Despite 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.
You 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.
Interface 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.
As 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.