If your iPhone is full of videos of your summer holiday, clips of your kids, recordings of your grandparents that you want to preserve, a birthday, or some other festivity, then you might be glad to know that you can quickly edit your video recordings and create really professional looking home movies on your iPhone or iPad. 

Apple's iMovie app began life as a Mac application back in 1999 and has been on the iPhone since 2010. The iMovie app is designed to be simple to use, so anyone can create something beautiful, and even those who aren't all that technical can create something in just a few steps.

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.     

How to get iMovie                        

iMovie isn't installed on your iPhone or iPad by default, but you can pick up the iMovie app for free on the Apple App Store. There is a version for the iPad and iPhone, and the 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).

Using iMovie

When you first open iMovie you'll see the Welcome to iMovie page, explaining that you can select clips, add titles, drop in music and apply effects to make movies. We'll walk through how to do all of those below.

The page also highlights that you can Create Trailers - these are templated, so it's really easy to pick a few clips and let Apple's app do the hard work for you, creating an amusing trailer-style homage to an event or holiday.

And because the iMovie app is available for iPhone, iPad and Mac you can continue to edit your clips on any of those devices.

Once you continue past the first screen you'll see your Projects screen. Here you'll see any existing projects, and the option to Create Project which is the first step to making your BAFTA winning movie...

Make iMovie

Step 1: Create an iMovie Project

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. Tap that section of the screen.

Make iMovie

Step 2: Choose the clips you want in your iMovie

The next screen taps into all the video and photos that are stores on your iPhone organised by 'Moments', which should mean that events are sorted into categories which could make it easy to find all your holiday videos quickly. 

Just tap on the clips and photos you want to use for your movie. As you do so you'll notice that at the bottom of the screen below where it says Create Movie, it will indicate how many clips you have selected and how long that movie would be (assuming you didn't edit those clips down).

In our example, we've selected five clips, which add up to 2 minutes.

Create iMovie

Tap the clips or photos you want to use (you can always add others later on) then tap Create Movie.

iMovie will automatically arrange your clips into a sequential order on a timeline (the strip at the bottom of the screen). It will add transitions between each clip that makes them blend together smoothly.

To get a feel for how your iMovie is coming together you can 'scrub' through the clips by swiping your finger on the timeline. Or, you could swipe to the beginning of the movie and play it by tapping on the Play icon (the traditional block arrow).

Edit iMovie

You could leave it at that and for some that would be quite enough movie editing, but it is often the case that your clips will be a tad long (short clips will always be better than long ones) and inevitably you will have pointed the phone to your feet before you finish the recording, which could spoil your masterpiece.

Before you start editing, you may want add more clips. In which case, tap the + icon on the left side of the main panel. This will take you to a page of shortcuts to your photos and videos. You can either go back to the Memories view seen above, or go straight to Video, Photos, or Albums (we often make an album of the photos and video we want to use in a movie to make it easy to select everything from one place - handy if it's a review of the year, for example). Select the additional clip you want to use and click on + to add it.

You might also want to change the order of your clips, in which case just tap and hold one of the clips and drag it to the preferred position. Let go and the clip will drop into place.

Now that you have all the clips, and you are happy with the order, you can begin editing.

Step 3: Edit your clips in iMovie

To start editing in iMovie tap on a clip in the timeline. You will know you have entered editing mode because the clip will be outlined in yellow.

iMovie offers various ways to edit your clips:

  • Edit the length of a clip, change the beginning or end point
  • Turn one long clip into multiple short clips
  • Duplicate a clip
  • Slow down or speed up a clip
  • Increase or decrease the audio on a clip
  • Change the transitions between clips
  • Add background music to your clips

We'll look at the above options in more detail below, starting with editing the length of a clip.

How to shorten a clip in iMovie

If you have a clip that is great, but you aren't happy with the beginning or end, it's easy to change the point at which it starts or ends.

  1. To shorten the clip (change the beginning and end points) first tap on the clip so that it is outlined in yellow.
  2. Press and hold the thick yellow bar at the beginning of the clip and drag it to the point you'd like the clip to start.
  3. To change the point where the clip ends, swipe to the end of the clip, tap is again so it is outlined in yellow and drag back to where you want to end the clip.

