“Cute CUT could be brilliant, but it’s got a few too many moments where it lacks polish or features right now.”Free
Apple’s iMovie for iOS does a great job of making it easy to put together home movies quickly and efficiently – you can easily browse through multiple films and choose the right parts to stitch together into an impressive final video – but it’s really quite light on features. Cute CUT is an attempt to create something more serious, adding in an extra level of control and features that iMovie lacks – all designed to tempt the professional editor. It adds multi-track editing, the ability to import videos easily, custom transitions, drawing tools and much more. The problem is that while reaching beyond iMovie’s featureset, Cute CUT forgot to properly match it in the first place.
The interface is really well thought-out. You can choose to edit in landscape or portrait, and though experience made us default to landscape initially, portrait makes much better use of the space. A preview of your video sits at the top, with the multiple tracks of your timeline underneath. For those new to editing, having multiple tracks gives you more flexibility about how you put together a video. They’re a bit like layers in Photoshop – you can use a new track either to hide a previous one by covering it, or to build up multiple elements in one shot. Cute CUT lets you have two video tracks, meaning you use multi-track editing to quickly knock a video together, or you can have picture-in-picture. Though you’re limited to two video tracks, you can also add lots of photo tracks, letting you create video collages of multiple photos appearing simultaneously, all animating individually. It also lets you build up music and sound effects on top of what’s recorded with your videos, and add text. A logo at the left edge of each track tells you what type of media it contains, and you can tap that logo to add more to an existing track, or tap the plus to add new media on a new track. It all works really easily.
The little frustrations start showing when you begin to add your media. For example, if you choose to add videos over USB with iTunes’s file sharing feature, you don’t get any preview of the video – you just have to know which is the right one. You do get a preview if you choose a clip from the Camera Roll, but you can’t select only a section of it to import, unlike in iMovie. You’ll have to add it all to the timeline and then start trimming.
Once you’ve got some media on the timeline, you notice the other little things missing or that irritate. There’s no way to split clips, for example, which iMovie offers. There’s also no consistent snapping, so if you want to align things across multiple tracks, you’ll have to make good use of the playhead to line clips up – except the playhead moves itself around when you select and deselect clips, so there’s an infuriating amount of dragging it back to where you want it over and over. There are no audio waveforms for the clips, so while you can adjust the volume of individual clips to try and make them all match in loudness, you’ll have to do it by ear alone.
The ability to draw on the videos is good – you can draw freehand or with pre-defined shapes, but it feels a bit basic, and we were amazed there’s no arrow shape. It would be nice if your drawings animated in (beyond what’s available in the transitions), but that’s a fair bit to ask. More than that, a freeze-frame option would let you use the drawing tools better, stopping the video to highlight something, then carrying on.
Cute CUT’s big strength other than its multi-track editing is its transitions. It comes with a load of preset ones (such as having videos or photos slide in, grow in or fade in), or you can create custom ones by just taking the movement and transparency tools and having fun. You can create a cross dissolve by having two clips on different tracks and having one fade out at the same time as the other fades in. You can create a fade to colour by including a block colour behind the video and fading to that. There could be more here (there are no wipes, for example), but it’s worlds better than iMovie’s offerings.
There are two features missing from Cute CUT in particular that would help to get around some of its other absent features. There’s no crop tool, which would help for creating side-by-side video, but would also let you create your own (albeit hacky) wipe transitions. The other is the aforementioned ability to split clips. This would let you tweak small sections of a clip, such as lowering the audio for just a few seconds in the middle, giving you an approximation of finer control than what’s available.
Cute CUT’s interface works fairly well, but has its quirks. It’s mainly inconsistency that confuses, with some tasks being completed by tapping a ‘Done’ button at the top, and some by tapping a tick at the bottom. Some options can only be found by tapping and holding on icons, which is explained in the tutorial (though you have to hold for a surprisingly long time), but others involve tapping and holding on things you wouldn’t expect to. The gradient tool in the drawing set, for example, hides the ability to choose its colour behind the gradient sliders. Once you get used to everything, you’ll be fine, but even after days of working with Cute CUT, we still got a bit lost at times.
When you’ve finished your film, there are a few export options – you can send it to email, YouTube or Facebook, or save it to your Photo Library. But it only exports at 720p, even as a high-quality export. 1080p support would be a significant improvement. But we also found a major export bug – when we tried to export a film that had a soundtrack song chosen from our device’s music library, it crashed every time (a couple of times it told us a file wasn’t compatible, but these were just songs from iTunes). Removing the song made it work instantly. The soundtrack is often what really brings a video together – for home movies especially – so this needs fixing.
In the free version of Cute CUT, you can only export up to 30 seconds of footage, and it’s watermarked. To unlock the full version, it’s only £2.49, which would be an astonishing bargain if it all worked perfectly, especially since the app is Universal. The iPhone version uses an almost identical interface to the iPad version, which made us think it would be fiddly, but it’s just fine to use, and is still nice and fast.
There are some higher-end features we’d like to see in the future, such as Chroma Keying (for green screens) and the ability to disable a track temporarily. These would be useful for more in-depth use, but aren’t what’s holding Cute CUT back now.
We really, really like Cute CUT, and deliberated at length about whether to give it three stars. But all the little niggles and lacking features add up. If it fixes the export bug and adds 1080p output, we’d give it three stars instantly. It wouldn’t take much to propel Cute CUT to brilliance, either – adding clip splitting, snapping and cropping would be half the battle won. Regardless of our score, we strongly recommend you try Cute CUT out for yourself if you’re into video editing, since it’s free. One day, Cute CUT could be the best video-editing app on iOS by a huge margin. But it needs to match what’s already out there before it can surpass it.