Five free video apps for iPhone filmmakers

In these berserk days of Mars landings and Large Hadron Colliders, there's still something amazing about being able to shoot and edit movies with a phone. The right apps can turn an iPhone into a pocketable production house, allowing you to shoot video, trim your clips, add effects and filters, record voice-overs, add music, and publish a short film. Your fingers and your footage never have to leave the phone.

What's even more amazing is that you can do all that for free if you get the following apps. If you're looking for some good no-cost options for shooting, editing, enhancing, and sharing short films from an iOS device, here are a few of my favorites.

Create and share quick clips with Viddy

Viddy's sharing feed is a lot like Instagram's.

A video doesn't need to be long to be entertaining. In fact, if your video's running time is very short, it's also less likely to be boring. For proof, you should check out the 5 Second Films site.

If you want to shoot and share your own extremely short projects, Viddy is the quickest and easiest way to get started. This app combines aspects of Twitter (bite-size content) and Instagram (creative filters and friend feeds), then applies those traits to video content. There's a 15-second limit for any video shared on Viddy; you can record your video using the app itself or import a longer project from your Camera Roll, then cut it down to size.

Within the Viddy editor, you can add Instagram-like filters and short music clips to your video. Once your mini-film is ready to go, you can share it via Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Tumblr, as well as Viddy's own network.

Viddy's social network component also works a lot like Instagram or Twitter. You can follow certain users, comment on friends' videos, and apply tags to your own videos so that they show up in topical feeds. Videos you shoot within Viddy are also saved to your Camera Roll, which means you can use the bite-size chunks in longer-form projects later.

Capture super-slow-motion and 60fps video with SloPro

SloPro lets you put video in super-slow-motion after you record it.

I also wrote about SloPro in our recent story about free iPhone camera apps, and it's a useful download for anyone who wants to record fast-action sequences. Even if you're not interested in the app's super-slow-motion effects, it's good to have SloPro's 720p/60fps recording feature in the mix for capturing smoother footage.

SloPro's marquee feature is its ability to record video, then slow down the clip's playback to a simulated 1000fps. The results and effects are impressive, especially once you consider that the shutter isn't actually firing that fast. Instead, SloPro records your video at 720p/60fps and uses a frame-rendering process called "Optical Flow" to simulate the super-slow-motion 1000fps effect. You also have the option of playing your clip back at a simulated 500fps, 240fps, 150fps, or 120fps.

One useful tip for using SloPro is to capture all your footage with the app's slow-motion feature turned off. Then, once you capture the clip, you can use the SloPro editor to select portions of your video to play back in slow motion.

The free version of SloPro has its fair share of limitations. Once you capture a clip, it has a "SloPro" watermark at the bottom of the clip, and you can only view it within the SloPro app or upload it to YouTube or Facebook. You can't save the video to your Camera Roll or import it into a video editor unless you pay $3.99 for the "Pro Upgrade" version.

Add expensive-looking effects for free with Action Movie FX

I'd be willing to wager that if you're reading an article about free apps, you probably don't have a multi-million-dollar budget for staging full-scale explosions. You can still be the poor man's Michael Bay by using the Action Movie FX app from J.J. Abrams-owned Bad Robot Interactive. It lets you add expensive-looking special effects to your videos—mostly of the blowing-things-up variety—to your videos for no cost whatsoever.

There are five effects to choose from in the free version of the app, and you can bulk up your effects arsenal via in-app purchases; there are six two-packs of additional effects available for 99 cents each. The free effects should be enough to get you going, as they'll let you add missile attacks, rock slides, falling boulders, flipping cars, and otherworldly light shows to your videos.

The main limitation with Action Movie FX is that you need to record video using the app itself; there's no support for importing clips you've shot outside of the app. Adding the effects is a dead-simple process. First, you choose an effect to use from the main menu. When you're recording, a set of crosshairs overlaid on your video lets you know where the effect of your choice will appear.

After you're done recording, you select when the effects kick in by placing an "FX Start" icon anywhere on the video timeline. Then you just wait a few seconds for the app to process your video so that you can preview your clip. Once the magic is complete, you have the option of saving it to your Camera Roll, e-mailing a .MOV version of the video to friends, or posting it to Facebook.

If you line up the crosshairs correctly, the results are really impressive. Action Movie FX is also a go-to app for quick-and-easy video pranks. Nothing spices up a boring video of a fishing trip or a sightseeing tour like adding an unexpected rock slide at the end of it.

Edit your video and add music with Splice

If you'd rather not spring $4.99 for the iOS version of iMovie, you don't have to. Splice is a free video editor for iPhone that lets you sequence clips and still images, add titles and transitions, frame your project with borders, add sound effects and music, and save your clip to your Camera Roll.

Splice is full-featured for a free video-editing app. For example, there are a few transitions to choose from (crossfade, sliding door, and garage door transitions), and you can customize a "Ken Burns Effect" for panning across a still image in your video. The audio-editing interface supports two simultaneous tracks of sound, as well as a third audio track that lets you record a voice-over on the fly.

You can't expect miracles for free, however, and Splice has its fair share of compromises. For example, the maximum output for your video footage is 640-by-480 pixels. In my hands-on tests, Splice also crashed a couple of times while I was editing videos. On a positive note, when it did crash, the app never lost the most-recent changes to the project I was working on, making the glitches more of an inconvenience than a deal-breaker.

Create a voice-over video or slide show with Videolicious

Like Viddy, Videolicious is another app with a time limit for clips, but it has a more generous cap of one minute. The main draw with this app is that it makes recording voice-overs for video clips and still-image slideshows about as easy as it gets. This is a useful app for anyone who wants to film quick tutorials, mini-documentaries, or record on-the-fly voiceovers for animated and live-action sequences. You can also create test videos that don't make any sense, like this one.

Once you launch Videolicious, you're asked to pick a movie or a sequence of images from your Camera Roll (if you pick a video clip longer than a minute, the Videolicious project will cut off at the one-minute mark). Once that's done, the app asks you to record a video of yourself talking about the footage you've chosen.

While you're recording your video/voice-over clip, you can advance to the next still image in your sequence by tapping thumbnails on the right side of the screen; in other words, you're editing your clip and recording your V.O. simultaneously. At the outset of your recording, you can elect to have a brief intro of yourself on camera or you can launch right into the video/slideshow by tapping on the thumbnail before you start recording.

The next step involves selecting a piece of music to run under your clip. Videolicious includes nine free pieces of music with the app ranging from high-energy techno to smooth jazz, and the app also lets you import your own music during this step.

The resulting minute-long video is saved to your Camera Roll with a Videolicious graphic appended to the end of it; it also uploads your clip to Videolicious's own hosting/sharing service. After you're done, you have the option of sending a link to your video via Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, or e-mail

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