Depending on how experienced and entrenched you are in video editing, you may or may not have heard of or used LumaFusion, a video editing app designed for phones and iPads.
The Two Camps
We’re going to get into the meat of what LumaFusion is, but for the sake of this quick overview, I’m going to divide the editing world into two camps. Let’s call them “From the Top Down” and “From the Bottom Up.” If you’re in the From the Top Down camp, like me, you may have not really heard much about editing on your iPhone or iPad. For editors and content creators who utilize professional tools like AVID Media Composer, Adobe Creative Cloud, Final Cut Pro and Resolve, why would we care about editing on our phones or iPads? I’m going to quickly disavow this mindset because I’ve discovered over the past couple of years that this mindset isn’t aligned with what’s currently happening in the world of media production.
If you’re a beginner, hobbyist, neophyte or even a professional media person but your primary job function may not be video editing, I’m going to consider you in the “From the Bottom Up” camp. People in this camp probably approach editing more from a necessity standpoint. They may or may not be paid to edit by their company, organization or clients. They may want to create content inexpensively and quickly for their social media feeds or for in-house communication where having a pro editor using professional editing tools might just be overkill. Most significantly, the “From the Bottom Up” camp includes kids. Students, high school and college kids who are definitely becoming mainstream content creators, especially on platforms like TikTok, Snapchat, YouTube and Facebook (although between us, we all know that Facebook is now for old people as kids largely ignore Facebook these days).
Whether you’re in the first camp or the latter, it’s important to not stay entrenched with your existing mindset because our world of media creation changes almost daily. Sure, Hollywood, the streamers and television are moving straight ahead using the same tools and production workflows they always have, albeit updated, but these businesses, which often have budgets that veer into the tens or hundreds of millions of dollars, are but a tiny speck in the overall world of media production and content creation. Do you work in Hollywood? Or, more likely, do you produce video for clients, yourself or your social media channels?
I have very mixed feelings about editing media on a Phone or an iPad. My main question is why would someone try to do something as precise and creative as video editing on a 4-inch phone screen? Why would you want to edit video on a screen as small as an iPad when we have MacBooks and Macbook Airs that are only nominally larger and heavier than a regular-sized iPad? With my bias, I made a conscious decision to take a relatively unbiased look at LumaFusion. For those of you who are not familiar with it, LumaTouch originally released their editing application, LumaFusion, way back in 2016. So this editing application is fairly mature, having been on the market for half a decade. LumaFusion 3.0 was just released, which was what grabbed my attention when going over my list of press releases a few weeks ago. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
What Is LumaFusion?
As you’ve already figured out if you’ve read this far, LumaFusion 3.0 is an editing application designed to let users perform professional-level editing from the comfort of their own Phone or iPad screen. LumaFusion is a surprisingly capable mobile editing tool that allows users to perform more sophisticated editing on mobile devices than programs like iMovie or Adobe Premiere Rush. It costs $29 in the Apple App Store. After downloading and setting up the app on both my iPhone and iPad, I decided to watch a few YouTube tutorial videos so I could get the lay of the land. The design and interface are fairly intuitive of you’ve edited before. Holding down the command key, for instance, brings up an overlay shortcut guide, giving you keyboard shortcuts to help you more efficiently use the interface. I was happy to see that the same main three tape transport shortcuts, the J, K and L keys, have the same function as they do in FCP X, Resolve and most other editing software made in the past decade.
How Does LumaFusion Work?
I don’t have the room to go into all of the functional areas of the app, but I’ll cover a few observations. The main limitations for many users will be that video tends to have relatively huge file sizes and most phones or iPads don’t tend to have a large amount of storage. How does LumaFusion get around this limitation? The app allows you to play back media from an external SSD. But there’s a catch. LumaFusion saves the entire clip that’s used on the timeline. If you use a few seconds of a one-minute clip, LumaFusion caches the entire video on the Phone or iPad’s internal storage. You don’t have to import media though as the app handles that for you. After you’ve edited and exported the video, you can delete this cached media from LumaFusion. If you need to edit the project again, you must connect to the media storage drive and the app will download all of the necessary media. I found this process to work reasonably well although you do lose some time, but then again, I lose plenty of time importing and optimizing media with FCP X or Resolve too, so that part isn’t that different. Once you have imported the media into LumaFusion, it’s stored in the Cloud too so you can work remotely anywhere you have an internet connection.
