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iMovie for iPhone : Simple, Powerful and Surprisingly Good

iMovie for iPhone : Simple, Powerful and Surprisingly Good

Having successfully purchased Apple’s new iPhone 4 on Thursday I have been looking forward to testing the quality of the HD video recording as well as playing with the very affordable iMovie for iPhone.

I edit a large amount of video each year which is mostly in High Definition so I am very much aware of not only the processing power that is needed but also the time it can take to render and export video files.

When Steven Jobs announced iMovie for iPhone the very idea that editing HD video could successfully make its way to a handheld device was actually almost laughable yet the process doesn’t even seem to stretch the iPhone4.

1. Getting Started

The iMovie app doesn’t ship with iPhone 4 but it can be purchased separately from iTunes for only ?2.99. It really is shocking to believe you can buy a video editing application for less than the cost of a magazine.

When iMovie loads you will be prompted to create your first movie project. Creating projects really is an effortless experience, capture a few video clips of an event and you can have a polished video on YouTube (320p) within a few minutes.

The workflow is simple, you can either record video using the camera application or record it directly into your iMovie project. Once you have captured enough footage for your project the first step is to select a theme. Themes is perhaps the weakest aspect of the software in that there is not a massive selection, having said that they are simple enough to work for most occasions.

The current themes are: Modern, Bright, Travel, Playful, and News each offering a matching set of titles and transitions – plus its own soundtrack.

Don’t worry if you change your mind half way through creating your project as you can easily change themes or swap themed elements in your project. Titles and graphics automatically update with location data from your video.

2. Adding Media

iMovie allows you to easily add video, music and photos. Each theme comes with its own music but you can easily add any song stored on your iPhone (iTunes).

When adding a video from your library you can easily trim each clip with the touch of your finger. Simply drag the start or end of a clip (see the yellow button) to remove video.

You can enable ducking on clips to automatically lower the volume of background music and highlight audio from video clips.

As well as music and video you can also easily add photos from your own library, or take a picture and drop it into your project. Each image can be customised with a unique “Ken Burns” panning effect.

3. Editing

Once you have added your media you can easily edit either the entire video or individual clips.

For each video clip you can also add text overlay, change the geo tagging and remove the audio layer.

Editing is remarkably powerful, you can pinch to zoom the timeline and get a closer look and even slide to scrub through the video in your project. In terms of editing tools you can delete, move and trim clips on the timeline. I am assuming if I have a long clip and want to move a section from the middle I insert it twice, trim the end of the first clip and the start from of the second copy.

4. Exporting

iMovie gives you 3 export options. 360, 540 and 720p, exported movies are added to you camera roll from which they can be watched or shared with others. I was amazed just how quick the export was for a 720p clip.

It should be noted you can’t transfer iMovie project files between iMovie for Mac but you can obviously import the video created on iPhone in to the Mac application for a final tweak.

I am literally blown away with the power of iMovie for iPhone and stunned at just how quickly you can create, edit and export video at up to 720p. The workflow is simple and the results are spectacular given it was edited in my hand.


You can send your creation via email and MMS or share it online via both MobileMe and YouTube. I decided to test direct export to YouTube. iMovie prompts you to enter a title, description, tags and a category and is able to process and upload the file in a very short space of time.

Here is my first iPhone iMovie project exported directly to YouTube from the handset. It appears the max output is locked at 320p.

Here is the same video imported into iPhoto then to YouTube manually. You can watch it in HD here (

As you can see the output is now considerably better, even embedded at 560pixels. You
can view the footage in 720p HD here (

I assumed when exporting the video to YouTube it would send the highest quality version that said I guess it makes much more sense to upload a 1.4MB video from a handset rather than a 24MB HD video file.


I genuinely doubted the iPhone as an on the move video editor and to this end I am pleased to be amazed at the power, ease and quality of High Definition video editing available in iMovie for iPhone. It is simple, easy to use and remarkably quick and perhaps this is one of the reasons mobile providers have removed the unlimited data plans. The iPhone is already the most popular camera on Flickr and perhaps it won’t be long before the iPhone peaks the most popular hardware used on YouTube ?


iMovie for iPhone 4

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