LumaFusion review: Non-linear editing (NLE) app
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LumaFusion’s slickly designed and easy to use interface enables you to quickly dip your toe into the non-linear art of trimming, re-ordering and grading your video clips. Then, beneath the surface, you’ll find a slew of powerful post-production tools, such as keyers, a stabiliser, a graphic equaliser, and editable LumaFX tools like kaleidoscopes.
LumaFusion 3.0 is a non-linear editing (NLE) app designed to give iPad and iPhone users access to high-end post-production tools. The free iMovie app from Apple allows you to edit raw footage into edited stories complete with titles and transitions, but it lacks the features that professional video makers require. Color grading tools such as LUTs (Look Up Tables) must be able to be applied to high-quality footage such as iPhone 12 Pro(opens in new tab) native 10-bit HDR clips or log colour clips produced by third-party apps such as FiLMiC Pro. To make sophisticated edits, use the MacOS app Final Cut Pro X (opens in new tab). Because there is no iOS version of Final Cut Pro X, LumaFusion provides mobile access to comparably powerful tools. It costs $29.99/£25.99 to download from the Apple App Store (opens in new tab).
Professional video editors may be put off by the prospect of editing complex sequences on a mobile device, particularly on the iPhone’s small screen. LumaFusion is loaded with sophisticated features, but they are kept hidden until needed, resulting in a remarkably uncluttered interface for editing raw footage into tightly edited sequences complete with titles, transitions, grading, and effects.
LumaFusion makes good use of its workspace. The bottom row’s function changes depending on your workflow. It starts by displaying your clip bin and then switches to displaying transition icons once you’ve laid out your content in the timeline, keeping the workspace tidy. When you rotate your device from horizontal (landscape) to vertical (portrait), the interface changes (portrait).
In portrait mode, the clip viewer is at the top, the timeline is in the middle row, and the source clip bin is at the bottom. The clip viewer is actually larger in portrait orientation than it is in landscape orientation, allowing you to see your clips more clearly. It’s more comfortable to hold an iPhone vertically, and it’s surprisingly simple to edit in this mode. You can also double-tap the viewer to make the clip fill the entire frame of your device. You can also change the default layout to show only the most important panels, such as the timeline and the viewer.
Although an iPad has a larger screen to work with, due to its size, it is unlikely that you will be shooting video with it. LumaFusion is so well designed that you can shoot and edit on an iPhone while still on location and produce professional-looking shows without having to transfer all of your clips to an iPad or a Mac. You will save a lot of time and effort by shooting and editing on the same device instead of having to transfer large video files to another location. LumaFusion will happily edit 10-bit Dolby Vision clips captured by an iPhone 12 Pro, resulting in high-quality HDR productions. You can use AirDrop to transfer footage from your iPhone to your iPad. You can also use an external drive, such as the SanDisk iXpand, to access footage.
Despite its extensive feature set, LumaFusion is relatively simple to use (though it will take you some time to explore its multiple tool-packed work spaces). You can begin by browsing your clips in the Photos library, swiping to trim them in the viewer, and then dragging the trimmed clips to the timeline. You can keep trimming clips in the timeline by dragging the top and tail trim handles, and you can change the running order in true non-linear fashion by sliding clips around. It’s a pleasure to edit by swiping your finger across a screen because it’s faster and more intuitive than sliding a mouse around a desktop (and having to blow into it to remove fluff!). LumaFusion allows you to intuitively cut your clips together so you can focus on the process of creating the unfolding narrative rather than getting bogged down by rummaging through drop down menus in desktop apps like Final Cut Pro X.
LumaFusion allows you to create complex montage sequences or multiple picture-in-picture effects by stacking six simultaneous layers of video in the timeline. You can only combine two layers in iOS iMovie (when adding a cutaway, green screen or PIP effect). With LumaFusion’s one-tap picture-in-picture presets, you can quickly resize and reposition multiple layers in a specific area of the frame. You can then tap on a PIP clip and drag the corner handles to manually adjust its size and position. LumaFusion also supports 6 audio layers for more complex sound work.
The new graphic equaliser allows you to fine-tune a wide range of frequencies. As a result, you can now target and reduce the frequency of distracting background noise (such as a passing plane’s drone). Specific frequencies can be adjusted by dragging sliders or pulling control points down, just like in Final Cut Pro’s graphic equalising tools. LumaFusion can also be expanded by using plug-ins such as third-party audio units. You can, for example, access the extra tools from audio unit apps like Zero Reverb, which provides a slew of extra sound-altering tools directly within LumaFusion.
Quality of results
The most recent LumaFusion version includes an image stabiliser designed to reduce handheld camera wobbles. If you shoot on an iPhone 12 Pro, the optical and software stabilisation produces gimbal smooth clips (even when cycling on a gravel track while holding the iPhone in one hand!). However, if you need to stabilise hand-held footage shot on older iPhone models, this tool is excellent. You run the risk of cropping out important objects at the edges if you stabilise handheld footage. Stabilized footage can also have a ‘rubbery’ and stretchy appearance around the edges. The advanced stabilisation controls allow you to adjust the strength of horizontal and vertical moves to achieve a balance between restoring missing edge details and image stability. These fine-tuning sliders provide the same level of control as the stabilisation modifying tools in Final Cut Pro X.
LumaFusion liberates you from the constraints of desktop-based editing apps like Final Cut Pro X by allowing you to create complex and sophisticated multi-track video edits entirely on your iPhone or iPad. A well-designed and easy-to-use interface allows you to quickly hone raw footage into slickly edited sequences and augment them with all the post-production bells and whistles you’d expect from professional desktop NLE apps. As you become more familiar with the app, you can delve deeper into its toolbox to access features such as green screen keyers and creative effects. A valuable asset for professional filmmakers on the go (or on the sofa).