Guide to Video Filters: How to Add Filters to Your Videos

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If you want to create a powerful video or just add some pizzazz to so-so-looking content, a well-chosen video filter can be your best friend. And you don’t have to become an expert in color correction or grading to grasp the basics. Dive in to find out how to put a filter on a video, learn what to keep in mind when selecting a filter, and understand the range of resources at your disposal when sourcing filters.

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So, uh…what are video filters?

If you’ve been online in the last five years, you’ve seen video filters. They are defined as preset treatments included in many video editing apps and social media platforms, as well as lots of editing software. They alter the look of your video project and change your video in a number of ways, from muting or exaggerating the contrast to sharpening or blurring the definition to completely changing the color palette.

Video filters are especially popular on social media, since many platforms allow users the ability to both record and edit photos and videos in-app. Applying a filter before you upload your video is a quick and easy way to jazz up your post. 

How do filters change the look of a video? 

The best way to understand how a filter can impact your video is to actually see them in action.

Original image

The image below, featuring the completely normal activity of someone filling their tote bag with apples, is the original.

Юлія Вівчарик - unsplash.com

Saturated filter

This first filter is on the subtler side, though you can see how it has heightened the contrast and over-saturated the colors. The result is a glossier look that may feel at home in a magazine.

Monochrome filter

This next filter creates a more dramatic change, rendering the original image in black and white. The monochrome lends the image a more serious weight.

High contrast filter

As this last filter shows, even in the realm of monochrome, there’s room for nuance. Notice how much more contrast there is in this image as compared to the one before it. With this more severe treatment, the image is ready for a PSA on the dangers of filling your tote bag with apples. 

Why use a video filter when editing?

Video filtering is one of the most useful editing tools at your disposal. Here are a few reasons why you might want to put filters on your next video.

  • Color correction: Video filters can quickly correct color imbalances in your video, or apply consistent color throughout a video. For example, if you shot a video of the sun setting, but the colors don’t quite capture the way you remember it, a high-saturation video filter can deepen the colors to make the sunset appear even more brilliant. 
  • Tone and mood: When you add filters to your videos, you can alter the tone of the image or the emotions evoked. For example, adding more contrast might make a video feel more dramatic, while amping up the color saturation can make the action appear euphoric or even fantastical.
  • Branding and presentation: Video filters can come in handy if you’re not a seasoned video editor with the tools or skills required to make your footage look professionally done. Depending on what software you’re using, you can simply drag and drop different filters onto your footage until you achieve the desired look. Sticking to one filter or a family of filters for your content can even give your overall output a visual cohesion that may help build your brand.

Which apps allow you to add filters to video? 

There’s a whole range of video-centric apps and programs that can do everything from adding readymade special effects to your footage to layering multiple filters on top of each other. If you’re looking to share videos online specifically, many social media platforms offer the capability to add video filters to your content before sharing it.

  • Instagram: Instagram is probably best known for its filters (and the infamous #nofilter post). The platform offers numerous options to mix up the color and tone of whatever footage you plan to share from your account before you upload your video.
  • Snapchat: Snapchat has a rotating selection of filters and video effects that users can apply to their content, though many of them skew toward novelty rather than visual fine-tuning. For example, Snapchat was the pioneer of the cute dog-face filter, which is ideal if your target audience is dogs. 
  • Facebook Stories: Like Snapchat, Facebook Stories’ filters focus on fun additions rather than overall treatments of your footage.
  • TikTok: TikTok has its share of novelty effects, but the app also has a wide variety of filters that are even broken down for users by what kind of content you’re capturing (i.e. a face, a landscape, etc.). TikTok also offers filters geared toward fine-tuning the video subject’s facial features, from nose size to tooth whiteness to tweaking the placement of the all-important third eye.

Outside the social media sphere, there are many options available if you want to get familiar with filters. Here are just a few of the better known, more accessible options:

  • VSCO: Available on both mobile and desktop and with both a paid and free version, VSCO is a brand known for its filters. The free version lets you apply a range of photographically-inclined filters to your videos. Upgrading to the paid platform gives you more latitude to fine-tune the visual details of your video. VSCO is especially useful for people who want to play around with effects and share the results without necessarily engaging in the social aspect of social platforms.
  • Clipchamp: For beginners or for those working with a budget, Clipchamp provides a free browser-based platform (with paid upgrades) that makes it easy to get started. Even at the free level, it’s a step up from the video editing options available on social or app-based editing, including the ability to edit and layer multiple videos at once and templates to work off depending on what kind of video you’re trying to create. The starting batch of filters for new users includes thematic treatments (like a faux-VHS effect), color filters, and motion effects like slow zoom.
  • InVideo: Another option for browser-based editing, InVideo comes with templates to get you started, many of which are geared toward first-time content or ad creators. InVideo also gives you easy access to a stock video library and music you can pull from as needed. Similar to Clipchamp, it also lays out your video tracks on top of each other. In addition to filters for color and tone, it provides overlays that allow you to apply novelty effects and tricks (like mimicking the flicker of an old-timey projector) to your video.
  • Clideo: If you only need to do one quick thing, Clideo may be your best option. Rather than provide one holistic video editing platform, Clideo instead offers micro tools, each for a different operation. One allows you to add subtitles; another gives you the ability to imitate stop-motion animation. And of course, one tool comes with a selection of basic but diverse filters you can apply to any video files up to 500 MB in size. Clideo also gives you the option to export your video in any format you want.
  • Filmora: Filmora costs a bit more than the other options, but for those new to video editing, it’s easy to use and comes with loads of effects and filters. Unlike the more casual platforms, Filmora is better suited for those at work on larger projects, since it includes many more detail-oriented dials and scales to play with. The main draw for those interested in filters will probably be that many of Filmora’s presets are inspired by specific movies or series (like Star Wars or The Walking Dead) or otherwise sorted by genre, like fantasy and blockbuster.

When it comes to options for video editing software, your best option is to play around until you find one that works for you. With a little practice and some shopping around, you’ll be creating faux-pro videos in no time.

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Written by
Written by
Lara Unnerstall

Video Producer at Descript. Filmmaker, writer, and dog weirdo.

Descript is a collaborative audio/video editor that works like a doc. It includes transcription, a screen recorder, publishing, and some mind-bendingly useful AI tools.
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Lara Unnerstall

Video Producer at Descript. Filmmaker, writer, and dog weirdo.

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