CapCut Review | PCMag
Vine may be dead, but lightning-fast online videos have never been more popular. Even YouTube is trying to get in on the action with YouTube Shorts. But TikTok is the undisputed king of the genre and its Chinese parent company, ByteDance, seeks to expand its empire with CapCut. This free video editing app lets you create surprisingly robust little movies on your mobile device. It’s great for when 30 seconds just isn’t enough for your online filmmaking dreams.
Getting Started With CapCut
You can download CapCut for free on Android or iOS, but there’s no desktop version. I primarily tested the app on an iPad mini, as well as an older iPhone and Google Pixel phone. You don’t need a TikTok account (or any other type of account) to use the app. Once you launch CapCut, you can start using it immediately. That’s because, unlike TikTok, CapCut is purely a video editing app. There isn’t a social media component or video feed; in fact, you can’t subscribe to any profiles. I feel super unpopular the instant I open TikTok and get blasted by influencers, so I appreciate this different tone.
On the home screen, you’ll see a handful of important icons. Tap New Project to start editing with all the tools at your disposal or ShortCut to quickly make a video through a more streamlined process. Beneath those icons, you can browse your existing projects and tap them to resume editing or rename them. You’ll also find reusable video templates. Finally, a tiny icon in the upper-right corner lets you access a list of CapCut’s various features. The app has many different editing tools, so this easy reference guide comes in handy.
TikTok’s editing tools are serviceable, but basic. You can record yourself for up to three minutes, or upload and edit together existing videos and photos. Besides reordering the existing clips or adding some snazzy filters, sounds, and text overlays, there’s not much else you can do before you need to switch to a more advanced editing app. The most impressive TikTok videos have an overwhelming number of cuts.
If you prefer that simpler TikTok- or Dubsmash-style editing experience, turn to CapCut’s ShortCut option. In this mode, CapCut asks you about the videos and photos in your camera roll that you’d like to import into the project. The app then analyzes your clips and suggests an array of templates, each of which changes the music, pacing, and transitions. You can give your video a pop beat, disco groove, or urban funk flavor, for example. CapCut lets you choose between different songs in the licensed library or import sounds you record yourself.
If you dig into the full editing tools, though, CapCut is a noticeable step up for anyone who has chafed against TikTok’s limits. The process starts basically the same; you first choose the video and photos to import. Here, you can also add stock videos like neon heart animations, New Year’s celebrations, or big block letters that say “This Is My Vlog.”
From there, CapCut takes you to the editing timeline where you have far more control over the video compared with TikTok. Use the touch screen to seamlessly rearrange clips and tap on tools within the intuitive mobile interface. Not a weird gimmick like Plotagon, CapCut is more comparable to the mobile versions of entry-level video editing software like Apple iMovie, because of its convenient and casual (yet capable) editing tools.
Editing With CapCut
CapCut’s full editing suite has expected tools for cropping and trimming clips, adding text, and adjusting brightness and saturation. All the features from ShortCut, including templates and imported sounds, also carry over. You even get TikTok-style effects, filters, frames, and stickers. There are even more unique editing features for an app of this scale. Here are just a few.
Auto Captions: Let CapCut turn voice-over into subtitles
Body Effects: Slap an emoji face on a subject’s head that tracks their movements
Chroma Key: Remove background colors for a convincing green screen effect
Keyframe and Tracking: Create light animations, and manually set text or stickers to follow objects on screen.
3D Zoom: CapCut connects to its servers to intelligently turn your image into a 3D diorama. All images get deleted from the server once the effect is achieved.
Using all these features together, advanced users can produce legitimately cool movies. Even just messing around, I got laughing faces to circle my heavily retouched head over a clip of me solemnly riding a carousel while the audience whistled and my background slowly faded away.
Ironically, CapCut’s power is also almost its biggest weakness. At a certain point, you stop thinking “Wow, this is so much better than TikTok” and start saying “Maybe I should invest this time learning even better video editing software.” You may start to bump up against CapCut’s limits, such as its mobile-only app or single audio- and video-track operations (unless you work around them with overlays). Although CapCut’s 15-minute video limit is certainly better than TikTok’s three-minute limit, those 15 minutes fill up fast.
We’re not saying you should immediately dump CapCut for Adobe Premiere Pro, but Editors’ Choice pick iMovie does a superior job of balancing ease of use and enthusiast-level capabilities; it’s also free on Mac and iOS.
Exporting and Sharing
When you’re ready to export your video, remember to set the resolution and frame rate. CapCut then tells you the estimated file size, storage is limited by your device. CapCut goes up to 4K and 60 frames per second.
On my iPad and iPhone, I could also toggle Smart HDR, but this option wasn’t available on my Android test device. If you save the video to your device, iOS defaults to the MOV format, while Android defaults to the MP4 format. I didn’t see any way to change this default. Otherwise, I didn’t notice any other major differences between the two versions of the app. However, in the past, certain CapCut features have come to iOS and Android at different times, so that’s something to consider.
Alternatively, you can export videos directly to social media sites, such as Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp. You don’t need to link accounts, as CapCut has no accounts, but you must have those apps installed on your device. Unsurprisingly, you can also upload your creations directly to TikTok. That way, you can enjoy TikTok’s community with CapCut’s editing power. Uploading your creation to TikTok removes the CapCut watermark, too. ByteDance apparently doesn’t need the free advertisement on its own service. Otherwise, you must manually remove the watermark in your video timeline before you export. If your video exceeds TikTok’s time limit, however, you’ll have to edit it down to size in TikTok’s app.
If you’re a consumer-level video editor accustomed to your workflow in iMovie or other similar app, you probably shouldn’t switch to CapCut. However, if you’re a TikTok user looking to power up your mobile video editing prowess, CapCut is a no-brainer option. We’re this much closer to the next world-changing feature film coming to our phones from another phone.
The Bottom Line
From the makers of TikTok comes CapCut, a quick and easy way to edit TikTok-ready videos on your mobile device.
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