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On social media, video is more important than ever, whether it’s the vertical format now ubiquitous on TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube shorts or more traditional marketing videos on feeds across platforms. Two-thirds of social media users rate short-form videos to be the most engaging content online, according to a report from the social-media management platform Sprout. With new artificial intelligence-powered video editing tools, anyone can create simple videos without deep expertise. After trying several platforms, we recommend Runway and Lumen5.
Lumen5 is our pick for marketing and social teams hoping to create quality content quickly using templates and automated processes, with no prior video editing experience required. Runway is best for those who want to harness the full power of generative AI within their video-editing platform and either have some prior experience with editing or are willing to learn a somewhat more involved platform.
Both of our picks have multiple subscription levels, with a free version to try out the platform. (See the Pricing Deep Dive section below for more on how to choose a subscription tier for your team’s needs.)
Note: This review focuses on the tools available to marketing and social media teams hoping to adopt new tools to create simple videos to post online—the equivalent of design tools like Canva and Figma that made graphic design accessible to individuals and resource-constrained teams. It doesn’t include AI software geared towards experienced editors and content creators, many of whom have already incorporated AI-powered tools to speed up workflows and generate new kinds of footage, like that featured in Coca-Cola’s viral ‘Masterpiece’ commercial.
Lumen5 is primarily a tool for turning text—such as a blog post, article, or research paper—into video. It automatically summarizes longer texts and uses AI to create captions, match footage and images, and cut the script into scenes. Users can also upload their own images and footage to place in the video.
- Lumen5 is the easiest to use among all the platforms we tested. The menus and features are well-organized, attractive, and intuitive, and the tutorials are clear and easy to access. Both features lessen the learning curve for users without video-editing experience to learn the platform.
- The AI-powered transcription, text-to-video editing features, and stock footage to keyword matching tools all worked as well or better than the same features on other software. It boasts an impressive set of AI-powered capabilities even without generative AI, or algorithms that can generate new content versus manipulating existing audio, video, or images.
- The brand kit on the starter pricing level and above allows marketing and social teams to easily produce videos in line with their brand’s look and feel.
- There isn’t a lot of flexibility in the templates and designs, and customization is limited largely to colors and fonts.
- We experienced some performance issues when uploading larger files that required us to restart the program.
Runway is a video-editing platform that offers a full suite of AI tools, which they call their “AI Magic Tools,” including the ability to generate video and images, train custom models to generate images based on existing data sets, erase backgrounds and objects, generate transcripts, and automatically detect scenes in longer videos to cut into shorter clips.
- Runway offers the most extensive and advanced set of AI tools out of all the platforms we tested.
- The high degree of customization and broad set of editing tools, both AI-powered and otherwise, allows users a significant amount of flexibility in creating content.
- The video generation is limited to 15-second clips, and like all generative AI, it isn’t perfect. We noticed mistakes in synching face movement to audio, minor errors in object recognition, and misidentification of a Black speaker’s race.
- The platform is not the most beginner-friendly. If Runway is your first introduction to video editing, it may take some time with tutorials and experimentation before you feel confident in manipulating all of the features.
We evaluated five tools—Descript, Invideo, Lumen5, Runway, and Wisecut—on their ability to create two kinds of videos: a short promo for Charter Cortados (a series of live events for Charter Pro members) and a vertical video for Instagram and TikTok. For each platform, we uploaded a clip from a recent Cortado featuring Charter CEO and editor-in-chief Kevin Delaney and Medley co-founder Edith Cooper, and used the native tools to produce two videos based on the video clip and the copy already available on our website.
To best approximate the work of actual marketing and social teams, we only used copy and materials already published on our website and company intranet, including Charter’s internal brand guidelines and font database. (As Charter’s de facto social media editor, I fall into the target demographic for these tools. I’m familiar with creating content for social feeds, but I had very little prior experience with video editing, and my design expertise is limited to manipulating templates on Figma and creating cookie-cutter graphics on Canva.)
Our picks are Runway, which starts at $12 a month for a paid plan, and Lumen5, which starts at $29 per month for a paid plan. Both platforms offer a free trial version. We recommend Runway for those looking for an AI-powered video-editing platform with the most cutting-edge AI tools and who have experience working with video-editing softwares (or have a willingness to learn). Lumen5 is better for individuals or teams who don’t need generative AI tools built into their video editing platform and instead are looking for a low-lift, intuitive way to generate content without video-editing experience.
Runway stands out for its breadth of AI features, including a suite of generative AI tools, that no other platform comes close to. It’s used by professional editors and visual effects artists, like the VFX team for Oscar-winning film Everything, Everywhere, All at Once, but its embedded tutorials and tips allow novices to learn the software with some effort involved. Lumen5 stands out for how intuitive and easy it is to use, regardless of skill level. Even without generative AI, it boasts an impressive set of AI-powered tools, including automatic transcription, text-to-video editing features, and stock footage to keyword matching tools. Notably, all of these features worked as well or better than they did on other software we tested.
Functionality and features: Runway features the fullest set of AI tools of any product we tested, including the ability to generate transcripts, background removal and digital greenscreens, and automatic scene detection. The most impressive of these are the generative AI features, which allow users to generate images and videos based on text prompts and existing images, and include the ability to train your own generator. We tried out a few of these features, including video-to-video, which allows users to reimagine existing video clips in different styles, like claymation, an animated alien, or a vintage travel poster.
