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CES: Instant Video Editing for Dummies (And Busy People)

Kelli B. Grant

Senior consumer reporter and “Deal of Day” columnist Kelli B. Grant travels to Las Vegas to find the best, the worst, and the most hyped gadgets at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show. Join her as she roams the exhibit floor for three days, with dispatches here and on Twitter @kellibgrant.

Camcorder sales have taken a nose-dive since the advent of the smartphone and its built-in video-recording capability, but so far, experts say, few people have unleashed their inner director to do anything with those clips.

“People take video but don’t share it because it’s 20 minutes of their son learning to ride a bike. No one wants to watch that,” says a spokesman for new site Magisto.com. But a pieced together clip of 30 seconds to a minute? Much more manageable. Free editing tools on Magisto’s site and iPhone app allow users to edit videos with just a few clicks — pick available clips from a phone or computer, select a background song from your library and add a title. Within a minute or two, the site has cut together the clips into a short movie.

The software uses a set of algorithms to determine where to make cuts. “Basically, we try to figure out what the camera person was trying to capture,” says the spokesman. Even the soundtrack chosen provides some context. That will work for most clips, but, he concedes, may result in a miss if the video-taker was trying something especially arty — or just couldn’t manage to get a good shot. (The app doesn’t destroy the original clips, though, so users can try again if a favorite moment ended up on the digital cutting room floor.)

Magisto will likely face some tough competition from Apple’s home-editing program iMovie, which comes free with Apple computers and for other non-Apple computers costs $49 for the iLife suite of products, which includes iMovie and music editing software. Although Magisto is free for now, several optional pay-for tools for more finessed editing are also in development.


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  • Pay Dirt examines the millions of consumer decisions Americans make every day: What to buy, how much to pay, whether to rave or complain. Lead written by Quentin Fottrell, the blog examines these interactions, providing readers with news, insight and tips on shopping, spending, customer service, and companies that do right – and wrong – by their customers. Send items, questions and comments to quentin.fottrell@dowjones.com or tweet @SMPayDirt.