Shorten clip imovie

How split a clip into multiple clips

You may have a really long clip that you'd like to change into multiple clips, which will allow you to add transitions and edit out bits you aren't happy with.

  1. Find a point in the clip that you wish to 'split' it (marked with a white line).
  2. Tap on Split. Split iMovie clip
  3. Your clip will instantly separate with a box representing the 'transition' you'll be able to add between the resulting clips (no transition is added by default, we'll talk about adding transitions later).
  4. You can now change the beginning and end points of the 'new' clip, or Split it into further clips.

How to duplicate a clip

You could, for example, have the same clip appear more than once, or you might want to play it forwards and then backwards. We'll talk later on about how to make iMovie play a clip backwards. For now, it's really easy to duplicate a clip:

  • Just tap on the clip and choose Duplicate.

How to undo something in iMovie

We'll quickly mention this here, before we move onto the more fiddly bits.

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.

Undoo in iMovie

How to edit the audio of a clip

We'll mention this here because it's an option you might have seen while you were editing the length of your clip: Detach.

If you tap on Detach, iMovie will separate the audio from the video clip. This will allow you to edit the audio separate to the rest of the video. For example, you might want to overlay some narration or music, in which case you'll be able to reduce the noise of the original recording to stop it clashing.

Detach audio iMovie

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.

How to adding slow or fast motion

While you've been editing the length of yourclips you might have noticed the other options along the bottom of the screen. The scissor icon is for editing, but beside that you'll find an icon that looks like a car's speedometer, a speaker, a text and a colour icon.

iMovie options

  1. Click on that speedometer icon to add slow-motion or sped-up sections of the video.
  2. You'll see an area below the clip highlighted in yellow - drag the beginning and end points of where you want the video to speed up or slow down.
  3. With the area of the clip you want to affect highlighted, slide the control closer to either the tortoise (slow) or hare (fast).

Make iMovie clip slow or 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.

Step 4: Edit the iMovie transitions

By default iMovie will add a standard Dissolve transition between your  clips (unless these are new clips you've created by splitting a clip). However there are lots of transitions you can use, including:

  • None
  • Theme
  • Dissolve
  • Side
  • Wipe
  • Fade

How to change a transition

  1. To change the style of transition from the default, tap on the icon that you'll see between clips.
  2. This opens a menu with the various types available. Tap the replacement and it will be automatically inserted.

    How to use iMovie on iPhone: Transitions

  3. 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 (depending on the length of the clips either side).

Step 5: Add filters to your iMovie

Just like you'd find on Instagram, Snapchat or the Photos app, there are various filters that allow you to apply a visual style to individual clips, or your whole video. There are various options including:

  • Black and white (B&W)
  • Blast
  • Blockbuster
  • Blue
  • Camo
  • Dreamy
  • Silent Era
  • Vintage
  • Western

iMovie filters

How to add filters

  1. To add a filter select a clip.
  2. Tap on the filters icon (three circles).
  3. Choose your filter.
  4. If you want the whole movie to use the same filter you'll have to add it to each clip individually.

How to use iMovie on iPhone: Filters

Step 6: Add music to your iMovie

With your movie now taking shape, you might want to replace the standard audio with some music.Apple has a library of rights-free music you can use, or you could compose something youself in Garageband.

We don't advise that you use any popular music though as you'll probably find that as soon as you try and share it via social media you won't be able to.

How to add backing music

  1. 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.
  2. Find the one you want, select it, then tap Use.
  3. 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.

Step 7: Add titles to your iMovie

Finally to make your movie look professional you'll need some titles. 

There are various Titles options including:

  • Standard
  • Prism
  • Gravity
  • Reveal
  • Focus
  • Pop-Up

If you tap on each you'll see a preview of what to expect.

How to add a title or text to your movie

  1. Tap on the T icon when editing a clip.
  2. You'll see a number of different styles appear, each with its own font and animation.
  3. 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.

How to use iMovie on iPhone: Titles

Step 8: 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.

Want to try out some alternatives, here are the best free or inexpensive Mac video editors.