The features aren’t perfect—the new versions of the videos didn’t perfectly sync up to the audio, and the AI-generated figures were at times creepy. More concerning, however, was the potential for bias that often crops up with algorithmic tools. While it correctly identified the genders of the two speakers, the claymation version of the video whitewashed Medley’s Edith Cooper, portraying her as a brown-haired white woman. Cooper is Black. And while it’s not a dealbreaker mistake, it is a reminder to use generative AI thoughtfully and with an editor’s eye for potential biases, inaccuracies, or other mistakes.
Though Lumen5 lacks Runway’s power to generate or reimagine images and videos using AI, its AI-powered tools are still plenty powerful. Users can input text, such as a script, blog post, or article, and Lumen5 generates a script and storyboard, titles, and graphics based on one of many templates, and imagery based on the text using an extensive library of stock footage and images.
Users can also upload their own images and videos and generate captions with filler words removed, add titles and lower thirds, and include graphics and cutaways. The transcripts are generally fairly accurate, on par with many of the AI transcription services we’ve previously reviewed, and users can easily edit them using a text editor within the workflow. At times, the AI-suggested stock images and videos weren’t relevant to the script, but we found that the match was better than competitors with similar features.
Media and libraries: Runway does not have a native media library to source stock images and videos. Users must either upload their own content, or generate content using the generative AI tools. In contrast, Lumen5 boasts an extensive library of video templates, images, videos, and background music. It also gives users at the starter and professional pricing tiers the option of uploading a brand kit, including colors, logos, and custom fonts. For smaller social media and marketing teams, this makes it easy to replicate the look and feel of the brand without a heavy lift from designers.
Performance and ease of use: While using Runway’s browser app, there were no issues with loading, crashing, or upload or download speeds, even while generating multiple videos at the same time. But without experience using video editing software, there was a bit of a learning curve to get comfortable with the workflow. We did have to restart Lumen5 a couple times after the platform froze while processing large or long video files, but we found that keeping video uploads to under 10 minutes prevented those errors. Overall, the menus and workflows were intuitive and easy to pick up.
Instructions and support: Lumen5 makes it easy to become proficient with its tools in a short amount of time, with instructional videos and tutorials embedded directly into the workflow. While Runway does require some familiarity with editing workflows and tools to get started, it provides embedded tutorials and tips for usings its shortcuts, tools, and features. They fit seamlessly into the workflow, making it easy to opt in or out of the learning process.
Pricing deep dive
Lumen5 has five pricing levels: community, basic, starter, professional, and enterprise. Here are some tips to help you determine the subscription level that’s right for your team:
- If you’re not yet committed to adopting a vide-editing tool and just want to try one out, go with the free community plan. Final videos contain the Lumen5 watermark and only offer 720p video resolution.
- For individuals and small teams, basic ($19/month billed annually or $29/month billed monthly) offers unlimited videos with 720p resolution, access to some stock photos and footage, the ability to upload your own photos and videos, and a library of templates, but it doesn’t allow users to use custom fonts, upload their own fonts, or customize a brand kit.
- To make it easy to produce content in line with the look and feel of your brand, go with the starter plan ($59/month billed annually, $79/month billed monthly), which offers custom fonts and a customizable brand kit, along with higher video resolution at 1080p and greater access to stock photos and videos.
- The professional plan ($149/month billed annually or $199/month billed monthly) offers more custom saved templates, multiple workplaces, multiple brand kits, and the ability to upload your own watermark and fonts. Opt for this plan if you want to make videos across multiple teams or for multiple product lines.
- The enterprise level offers bespoke branded templates, enhanced security and team management features, and customized support and billing services. Inquire on Lumen5’s website for pricing.
Runway has four pricing levels: basic, standard, pro, and enterprise.
- The free basic version offers limited access to Runway’s suite of AI Magic Tools to try out its features. It comes with 125 credits per month, equal to eight seconds of Gen-1 video generation, 25 seconds of Gen-2 video generation, or 25 image generations. Gen-1 allows users to generate videos based on uploaded footage and a text or image prompt, whereas Gen-2 allows users to generate videos without uploading existing footage and use only text or image prompts. You can only generate video up to four seconds long and have three video projects at a time. Video editor exports are limited to 720p.
- The standard plan ($12/month billed annually or $15/month billed monthly) offers 625 credits and the ability to buy more credits as needed, along with the ability to generate Gen-1 videos up to 15 seconds and Gen-2 up to four seconds. It also gives you unlimited video editor projects at 1080p and 4k, up to seven editors on your team, and advanced access to AI Magic Tools, including the ability to train custom AI generators.
- The pro plan ($28/month billed annually or $35 billed monthly) comes with even more credits per month, full access to AI Magic Tools, enhanced export options, and a greater amount of storage for uploaded images and videos.
- The enterprise plan allows the greatest amount of customization, advanced security and compliance features, and enhanced support services. Inquire for pricing.
How we chose what to review
We sourced our five candidates using online research and suggestions from online workplace forums on Slack and Reddit. With a wide array of video editors boasting AI tools, we focused on platforms with a wide set of functions that best matched our use case: creating and editing videos for social media and marketing.
We didn’t include AI tools that are geared towards professional video editors, like those included with Adobe Premiere Pro, or video-editing platforms that technically have AI-powered tools but were limited to AI-powered transcription. We also didn’t test software with limited use cases like Synesthesia, a platform for creating talking head videos from a library of presenters for training, explainers, or social media videos. For readers whose needs more closely match these offerings, we suggest checking them out to see if they better suit your team.
A note on privacy: Runway is SOC2 certified and GDPR compliant, and protects intellectual property by preventing users from using copyrighted images to train generators or use its models to create footage or images based on copyrighted material. Lumen5 is GDPR compliant.
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