. Thanks guys! Great review. $8 isn’t a lot of money, but I’m glad I didn’t have to spend it before seeing how it works. It looks easy. :)

  2. I bought this app the minute I heard about it and saw the demo off their site.

    Taz’s review hits all the points but what really impressed me was the list of features the developers already said they were working on for v. 2 like dubbing in a sound track before we could ask for it.

    I emailed them with a question and I got a great reply in hours.

    From the minute I got my 3GS, this is the app I was waiting for.

    The only issue is the Apple trimming function built into the phone OS, it is horrible. No fine controls but with ReelDirector you can pull multiple clips from a single video and that makes up for it.