I found the controls and interface to be mostly intuitive. Trying to edit on the 4-inch screen on my iPhone was much more challenging than using the 10.2-inch screen on my 2020 iPad, but that’s to be expected. The interface swaps screens when you go to apply the key-framable video effects and transitions. LumaFusion 3.0 marks the debut of the Lock & Load Stabilizer from CoreMelt. This is a fully-featured shot stabilizer that was made for FCP X but then ported over to LumaFusion. There’s a new 11 band graphic equalizer for tweaking your audio, although mixing audio using earbuds isn’t really optimal but probably good enough for some projects. LumaFusion 3.0 adds a numeric keypad input for many controls that used to only be available on sliders, allowing for much more precise application of parameters.
LumaFusion In Use
I didn’t try it, but an external monitor can not only be used as a duplicate of the iPad screen but can also be used as a full-screen reference monitor. I didn’t own an iPad keyboard, but just using the app for a couple of hours showed me that if I were to try editing real work, purchasing a keyboard for the iPad would be a must. I found editing on my iPhone screen to be more of a novelty than a useful tool, although in a pinch, I could definitely do a rough assembly with cuts and simple effects. On the other hand, editing on the 10-inch iPad screen was actually pretty nice, and as I spent more time with the app, the editing experience moved from novelty (Wow, hey, I’m editing on an iPad!), to more of a normal, usable editing workflow. It’s still tricky being that my main editing tools are FCP X and Resolve. Throwing in a third editing program means that you find yourself trying to perform certain operations as you would in FCP X or Resolve and the LumaFusion app just scratches its head or does an operation that wasn’t what I intended.
Let’s Get Philosophical
While I’m not going to be ditching my 2020 27-inch iMac for editing on my iPad anytime soon, I did find that editing on my relatively inexpensive iPad was a viable alternative to shelling out thousands and thousands of dollars for a new 16-inch MacBook Pro. I’m not generally required to edit on my now ancient 2011 MacBook Pro anymore, and the thought of laying out $5,000 plus for a hot new MacBook Pro has been distinctly unappealing since I rarely need to edit on the go. Taking a step back from my own needs and my own work situation, if we examine LumaFusion objectively, it’s kind of an amazing achievement.
For $30, it’s capable of editing 1080 and even 4K footage with most of the tools you’re used to from your more professional editing applications. Sure, it’s not going to have all of the features, but as we all know, probably 85 to 90 percent of editing is fades, cuts and dissolves with some basic audio mixing. You’re not going to find LumaFusion to be the right tool for editing long-form or complex projects unless it’s literally all you have. You may or may not feel comfortable editing client content for paying jobs on it. But if you dig a little, you can see where this tool is one more step in the democratization of video and media production. I found LumaFusion to be particularly good for experimentation. It would be great for on-set use in slamming together a rough assembly on set to see if a sequence of shots worked, check screen direction, eyelines, etc. I don’t personally have much use for mobile editing, but it seems that a large portion of the rest of the world does.
I’ll Be Recommending LumaFusion
Most significantly, this app, when paired with good ideas and creativity, is fairly unlimited as far as basic editing. Phone video has become good enough that someone with a great idea for a short film, TikTok video or even a short-form music video could literally shoot the project and edit and deliver it all from the same device, and with some skill, the end result would look completely professional. In our live stream company where we do remote recordings for livestreams almost daily, we’ve had clients remote into us live from their iPhone 11 or 12, and it’s been an educational process to see how good the cameras in phones have become and they’re improving almost weekly.
Visual storytelling is a language and many people now have access to inexpensive tools like these to share stories with. I personally find it exciting that when people frequently ask me, “Which camera should I buy, I want to start making videos for XYZ need?” I can now heartily recommend that they buy an iPhone 12. And when they ask me, “Which editing program should I buy to edit my footage?” I can now tell them that they don’t need to buy an expensive computer or editing software since they can literally use their Phone or iPad and download LumaFusion, watch a few YouTube tutorials and start editing their own videos. The tools have become cheap enough, available enough and good enough to where people don’t have the get bogged down in the minutiae of how to make the gear work. They can concentrate on their storytelling, writing, shooting and lighting and, most importantly, their editing using tools like LumaFusion. I’m glad I downloaded the app as it’s fun to use and I’ll be exploring more with it. You should consider doing the same.