YouTube's online video editor has been around for several years, but it's not heavily promoted on the site, and it often gets overlooked by people wanting a basic tool to spruce up their footage. It shouldn't, though, because it's surprisingly capable. Here's how to get the most out of it.
The YouTube editor lets you cut up and stitch together clips, as well as drop in music, titles, and transitions, and because it runs in your browser you can use it from any computer with no extra software required.
It's perfect for making simple adjustments to your videos without having to pay for extra software or handle any advanced settings. Head to www.youtube.com/editor in your browser to get started. And once you're there, follow these simple tips and tricks.
Adding and splitting clips
You can create a new project from the Project drop-down menu at the top of the screen—you'll notice thumbnails of all your uploaded videos on the right-hand side. Drag any clip down into the editing area to work on it, just as you would in a desktop editor.
If you have several clips you want to combine—you're creating a summer holiday mega-cut, perhaps—then drag new clips into the timeline at the appropriate point. The Quick fixes screen appears automatically, but you can get back to the main view by clicking on the cross in the top right corner.
Hover over any of the clips you've imported and click the scissors icon to create a cut. You'll be prompted to select the point at which the cut is made, then you'll see your two separated clips on the timeline. To remove a section, click the small cross in the top right-hand corner. Clips can also be trimmed using the blue borders that appear to the left and right — click and drag to trim a clip from the start or the end.
The Quick fixes window we mentioned earlier appears whenever you select a clip in the timeline. Use the sliders to adjust brightness and contrast levels, or tick Auto-fix to have YouTube use its best judgement. You can add slow motion, stabilize shaky videos and even rotate them.
The Filters tab will be familiar to anyone who's used a desktop video editor in the past, or indeed to anyone who's used Instagram. Again, the emphasis is on quick and easy effects without a mass of options to wade through. Click on any filter to apply it; if you prefer, you can see a side-by-side preview by ticking the box underneath.
The Text tab does exactly what you would expect, and you can set font style, color, size, and background accordingly. You can't limit the text to a certain section of your clip, but you could split up the video into chunks (as described above) and then only turn on text for one of them. The Audio tab enables you to adjust the volume level of the associated audio.
Add photos and music
Photo montages are no problem for YouTube's editor. Back on the main screen, click the camera icon to drop in pictures from your Google account or your local hard drive. You get most of the same options with photos as you do with video clips, so you can trim, cut, filter and add text in the same way.
It's a handy tool for mixing in photos and clips to create one single video but you can also use the feature to drop in title slides you've created in a different app. Adding presentation slides is another option.
The quaver musical note icon on the main menu reveals the options for adding music to your project. Unfortunately, you can't upload tracks from your own music library, but you can choose from a large selection of pre-approved licensed music from some lesser-known artists. Drag any track down into the timeline to use it, where you can adjust its length and volume accordingly.
Transitions and titles
The transitions and titles options are very simple to use. Drag any of the thumbnails down into the timeline—either between two clips or on top of one particular clip—to apply the effect.
The transitions include wipes, slides and fades, and in some cases you might get one or two options associated with the transition (such as the direction of the slide effect). You can easily change the length of each transition by dragging the blue sliders at each side, but you're limited to some extent by the length of the previous and subsequent clips.
The titles presented by the editor are essentially templates for the text feature we looked at earlier. There are some fade and slide effects that aren't possible when using the text tool on its own, but you can't change the speed or direction of these extra effects.
Use the magnifying glass icon down in the right-hand corner to zoom in and out of your project — this is particularly useful when you're trying to cut or trim scenes based on a very specific point.
Both the audio you add over your clips and the individual clips themselves have independent volume controls, so use these to change the balance between the sound you've recorded and the sound laid on top.
Hit the Publish button and your movie masterpiece is saved as a new video in your YouTube account. No permanent changes are made to the original clips you've used, which remain in the same state as they were before.
It's not likely to challenge Adobe Premiere anytime soon, but most of us don't need that level of editing control. YouTube's editor is simple, effective, and runs in any browser. It's improved a lot since it first appeared too, so keep an eye on it for future upgrades.