The iPhone Traveler Pt. 10: Shoot and edit vacation video with an iPhone

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I use Apple’s own camera app, simply called Camera, for shooting video with my iPhone. It does everything I want and is easily accessible from the iPhone’s lock screen (via iOS 5.x). Here’s what I love about shooting video with Camera.

First, it shoots HD video (720p on the iPhone 4, 1080p on the iPhone 4S and 5). Image stabilization goes a long way towards reducing the shakiness of hand-held shots and cropping lets me to perform minor edits before sharing with iMovie on my Mac or iPhone. To shoot some video with the Camera app, follow these steps:

  1. Tap Camera to launch it.
  2. Move the slider in the lower right-hand corner to select video (slide it to the right).
  3. The “shutter button” in the center acquires a red status indicator light. Frame your shot and tap the shutter button to begin recording video.
  4. The red button blinks during recording and a time stamp appears in the upper right-hand corner.
  5. When you’re finished, tap the shutter button again. The red light stops blinking and the video file “jumps” into the camera roll.

There are a couple of things to keep in mind while shooting video with your iPhone. First, It’s almost always better to shoot in landscape orientation (iPhone on its side) than portrait. The main reason is the aspect ratio will look much better on your TV, as you’ll be able to avoid large “black bars” on either side of your video.

You can record video with either the forward-facing camera or the rear-facing camera. You cannot switch while you’re shooting, so make your choice before you begin. Also, there’s no way to zoom in or out while recording, so frame the shot you want first.

Apple has added a nice feature by letting you use the volume up button as the shutter button. Hold your camera on the landscape orientation so that the volume buttons are on top. Tap the volume up button to begin recording (it resembles a “+”) and again to stop. This is feels much more natural than reaching for the software shutter button on your iPhone’s screen. Lastly, you can view your video quickly by simply swiping to the right. The Camera app will slide away and you’ll go right to the camera roll. That’s much easier than exiting Camera and tapping Photos.

Editing Video

Editing video on your iPhone can be as simple or as involved as you like. You can do everything from simple cropping to making a full home movie with titles, transitions, music and more, all on your iPhone. Here’s an introduction on how to do both. Note that I describe two apps from Apple in the following section, Camera and iMovie. There are several other video editing apps available. I recommend searching the App Store for “video” to find one you think you’ll like.

Editing With Camera

Apple’s Camera app offers some basic video editing. You won’t produce a masterpiece with Camera. In fact, it only has one edit function, and that’s trimming. It’s limited but good at making quick-and-dirty changes. To edit a video clip with Camera, follow these steps:
1. Tap Photos and then tap the video you’d like to edit.
2. The video appears with a big play button in the center. Above it is a timeline representing the clip in its entirety.
3. The timeline has two main features: the scrubber and the handles at either end.
4. Tap and drag the scrubber to move through the video and identify a certain point.
5. Tap and hold on either end of the timeline to grab one of the handles. The timeline’s outline turns yellow.
6. Drag the handle to make your selection. The portion inside the yellow border will be saved; the portion on the outside, deleted.
7. When you’re satisfied, tap the yellow “Trim” button in the upper right-hand corner.
8. A confirmation window appears with two options: Trim Original and Save as New Clip. Selecting the former edits your clip for good. The latter creates a duplicate clip with your edit(s) in place, leaving the original intact.

Your edit is complete! Enjoy your shortened and hopefully improved clip. Of course, many of us want to do more than trimming to our travel videos. In that case, I recommend Apple’s iMovie.

iMovie for iPhone is a companion to the desktop version of the app. With a little time and effort, you can create a very impressive video, right on your iPhone. While this isn’t a thorough exploration of iMovie’s features, I have provided a brief overview of the app’s main features. Let’s take a look.

Using iMovie for iPhone

Adding Video

When you launch iMovie for iPhone, you’ll see a marquee graphic with the basic title, “My Project” and the date. The first thing you’ll want to do, of course, is add some video. Here’s how.

