How to Edit Videos on an iPad

Limitations narrow a big process into a smaller, more understandable space to explore. It’s the difference between swimming in a pool and being dropped in the middle of the ocean with no land in sight. Those limitations become the basis for the crucial first steps in improvisation.
— Frank Chimero, The Shape of Design

In 2013, I sold my Macbook Pro for an iPad. I still had a Mac Pro in my office at work and I decided that I could benefit from the unique limitations of an iPad. I illustrated my first children's book on my iPad (iDraw), I published most of my website on my iPad (Blog), I managed all my work projects on my iPad (Podio) - so when I needed to attend Beach Camp with our student ministry to film and publish videos about the trip, I decided to try and edit all the videos on an iPad as well.

These are the things I learned from video editing on an iPad, as well as what worked, what was pretty tricky, and the results of my experiment (all the videos are at the bottom of this post).


Project Requirements

  • Film activities each day
  • Get underwater shots, slow motion shots, and very low light shots
  • Edit video each day
  • Publish video on Vimeo each day


Check out the slow-motion shots from the iPhone (starting at 1:29)

Knowing that I would edit the video on my iPad definitely effected how I shot. Namely, I shot a lot of short clips. Fine editing is incredibly difficult on the iPad, so by keeping the clips short, I would have more control over when a clip went in and out. I had to keep storage in mind as well, since iPads have a maximum of 128GB of storage, and mine had only 64GB. I simply didn't have the storage for useless clips that I wouldn't use. Other than those two changes, filming was pretty normal.

I shot a lot of video with an iPhone 6. The slow-mo is just so good. You really couldn't tell it was from an iPhone.

iPad Import.jpg


To capture video from my 60D (which I used most of the time), I simply plugged in the Lightning to SD Adapter and inserted the SD card into the iPad. The iPad immediately launches the Photos app to preview and import photos/videos from the card. It's a very smooth and simple process, but RAW photos take forever to load. I would not recommend shooting in RAW if you know you'll be editing on an iPad, it's just not powerful enough to handle those files. The .mov files the 60D shot in were perfect and loaded quickly. 

Capturing from the GoPro was not the easiest experience. In theory, their app lets you wirelessly connect to the GoPro and save the photos and video. In reality, the connection was very spotty and sometimes it was all I could do to get it to work (lots and lots of restarts). When it did connect, the import was very slow. You're better off using the SD card adapter again, rather than wireless importing. 

The iPhone 6 sent the videos to the iPad quickly and easily through AirDrop (thanks, Apple!), but it does require you to fine tune your slow motion shots on the iPhone before you send them to the iPad. Once the clips are on the iPad, you can't change when they switch from normal speed to slow motion. Just good to know. 



Why did I choose iMovie?

There are many video editing apps on the iPad, and I tried several before I left, including Pinnacle Studio. Some of them were too limited, some were too complicated, and some were just terrible. I ended up choosing iMovie because I really liked the interface. It has a good balance of utility and ease of use.  

I wrote a lot below on the editing, but let me summarize by saying iMovie was really effective as my editing app for this project. 

Once the footage was in my iPad, I used iMovie to edit the entire project. If you've ever used iMovie on the Mac, it's nearly identical on the iPad with a few limitations. Ok, I know, iMovie is already inherently limited, so how useful can a scaled-down version of iMovie actually be? Pretty useful, actually.

Stylistically, I edit to music, I use hard cuts between shots, I fade to black sometimes for a dramatic effect, and I use simple white text titles. I found that iMovie on the iPad could do all of these tasks fairly well. 

There is a trick when editing to music, however. By default, when you add a song to the timeline, iMovie sets the song as "background." What that means is that the song begins at the beginning of the timeline and ends at the end of the timeline - and you can't change that with the song set as "background." It also means that if there is any audio in your clips, the music turns itself down, which for me, is really annoying. To get around this, just set the song as "Foreground." Then you can set when the song begins to play in the timeline and when it ends.

Apple has done a great job (recently) of adding in a few more advanced features, like detachable audio tracks, audio fades, picture-in-picture video, timing control (fast and slow), and iCloud Drive integration. But there are a few features I was frustrated weren't there (Apple, if you're listening, this is my wishlist). 

  • Custom text overlays (color, font, shadow, position, etc). 
  • Fade to black (I got around this with a black picture)
  • Multi-track video (PLEASE, Pinnacle has it!)
  • ANY color correction, whatsoever. (Ok, there are these terrible filters built-in, but they are so bad). 
  • Better indication of when an audio clip will begin to play in the timeline

All in all, iMovie held up really well. I was able to edit quickly and any obstacle I encountered I was able to work around fairly easily. I will definitely do it again, though I hope Apple continues to add more features in the future.



To publish the videos, all I needed to do was select "Upload to Vimeo" directly in the iMovie app. Instead, I exported the finished videos to my camera roll and used the Vimeo app itself to upload. I like the Vimeo app because it gives you quite a bit more control over the metadata of the video. To get the video onto the auditorium screens, I simply airdropped the finished video from my iPad to the iMac running the screens. Super easy.


The Result

Below are the main videos I produced entirely on my iPad. Though you do have to make some sacrifices in terms of features, I was thoroughly impressed by the speed and quality I was able to get from iMovie on the iPad. While it won't be replacing my workstation anytime soon, the iPad makes for a wonderful on-the-go video editing tool that I will certainly be using in the events to come.

*Note that the Beach Camp logo animation that plays in each video was made before the trip on my Mac Pro and transferred to the iPad.