My favorite video apps

How I make quick shareable visuals

You’re reading the Wonder Tools newsletter about useful sites & apps. I’m Jeremy Caplan, director of teaching & learning at CUNY’s Newmark J-School. Catch up on past posts here.

If your phone is anything like mine, it has thousands of visuals scattered across its albums.

What do you do with them?

For years, most of my images lay dormant.

Then I started playing around with video apps. I cobbled together a visual toolkit. I  use it to make things every month or so. Mostly personal projects, occasionally work. 

Most of the apps I use are free. Mojo and Hype Type start free, then offer extra bells and whistles for a fee. Vidstitch Pro is $1.99.

Four of the best apps— Mojo, Quik, Magisto and Videoshop— are all available for both iOS and Android. The others are iOS only. 

Here are some of the apps I find most useful. 

Mojo Make cinematic vertical videos for Instagram

If you take a lot of vertical photos or video clips, Mojo provides the most elegant templates I’ve seen for turning them into nice scenes or slideshows. 

Pick a template, add a few of your images, add text if you want, and you’re done. Mojo has terrific motion text effects that give your vid a pro feel. After a five-minute quick assembly, save and post to your platform of choice. 

Quik My favorite app for family videos

Quik is my go to app for creating short videos out of semi-random recent family pix and vids. I have two young children so I'm often trying in vain to freeze time.

Periodically I’ll open Quik, pick a template, then tap to select some recent camera roll images or videos. Quik’s algorithm then cooks up something good automatically. I usually reorder some of the visuals and add text captions. Sometimes I add music and trim the visuals.  

Quik is also handy for work. I've used it to cut together event slideshows to share with students. Here’s an example. The app can serve up a little highlight reel. When I want alternative templates I often use another great algorithmic app called Magisto.

A little Quik trick: use the Type theme to create kinetic typography, i.e. cool motion graphics made out of text. The app requires at least one initial photo or video, but you can later cut that to create a cool video purely with text. It’s an easy, free workaround to create text effects without learning Apple Motion or Adobe After Effects.  

For more traditional mobile video editing, I like Videoshop. It’s free, easy to use, and has all the basic video editing functions without too much cruft.

Hyperlapse Smooth out or speed up your videos

Hyperlapse is an awesome little tool from Instagram to alter the stability or speed of your video. One common use-case: shoot a quick demo or tour of something then speed it up — from 2x as fast to 12x.

A lesser known way to use it, though, is to stabilize your footage. Here’s how: record something you want to remember and set the speed to 1x, i.e. normal speed. Hyperlapse will reduce your video’s natural shakiness. Your footage will look like it's been shot with a professional stabilizer or film dolly without the usual shakiness.

Vidstitch Pro Create a video collage

Remember the opening sequence of the Brady Bunch? Those little square videos? A Zoom effect before Zoom. Well, you can stitch various pre-recorded clips together in that way with Vidstitch. It has a bunch of templates. Useful ones include tall videos next to one other, or two wide videos stacked. Or four little square videos. 

It's ideal for videos that show then and now, side by side. Or before and after clips. I like using it when I’ve shot something from multiple angles, or when I have a recent video of something or someone that’s changed (like a child) to show alongside a similar video of that same thing years earlier. Caveat: The app hasn’t been updated in a year and has a lot of negative reviews, though it still works fine for me.  

Slow Fast Slow Play with your video 

What's terrific about this app is that it lets you control slow motion and speed-up effects on any video with a draggable slider.

That means with your finger, you can set points where you want the video to slow down or to speed up or vice versa. You can set multiple points and drag them up and down to get just the right effect at the right point in the video.

Here's a tip: slow video down just prior to a key action point, then speed it up through the dull moments before and after.

Apple Clips Next Generation video editing

Apple Clips is the best app nobody knows about. It has a bunch of cool capabilities.

  • You can lay titles onto a video simply by narrating them.

  • Use 360-degree virtual video backgrounds without a green screen.

  • Create video messages without recording yourself by using your own text with built-in graphics and posters.

Try recording a quick video message for a distant friend or family member. Add a graphic emoji or a few words of text if you like. In five minutes you've made someone's morning a little brighter.

Adobe Spark Video Explain something with a video

Using a mix of icons, text, videos, photos and narration, you can share a project summary, a family memories reel, trip highlights, or a recipe walkthrough.

A unique Adobe Spark feature is that you can edit your phone projects on a laptop. And unlike more confusing Adobe software, Spark is fast, free, and easy.

Share Wonder Tools: Useful tips for creative productivity

Whatever app I’m using, I try to keep videos under 90 seconds. I upload them as unlisted to YouTube to maintain a free archive I can access or share from any device. I also download them to my phone, which syncs to Google Photos for backup. 

I could theoretically open up Final Cut Pro to cut a video together. But I tend not to do that. I’d rather use a discretionary hour with my family. I can spare five minutes for an app, though. 

What’s your favorite video app? Hit reply to share what you use and how you use it.