JayCut: Video Editing on a Chromebook

Wondering if you can edit video on a Chromebook? I’ve been wondering the same thing. So, I decided to check out JayCut, one of a couple options for free video editors for Chrome. I was initially attracted to JayCut over the other video editing apps because of its familiar interface. As you can see from the screenshots, its appearance is highly similar to other non-linear video editors like iMovie, Windows Movie Maker, Sony Vegas, and Final Cut.

But is it just a pretty interface? Let’s find out.

Review

This free app in the Chrome Web Store allows you to upload your videos, still images, and audio clips into your personal library/media bin. From there, you can drag the elements into the timeline, move things around, slice/razor-blade clips, add effects and transitions, add text, and apply image adjustments and filters. The timeline has has five tracks or layers: two tracks for video clips (including audio), a third, separate overlay track for text, a fourth for transitions, and a fifth track for additional audio (like background music or voiceovers).

Uploading my media files hardly took any time at all, and as soon as clips were uploaded, they were ready to use — there was no additional processing time. Alternatively, rather than uploading videos, you can record straight from your Chromebook webcam and microphone.

Video Editing Features

JayCut has more available effects and transitions than you might expect in such a simple video editor. Since it’s a web app, I actually didn’t expect to be able to change settings like brightness, saturation, and so on, but all the functionality is there. You can change the speed of clips for slow-mo or speed-up effects, and there are a couple “grain” and “old film” controls as well. As an added bonus, there are a decent amount of drawing tools to draw directly on/over your video, if you’re so inclined.

There’s also a chroma key function you can use for green-screen work. You simply eye-drop the color you want to key out, and then drag the sensitivity slider to fine-tune the results. There’s no live updating of the image, so you have to click the “preview” button to see the final edition. Not a bad trade-off for chroma-keying video in an app.

It’s an attractive tool-set. We were only disappointed by the amount of text effects in JayCut. You can customize the font and color, but there are only about six options for movement (standard, fly in, dissolve, subtitle/lower third etc.) and I couldn’t find a way to fine-tune the positioning of the text over the image. Still, if you’re just editing simple videos on the go on your Chromebook, these options will likely be more than sufficient.

Speed

Surprisingly, previewing and exporting your video, at least in my testing, didn’t take much longer than rendering SD footage on a quad-core desktop (about 5-6 seconds to preview the full movie). This is because, unlike in Windows and Mac editors, all of the video processing actually takes place on the JayCut server rather than your Chromebook. This means JayCut will work the same on all Chromebooks regardless of specs, and you can run other apps simultaneously without affecting the processing time.

Uploading speed will depend on your connection, but since JayCut is meant for SD videos, it shouldn’t make a difference. Also, rather surprisingly, it didn’t take any time at all for video and audio files to process after I uploaded them into my project.

Exporting/Uploading Your Video

When you like the results of your editing work, you can choose one of three delivery options: You can download it for a mobile device, download it to your computer (or any storage location, like an external drive), or you can upload it directly to YouTube.

If you’re downloading the movie rather than uploading it to YouTube, you can choose any of three codec/format options, Flash (.flv, H.264), Quicktime (.mp4, H.264), or AVI (.avi, XViD). When you’ve selected a destination and a format, the JayCut server goes to work processing your movie. If you’re not signed in (you don’t have to register to use the app), you can just enter an e-mail address and you’ll receive an e-mail when your video is ready. To render a 2 minute and 30 second video, it took approximately 6 minutes to receive the download link to my video, though just like YouTube, Vimeo, and Facebook, processing times will vary depending on the server load.

The options for exporting your video are more than I expected from the first online video editor I’ve ever used, but are still limited by the fixed resolution settings. If future versions of JayCut would just give more output controls, it could compete with programs like iMovie. On the other hand, its lack of these complex output controls makes it much more “easy-to-use” for both amateur editors and people who have never used video editing software.

Also at this time, while you can export your movie as many times in as many ways as you want, you cannot save or load “projects” to return to at a later date. That’s probably because JayCut isn’t meant for ultra-complex video editing projects, but we’d still like to see some way of saving timelines for future editing (Of course, you can always leave the app running, close your Chromebook lid, walk away, and come back to your timeline later).

One last note that we can’t stress the importance of enough: Unlike a lot of limited, watered down video editing apps we’ve used (especially some of the iPhone/iPad apps), this one for the Chromebook feels like you’re using a real video editor. All the shortcut keys work the way you’d expect; you can drag items wherever you want, hitting backspace or delete removes the highlighted clips, and so on. If you’ve used any video editing software before, all the controls are exactly (or near) where you expect them to be.

Overall

JayCut will not replace an editor like Final Cut or Sony Vegas by any means, but it can certainly be used in place of Windows Movie Maker and, to an extent, iMovie. For what it is, a web video editing app, it’s got surprising capability, a well-designed interface and lots of useful tools. If you want the ability to edit together home videos, vacation videos, webcam videos, and vlogs on your Chromebook, and easily share them on Youtube or other mobile devices, JayCut is the app for you. Best of all, it’s completely free.

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About Persephone

I write the Chrome OS App Reviews for Chromebook Ratings. I also do a lot of other things.