Lights, Camera, iPad! What’s the Best iOS Movie Editing App?

by Reads (15,124)

With easy access to YouTube, affordable digital cameras aplenty, and a plethora of editing tools and applications found in the digital ether, it’s no wonder that movies, and the many parts that are responsible for their creation, production, and exhibition, are of huge interest to tablet owners. When specifically looking at editing systems designed for the iPad 2, we wanted to reach a verdict on the best iPad Movie editing app that is currently available in the App Store. 

Now to preface, there are many video-editing applications at the App Store, and more will no doubt be available as time passes. There are apps out there that fine-tune color correction, others that implement sound effects, and even those that seem to pride themselves on simplicity ahead of any groundbreaking features. However, we concentrated on the best with the most robust offerings. So we pitted iMovie and ReelDirector in a head-to-head duel, as both are the premiere apps of the day. 

While both iMovie and ReelDirector can be considered fine editing apps, we give the slight nod to ReelDirector. ReelDirector is not only the less expensive of the two, but simply has more features that can be helpful in the cutting process. Read on to learn more about why we came to this verdict.


The more expensive of the two apps is iMovie, which will cost you $4.99 and is more than double the cost of its rival. However, iMovie was developed by Apple, and it supports AirPlay and is compatible with the iPhone. On the other end, ReelDirector is currently priced at $1.99 at the App Store, and the price point seems most in line with other apps that fit the same niche. 

EDGE: ReelDirector

Going simply by the numbers here, and it’s no doubt I will tip my hat to the most affordable option. A $4.99 price tag for iMovie seems far from expensive (especially when you consider how much a way more advanced FCP software can cost on a CPU) but if I can save $3, I’m going with ReelDirector every time. Few filmmakers are millionaires, after all.



  • HD Video 

ReelDirector can now handle HD videos, which had been somewhat of iMovie’s trump card in the past. ReelDirector does this by compressing the video (while in edit mode), which can be rendered out with minimal to no quality lost. The process of long renders is common with the editing process, but it’s still a pretty painful procedure considering you can’t preview the video with applied effects unless you’re prepared to wait a few minutes to see even simple changes made. For one final output, I don’t necessarily mind the time, but when we’re talking about seeing a simple transition that may or may not hold up in the final edit, it’s a bit much to ask. iMovie handles this much better, by letting you preview applied effects without having to go through such a process. 


  • Transitions

I have to admit, even though I realize Fellini wouldn’t exactly encourage editing on a tablet, there’s an ‘artistic’ side of me that gets really annoyed that iMovie essentially forces you to choose an option on how best to can your movie. The tern they use for this is called ‘Themes,’ which is essentially a motif that limits which type of text, transition, and music you can access for each video created. One video equals one theme, and it’s this one feature that makes iMovie for the iPad a real disappointment.


Of course, the idea here is that simplicity is better than choice, but even given the option of being able to access an ‘All Theme’ theme would have seemed to be an easy fix for someone trying to do a little more than just one sole wipe, one specific font, and who was looking to add a little irony with their soundtrack. 

ReelDirector doesn’t limit you to a theme at all, and instead gives you 28 different types of transitions to choose from. From wipes and dissolves to flashes and fades, ReelDirector certainly not only wins this battle as far as variety goes, but in my opinion, simply offer a more useful — and less cheezy — set to choose from. 


  • Titles

Similar to transitions, the real difference between iMovie and ReelDirector is choice, or lack thereof. Once you pick a theme, iMovie disappointingly locks you in to one font and limits locations on where to put it. ReelDirector, on the other hand, gives the user a pretty sizeable font library, more choices on where to place titles, and the option of customizing the length of how long the text will actually stay onscreen.

Even though ReelDirector clearly gives the user more to work with, it’s worth noting that both apps only allow there to be one title per clip. I’m not quite sure why this restriction exists, as even the CPU version of iMovie doesn’t restrict the user in the same way. And though there are ways around this (such as separating one clip into two on the timeline) it’s a limitation that shouldn’t require the extra fuss and work. 