  1. Hit the “+” icon in the lower left.
  2. A new slip appears with two options: New Project and New Trailer. Tap New Project.
  3. Two new options appear: Tap to insert new media and tap to record from camera. In my example, we’re using video we shout previously, so tap the first button
  4. A gallery of all the video you’ve shot appears. Tap the clip you want to add. Each one gains a small arrow icon when selected. Once you’re satisfied, tap the arrow icon and the clip “jumps” into your project.

To add more than one clip, you must jump back and forth between the clip gallery and the project screen. Tap the icon that resembles musical eighth notes and a small box to return to the clip library. Also, a clip(s) that you’ve already added to your project appears with a yellow line across it, making it easier for you to keep track.

The Project Screen

A trailer is a type of project, really, which lets you create a video that looks a lot like the professional trailers you see in theaters. They’re a lot of fun and great to share with family and friends or even create as a “DVD extra,” should your completed project end up on a disc. For now, I’m going to focus on creating a project.

Once you’ve added some clips, it’s time to begin editing on the project screen. Note that you can work with your iPhone in either the landscape orientation (on its side) or portrait (up and down). I prefer landscape as it offers the largest video preview option, but it’s entirely up to you. It’s also noteworthy that you can adjust the size of your clips in the timeline, making them smaller and easier to manage or letting you expand a clip so you can focus on a certain section. To do this, simply place two fingers inside the time line and either move them apart (to expand the timeline) or together (to compress it).

To preview your clips, tap the play button between the preview window and the timeline. The movie will play as it scrolls through the timeline. To edit a clip, double-tap it to produce the Clip Settings screen. You’ll find several options, like adding titles, location data (if you want to include that) and volume. You can also delete a clip by tapping the red Delete button.
Did you delete a clip you really wanted to keep? No problem. Your iPhone will let you undo the last action you performed. Just give your iPhone a shake and a dialog box will appear. Tap “Undo” and the clip will be restored.

You can trim a clip in iMovie, with more options than Camera offers. Here’s how to trip a clip at the end and how to trim a clip in the middle.

Trimming Clips with iMovie

  1. Tap the clip.
  2. Yellow handles appear on either end of the clip.
  3. Tap and hold on a handle, and drag it to the desired location. Watch the preview window above to pinpoint your desired spot.
  4. When you’re satisfied with the edit, let go.

You can also trim a clip in the middle. It’s a little trick and takes some practice, but you can do it. Here’s how.

  1. Tap the clip you want to edit.
  2. Move the playhead to the start point of the center section you want to isolate.
  3. Quickly swipe your finder down across the clip in the timeline.
  4. The clip is split in half from that point and a little “|” icon appears.
  5. Repeat the process on the other side of the isolated clip.

Add A Voiceover

You can add voiceover narration to your clips in iMovie. This is great when you want to offer an explanation of what’s on the screen, set the stage for what’s about to happen or add instructions if your video calls for it. It’s quite easy to add a voiceover.

  1. Move the playhead to the point at which you’d like the voiceover to start.
  2. Tap the microphone icon above the preview window.
  3. The “Ready to Record” warning appears. Tap the Record button.
  4. Your iPhone counts down from three to one to let you prepare.
  5. Recording begins. The playhead moves, and a field of red appears in the timeline. When you’re through, hit Stop. Your iPhone gives you the opportunity to accept the recording.
  6. Your voiceover appears as a purple clip beneath the video.

There’s a lot more that iMovie for iPhone can do, and I encourage you to explore it. When you’re finished, share your project in a number of ways. Back at the original screen, tap the action button (it looks like an arrow jumping out of a box) to reveal several sharing options, like YouTube, Facebook, Vimeo, CNN iReport and iTunes. For our purposes, I choose Send to Camera Roll for later synchronization with iTunes. You can choose a resolution at this point, too. I always opt for the highest possible.

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