No Video Editor? No Problem – Try JayCut Online

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.

The Basics

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.

jaycut-new

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.

jaycut-addmedia

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.

jaycut-selectdevice

Followed by a test screen where you can verify that everything is working as intended.

jaycut-devicetest

Arranging Clips

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.

jaycut-addtosequence

Continue with any other clips you want to add to your video.

Transitions

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.

jaycut-transition

If you just click the thumbnail without dragging, the preview window on the right will give an A>B example of the transition effect.

Text Annotations

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.

jaycut-text

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-publish

Problems

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.

Conclusion

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.

9 comments

  1. Hey Josh, thanks for the review! I just added a link to it from our first page.

    Just as you say it’s a challenge to achieve great Flash performance on certain systems. We try to do some testing on netbooks running unix but with such a rough UI language as Flash it’s hard to truly optimize. Better hope for HTML5 to achieve that critical mass soon! :)

    By the way, when you mention “not possible to save master version for later editing, what do you mean? We don’t allow for download of the raw media + an EDL, correct, but it is possible to on JayCut later return to your old projects, see them in the timeline as you left them and do whatever changes you like to it. (Just click “open” in the lower left corner of the editor.)

    Cheers!
    Jonas, JayCut

    • Hi and thanks for clarifying.

      That statement about saving was based on the fact that I was using the free account, but from every system and browser I tried, the “save” button was always greyed out as if disabled. Perhaps I shouldn’t have, but I assumed that it meant saving the file (with the timeline, edits, and transitions intact) was disabled in that free version. Perhaps I misunderstood.

      If you could clarify this point, I’m sure the readers would appreciate it, and I’ll make the appropriate corrections to the article.

      • Ahh, now I see what you mean, I hadn’t thought about it that way.

        The fact is that every time you press Preview the project is saved, and therefore the save button is greyed out until you make any changes (and haven’t clicked Preview again, yet).

        On another note regarding “Free” version. Currently the only version on the website is free; we don’t even give you the option to pay :). This version has all functionality and no limitations. The reason is that for us the “community”/free version is a great test bed for new features and stuff that we develop before we add that into our actual business model; to license the tool to other websites, so they can offer video editing to their visitors, like we do on our community.

  2. Dear Josh and Jonas
    The comments in this post have been the most helpful for me in trying to figure out how to use Jaycut. Steve Dembo recommended the online editor at a DiscoveryEd workshop I attended, and I was excited to give it a try. However, I was frustrated by the lack of really good tutorial help. I am a middle school teacher with a lab of older computers which cannot handle Windows Live Movie Maker, so this program will be a great alternative. I do hope, Jonas, that you develop a edu version of your product as a service to education. I did not know how to get into my already rendered movie to edit it until I read your comments and used the “open” button. Now I see that that should have been obvious, but it really wasn’t. I also learned from your comment to overlap my videos in order to get the transitions to work. Finally, I figured out the text overlays by myself. Now I am getting used to using your product, I am very excited and thankful that there is a way to successfully edit videos that enhance our school program.
    I may make my own tutorial and post it on YouTube when I get some extra time. The ones I looked at were somewhat lacking. I hope I can add something clearer to the pool.
    Happy Thanksgiving.

  3. An addition to my previous post – sorry to Josh – it was from your post that I finally figured out what I was doing wrong when adding transitions. Your blog post is the best tutorial I have come across so far! Thanks so much!

    • Thank you so much for your comment! It’s always nice to hear when efforts have been useful to someone. Your teaching situation sounds like the perfect environment for an online video editor, I’m glad that JayCut was available for you and your students, and that I was able to help with that. Good luck to all of you! I’d love to see the final results when everything is ready. Please drop us a link if you can.

  4. I have tried JayCut. But the fact that, to use it, you need to be a techno-savvy person remains. I could not use it well for my home videos. I have spoken with a development team who told me that they are coming up with a very simple editor with basic features. Their project was named Vidility.com. They have also setup a nice blog giving information about video editing. http://www.vidility.com/blog . May be you’ll like that too. I am waiting for them to come up with that tool eagerly.

  5. JAYCUT only lets me save the project one time. When I try to fix or change something it won’t let me save again. The save button disappears. What’s wrong with the save option?

    • The save button had me a bit confused as well.  Turns out it’s auto-saving, and they button is greyed out as it’s trying to indicate that it aready saved for you.  

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