Maybe you’re traveling and don’t have all your film gear when inspiration hits. Or perhaps you’re a Creative Minimalist and don’t even own film gear.

Still, you know how important video is in today’s media-hungry world. So you don’t want to let a lack of equipment keep you from capturing top-notch footage.

And you don’t have to.

You have the power to create professional-quality videos in the palm of your hand.

(Tweet this)

Smartphones—and as it relates to this post, Apple’s iPhones specifically—shoot exceptional video. So exceptional, it seems, that even professionals are taking note.

Entirely shot with an iPhone 5s, Tangerine made headlines earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival. These 12 films were shot with iPhone. Heck, there’s apparently even an iPhone film festival.

iTunes offers a number of free applications that allow you to wield the iPhone as a more than capable camera and video editor. And over the last two weeks, I’ve downloaded and experimented with more than two dozen of them.

It took much longer than anticipated, but I’ve finally narrowed this list down to my top six recommendations.

iPhone video app review blog image

There are a lot of neat specialty video apps on the market. But I tried to keep this list to a small number of powerful, versatile options. (Because who has room on their phone for dozens of video production apps?)

Note: Several of the apps I reviewed offer free songs for your videos. But I had some trouble digging up the licensing details. So use the music these apps provide at your own risk. Or play it safe, and just use mine. 😉

Adobe Premiere Clip iPhone video app

1. Adobe Premiere Clip

Log into your Adobe account (or quickly create one), and harness the editing power of Adobe Premiere—on your phone. You can record video within the app using the standard iPhone camera functionality. But Adobe Premiere Clip really shines once you’ve got footage to work with.

Here are my favorite things about it:

  • Automatic setting. Lazy editors rejoice! The Automatic setting generates a video—you know, automatically—that’s synced to a soundtrack. All you have to do is select the clips, video pace (i.e., length), background music and clip order.
  • Freeform setting. Would you rather tweak the details yourself? With the Freeform setting, you can trim, split and sequence your footage manually and adjust important elements like lighting, volume and speed.
  • Audio tools. Choose from among the 10 background tracks Adobe provides, or import your own. Then simply scrub to the part of the song you want to use and toggle fancy features like Auto Mix, which ducks music volume during dialog, and Smart Volume, which levels out audio. Easy.
  • Export to Premiere Pro. Once you’ve got your video how you like it, you can send the project to your computer for further editing in Adobe Premiere Pro.

Just so you know, Adobe’s branding appears after your video ends. But you can always trim it off. (You didn’t hear that from me.)

Download Adobe Premiere Clip on iTunes »

ALIVE iPhone video app

2. ALIVE

Want to inject a little life into your footage? Part video editor, part social networking app, ALIVE allows you to add simple graphic animations to videos. You can see it in action here, but the basics are as follows:

  • Live shooting and video import options. Whether you want to shoot a new video or edit existing footage, you can. If you opt to create a new video, you can record at half, regular or double speed. And rearranging and trimming clips is a breeze.
  • Video filters. Once you’ve picked and prepared your clips, customize them with one of six filters. (If you don’t like any of them, six others are available for free download.)
  • Animated objects and text. This is the key differentiator for ALIVE—the animations. Easily add explosions, heads-up displays, lightning strikes, text badges and much more. Then scale, rotate and move these animated elements around with your video for a custom, synced effect.
  • Free music library and song import. Set your newly animated video to one of ALIVE’s tracks or import your own music.

When making this list, I tried to avoid apps that threw watermarks on top of your video. Because, bleh. Though ALIVE does stick its logo in the bottom right corner of your videos, it’s relatively inconspicuous. And I felt like the usefulness of the app outweighed the distraction of the branding.

Download ALIVE on iTunes »

P.S. Vimo was a strong runner-up in the video animation apps category.

Cinamatic iPhone video app

3. Cinamatic

Unlock the potential of your iPhone’s camera with Cinamatic. I like to shoot footage with Cinamatic and edit it with other apps on this list. Here’s why:

  • Manual camera control. Tweak shutter speed, exposure, white balance, ISO, flash, frame rate, stabilization and focus (my favorite feature of this app) as you shoot.
  • Recording time presets. Seemingly made for short form applications like social media, Cinamatic allows you to record in increments of 6, 15, 30 or 60 seconds.
  • Video filters. Give your videos that extra sparkle with one of Cinamatic’s seven ethereal filters. (More are available for purchase.) You can easily manage filter strength.

