Advanced video editing is coming to Android

In testing for my Galaxy Tab 10.1 full review, I found Samsung’s three inch increase in screen size over their original seven-inch Tab to provide a negligible improvement in the enjoyment of reading ebooks, browsing the web and navigating the OS. I enjoyed a significantly better gaming experience and spent more time watching videos than I had on the first tab. But where the 10.1 really piqued my interest was in the process of shooting and editing movies.

As many of you have discovered, holding a large tablet at arm’s length bring and immediacy to semi-serious video work that handheld cameras, and certainly phones, are lacking. With such a large display, the jump from that early, live preview to a larger screen is much easier to visualize. Blocking scenes, sensing the full impact of a strong establishing shot and taking in the full scope of a broad pan are easier and more enjoyable than they would be on many other piece of consumer and even prosumer gear. Not to mention that the form factor forces you to hold the equipment differently and therefore approach the shot in a new way. I’m no professional filmmaker, but I’ve shot enough video to recognize that tablets have the potential to change the way we as consumers and artists will conceptualize and shoot our videos. And with Final Cut Pro X taking such a beating at the moment (even Conan O’Brien‘s crew delivered some hefty blows), now seems like a good time to discus video editing software.

Up until Google I/O in the first half of May, editing video on Android was a sorry affair. I’m blown away with what I can do on my mobile device these days, but, fascination with modern technology aside, Android phones and tablets seem light years behind the desk and laptop in the video editing department. iOS video editing can’t match computer editing either, but has been the clear choice for those who want to edit on their phones and/or tablets. Google I/O changed that, or at least, I should say, officially set the wheels in motion for what I hope will be a fairly short game of catch up–with an official announcemnt regarding the availability of Movie Studio, previously demoed at MWC. Suddenly, Android users were able to edit video with an experience on par with ReelDirector for iOS. Movie Studio doesn’t provide the features of iMovie for iOS as of yet, but the race is definitely on. And with the two biggest names in mobile going head-to-head, I think it’s reasonable to anticipate a flurry of new features in the coming year. But who those features are targeted at will be dictated by the buying public.

I don’t suspect that MTV darling directors of glitzy music videos or your local car commercial editing house will toss away a camera that costs more than their car in favor of a tablet anytime soon. But I can see how local bands, film students and aspiring or even professional documentarians might embrace the cheaper technology. We already have seen short films shot on an iPhone and high quality comedy sketches shot with Androids. But it seems that all but those who mention their exclusive use of mobile phone equipment in the product’s tagline are dumping the video over to their computer when the serious work of editing needs to be done. While clip trimming, basic effects, simple titles and tossing in a picture here and there are possible on Androids at the moment, there isn’t a lot of room for being inspired by the editing process itself. Sure, there are those that embrace limitations and find that creative solutions to simple problems more artistic than a fancy plugin any day. But that doesn’t negate the need or market for higher level video editing on mobile platforms, which is what I think we can expect to see sometime next year.

I think a vast majority of the negative backlash to Apple’s release of Final Cut Pro X comes from working professionals who rely on earlier versions of the application to proficiently produce top quality video on schedule. Not being able to open projects created in previous releases is a source of extreme frustration and disappointment. Aside from this crippling feature, revamping the way a video editor’s timeline works–especially one so popular in our media–is a bit mind boggling. To a good chunk of these pro users, Apple just released iMovie Pro, with a price tag more suited to that title. But for me, a far more casual video editor, Final Cut Pro X is an appealing purchase. And I can’t help but wonder if Apple’s transition was designed not only to appeal more to the general consumer, but to gear up for a major overhaul in the way people edit video on iPad, or at least exchange projects between mobile devices and home computers.

Google has clearly set their attention on mobile video production, and at some point, they will attempt to take the lead before Apple. In order to do so, some major advancements will need to occur in Movie Studio. I think Google will be playing catch up over the next year or so, but that’s a good thing. If Android doesn’t surpass iOS in video editing by 2013, we will at least have seen agressive moves by both companies and will benefit from the work of each. So no matter which of them comes out on top in the next twelve or eighteen months, you can bet that we will view mobile movie production from a different perspective when the next Google I/O rolls around.

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