At first, it seems so simple. If you want to record a video, just flip on your webcam, record, and upload to something like YouTube. But when you go to do it, you might run into some of the same problems I did. What’s the best software for recording? How does it handle audio? What’s the best output codec? Does it run in Linux? These any many other stumbling blocks catch me every time I try to work with video. What if there were a website that could handle all this? One that could let me edit, sequence, and dub my video. One that could add text and transitions and – as long as we’re dreaming – send my video right to YouTube when I’m done? Well as you’ve probably guessed by now, there is, and it’s called JayCut.
To work with JayCut, you first register an account at the site (don’t worry, it’s free). Unfortunately, JayCut will send you a copy of your username and password over plaintext email after the signup, so it’s probably wise to avoid using a login similar to ones you normally use. When that’s done, you’re ready to create your own video magic.
As you can see, there are tabs near the top to access different categories of media you might wish to include in your project. This can include audio-only tracks and still images. Video transition affects are included here as well, and will be covered in more detail later in this guide.
Adding Audio and Video Clips
Chances are, you’ll want to start adding video clips to work with. This can be done either by uploading a pre-existing file from your computer or by recording directly into JayCut. Both audio (via microphone) and video (via webcam) tracks can be recorded directly into JayCut through Flash. To being any of these tasks, you start by clicking the Add Media button in the upper right corner.
From here you can choose the source (existing file or new recording). If you choose a local file, it will be uploaded to JayCut and will show up in the Video tab.
If you choose to record from webcam or microphone, you’ll be given a screen like the following to choose the appropriate devices.
Followed by a test screen where you can verify that everything is working as intended.
Once you’ve finished recording and clicked Save, your clip should show up in the Video tab. If you don’t see it after a few seconds, try going to another tab and back again. When you see your clip, drag the thumbnail down to the sequencer at the bottom. Sometimes you have to drag verrrrrryyyyyy slowly and carefully, as not all browsers can handle JayCut with ease.
Continue with any other clips you want to add to your video.
Once you’ve got your clips, arrange them so that you have the desired amount of overlap for a transition, as shown in the screenshot below. Then go to the Transitions tab and drag the desired effect into the row between the clips. It should snap for you to the correct location.
If you just click the thumbnail without dragging, the preview window on the right will give an A>B example of the transition effect.
You can, of course, add a bit of text to your videos with a choice of font. In fact, if you use JayCut, you might end up the one person on all you YouTube not using white script on a blue background. The process is much like that for transitions. You open the Text tab and drag the desired style into the sequencer. Once it’s placed (and you can stretch the edges to determine time) you’ll see the text edit screen where you can enter your annotations along with font and size choices.
Saving/Publishing Your Video
While the free version of JayCut does not allow saving of the master version for later editing, you can publish your video to the web or save to your hard drive through the Publish/Download button in the lower right of the page. This will allow you to save or media to the location of your choice.
Update: The developers of JayCut has clarified that the “Save” button wasn’t disabled. It is just that it is always autosaving and LOOKED disabled.
JayCut isn’t perfect. As it requires some pretty intense browser power, it tends to run somewhat slow, at least on non-GPU accelerated browsers. Stability can occasionally be a factor as well, particularly on systems that already have some trouble with Flash. The worst issue, in my opinion, was not with the software itself but with the way the site handles new signups. I would think that in this day and age, they would know better than to send your username and password unrequested over plaintext email.
Those few problems aside, JayCut is an extremely impressive site. Prior to seeing it for myself, I’m not sure I could have believed you could put this much functionality into an easy-to-use web app. JayCut is part of the new breed of web applications that are beginning to challenge the belief (held by myself and others) that web apps will never quite match the speed, power and comfort of local applications. Will it be the editing platform of the next summer blockbuster? Probably not – but it will play a part in my next home video.