  • Music/Sound

Both iMovie and ReelDirector allow you the option of adding music from your iPod library as well as recording sound, and it’s a fairly simple, intuitive process to lay it out on your timeline. iMovie limits the user to one song per video, while ReelDirector will let the user include more than one track. Neither app gives the user the ability to modify the song, so what you bring in is what you get and will essentially be stuck with. For those not looking to add music from their iPod, iMovie also has the option of adding Theme Music, which similar to the transition and title, is a single stock song that fits the particular motif. 

EDGE: ReelDirector

Choice is everything here, and ReelDirector simply has more options and flexibility with its features. iMovie definitely wins the rendering war, but loses some big points by trying to assign a theme to each video, and limiting one’s option on which features can be used and when. Neither app really impressed me when it came to adding music, as I wanted the ability to fade in/out and modify the song as I saw fit. However, when looking at this head-to-head, it’s a pretty easy decision to which app has the most to give in terms of both variety and leeway. 


Installation and Interface

  • Beginning a New Project

It’s quite easy to get started on both iMovie and ReelDirector, and neither really is remarkably different from the other. When creating a new project, iMovie allows you to name the project on its digital marquee, and you can change the settings (and Theme) as many times as you wish once you move to the actual timeline. For what seems like an effort for total simplicity, ReelDirector asks you right away to give the video a title, as well as choose a text and transition style, but all three can also be modified on the timeline later in the process. All in all, both do a great job of minimizing the amount of hurdles prior to the actual cutting and splicing, and allow the user to start editing right away without much delay. 

  • Adding Videos

For both apps, adding videos is a pretty easy process. For iMovie, you simply click the still camera or photo icon to bring in existing media from the camera roll (photos and untrimmed video), or you can record original content by pressing the camera button and adding new video to the camera roll. ReelDirector’s media library can be accessed by pressing the + button in the upper right section of the screen. While you can’t record videos while in ReelDirector (though keep in mind, it’s an easy step to do it in Camera app), unlike iMovie you can trim videos before laying them down on your timeline. 

Worth noting: Many users have found the steps needed to bring video into iPad are pretty rigid and disappointing. I must admit, I thought it would be a lot easier myself. If you’re editing video that wasn’t shot on the iPad 2, prepare for some converting, downloading, or simply buying the camera connection pack (the easiest option of them all). I’m not sure what Apple is planning to do to make this process easier in the future, but there are a lot of users who have expressed their dissatisfaction, so I trust a more user-friendly alternative may be around the corner. 

  • Editing a Movie

I’ve used iMovie before on my laptop so the familiarity with how to trim (dragging orange circle from either end of the clip) and split (swiping over the playhead) was quite helpful to my overall impression. I’ve always felt iMovie was a really intuitive way to edit, and I truly enjoy how much the tablet experience feels like you’re physically playing with your media. Sharing videos is quite easy too, as iMovie has shortcuts to export to YouTube, Facebook, Vimeo, CNN iReport and iTunes. 


ReelDirector is no slouch either when it comes to using an editing app that feels simple and ultimately makes a lot of sense. Having the option to trim clips before they are brought into the timeline is a plus, and adding transitions, cuts, and splits is as easy as pointing to the right box or tab. Exporting is a little less sexy than iMovie, as you can add to the Camera Roll, export to YouTube, or email, but gone are the direct-to Vimeo and CNN shortcuts.


EDGE: iMovie

To be honest, I feel like this is probably a subjective category, and my pre-existing relationship with how iMovie functioned inevitably worked to its advantage. Had I spent more time with ReelDirector, it may have won me over and felt like second-nature. To add, I like the fact you can record video while in the iMovie app, and having more options than just YouTube to house the video feels like a nice opportunity to showcase your work on multiple platforms.



ReelDirectorWhen looking at the practicality of its features, ReelDirector is the victor of this close challenge. iMovie, although the sexier of the two in some respects, is a far more restrictive application thanks in large part to the limiting the user to choosing a Theme for transition, music and titles. Currently at $3 less than its competition, ReelDirector – even with a long rendering time, is the superior movie editing app. 

WINNER: ReelDirector





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