iPhone 3GS Movie Making Basics - Video for All

Capturing, trimming, and sharing video with the new iPhone 3G S is literally a snap. After a bit of testing, the easiest way to share is directly from the device itself. So if you're tempted to transfer the video to your computer and monkey around with it, you might want to resist. See my examples below for more on that.


The iPhone 3G S records SD video (640x480) and saves it in the H.264 format. The frame rate when I was playing it back on my MacBook was an odd 17 fps (but as some readers pointed out, that was probably because I was recording in low light. Outside I should get a full 30 fps). One minute of video will create an approximate 26 MB file size. The audio is captured with the onboard iPhone mic and saved AAC mono at 44.100 kHz.

Once you capture the video, you can trim it right there on the iPhone by dragging the handles on the timeline, then hitting the Trim button. I recommend that you watch the area you have selected before hitting Trim. I haven't found an "Undo" command yet for hasty edits. But trimming is very easy and fun on the device. And after some testing, I think it's the best place to make these edits.

You can share the video by emailing it from the iPhone, sending to MobileMe, or uploading it directly to YouTube. The YouTube function is great for on-the-fly publishing, and it works well. If you want to save it to you Mac's hard drive, connect the iPhone 3G S and launch Image Capture (in your Applications Folder). Click on the "Download Some" button to reveal the movies and pictures on your iPhone. Movies will have the .Mov extension, and still photos will be .Jpg. Then, if you want, you can further edit or enhance your video using QuickTime or iMovie.

Here's a sample that I captured at "arm's length." I instinctively held the camera horizontally when I recorded the video. But since I was recording a vertical subject (me), I got this video:

The video plays fine, but it's oriented the wrong way. [What one of our readers pointed out, Alan, is that I confused the sensors on the iPhone by not fully rotating the camera. I hit the record button while the camera was in the vertical position, but then didn't do a clean rotate to the horizontal position.] In an attempt to fix the problem, I downloaded it to my MacBook, rotated it in QuickTime, and got this, but now it's out of sync. So even the simple edit in QuickTime compromised the movie (when publishing on YouTube, on my Mac it plays fine).

So next, I recorded the video holding the iPhone in the vertical position and not rotating it after I initiated the recording. When I did that, and uploaded directly to YouTube from the iPhone, it looks like this:

As Alan pointed out when he commented on this article, you have to be careful not to confuse the sensors. So make sure you're explicit in your movements when holding the iPhone to get the orientation the way you want it. I found the easiest way to do this is simply not rotate the camera once you start recording. If you want a horizontal movie, start that way.

Also, I think the video on YouTube actually looks better when you let the iPhone 3G S compress it and upload it directly. When I edited on the computer, just doing a simple rotation command, then uploading to YouTube, things got out of sync.

In other words, just let the iPhone do the work, don't confuse its sensors, and you'll be fine. All my monkeying around simply compromised the output. If I just record, trim and upload directly from the device, things work perfectly.

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So I updated this post a bit after playing with recordings and listening to feedback. If you're not careful (or in my case if I'm not careful), you can confuse the iPhone's sensors and get the orientation wrong. Be firm and the iPhone will respond correctly.

It's the first 3gs vid on YouTube that I've seen the audio not synced. Did you actually edit this clip?


I think the iPhone drops the frame rate of video when you're shooting in low light. So, it uses fewer frames and each frame is a longer exposure to capture more light.

Take it outdoors in the day time, and you get the full 30 fps.

Yeah Gary, the middle clip, which is the one you saw when you first looked at this post, was rotated in QuickTime. So I rotated, saved, the uploaded to YouTube. That threw the audio out of sync. The other two movies that I've since added to this post were uploaded to YouTube directly from the iPhone 3G S without any monkeying around. As you can see, it's better not to stray from the basic game plan here. The direct uploads work great.

Also, I think what happened was, even though you were holding the iPhone 3G S horizontally, you hadn't rotated it from vertical to horizontal obviously enough, so the orientation sensor didn't register the change.

I think you're giving the iPhone a bit too much credit. It can't recognise the subject it's video recording (yet). The orientation sensor just got confused. Next time, make a more obvious movement from vertical to horizontal with your hand and your video should come out correctly.

It's interesting Alan; you're absolutely right.

What I was doing was holding the iPhone vertically when I hit the record button (because that's the way I normally hold the device), then would rotate it when I turned it around to record me. Yes, that confused the sensors and I didn't get proper orientation.

I am trying to figure out how to actually "edit" iPhone clips. From everything I've seen there is no actual editing going on here, just trimming. Is it possible to combine two different clips or intercut video clips taken with the iPhone? Is it possible to add music or voice over narration? These elements could be truly called editing but simply cutting away the beginning and/or end of a video capture is not editing but just a trim.

Can the New Phone do Video
screen capture like the Camera does by pressing the power and Home button at the same time ?

Hey Robb, maybe it should be called "editing lite." We're talking about trimming on the iPhone 3GS itself. The other stuff has to happen on your computer.

You can also rotate iPhone videos in Final Cut or Final Cut Express. It's a little trickier but I have no audio syncing problems at all. Here's how to do it.

- Import the iPhone video into a FC project as a clip.
- Open the clip in the Viewer
- Add a Filter with this Menu item:
- Effects->Video Filters->Perspective->Rotate
- Click on the Filters tab in the Viewer
- In the Rotate section rotate the clip by 90 degrees, usually this will be Counter-Clockwise.
- Click on the Motion tab in the Viewer
- Open up the Distort section by clicking on the triangle.
- Change the numbers in this section to match your Sequence. In my case I changed them to -480/360, 480/-360, 480/360, -480/360.
- Set your In and Out points.
- Add the clip to a Sequence.
- Render the Sequence.

If there's an easier way to do this I hope someone corrects. But, this works.

I have noticed and tested that after the reocridng is made on the iphone 3gs, it is compressed on the iphone befroe emailing. When it is emailed and played on a pc, the audio sounds muffled. Is that becasue it is compressed or becasue the audio is in AAC mono?

WOW. I found your blog on Yahoo searching for something completely different- now I'm gonna have to go back and go the old posts XD So much for my spare time today, but this was a truly great find

interesting post :D I am so looking forward to seeing more posts :D

Hey there, I really like your blog, your always put great posts out, thanks

Interesting, very nice video

you can edit your video in the iphone itself if you download an app called "ReelDirector". it's $8 but SO worth it.

Thanks for the writeup on iPhone video specs and your experience. Did you see how much the video was compressed by the iPhone before uploading?
I want to change the FPS, Res etc. before recording a video in attempt for smaller file sizes as we are uploading over a satellite connection. Any suggestions?

Thanks for this. What was super helpful was your pointing out the existing of the Image Capture app, and what it can do. So awesome!