Apple makes it easy to quickly put together short movies on your iPhone, thanks to its iMovie app. If you’ve yet to sample its delights and channel your inner Hitchcock, there’s no better time than the present. In this article we show how to take your first steps with iMovie on iPhone.
Should you want to use the app on your iMac or MacBook, take a look at our How to use iMovie for Mac guide.
Get the iMovie app
You can pick up the iMovie app for free on the Apple App Store. The current file size is listed as just over 700MB, so be sure you have enough space on your device and are connected to a Wi-Fi connection when downloading (unless you have a large data plan, in which case you can use 4G).
Getting started with iMovie
When you first open iMovie you’ll see a black screen with three options along the top – Videos, Projects, and Theater (sic). The first will show you all the clips you’ve already recorded on your iPhone, Theater is where completed movie are stored, but it’s Projects you’ll need to put together your first creation.
Make sure the Projects options is selected, then tap the Create Project button in the main panel.
You’ll be presented with two styles of project: Movie or Trailer. The former is essentially a blank canvas, while Trailer uses pre-built templates into which you can insert stills and video.
To get to grips with iMovie we recommend starting with Movie.
Assembling your clips
The first thing to do is add some video to your project. iMovie allows both photos and videos to be used, all of which are offered to you when you start a project.
Tap the clips you want (you can always add others later) then tap the Create Movie option at the bottom of the screen.
iMovie will now automatically arrange them into a sequential order on something called your timeline (the strip at the bottom of the screen), with transitions between each clip that makes them blend together smoothly.
To change the order, tap and hold one of the clips, then drag it to your preferred position. Let go and the clip will drop into place.
To add more clips, tap the + icon on the left side of the main panel and select the ones you desire.
Double-tapping on a clip in the timeline will enter the editing mode. You can see this as it will now be outlined in yellow. To shorten the video, press and hold the thick yellow bar at the beginning or end of the clip and drag it in the relevant direction.
In the bottom-left corner, you’ll see five icons which represent a variety of editing options. These correspond with the options displayed in the bottom-right corner, which will change as you tap the different icons.
For example, with the Scissors icon selected you’ll see the words Split, Detach, Duplicate and Delete appear.
Split will cut the clip wherever the play head (the white line) is located, creating two sections. Nothing is removed, there’s just a space between them. This can be handy if you want to use a smaller part of the scene in another area of the timeline, as you can now drag it to that location.
If you’ve split something by accident, or in the wrong place, then tap the Undo icon (an arrow bending back on itself) found to the right of the main pane.
Detach will separate the audio recording from the video clip. This is useful if you want to overlay some narration or music without the noise of the original recording clashing.
It also means you can edit the audio by dragging the edges to make it shorter, tapping the Split option to cut pieces out, or even apply the Background setting, which reduces the volume so that you can overlay new audio while retaining the ambience of the recording.
Duplicate and Delete are as you’d expect, either creating a copy of the clip or removing it from the project.
Adding Slow or Fast motion
The second icon, which looks like a car’s speedometer, allows you to add slow-motion or sped-up sections of the video. Simply select the area of the clip you want to affect, then slide the control closer to either the tortoise (slow) or hare (fast).
Again, if things get a bit messy (and this control is somewhat fiddly) tap the Reset option to put things back as they were.
Another useful editing tool is the Titles section. This is found by tapping on the T icon when editing a clip. You’ll see a number of different styles appear, each with its own font and animation.
Select the one that suits your project, type in some text, then select to have it displayed either across the middle of the clip or in the lower corner.
The last of the editing options is the Filters section. Just like you’d find on Instagram, Snapchat or the Photos app, this allows you to apply a visual style to the video. These range from classic black and white, up to psychedelic Duotone.
To select a different style of transition, tap on the ‘two inward-facing arrows’ icon that you’ll see between clips. This opens a menu with the various types available. Tap the replacement and it will be automatically inserted.
Should you wish to change the length of time the transition takes, which could be useful for those slow, moody dissolves, tap the time settings to the left of the transition styles, which offer ranges from 0.5 up to 2 seconds.
Adding backing music
With your movie now taking shape, you might want to replace the standard audio with some music. To do this tap the + button and then select the Audio option. Here you can choose from the Theme music that comes with iMovie, a range of Sound Effects, or any music you have in your Apple Music app.
Find the one you want, select it, then tap Use.
iMovie will drop the clip on to your timeline. Double-tap it to enter the editing mode, then resize and position it as you see fit.
Watching and sharing your movie
When you’re happy with your creative efforts, tap the Done option. You’ll now be able to watch the movie, and then tap the Share button (a square with an arrow pointing out of it) to send it to your friends. A Hollywood career awaits.