MixBit (for iPhone) review

MixBit lets you combine your own clips with those of other uploaders, but lacks Vine's usability and Instagram's video effects.
Photo of MixBit (for iPhone)

First, let’s get one thing out of the way: MixBit is no Vine, though there are similarities: Vine’s 6-second time limit is doubled to 12, and you still hold your finger on the screen to record. But with the newer MixBit, you can actually do a little editing and add clips for up to a full hour of movie enjoyment. MixBit more closely resembles a less-well-known app called Krowds, in that it’s about collaboratively combining videos from multiple shooters. The new video app comes from folks with some serious video cred: YouTube cofounders Chad Hurley and Steve Chen. Let’s see if it lives up to the billing.

Setup
MixBit is available on the iTunes App Store; it runs on the iPhone 3GS and up, and is optimized for the iPhone 5, but iPad users will have to either view it in a small or a 2X zoomed window. I installed the app on my iPhone 4S for this review, as well as on one of PCMag Labs’ iPhone 5 testers and one of our iPads. As with most apps I’ve tested of late, at setup the app asks permission to send you notifications and to determine your device’s location. After you’ve dealt with those requests, the app launches into a quick tour.

Surprisingly (and at first refreshingly), the app doesn’t require you to sign up for an online account; unfortunately, you can’t fully use the app’s service without an account, so this turns out to be a minus. And once you do figure out that you need to register, it’s not a simple matter of tapping a Facebook or Twitter authorization button; you have to enter an email address and password, and wait for an activation email.

Using the MixBit App
MixBit’s interface has a polished look, yet stills feels like a version 1: its workflow is not particularly intuitive, in spite of the tutorial. The app suggests you shoot in landscape for full quality, and if you do shoot holding the camera in portrait orientation, it crops the image to a wide aspect ratio. Another video app, Directr, is even more strict, only letting you shoot in landscape.

To shoot in the smaller portrait format, you press and hold the large red button, but when you’re in the better landscape view, you hold your finger on the screen as with Vine. You can shoot with either the front or back-facing camera, show or hide a grid overlay, and turn the camera light on if you want. When I shot video in the app, my clips were limited to 16 seconds—a full 10-second bonus over Vine. The screen flashes to tell you that your 16 seconds is up.

Like Yahoo’s recent Qwiki app, MixBit lets you add any video clips from your camera roll to your compilations together with footage shot within the app. Clips added from my iPhone’s camera roll could be longer than the 16-second limit for shooting within the app, but when I went to publish later, I got an error message telling me to go back and trim any clips longer than 16 seconds. A “back” button would be helpful for this, since my only option was to hit the x to close the Publish page. Another unhelpful detail is that the second readout above each clip is for the whole compilation length, not the individual clip, so it’s hard to know which ones are too long.

After shooting, you hit a play arrow, which takes you to your new Project page. Here, you can trim clips using the iPhone’s own video editing capability, add or shoot more clips, drag them to different spots in the compilation, or delete them. MixBit doesn’t offer any video enhancements like those you get in Viddy or Instagram, beyond simple trimming and re-ordering—there are no filters, no anti-shake, no time-stretch, or even brightness and contrast adjustments. It is, however, just as easy to create a stop-motion video in MixBit as in Vine—that’s app’s only video trick.

One instance of good workflow design is the forward arrow on this page, which takes you to the Publish page. Unfortunately, that’s not matched by a back arrow. On the Publish page, you have three privacy options: Public, Draft, or Limited. You can also add a title, hashtags, and location. You can optionally tweet or post the video to you Facebook wall. One longish video took so long to publish that I simply canceled trying.

MixBit on the Web
Unlike Vine, MixBit features a robust Web presence, where you can engage in all the social video activities that are relegated to the phone in Twitter’s video app. You can browse featured and recent uploaded videos, share them to Facebook etc., and even create your own compilations using their component clips. That’s where the “mix” comes in, and it’s a big part of the app/service’s appeal. A mix can include up to 256 clips for a maximum length of about an hour.

Community features were lacking compared with Instagram, Vine, or Viddy, however: I couldn’t like or comment on a video, and there’s no concept of following or adding contacts. I couldn’t even see a username for posted videos.

I also ran into some odd webpage layout issues when viewing in full-screen, and videos occasionally stopped playing without warning. Also, site pages containing video clips took long to load, even on a fast connection. So clearly it’s early going for the site, which will hopefully be beefed up as it grows. One plus was that you can skim through video scenes by moving the cursor over the thumbnails, à la iMovie.

The New Video App Sensation?
MixBit opens up a lot more video creativity options than Vine, but it’s definitely more complicated than Twitter’s dead-simple 6-second social video app. The lack of Instagram-like filters detracts from this creative potential, but the ability to use others’ uploaded clips adds to it. It does indeed take YouTube a step forward, at least in making it easier to create compilations. For a simpler but still powerful social video app, check out our Editors’ Choice, Viddy.

Specifications
Type Personal
Free Yes

Verdict
MixBit lets you combine your own clips with those of other uploaders, but lacks Vine's usability and Instagram's video effects.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc