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How to Make a Complete Movie With Only an iPhone

Posted in Teacher Tools on June 13, 2012 by

Several months ago, I upgraded to an iPhone 4s. I could go on and on about various apps and games, but one functionality I hadn’t explored until fairly recently was my phone’s ability to create a video. Well, I’m part of the Video Team here at Knewton – we’re responsible for all of the videos you see in our products and around our website and blog – so I thought I’d challenge myself:

Could I make an entire video using only my iPhone?

Turns out, of course, the answer is yes! Check out my first (very) quick video below and then read on to find out how I did it and how you too can use nothing but an iPhone to make quick, high-quality videos. This video was filmed at the 2012 NAB Show:

Just to reiterate, that video was created 100% using my iPhone — including filming, editing, and everything. Not including the filming, it only took me about an hour to actually create the video — proof that making a high-quality, presentable movie doesn’t have to take long!

Do you work in education?

If you can get your hands on an iPhone (or several), the possibilities are endless: create a short video of a field trip that students can show to their parents, create a trailer to tease a big school dance or event, or challenge students to split into groups and make a mini-documentary about an issue facing their lives. How about a “Day in the life” video to send to a pen pal or sister school in another country?

I could go on and on. The power and ease of the iPhone apps makes all this so much more accessible and real than ever before.

So, how did I make that video?

I used:
iMovie (for editing), $4.99
Motion Pictures (to create the time lapses), free

That’s it for the apps!

Other materials you may need or want:

-a tripod or stand for your phone — strongly recommended when making timelapses (I use the iStabilizer, but there are lots of options)
-music you wish to use as a soundtrack (the music in my video is a default that comes with iMovie, so this is optional)

Getting the shots

The first step, of course, is to get your video clips. Depending on what kind of movie you’re making, the types of clips you want will vary. Whatever you do, try to get different types of shots — experiment with far-away shots to set the scene, close-ups, and shots of people talking. Make sure you get a good variety, and don’t be afraid to get lots of short clips with different angles, as opposed to a few long videos.

Still photos are good too! As you can see in my video above, iMovie makes it easy to use still photos in your movie, for those moments you captured but didn’t film. A compilation of still shots is a great way to give a general sense of an event or vacation, or to tell a story quickly, without needing tons of video footage.


There are two timelapses in my video: one of the convention floor, and one of the sunset over Las Vegas. I used the free app Motion Pictures, and I’m a huge fan of it. All you need is a stand or tripod where you can leave your phone for a while without it moving. I have a tripod with flexible legs, which is great because I can bend it around the arm of a bench (as I did on the convention floor) or around a lamp (as I did in my hotel room, pointing out the window) to hold my phone steady. The app is extremely clear — you set certain factors such as amount of time between frames, and how long you want it to go, and it helpfully shows you how long your finished video will be. Then hit Start, sit back, and once it’s done it automatically saves to your camera roll — try it on sunsets, when setting up a big stage, when taking down decorations in a big room, or anywhere with lots of movement and people walking around! It’s a great way to get a “wow-factor” in your video without a lot of work.

Putting it all together

I’m not going to try to explain how to use iMovie in this blog post — there are a lot of fun features to discover! — but here are a few good free online resources for learning the app if you need some help:

Apple support FAQs (official; text)
YouTube link (unofficial tutorial video)
YouTube link 2 (another one)

Here are a few screenshots from my project that should keep you on the right track if you just want to tap around and try it out (which I recommend!):

Create a new project by tapping the + button:

Basically, just start throwing the good parts of your clips into your project. The yellow line shows you which parts of the clips you’re using.

Tap on things to get options: transitions, audio levels, titles, etc.

Don’t be afraid of the themes. Yes, they can be a little cheesy sometimes, but they can also make your video look put-together and professional. (I used the default theme “Neon,” which provided the title screens at the beginning and end, as well as the themed transition and background music.)

Want narration? iMovie makes it super easy to make a voiceover recording on all or part of your movie. Simply choose the point where you want your recording to start and hit the microphone icon. You’ll have a chance to preview your recording before either re-taking it or accepting it into the project.

Once you’re happy with your video, tap the share button to export it to your camera roll or iTunes, or directly to a number of websites such as YouTube, Facebook, or Vimeo. It’s as simple as that!

Do you have other tips for people creating videos on the fly? Other apps we should try? Creative uses for video in the classroom? Let us know in the comments!