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The mobile video secret weapon

The mobile video secret weapon
By Dan Mason • Issue #12 • View online
🎬Why I switched from VN to CapCut for mobile video training.
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CapCut and VN have good things in common, and a couple of key differences
CapCut and VN have good things in common, and a couple of key differences
Those who have joined my mobile video training over the past couple of years know all about an editing app called VN.
Launched in 2018, VN (Vlog Now) was a breath of fresh air. For the first time I could train journalists and creatives, using iOS or Android devices, with a free app that did a proper job.
But during our NLNG Change Your Story programme in Lagos earlier this month I used a different app: CapCut.
I’ve been testing it for a few months, but crash-testing it with 30 journalists armed with mobiles ranging from new iPhones to ancient Androids was another story. CapCut worked like a charm 🏅
At first glance, VN and CapCut bear many similarities. Both have all the features needed to create promos, explainers and narrative stories. Cutaways, picture-in-picture, title animations, masks, keyframes, chroma key, music and voiceovers in vertical, square and horizontal formats … take your pick. While VN carries a few unobtrusive ads (mainly for its own products), CapCut is ad-free.
The main difference is that VN adopts a multi-track approach, with separate tracks for main video, cutaways, titles and audio. VN also offers a good desktop app for Mac, which I featured in a recent run-down of free video editors for Mac and PC.
CapCut reimagines the timeline to fit everything into and around one track. Titles and cutaways (called overlays in CapCut) shrink almost out of sight when not active. When you get the hang, I think it’s easier to use and looks cleaner.
VN has plenty of transitions and effects. But the number of options in CapCut is mind-blowing. You can even ‘enhance’ face and body shapes and turn yourself into a speaking cartoon character.
But that wasn’t why I switched to CapCut …
The CapCut timeline, left, with cutaways and music added looks less cluttered than VN
The CapCut timeline, left, with cutaways and music added looks less cluttered than VN
First and foremost, there are differences between the iOS and Android versions of VN, especially when it comes to titles. In the iOS version, titles come with motion presets. The Android version leaves you fiddling with keyframes. Not ideal for mixed-device training.
Second, nestled among the landslide of effects in CapCut is a secret weapon: auto-subtitles 🎉.
One of the easiest-to-use subtitle tools I’ve come across is baked into the app. It nailed regional Nigerian accents without a problem but, sad to report, failed with Welsh.
🎬 Here’s a short video on how auto-subtitles work in CapCut.
CapCut was a start-up purchased by ByteDance, owners of TikTok, in 2018. After launching a Chinese version called Jianying, it hit the English-speaking market last year.
Given the TikTok association, you might raise an eyebrow over data privacy. I did. CapCut does collect ‘identifier’ data, as stated in the App Store. But then so do others, and there’s nothing to suggest malicious intent. You should just be aware. Here’s CapCut’s privacy statement.
Meanwhile, CapCut is a brilliant app that makes creating quality social media video more fun, for more people, for free.
Free Canva (for non-profits) 🎉
During this week’s NUJ Training Wales mobile video workshop (using CapCut 😎), I briefly covered how to create YouTube thumbnails and outros using the mighty Canva.
Thanks to Alexia Jones for the reminder that Canva Pro, currently £100 per year, is free for non-profits (with exceptions). Great tip!👌
Here’s how to enjoy Canva’s premium features for free if you are a charitable organisation.
Thanks for reading 👏
🌍 I’ve been fortunate to work with amazing creatives and causes around the world as a trainer and educator. I get lots of ‘how do I …’ questions, so I started this newsletter to share the answers.
If you enjoy it, please share it! And if you have a question, suggestion or useful stuff you’d like to share, get in touch: 🔗
⭐️ Main image background: Christian Wiediger/Unsplash
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Dan Mason

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