Most of us now take the ability to record video on our iPhones or iPads for granted. But how many of us make full use of it to create our own mini-masterpieces?

The iMovie app is perfect for taking footage you shoot and turning it into a professional-looking video of an important event, a holiday, or just a day out. And while there are a few things you need to think about, and one or two things you’ll need to learn in order to get the best from it, iMovie really is very straightforward to use.

Here, we’ll look at the process of creating a video of one day, and no matter what event or activity you’re filming, the process is going to be pretty much the same. Let’s get started.

Planning

Before you start, it’s a good idea to make a note of the shots you want to record for your movie. This can be done in the form of a storyboard or just as a list. Think about the mix between wide shots and close-ups, whether you’ll include audio from the scene or use a music soundtrack, and how you’ll record the shots. For example, if you’re making a video of a road trip and want a shot of your car pulling away at the start of the journey, you’ll need to ‘fake it.’ You can’t be in the car and shooting it from the outside at the same time, after all.

Think also about the story you want to tell and how you’ll do that. In my example, I wanted to tell the story of the work that goes into putting together a theatrical production – particularly in the hours leading up to the lights going down and the curtain opening. So I gathered lots of shots of last-minute rehearsals, shots of the set being assembled and costumes being finalized, and then ended with footage of the show itself.

You’ll need to take account of limitations and restrictions, so on a day trip the weather may play a part, and the available daylight certainly will. I would have liked to have included footage of the director, stage manager, and some of the cast talking about the preparations for the performance. However, given the rush in last minute preparations for a show, this became unrealistic.

Music

If you plan to set your video to music and have a track in mind, listen to it as you work out what shots you want. The pace of the music will have an impact on how you put shots together.

If you don’t plan to use music, how will you soundtrack your movie? Will it all be dialogue? If so, how will you record that dialogue? You could use the mic on the iPhone or iPad you use for shooting and record the audio with the video. But it’s not a great microphone and you’ll find background noise. There are external microphones available for iPad and iPhone, which should improve the quality of the audio. Or, if you shoot on an iPad and have an iPhone, you could use the iPhone to record audio and place it closer to the object of the shot, although remember to keep it out of sight. You’ll need to import the audio to iMovie separately and synchronize it with the video shot on the iPad.

Keeping the camera steady

Camera shake has ruined many an otherwise excellent amateur movie. How will you prevent it? There are a variety of mounts available that allow you to use an iPad or iPhone with a regular tripod, and Joby’s GorillaPod works very well in a number of different situations, particularly when there’s no flat surface available. If you don’t want invest in extra kit, look for places you can put your iPhone or iPad where it will capture the shot you need and be stable. Holding the iPhone or iPad while you shoot should be a last resort.

Preparation

If you’re shooting at single location and are able to visit the location in advance, do it. It’ll help plan shots and give you a good idea for location shots and wide views. It will also highlight things you may have wanted to do which are unrealistic or impossible. The more you know about the location in advance, the better you’ll be able to plan.

Before you set off, make sure you’ve got everything you need and that it’s in working order. There’s no point in taking an iPad to make a movie if the battery is almost out of charge. So charge it overnight before you intend to use it.

If you’re taking a tripod and adapter, make sure it’s ready to go. Pack your shot list.

Recording

There are two options for recording video on an iPad or iPhone if you plan to edit in iMovie. The simplest is to shoot directly in the app itself by tapping the camera icon in the editing window. The other method is to use the Camera app. The latter is useful if you want the video you shoot to be available to other apps, including Photos, rather than just iMovie.

When you shoot, always grab more footage than you need. Start recording before you want a shot to start, and wait for a few seconds at the end before pressing the stop button. You can always trim a clip to cut it to the length you need; it’s more difficult, and in some circumstances impossible, to add more footage later because you started too late or stopped recording too soon.

Likewise, keep an eye out for anything that might make a useful additional shot and shoot it. You never know when it might come in handy. Think about the story you want to tell as you shoot – everything should flow from that.

Editing

The first step when you launch iMovie for iOS is to choose whether you want to make a trailer or a movie. Once you’ve chosen movie, you choose a template from one of the available themes. The theme dictates things like how the titles and transitions look. Each theme also has its own music associated with it, though you don’t need to use it.

Choose a theme before you start adding clips to your movie.

Choose a theme before you start adding clips to your movie.

Once you’ve chosen a theme, you’re ready to assemble the clips you recorded, together with any still photos you want to include, as well as music and sound effects.

To preview a clip, tap Video at the top right of the screen, and then locate the clip. Tap it, then tap the play arrow to preview it. You can trim it by dragging the yellow handles on either side inwards. To add it to the the timeline, press the down arrow. Alternatively, if you just want to add the audio from the clip, tap the audio wave.

Clips are added to the timeline from the Video library.

Clips are added to the timeline from the Video library.

To do the opposite – add the video without the audio – tap the clip when it’s on the timeline and tap the loudspeaker icon, then drag the volume slider all the way to the left.

To add a transition, tap the marker between clips and choose a transition. You can either choose the one associated with the theme, or a dissolve, slide, wipe, or fade.

To add titles to a clip, tap the clip and tap ‘T’ in the toolbar below then choose a style. Likewise, to change the look of a clip and add a color effect, tap the three overlapping circles and choose an effect. Don’t overdo it.

You can change the look of a clip by choosing a colour effect.

iMovie has some useful ‘hidden’ editing features. For example, you can crop a clip and use only a portion of it. To do that, tap the magnifying glass icon at the bottom right of the preview window and ‘unpinch’ on the clip to crop it, then drag it around so the portion you want is on-screen.

You can add a clip as a split-screen with another clip, overlay it on a clip, picture-in-picture style, or use it as a cutaway. To do that, tap on the clip on the timeline you want to use as the other half of the split screen or the base of the overlay. Now find the other clip in the Video library and tap it. Tap the icon that depicts what you want to do; the first is cutaway, the second overlay, and the third split-screen.

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You can create a picture-in-picture effect

Once you’ve added it to timeline, you can change the arrangement of the split-screen by tapping the clip and tapping the overlay icon in the toolbar. Likewise, you can change the size and position of a picture-in-picture by tapping it on the timeline and tapping either the direction arrows or the magnifying glass in the preview window.

Export

When you're ready to export, give your video a name.

When you’re ready to export, give your video a name.

Once you’ve finished editing and have added audio, transitions, and titles, you can export your video. Tap the arrow at the top left of the screen to go back to the project window, then tap on the title to give the movie a name. To export it, tap on the share icon in the middle of the screen and choose where you want to export it to. There are options for iCloud, iMovie Theater, Facebook, YouTube and Vimeo. You can also send it to Dropbox or iTunes, or save it to the iPad or iPhone’s video library.