Make Movies, Not Migraines

Use these free iOS and Android apps to produce high-quality video projects.

By Elijah Ammen


Video projects used to be simple—even if the results were terrible. You popped a VHS into the camera and taped over each scene until it was perfect. Now, with the advent of the smartphone, everyone has a high-definition camera in their pocket with a slew of editing apps. More than that—in a world of technology and social media, video literacy has become an expectation. The trouble is filtering through the dozens of available apps and finding the ones that fit your project and your class.

These recommendations are organized from the least to most complex. All are available on iOS, and most are also on Android.

Social Snippets

The majority of video apps are centered around social media apps. While this raises some privacy issues, it also allows collaboration over distance. By sharing with other users or using a class-specific hashtag, students can work outside the classroom and then use the time in-class to review and discuss the projects.

  • Instagram (iOS/Android)
    • Although this app is best known for its pictures and filters, the developers added videos up to fifteen seconds with the same filters and editing options. The chances are that everyone in the class already knows how to use the app already—it’s the ubiquitous social media app that can be shared with a lot of other social media sites.
  • Vine (iOS/Android)
    • While shorter than Instagram (six seconds), the looping video format has made Vine incredibly popular, especially with scenes that are funnier with repetition. It is also much easier to download the videos than Instagram if you want to edit the videos later. The short format also teaches young filmmakers to keep their takes brief.
  • Viddy (iOS/Android)
    • Essentially the same format as Instagram, this program allows you to film multiple clips and reorganize them if necessary. It also allows for private accounts.
  • Social Cam (iOS/Android)
    • This app offers essentially the same features as Instagram and Viddy, but focuses more on the locations—tagging video locations and allowing you to make friends and find videos from the same areas.

Mixing it Up

Once you have the basics down, you can play with basic editing and rearranging. There are quite a few apps that provide the next level for your video projects. Most of these provide pre-fabricated layouts that you can use to plug in your own footage.

  • MixBit (iOS/Android)
    • This is a pretty new app by the same developers as Youtube and it continues to improve. I personally use this with my journalism classes to allow students to shoot high-resolution video and reorganize the clips to create a much longer video. It is very user-friendly and runs more smoothly than most editing apps. While each clip is around ten seconds, the entire video can be much longer. The best part is that it allows for collaboration between users, so members in a group can borrow clips from each other.
  • Magisto (iOS/Android)
    • The video formats are pretty much pre-packaged music videos where you can plug in your own footage. While the originality is not great, the end result looks professional and requires very little work.
  • Montaj (iOS/Android soon)
    • Like Magisto, this can be used to quickly create montages with video filters and music by shaking your phone. You also have the option of rearranging footage you already have on your phone or shooting five-second clips and organizing the footage.
  • Vyclone (iOS/Android)
    • This app allows collaboration between users. It’s designed to allow multiple angles of the same event by connecting people by a social network. This can be helpful if students are creating a video at home and want to share footage to work on outside of class.

Taking Your Time

Honestly, if you are attempting to do significant video editing, it’s better to just download the footage onto a computer and edit on an actual program. Using an in-depth editing app can be frustrating and often use too much space on your device. However, there are several apps that allow basic editing—cutting clips, transitions, music, and some filters. Cute CUT (iOS/Android), Cinefy (iOS), and Splice (iOS/Android) offer about the same level of editing. Videoliscious (iOS) is the most user-friendly and allows you to record and use previously shot footage from your device. The interface is smoother, and while it takes up a lot of space on your device, it is the easiest to use for in-depth editing.

No matter what the project is, remember that story and substance are more important than flashy effects and filters. For every video your students work on, have them pre-plan and outline their project. Use the same process as you do with writing—brainstorming, outlining, drafting, and revising. No matter what the project—always have a positive audience to review and critique the work.