The increasing sophistication of the iPhone's back camera has turned the smartphone into a movie-making device, with a number of accessories available to help make your amateur video look as professional as possible. This is true on the software side as well, with a growing proliferation of apps designed to make it easy--even effortless--to edit and share your favorite moments with friends and family.
Last fall brought the arrival (or update) of several new video apps that can help you capture the moment, either individually or through group collaborating. But which ones are worth your time?
Your choice will ultimately depend on these factors: Do you want to collaborate with other iPhone users, or are you a solo photographer? Do you want the app to help polish the video to a semi-professional sheen, or do you prefer to shoot a scene and forget about it, dumping the raw video on the world? Here are four of our favorites, and why they might (or might not) be useful for you and your fellow video makers.
Givit: to edit and share
When we first reviewed VMIX Media's free Givit video-sharing app for the iPhone in July 2012, we focused on the service's sharing capabilities--the ability to choose who can see the videos you shoot and share from your iPhone.
Since then, Givit has evolved, adding video-editing capabilities that make it easier for users to share somewhat polished video creations with friends and family. At the center of the rebuilt app is a highlighting function. You can either select highlights from video already recorded on your phone, or tap a 'highlight' button while shooting live video.
Once recording ends, Givit automatically stitches those highlights into an edited video, which you can further polish by adding effects such as slow-motion replay, or music, either from your iTunes library or from Givit's own small collection of tunes. This is the only app in the roundup that lets users share directly to YouTube; and like the others, it also allows posting to Facebook and Twitter.
Streamweaver and Vyclone: for collaboration
Both these apps encourage collaboration, but they do so in very different ways. You'll want to pick carefully between the two.
Streamweaver lets you collaborate with up to three friends to make a video at the same time and place: If you shoot video at the same time--after having agreed to the collaboration--the app uploads all the contributions and splices them into a split-screen montage of the moment. (Video uploads are limited to a minute apiece.) The effect is reminiscent of the show 24, which would end episodes featuring multiple streams of video at once, each documenting a different point of view in real time.
Vyclone gives users less control over collaboration: If any two people are shooting video within 100 meters of each other, the app will judge that as a collaboration and act accordingly. Unlike Streamweaver, though, you're not given all the video streams at once. Instead, the app automatically edits together the different points-of-view to create an astonishingly coherent video record of the event you're recording, assuming you and your unknown collaborator are filming roughly the same event. You can also keep your raw footage, or ask the app to 'remix' a different edit for you. The end result is surprisingly impressive, but a user's inability to control the collaboration might make Vyclone unusable for some folks.
Threadlife: quick video collages
This app is very much its own thing--either an individual video maker, or a collaborative effort, depending on your choice. Either way, it limits your video shooting to three seconds apiece, forcing users to essentially create a collage of moments rather than full-blown documentary recordings of events.
Threadlife presents several ways to make your collage. You can create one, ever-lengthening thread of video that you add to (in those aforementioned three-second bursts) in perpetuity, or create a new thread for stand-alone events that you wish to document. Given the three-second limit on video, however, the effect can occasionally seem quite disjointed.
You can also invite friends to collaborate on threads, which reduces the awkward nature of the solo clips by at least providing a sort of call-and-response conversational rhythm to the video.
Threadlife's three-second limit on video ultimately makes the app a nonstarter for me. There may be users who like the impressionistic video that the app ultimately creates, but I want more control over the story I'm creating and sharing with others.
Streamweaver and Vyclone come closer to the mark, but neither is completely satisfying. Streamweaver falls first, though; it gives users better control over their collaboration, but the split-screen effect eventually looks like security camera footage more than anything, which is not the effect I'm going for when shooting video of my son unwrapping presents. I'm not satisfied with Vyclone, either, but it's close to being a great and useful app: All the developers have to do is give users more choice over collaboration.
Ultimately, my choice is Givit: The on-screen tutorials make the app a breeze to use; users can guide the editing process without getting bogged down in technicalities, resulting in polished, semi-professional looking videos that are a joy to share with friends and family.