Blog Post

ReelDirector: Full-featured Video Editing Comes to the iPhone

reeldirectorDespite some predictions to the contrary, the iPhone 3GS launched without a portable version of iMovie for editing of clips. Yes, you can scrub and trim video you shoot on the device in the native Camera app, but beyond that, you can’t do much. New app ReelDirector changes all that, for the relatively low price of $7.99.

It sounds like a decent deal, but I decided to download the app and find out just what the first real video editing app for the iPhone was capable of. Might I be able to become the next film ingenue sensation with only my 3GS?


First of all, let me tell you right off the bat: This isn’t just a warmed-over version of the built-in Camera app, like so many photo effect apps tend to be. It not only allows you to stitch different clips from your device together, it also allows you to use 27 different transitions between them, including various wipes and fades.

reel_transitionYou can also add text to your clips, including opening and closing credits and titles, and provide transitions for both. Only four font styles currently exist, but you change position to achieve different visual effects. Hopefully more styles will be added in later updates, or maybe as in-app purchases down the line.

reel_detailsInterface and Usability

The interface for ReelDirector isn’t going to win any design awards, but it is simple, fairly clean, and well-suited to its purpose. My main complaint is that while the app automatically switches to landscape view, which could be useful, there’s no toggle to prevent that from occurring, something I think every app should provide, including Apple’s own.

reel_clipsAs for usability, ReelDirector generally performs well, but with a few issues that really prevent it from being an absolutely problem-free experience. For example, when you insert a video clip into your movie project, you have the option of trimming it, but once it’s in, you can’t go back and re-edit the clip itself. All you can really do at that point is change the transitions between clips. You also can’t live preview your movie in its entirety until you “Create” it, which can be a time-consuming process. The good news is, you can still go back and make changes after you output your movie.


It isn’t a replacement for iMovie by any stretch of the imagination, but ReelDirector is the first real movie editing solution for the iPhone 3GS, and for a pioneer, it actually works remarkably well. You probably won’t be taking home any awards at Cannes, since the app still lacks pretty basic elements like audio editing capabilities, but for home movies that look as good or better than the ones your uncle used to edit on his hulking early model DV cam, ReelDirector is more than capable.

18 Responses to “ReelDirector: Full-featured Video Editing Comes to the iPhone”

  1. Okay, Jeff. Maybe this app isn’t for you, but a LOT of us will use it to edit simple iPhone movies and get them uploaded ASAP.

    It’s not meant to replace Final Cut Pro (or even iMovie), but it is aimed at users on the go (say, a vacation or getaway to the mountains) who enjoy taking movies with their iPhone, but have no way to edit them together handily for sharing.

    The cost is minimal since it’s actually a VERY useful app out in the field…you know, away from all sorts of free software on your computer… which is at home.

    Apps like this make iPhones all the more relevant and Notebooks and desktops – less so. As long as the iPhone speed improvements and new functionality keep coming, I probably wont ever buy a notebook.

    I love ReelDirector, and I love having an Apple in my pocket! :)

  2. “Why bother emailing it, editing it on a computer, only to have other people view it on a low-resolution phone?”
    Ok 2 points.
    1. If you email it, the point is that you then get to use free AND more powerful software on your computer to manipulate the photo. So the extra step of emailing is offset by the benefit of being able to use a free program that has more options than the paid iphone app.
    2. If, as you say, people are only going to view it on a “low resolution iphone” then you don’t need to do fancy manipulations to the image in the first place!

  3. Jeff,
    The point is to do precisely the opposite of what you suggested.

    Why bother emailing it, editing it on a computer, only to have other people view it on a low-resolution phone?

    I think this app has a potentially huge market. If you can shoot, edit and post a video all without firing up a laptop, then people will do it.

    Heck, look at the success of Flip’s line of mini-camcorders! This software basically makes the iPhone a Flip, without the need to zap the video to your computer.

    In my opinion, it’s genius.

  4. Umm…why wouldnt you just email it to yourself, download it to your computer and use iMovie? And you can do this without paying 8 bucks. Am I missing something? Any video worth editing is gonna probably end up on your laptop anyway – you might as well use your native desktop video editor.