Download Cinamatic on iTunes »

Clips iPhone video app

4. Clips

App studio FlyLabs positions Clips as the “simplest video editor in the world”—a pretty tall claim. But I must admit, this app is a piece of cake to use, and the interface is beautiful. Plus, Google just acquired FlyLabs to work with the Google Photos team. So that says something, right?

About that: Since FlyLabs is officially part of Google now, the studio won’t be updating Clips anymore. And more importantly, you have only a few months to download the app before it’s removed from the iTunes store. So go, go now!

Some of the cool features of Clips include

  • Simple sequencing. Drag and drop clips where you like, and trim them as necessary. You can also duplicate and split clips, add dissolve (i.e., fade) transitions and more.
  • Speed control. FlyLabs also made Tempo, an equally easy-to-use app that allows you to manage video playback speed at multiple points. FlyLabs carried this useful functionality over to Clips, so you can make your footage slowest (1/2x), slow (3/4x), normal (1x), fast (4x) or fastest (8x).
  • Dynamic cropping. In addition to Clips and Tempo, the prolific FlyLabs built Crop, a clever little app that—as you might guess—crops videos (vertically-framed videos, specifically). But here’s the kicker: you can move the frame as the video plays. So the crop can follow the action. Like with Tempo, FlyLabs built Crop’s handy functionality into Clips.
  • Text slides. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video is probably worth—what, a million? I don’t know. But should you find you still need to add actual words between video clips, you can!
  • Voiceovers and music. Record a voiceover using your phone’s microphone, and import background music from your library or Clip’s.

Download Clips on iTunes »

Hyperlapse iPhone video app

5. Hyperlapse

Yes, I’m including Hyperlapse on this list. Are you shaking your head? Don’t. The minimalistic time-lapse app from the creators of Instagram has more potential than you might think.

  • 1x mode. I recently learned from a friend on Reddit that the 1x mode allows you to shoot normal video—with audio and everything—and still benefit from Hyperlapse’s innovative stabilization technology. In other words, if you shoot in Hyperlapse at 1x, you’ll get super smooth footage. Maybe you were already aware of this, but it was news to me.
  • Secret settings. Another clever tip (thanks to travel photographer Austin Mann for this one): Hyperlapse has an Easter egg. Using four fingers, tap the screen four times to bring up a hidden menu. From there, you can enable secret settings, such as 1080p, 24 fps and time-lapse speeds up to 40x.

Without a doubt, these little tricks make the app considerably more useful!

Download Hyperlapse on iTunes »

Videorama app screenshot

6. Videorama

I first heard about this awesome app when its developer, Sarp Erdag, emailed me after signing up for Music for Makers. (We have some super talented makers in our community!)

Sarp also developed an image creation app I often use called Typorama. So I was stoked to hear that he built a video app. And it doesn’t disappoint!

As a feature-rich “mini Hollywood studio,” Videorama offers:

  • Fun special effects. Explosions, filters, realistic weather overlays — the VFX are what really set this app apart.
  • Clip editing. Trim, scale and combine footage with ease.
  • Overlay text animation. Choose from multiple fonts and animations to create titles and captions that make your videos shine.
  • Music and sound effects. Put the finishing touch on your videos with the perfect audio track and cinematic sounds.

I can’t wait to see what Sarp creates next!

Download Videorama on iTunes »

Video apps on iPhone

Hopefully, your phone won’t have to look like mine did for two weeks.

Which Video App Is Your Favorite?

I tried to be thorough. But I know, I’ve inevitably left out some gems. So tell me, which apps do you use to create amazing videos on the fly? Let’s keep the conversation going in the comments below.

  • Austin Mann

    Dang, some great insights here. Alive looks really cool. Thanks Logan!

    • Thank you, Austin! Appreciate you taking the time to check out the post ?

  • Paul Boekhoofd

    Really nice article. Alive seems fun. I’m curious to see wether it supports 1080p output. May I suggest an app? It’s called Reel Director 2. https://itunes.apple.com/nl/app/reeldirector-ii/id1003175933?mt=8
    It’s a true hidden gem. The biggest thing about it, in my opinion, is the ability use 4k footage and zoom in afterwards. Like a Ken Burns effect for video. It packs a ton of other feautures as well: 4k support, smooth, adjustable filters, very precise trimming (up to a thousand of a sec.) it’s not an allround app, but it does bring something unique to mobile editing.

    • Thanks, Paul! Reel Director 2 looks pretty neat.

      For this post, I was sticking with free apps, and that one is a couple dollars. But it appears to be pretty robust — probably worth the small price.

      Appreciate you taking the time to share the suggestion. 👍