A few weeks ago I picked up the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. It’s the latest and greatest Android phone, complete with version 4.0 of the operating system more commonly known as Ice Cream Sandwich. I had been patiently waiting to replace my Motorola Droid for a while and when word started spreading that the flagship Android phone would finally be hitting Verizon I knew I wanted to hold off from buying the HTC Thunderbolt, Samsung Droid Charge or anything else that seemed appealing at the time.
Overall, I’ve been very pleased with everything about the phone. ICS is snappy and responsive, pretty close to being on par with iOS 5 from what I can tell. Switching between apps now seems to be everything that it was originally promised to be. I’d almost dare say that after all this time, this might finally be Android’s coming out party.
One of the things that surprised me after I got the phone was the included “Movie Studio” software. This app was released as part of the tablet-only Honeycomb 3.0 software and is making its phone debut in ICS. It’s clearly a response to the mobile version of iMovie, which is to be expected when you have too huge companies competing as fiercely as Apple and Google are. Though I have absolutely zero experience with iMovie I have plenty of experience with professional video editing software so I decided to test out Movie Studio to see what it’s all about.
When you first load Movie Studio you’re shown any previous projects that you’ve created and given the choice to create a new one. If you choose to create a new project you’ll be prompted to give it a name before it lets you proceed.
The project window is broken up so that you have your “program monitor” at the top (the window where you can what’s playing in the timeline along with any titles, FX or transitions you’ve added) and your timeline of clips, effects and transitions at the bottom.
If you have any experience with editing programs you’ll notice there’s no “bin” to store all your items. You basically add one element at a time as you need it. If you choose to delete it, that’s it. It’s gone. I suppose that’s just one of the sacrifices that needed to be made to squeeze video editing into a mobile app.
When you add a video clip it lays the entire clip onto the timeline. Long press on the clip in the timeline to edit the in point and out point of the clip by dragging the edges of the clip. This process can be a bit cumbersome since you’re working in a small area. Even with the huge screen on the Galaxy Nexus it’s almost impossible to have any kind of precision. Patience will be your greatest virtue when trying to get things just right.
While the clip is selected you can also apply FX and transitions to spruce things up a bit. The choices are limited, it’s not like we’re working with a portable version of After Effects here. Slap on a wipe, crossfade, fade to/from black, make it sepia, negative or black and white and that’s just about it.
Whenever you do add some sort of transition, effect or title to the timeline the phone takes a bit of time to render it so that you see it in the preview window, only the app doesn’t give you any indication that it’s busy doing something and to hold on a second before you try to do anything else.
I found that it’s generally easier to work with the app in landscape mode as it gives you a wider view of the timeline and makes it a little easier to work with clips. It also puts the play, fast forward and rewind controls off to the left instead of overlaid on the preview window.
Movie Studio can export your project into a .mp4 file at three different resolutions (all the way up to 1920×1080) and three different qualities. You’re not gonna find any fancy bitrate settings or the ability to completely customize the resolutions (which amount to widescreen 480p, 720p and 1080p). The process doesn’t take too long, maybe a few minutes. I have found that the final movies don’t necessarily render correctly if you add too many transitions or effects and they tend to lose audio sync. You’ll see a couple examples of short videos I made in Move Studio at the end of this post.
It seems that if you have no experience with higher-end video editing software you might get a bit lost as to what to do in Movie Studio. There’s not much official help readily apparent on the web, which is a bit surprising since this is a program that clearly needs a tutorial to help out new users. I guess it is possible that if you just keep playing with it you’ll figure things out in time. Either way, it’s not something that they have to include in the software but it’s definitely a welcomed addition and something fun to play around with.
I’ve embedded a couple videos here so you can see the general quality of what Movie Studio spits out. Neither one of these is all that interesting nor are they going to blow anyone’s socks off. They were both rendered at 1080p, High Quality.
First a cut down of a single video file that I recorded on New Year’s Eve where I added a fade in, title and fade out with a couple cuts in between:
Second, a video of a shuffleboard game I played on Monday where I added a fade in, two crossfade transitions and a fade out:
I hope this gives you a decent idea of what you can expect in Movie Studio, available in the Android operating system 3.0 and above.
Got any tips or videos you made? Share them in the comments!