WeVideo Makes Cloud Video Editing Look Like Kids’ Stuff

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the low-end video editing programs like iMovie and Pinnacle Studio. But there are some wrinkles that still need to be ironed out: I uncovered at least one technical bug and a few stylistic shortcomings in WeVideo, which I’ll detail in a minute.

But overall, the service works surprisingly well. The concept of cloud-based video editing is still so new that firing up WeVideo is a little like watching a dog play the piano: You don’t really listen to the notes— you’re simply amazed that it’s happening at all.

WeVideo started out life under a different name: Creaza Education. Using technology licensed from Creaza’s parent company, Oslo, Norway-based Inspera, programmers at Creaza built a whole package of multimedia tools for kids, including a brainstorming tool, an audio editor, a cartoon editor, and a video editor. The video tool proved especially popular; it’s got about 250,000 users in K-12 schools across 10 countries. Creaza pulled in Svendsen, a six-time startup founder with a background in online banking and financial trading, when they realized they had a potential general-market hit on their hands.

“The founders of the business came to me and they said, ‘Jostein, we have developed the world’s leading online video editor, but we are only selling it to kids in Europe. Why don’t you take a look and see if you could take it global?’ I took a look and it was amazing. I said, ‘If you are going to take it global, we shouldn’t be sitting in Oslo, we should be in Silicon Valley.'” The company re-incorporated as WeVideo earlier this year and moved to the Plug and Play Tech Center, the startup oasis in Sunnyvale, CA. (The Creaza tools are still available free at creazaeducation.com.)

Like every other video editor I know of, WeVideo employs a familiar three-box user interface. In the upper left, there’s an area for the building blocks of your video—your clips and still images and audio files. Along the bottom, there’s a timeline, with multiple tracks for video, audio, titles, and effects—this is where you put your clips in order, trim them for the right rhythm, and insert transitions such as cross-fades. And in the upper right, there’s a window where you can play a preview version of your video.

But there are two factors that make WeVideo so different from other editing programs. The first is that there’s no manual, or even a help menu. The program is sufficiently pared down that you can learn the whole thing from the tool tips that pop up the first time you use it.

The second factor is WeVideo’s responsiveness, which is an indirect result of its cloud architecture. In most video editing programs, you’re operating on the actual, full-resolution video files as you go. If you insert a special effect like a dissolve between two clips, you have to wait for the software to render the effect on your local machine before you can preview it. The secret to WeVideo—the thing that makes cloud-based video editing possible—is that you’re not working with the original files. Rather, you’re modifying proxy files, low-resolution representations of the actual clips, which you upload to Amazon’s servers before you begin. The video in the preview window is so low-res (only 320 x 240 pixels) that your browser can instantly render effects—think split screens or rotating titles or funky color alterations—that a normal video editing program would take seconds or minutes to process.

Svendsen demonstrated for me by previewing a video with a grid of nine clips running simultaneously, Brady Bunch-style, then adding a 10th on top. “Try running 10 blended videos without any delay on a desktop,” he says. “You cannot do it. That’s why most people say, ‘Holy shit, this is amazing.’ We’ve even had professional video editors at the Fox television network say that we are faster than their multi-million-dollar Avid editing suites.”

The hard computational work happens once you’re finished editing your project. At that point, your browser transmits a change log—a detailed list of the edits you made—and the actual rendering of your full-resolution video (up to 1080 x 1920 pixels) happens in the cloud. That part is pretty slow: my two-minute video above took about half an hour to render. But you can … Next Page »

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Wade Roush is the producer and host of the podcast Soonish and a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @soonishpodcast

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  • This is a pretty cool, and timely idea. With the availability level so high now, video is quickly becoming the standard to catching someone’s attention that a photo was generations ago. I’m interested to check it out and also see where the cloud-based model could be used to collaborate in more professional applications.

  • sluggh

    I keep getting Ken Burns fatigue. Fighting that as a new user myself.